City offers rebates for electric vehicles

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image The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, the first all-electric vehicles to hit the market, went on sale this past December. The Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Department of Water and Power are invested in helping these cars catch on. Today, they launched Charge Up LA. It’s a rebate program that will give electric car owners up to $2,000 toward the installation and cost of their in-home charger.

Villaraigosa boasted that this was another great pilot program to add to LA’s green campaign.

“We’re, like, the only city doing this,” Villaraigosa said. “I’m telling you this is something that really sets LA apart. Again, it’s not a hyperbole. This will be a game changer, and we will be the electric vehicle capital.”

The cost of the home charger is too expensive for some — but the city hopes that the rebate combined with increasing gas prices will make the cars more attractive. The average gas price today in LA County is $4.21.

But it’s not just about savings for the consumer — it’s also about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and improving air quality. Dr. Joseph Lyou is the CEO of the statewide Coalition for Clean Air.

“We are still challenged here in this air district with the worst air quality in the entire nation,” Lyou said.

There are other environmental benefits. Most people charge their cars at home at night — they can go about 90 miles until they need to recharge. Nighttime is also when the DWP is able to use the most renewable energy from wind power. It’s windier at night, sending more wind power into the grid.

Ron Nichols, the general manager of the DWP, calls electric cars an elegant solution.

“That’s a double win for the environment.”

The DWP plans to subsidize 1,000 chargers that will cost $2 million — and depending on demand to spend up to $6 million.

In most cases, the $2,000 rebate will pay for the entire cost of the charger and installation — in some cases it will be cheaper.

If you’re thinking about going electric, act fast — the rebate option starts on May 1 and is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

South Los Angeles teacher opposes mayor’s education reform proposals

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image Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spent most of his recent “State of the City” speech addressing education reform. Villaraigosa proposed getting rid of the “first in, last out” system, which refers to the order in which teachers are hired and eventually laid off or fired.

“What that equates to in our mind is we get rid of the more senior teachers because they get paid a lot more,” said Dr. Aissa Riley, a teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School. “So if a teacher’s making $80,000 because they’ve been working here for 20 years, well, we can fire that person and hire two more.”

Dr. Riley also expressed concern regarding public-private partnerships in the South Los Angeles community.

“So what happens is, when a student isn’t working out at one of their schools, they get sent here (Jefferson),” Riley said. “And we end up having larger class sizes in the middle of the year because all these students are coming mid-year because they’ve been kicked out of their other schools, and it also has a lot of students who if they couldn’t cut it at the other school, now we have to deal with them. Our school somewhat becomes a dumping ground for all these charter schools quote unquote bad kids. And then it lowers the quality of education for other students who we’ve been working with all year long.”

Los Angeles mayor visits nation’s most expensive public school

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image Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took a tour of the six shiny, state-of-the-art schools at the Robert F Kennedy complex. He wasn’t visiting for any special performance or opening. Instead, he visited to remind the public of education accomplishments during his term. The visit came after his “State of the City&#34” address last night, when Villaraigosa emphasized his commitment to school reform.

Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Monica Garcia guided Villaraigosa around:

“Mr. Mayor what is great about that auditorium — you can lift the back and it seats out to where we walked down…”

That’s just one of the incredible features of this new public school, just finished last year. It’s known to some as the “Taj Mahal” of public schools. It cost $580 million to build, making it the most expensive public school in the nation. Chuck Flores is the principal of New Open World Academy, one of the six pilot schools at RFK. His school focuses on technology and social justice.

“I mean, you know the cost of the campus that’s been in the news forever, but I think it’s really providing an opportunity for kids who’ve been disenfranchised for so long.”

Flores is referring in part to the fact that for years the district bused students out of the area to other schools. Now, if you live in a nine block radius, you can attend school here. Flores says the school’s amenities, like its beautiful library, create a better learning environment for students.

Oscar Jaramillo used to attend LA High School. Now, he’s part of the Ambassador School of Global Leadership at RFK.

“I have more opportunities and dreams to accomplish right here at ASGL,” Jaramillo said. “I know I love being an ambassador. I’m very proud of that so that we can all, like, become like global citizens around the world.”

The mayor also referenced our globalized world.

“There is no more important issue for a city if we want to be competitive in a world economy than to be educating a future generation,” Villaraigosa said.

