Food truck festival comes to Los Angeles

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Food trucks are everywhere these days, providing Angelenos with a good meal on the go on almost every corner. But local event coordinator Phillip Dane saw these trucks as a great business opportunity.

“If you have 40 trucks and each one of them has 2,500 people following them on Twitter, it’s almost a no-brainer to get them all involved,” Dane said.

image Dane had the idea for TruckIt Fest, which is a monthly gathering of food trucks where locals can come and sample all the tasty food in one place. As soon as he started advertising, he knew he was onto something.

“I’ve got more truck applications than I do space for trucks,” Dane said. “Let’s put it that way so I kind of had my pick of trucks for TruckIt Fest.”

The inaugural festival was held March 6 at Union Station. The festival cost $5 for admission. In addition to the trucks, the festival featured live bands, DJs and craftspeople selling their goods. More than 5,000 people attended.

Danny Kim of the Krazy BBQ truck said he saw big gains from participating.

“It was better than a normal day of course,” Kim said.

Soap vendor Lillie Baca says even though her soaps weren’t the main attraction, she is already seeing benefits from participating in the festival.

“I’ve had opportunities pop up because my product is on their website, so I’m getting a lot of exposure as a vendor.”

Dane says he hopes people see TruckIt Fest as a new, fun way to spend their weekend.

“You go in, you can listen to four different bands, you can explore Union Station, which is beautiful,” Dane said. “Since you have a wristband, you’re not locked into the place, and you can actually walk across the street and go downtown and come back. You could actually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there if you really wanted to.”

The next TruckIt Fest is scheduled for April 3 at Union Station, and Dane says he is planning on having them until at least 2012.

Former braceros fight for wage compensation

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image Miguel Bermudez, who is in his 70s, is one of hundreds of thousands of people who were part of the Bracero Program that allowed Mexicans to work in the United States. As part of that arrangement, a portion of the pay was withheld and was to be returned later.

That didn’t happen for all braceros.

Workers are supposed to return to Mexico to get their earnings. But many of the former braceros or their descendants can’t make the trip.

Juan Jose Gutierrez, president of the immigration group Vamos Unidos, says it is up to the Mexican government to make good on their promise.

“I mean, if someone takes your money, they have to give it back,” Gutierrez said. “That’s just the right thing to do. This was outrageous theft.”

But things are finally beginning to change.

Now, Mexican consulates all over America will be able to pass out $3,500 to braceros or their families because of a decision made earlier this month by the Mexican government. Bermudez was the first in line to get his check at the Los Angeles Mexican Consulate Monday, clutching the paperwork he filled out all of those years ago close to his chest.

He was able to get his check because he had registered during a now closed registration period.

But there are many more braceros or descendants all over America who aren’t yet registered to collect their checks in the United States. So immigration activists met with members of the Mexican consulate, urging them to allow another registration period. They also hope to use the American media to get the word out about the decision.

“We have asked members of the media to publish this phone number that ex-braceros can call to get assistance, and that [number] is (213) 746-6264,” Gutierrez said.

But Sergio Bermudez, Miguel’s son, says that this check doesn’t make up for the years of neglect from the Mexican government.

“Being his son, there is a lot of frustration after years of empty promises and watching him get the run around,” Sergio said.

Both he and Miguel hope all the former braceros and their families will finally get the retribution they deserve.

Candidate Andrew “Andy” Kim says he’s all for businesses

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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When Andrew Kim immigrated to America from Korea at the age of 14, he was most impressed with the American political system.

“It’s largely a grass roots system that I really like,” Kim said.

Kim was inspired to go to law school. He practiced civil litigation for more than 20 years and, now, he is running for city council.

“I think it is very important that a person like me, who really in this district working and living it the district, really be a part of the political system,” Kim said. “Right now, the city is not responsive to the average individual professional like myself.”

Kim is running for city council in District 10, which covers diverse areas from Koreatown to parts of the Vermont corridor and the University of Southern California.

Kim says his experiences working within District 10 have helped him understand how important this area is.

“This is really the heart of Los Angeles in terms of its geography, demography and just its cultural and ethnic composition,” Kim said. “I think this area needs a change first, for Los Angeles to change.”

What changes would Kim make? He says the biggest change needs to be an economic revitalization through the creation of new jobs and incentives for business to stay in the district. He says he will use other cities as models to make sure businesses comes to and stays in his district.

“This is an area that has been economically depressed for a long time,” Kim said. “We need to have new leadership, business friendly leadership. We have nearby cities like Burbank that have business coming in and they must be doing something right in comparison to what we are doing in our district.”

Kim says most importantly he is in the race to be a voice for the average citizen.

“Throughout my law practice, I have been representing those who are weak and helpless,” Kim said. “Many senior citizens, and those hard working people, hard working couples, I think these people need to be represented in city hall. I bring in my 20 plus years of legal practice but I also bring in my heart, which is for the average citizen.”

Kim says he hopes to give back to the country and the city that has given him so much.

Read more interviews with city council candidates.