Bernard Parks breaks ground on new skate park in South Los Angeles

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image Councilmember Bernard Parks and Parks and Recreation Superintendent Mark Mariscal broke ground today on a new skate park in the Jackie Tatum / Harvard Recreation Center in South Los Angeles.

The Jackie Tatum / Harvard Recreation Center has seen a lot of improvements recently — a brand new swimming pool, repainted tennis courts and even an aerobics class. But there was one thing the community youth kept asking for — a skate park.

“This is something that has really been long awaited by the community,” Parks said. “The young kids have asked that every park have a skate park, and the problem is that we can’t put one at every park, so we kind of direct them and say wait three months.”

The skate park will take about three months to build, and word is spreading quickly.

“We’ve already begun to direct kids from other parks,” Parks said. “So they’ll understand when this opens they’re welcome no matter what their neighborhood is.”

Parks believes the importance of fully serviced parks is more crucial than ever right now.

“One of the things particularly in these down economic times is people are constantly looking for someplace they can go to without costing them money,” Parks said. “Here, the community relies on free city services, and they want them to be on the top level — they want them to be safe, and they want them to be first class, and that’s what these park facilities have done.”

Even after the skate park is complete, the upgrade on the Jackie Tatum Rec Center is not over.

“Once the skate park is done, the next thing you’ll see, and it will probably begin construction in the fall, is a series of outdoor improvements,” said Neil Drucker of the Bureau of Engineering. “We’re going to be improving the sports fields, a walking path throughout the park, walking and jogging paths, some exercise stations — a lot of improvements. So this park will be very, very beautiful and serve the entire community.”

The skate park is set to open for use early August 2011.

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.

Write-in candidate Armenak Nouridjanian discusses taxes, jobs and drugs

This story is a part of our series of interviews with the candidates for Los Angeles City Council Districts 8 and 10.

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In the race for Los Angeles City Council seats, there are four candidates in District 8. One is a write-in: Armenak Nouridjanian.

Nouridjanian is used to people hearing and watching him talk. He has had his own YouTube channel, Liberal Agenda, for four years now. There, he posts political videos almost everyday. A far left democrat, Nouridjanian describes himself as an American patriot who upholds human and civil rights in his broadcasting. Now he finds himself in mainstream politics, with a spot on the ballot for Los Angeles City Council, District 8.

“I’m running because I want to take political power as a liberal,” Nouridjanian said. “I want to help political power in order to redistribute wealth. I want to take from the rich and give to the poor.”

Nouridjanian has been a security guard, graphics artist and animator. But it is clear to anyone watching his videos that his passion is politics. And he has strong opinions about pretty much every issue and specific solutions to problems he sees.

“I’m committed to changing, first of all, tax structure,” Nouridjanian said. “I want to raise taxes against oil producers in Los Angeles areas.”

This is just one of his many plans. Nouridjanian also feels strongly about Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget cuts.

“It would mean less social programs, it would mean less subsidies for heating and cooling, and less opportunities for poor people to get jobs,” Nouridjanian said.

This hits close to home. Nouridjanian describes his District 8 as a mainly low-income, African American and Latino immigrant population.

“There are not problems in my neighborhood but there are certain problems with street dope dealing,” Nouridjanian said. “Sometimes you can go up stairs and you smell the unpleasant stench of narcotics.”

Dealing with drugs is high on Nouridjanian’s liberal agenda and platform, as well as regulating taxes and addressing rental subsidies.

“Also I want to expedite distribution of our section 8 rental housing subsidies to poor working class people,” Nourdjanian said. “So people would live better, and have more consumer power and gain consumer power to boost retail sales. So businesses could thrive.”

Nouridjanian is up against Jabari Jumaane, Forecsee Hogan-Rowles and Bernard Parks, the current City Council member. The election is Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

Listen to more interviews with City Council candidates.

Bus riders protest cuts to bus routes and services

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The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposed reductions to the public transportation system in early February. Eleven Los Angeles Metro bus routes would be cut, while others would have their services and hours reduced. Crystal McMillan, a rider and member of the bus riders union, knows what this will do.

McMillan: I know what that means to a bus rider. That means instead of being able to take one bus all the way from my home to my work, I suddenly have to take three buses. That means my commute went from an hour to an hour and a half. That means I suddenly have to find a way to afford a pass because my commute is going to cost a lot more.

MTA officials say these changes are needed to better integrate services between Metro buses and trains and also to save money. Hector Garcia is a security worker and bus rider. Like many others, he depends on public transportation’s late-night hours to get to work.

Garcia: We can’t afford these cuts. Our jobs are not a regular, 40-hour, 9-5, Monday to Friday job. We work every day of the week around the clock. It’s a 24/7 job. We need the buses. We can’t afford these cuts.

Senator Boxer and Representative Mica will be in Los Angeles tomorrow morning to hold a bipartisan hearing on transportation needs. Members of the Bus Riders Union, as well as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and transportation officials are expected to attend.

Photo courtesy of The Daily Trojan

More stories related to public transportation in South Los Angeles:

Inglewood expands free trolley service

Unemployed call for MTA to speed up transit plans and create jobs

Local groups call for immigration reform

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Immigration reformers and community members gathered outside Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church Tuesday morning at a news conference held by the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.

“We are not animals,” said Helen DeLeon, one of the women speaking at the event. “We are humans, who have rights. And our children have rights. They have the right to be in Congress someday, to run for President someday.”

Many other local groups came to show their support. Peta Lindsay is with the ANSWER Coalition.

“I’m here as an organizer, as a woman, and more specifically as a black woman to urge Obama to keep his promise and implement comprehensive immigration reform now,” Lindsay said. “Black and Latina Women share a common cause. When it comes to poverty statistics, infant mortality and joblessness, women from both communities are racing to the bottom particularly during this economic crisis.”

The group’s main goals are comprehensive immigration reform and an end to immigration raids. Rosa Posades of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition called for overall immigration change but with special attention to women’s needs.

“The government should have a conscience,” said Posades. “They were born from women, too, so don’t be unfair to us.”

A specific problem raised was the breakup of families, of mothers and their children, when undocumented immigrants are deported. The Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition calls for less harsh punishment for people in the country illegally and more lenient requirements for legal immigration.

On the other side is Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies. He believes the United States should limit the rights of immigrants.

“Overall what we would want is to try and have an immigration policy that doesn’t flood the unskilled labor market, that doesn’t create so many strains for our schools and health care system, and one of the main ways to do that is to bring the numbers down on both the legal and illegal side,” Camarota said.

Camarota does not believe there will be any big changes made on the immigration front at the congressional level, but he is not averse to trying to reach a compromise with the community that demands reform.

“Maybe one this is we want to have an amnesty for some fraction of the illegal immigrants who are here, maybe Dream Act recipients, and in return we reduce the number of legal immigrants coming in, accordingly,” Camarota said.

In the meantime, the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition continues to garner support for its April 16 march in downtown Los Angeles.