But with six schools costing half a billion dollars, and a $350 million dollar deficit remaining, the city may not be able to build new schools like RFK anytime soon.

Los Angeles mayor gives State of the City address

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image Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised to focus on education reform at the annual State of the City address on Wednesday.

“Well, it is true that I don’t have any formal authority over our schools,” Villaraigosa said. “I do have a bully pulpit, and I will continue to use it.”

Villaraigosa called for a shift in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He says school leaders are the most important agent for change and that expiration of union contracts in June could open up a new door.

“With the stars aligned, we have to seize the opportunity,” Villaraigosa said. “Let’s negotiate a new contract that empowers teachers, parents and principals at all schools. Let’s stop dictating at the district level, and let our local schools make the calls on budget, staffing, curriculum, schedule and professional development.”

The mayor also proposed compensating teachers for their proven effectiveness in the classroom.

“We need to create career pathways that reward our most effective teachers,” Villaraigosa said. “We need to reform a broken tenure system and do away with the last hired, first fired seniority system. It’s demoralizing to teachers, and it doesn’t serve our students. We need to create a multiple level evaluation system.”

But Dr. Aissa Riley, a world history teacher at Jefferson High School, opposes the mayor’s proposal.

“What that equates to in our mind is we get rid of the more senior teachers because they get paid a lot more,” Riley said. “So if a teacher’s making $80,000 because they’ve been working here for 20 years, well, we can fire that person and hire two more.”

Dr. Riley also expressed concerns regarding the prospect of more public-private partnerships. She said the private school operators do not accept all students.

“So what happens is when a student isn’t working out at one of their schools, they get sent here (Jefferson),” Riley said. “And we end up having larger class sizes in the middle of the year because all these students are coming mid-year because they’ve been kicked out of their other schools, and it also has a lot of students who if they couldn’t cut it at the other school, now we have to deal with him. Our school somewhat becomes a dumping ground for all these charter schools quote unquote bad kids. And then it lowers the quality of education for other students who we’ve been working with all year long.”

Villaraigosa used the rest of his State of the City speech to address unemployment rates. He noted that unemployment rates in South Los Angeles dropped from last month. He also praised the America Fast Forward plan – a plan that would create 166,000 new jobs in the city.

City Ethics Commission fines mayor and four city officials

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The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission (CEC) fined Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and four other city officials for allegedly accepting gifts valued at more than the allowed $100.

image The five commissioners were unanimous in voting to fine the mayor almost $21,000. They also fined city council officials Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar, Herb Wesson and Tony Cardenas a combined $13,300. Heather Holt is the executive director of the CEC.

“As I noted, these penalties we’re basing on the excess amount of the gifts, beyond the initial $100, so the total fine is a little more than $20,000,” Holt said. “That’s in addition to the $21,000 fine that the FPPC has already ratified.”

The FPPC is the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Yesterday, it fined the mayor $21,000 for failing to report 21 gifts over the last four years. He’s avoiding the maximum $160,000 fine because his failure to report them was unintentional. Among these gifts were Lakers, Dodgers and USC game tickets, awards shows and after parties and concerts.

“These are the events that both parties believe should have been reported,” Holt said. “Therefore, these are the events of the FPPC’s enforcement action.”

The mayor accepted these gifts from restricted sources, which essentially means anyone with active business before the city.

“We have 12 counts of gifts from restricted sources,” Holt said. “And we have a chart that outlines it going back from 2007 through March 2010.”

These sources include the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, AEG, BET Networks and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. These companies are also facing fines from the CEC.

“It’s not just our elected offices,” Holt said. “It’s all 6,000 of our city officials who are subject to the restricted source law, so everyone in every department needs to be aware of these laws.”

The combined CEC and FPPC penalties value almost $42,000. The mayor is working jointly with the CEC and FPPC to fully resolve the investigation and provide a comprehensive settlement.

“It is my responsibility to make sure I act in strict compliance with the applicable rule,” Villaraigosa said earlier this month.

CicLAvia comes to Los Angeles for the second time

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So, what should we expect from the second round of CicLAvia — the open streets event that transforms miles of Los Angeles into a car-free park?

image “Bikes and people and skateboarders and families,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.

“Blacks and Asians and Whites and Latinos, people in wheelchairs, every flavor of Los Angeles out on the street together,” echoed CicLAvia organizer Joe Linton.

The mayor’s excitement for Sunday is palpable at a preview event today. After all, he’s expecting his very famous bike friend, Lance Armstrong. Villaraigosa invited Armstrong to join when the superstar athlete texted him after the mayor’s July bike accident.

Armstrong texted: “Remember, stay on the bike.”

Not only did the mayor stay on his bike, but he pushed to make the second CicLAvia happen.
“LA is committed!” Villaraigosa said.

October’s CicLAvia was a huge success in terms of numbers and safety, board member Kyla Fullenwider said.

“We were hoping 30,000, 40,000, maybe 50,000.”

They got a turnout of 100,000, and they’re expecting that many this time, too.

“I think even the police department was surprised that it was such a peaceful, safe event,” Fullenwider said. “You know when you get a hundred thousand people on the street – who knows?”

Getting the first event up and running took a lot of grassroots organizing.

“You know, we really started to feel momentum come into place after that first one when everybody really saw what was possible,” Fullenwider said.

Fundraising the $100,000 necessary to make the event real was a little easier for the organization this time. And the city matched that contribution.

On Sunday, participants can join in anywhere along the route, which spans from Boyle Heights through downtown and all the way to East Hollywood.

Joe Linton’s advice: “Just show up and experience spontaneous joy in the city of Los Angeles.”

But CicLAvia organizers say the event is as much about fun as it is about creating a robust movement to make Los Angeles a greener, healthier and more civic-minded city.

After Sunday, there are two more CicLAvias planned for 2011 and, by October, the route will get longer.

The mayor assured everyone “there will be NO rain on Sunday.”

Time to tune up your bike, grab your sneakers, board or roller blades.

Plaza breaks ground in South Los Angeles

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For 13 years, Bishop Charles Blake of the West Angeles Church of God had a vision for the community around the Crenshaw Corridor. His vision was to revitalize the neighborhood with new retail and commercial real estate, something unseen in the past five decades.

While Blake admits his plans for the West Angeles Plaza were on-again and then off-again for the majority of the last decade, with the help of Councilman Herb Wesson of District 10 and the West Angeles Community Development Corporation, today’s groundbreaking ceremony finally came to fruition.

“[West Angeles Plaza] is an entity that could translate the neighborhood’s desire for safe, attractive venues that offer high quality goods and services,” Blake said. “Finally bringing that dream into reality.”

The plaza that is estimated to cost the CDC more than $10 million will be a 45,000 square-foot building that will offer both retail and office space. Among the firsts to partner with the CDC as anchor tenants in the plaza are Union Bank and the Fresh and Easy grocery store.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was on-hand for the event, and feels that today’s ceremony marks the beginning of a necessary development project around the Crenshaw Corridor.

“This isn’t about re-development it’s about smart development,” Villaraigosa said. “One that will create jobs. One that is accessible to public transit. One that will help to re-vitalize the Crenshaw Corridor in South Los Angeles.”

Councilman Wesson insisted that the construction of plaza is the first of main projects in the neighborhood.

“This is just the beginning, this is not the end,” Wesson said.

Among the projects Wesson announced at the ceremony, included a 546-million dollar transit line that will run from the West Angeles Project all the way to LAX. It’s only one small step in Blake’s vision, but one very large step for the community.

More stories on the Crenshaw Corridor:

Redevelopment Hell

Light rail line raises concerns in local city

Crenshaw Corridor transportation debate continues

Los Angeles officials crack down on 38th Street gang

After an 18-month investigation, law enforcement officials arrested 57 members of the 38th Street gang early Tuesday morning, which is one of Los Angeles’ most notorious gangs for gun violence and drug trafficking.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villariagosa, alongside many law enforcement officials, applauded the effort as a successful collaboration between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agents closely watched four residences in South Los Angeles that were associated with drug dealing, violence and loud partying during the investigation; a 130-page federal racketeering indictment was filed last month against these suspects.

“For far too long, these criminals have victimized some of the most vulnerable communities in South Los Angeles…and I’m proud to say they are off the streets,” Villariagosa said at a news conference Tuesday.

The 38th Street gang is one of Los Angeles’ oldest gangs, which has roots all the way back to the 1920s, has around 200 members and shares close ties to the Mexican Mafia, a dominant prison gang.

Some of the federal charges against the gang members include racketeering, fire arms, narcotics, extortion, murder and conspiracy, Villagrosia said. Thirty-seven of the arrests are under the federal indictment, whereas 20 were taken in on state weapons and drug charges.

More than 780 officers from eight different agencies, including the United States and Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, worked on the investigation, according to David Doan, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Thirty-four more arrests, Doan said, are likely to progress in the future.

Fifty-nine firearms and $122,000 in cash were confiscated during the house raid, as well as $2.5 million worth of dangerous drugs, including cocaine, crack cocaine, methanfedemie and marijuana, from the residences, which have a straight drug pipeline to Mexico.

“To put this in perspective, this is enough drugs to supply more than 40,000 users,” said Timothy J. Landrum of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

United States District Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said the gang has been alleged to extort South Los Angeles businesses, especially in the Alameda Swamp Meet.

Birotte also described some of the dangerous activities the gang have been associated with, such as a specific instance when members allegedly dressed up as law enforcement officials, burst into a South Gate home, kidnapped and later shot the man in the head during a high-speed chase.

The mayor emphasized that the crime rate has gone down in South Los Angeles recently, and that this raid is yet another good sign for restoring gang territory to neighborhoods safe for families. Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said that this operation is a scare tactic toward all gangs.

“Our message is clear,” Trutanich said. “We will not allow gang members to highjack our neighborhood and use them as their own turf. These are our neighborhoods…we are not stopping until we take back all our neighborhoods.”


Take a closer look at some of the residences that were raided Tuesday morning:

View Location of 38th St. Gang Residences in a larger map

John Deasy announced as new LAUSD superintendent

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this week that John Deasy will assume the role of LAUSD superintendent in the spring after serving as deputy superintendent.

“John Deasy is the right person for this job and the Los Angeles Unified School District is lucky to have him,” said the Mayor. “John understands the unique challenges facing the LAUSD and has already benefitted from on-the-job training as Deputy Superintendent.”

What do you think of Deasy’s appointment? Let us know in the comments below.

LAUSD teacher David Lyell responded to Howard Blume’s article in the LA Times today, noting that Deasy’s background has yet to come into full view:

What Howard Blume’s article didn’t mention is that prior to coming to University of Louisville, Deasy, while chief of the Santa Monica school district, awarded Robert Felner’s research company, the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, a $375,000 grant care of the Santa Monica School District. Rather than defend that dissertation, as one would expect of a learned Ph.D candidate, Deasy offered to give it back. He did so because his conscience was telling him that he did not earn that degree.

Blume also failed to mention that Deasy reportedly lied on his resume about having worked as a Faculty Member in the doctoral program of the Educational Leadership and Social Dept. of Loyola Marymount University. LMU reportedly has no employment records for him.


Lyell added:

What the public needs to understand is that teachers would like to see responsible, conscientious leadership from the LAUSD School Board, and it is the board, and not teachers, that is responsible for determining district policy. Teachers would like to see district leaders who are interested in collaborative policies, rather than embracing a punitive top-down management style that favors turning schools over to corporate interests who see children as dollar signs.


Free MTA trips for Los Angeles students

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a new policy today that would allow students in Los Angeles County to ride MTA transit for free during the day.

“Schools throughout Los Angeles County are struggling with severe budget challenges, and cutting field trip transportation means less opportunity for students to take advantage of museums, programs, and events outside of school buildings,” Mayor Villaraigosa said, as quoted in a press release. “This is especially true for low income students whose families do not have the resources for alternative transportation.”

According to a press release from the Mayor’s office, the MTA “will not suffer an increase in operating costs because service is already running.” No revenue would be lost because “students would not otherwise be riding transit during school hours without this policy.”

Funding transportation for school field trips has been a constant impediment, say some L.A. teachers, especially during budget cuts.

“Our students are missing out on educational experiences because we have no funds to bus them on field trips. Access to Metro rail and buses will open a world of opportunities for learning beyond the classroom,” said Santee teacher Trebor Jacquez, as quoted in the press release.

According to Villaraigosa, MTA buses and trains have unused capacity during school hours, making free transit for students a “win-win” policy for the MTA.

The proposal will be put to the MTA Board at its meeting on Dec. 9, with plans to implement the system by the end of January 2011.