Healthcare fair comes to South LA

Volunteer Carmen Abalos enjoyed a healthy snack during a break.

Volunteer Carmen Abalos enjoyed a healthy snack during a break.

Los Angeles Trade-Tech College was abuzz with crowds, booths, colorful displays, food, and games being played under large white tents last Saturday afternoon. In one corner, children bounced in an air-filled castle, taking occasional breaks to drink bottled water and eat fruit cups. The adults moved from table to table, chatting, carrying reusable shopping bags filled with paperwork and hand sanitizer.

In spite of the carnival-like atmosphere, the event’s purpose was serious: to provide hundreds of L.A.’s lowest income families with healthcare before the day’s end. [Read more…]

Friends and students rally for the DREAM Act

Listen to the audio story:


According to opinion polls, the DREAM Act may be one of the least controversial measures that has come before Congress in a very long time. A June Opinion Research poll found 70 percent of Americans are in favor of providing a path to citizenship for kids who grew up here.

And so is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. In fact, he is a co-sponsor of the bill. So why were Samantha Contreras and other DREAM Act supporters rallying in front of his Pasadena office?

“We’ve been working with him for many years, and he’s been on the fence,” Contreras said. “We want to make sure he keeps his word to us and votes yes.”

Schiff’s communications director, Maureen Shanahan, says he is not on the fence; he remains a co-sponsor of the bill. But activists are not taking any yes vote for granted. This will be the last chance to pass the DREAM Act before Republicans unfriendly to the bill take back the House in January.

The DREAM Act would affect up to 65,000 young men and women a year who graduate from American high schools after growing up in the here.

Those are young women and men like Felip Escobar. He is a student at Rio Hondo with a 3.0 grade point average; he is transferring to Cal State Northridge to study political science, and he was 12 years old when he came here illegally from Guatemala 10 years ago. He says he is a full citizen now. And he would like the same privileges for those who have come after him.

Escobar met with Schiff’s district director, while his fellow protesters held their banner for the few passing cars on Raymond Avenue. It was a much nicer reception than they got at Republican Congressman David Dreier’s San Dimas office just a couple of hours before.

“They told us they were too busy answering phone calls,” Contreras said.

Can you hear them now?

Karen Bass speaks about her new role in Washington

Listen to the audio story:


Read the audio script:

LeTania Kirkland: Now that election day has passed, what are your objectives in this new role?

Karen Bass: Well, you know, first order of business is really getting organized and hiring staff and the nuts and bolts of getting ready to take office and move across country. That’s the beginning, and then after that is really looking at where things are going to be. Considering there was such a dramatic change in Congress, it’s really going to take a couple of weeks before it’s even clear what direction I can proceed.

Kirkland: Now that Republicans have taken control of the House, what challenges do you anticipate, and how do you think you might work together or compromise to meet your own objectives?

Bass: I’m used to working with Republicans. I just finished serving six years in the state Legislature and two years as speaker. In those two years as speaker, I had to work with the legislative leaders on the other side of the aisle. I’m used to that. I do anticipate, though, that it’s going to be quite chaotic. I do believe January, I’m going to find a certain level of chaos. The Republicans coming in are coming from a couple of different perspectives. The Republicans who are in office now, and then you have ones that are coming in that are going to be much stronger in terms of being conservative, and so how they are going to act with the existing Republican caucus I think is going to be one area of challenge and then the change in leadership, so the Democrats stepping down from chairmanships and Republicans taking over, I think January and February is going to be pretty chaotic.

Kirkland: After Diane Watson’s long run in Congress, what is it like following that legacy?

Bass: I feel wonderful about it and extremely honored that number one, she felt I could follow in her footsteps. I’ve certainly been in contact with her very closely over these last two years, and I feel that she has done a tremendous amount to prepare me. I feel ready to serve, and with the challenges we’ve had in California over the last couple of years, I think it has served as good preparation for me.

Kirkland: In today’s political climate, a lot of the focus has been driven to everyday middle America. How might you bring the focus back to cities and inner-cities in particular?

Bass: Everyday middle America is Los Angeles. What we’re facing here is being experienced around the country, and that’s record unemployment. And of course the unemployment in the district is high in certain areas. The overall district is relatively affluent compared to the rest of Los Angeles, but there are very serious pockets of poverty. And so many of the issues related to that, I’ve had a long history working on and plan to continue in Congress. What I would be able to do, though, is truly remained to be seen.

Kirkland: You were a community organizer for years. How has that work influenced your work in politics thus far, and how do you imagine it will in the future?

Bass: Being a community organizer has been extremely helpful to me. I use the same principles of organizing in the six years when I was in Sacramento. It helped me obtain the speakership, it helped me get legislation passed. Community organizing, very simply said, is about building, maintaining and connecting relationships. That’s what it’s about. And so, you know, the skills and the art that you learn as an organizer is applicable, as far as I’m concerned, to many different areas of life, but it’s extremely applicable to the legislative process.

Kirkland: Given that it may take through the month of January for things to settle, is there still any hope that you have for this time that you’re stepping into?

Bass: Oh, sure. I mean, I have plenty of hope. Believe me, I wouldn’t be going if I didn’t. I think that we’re in a situation that has happened historically, where any time you’re in the mid-year, two years into a new presidency, you see this type of change. I think this type of change is something that happens and it’s a question of regrouping and moving forward. I do believe that once things settle down, I will be able to accomplish things. The issues that I’ve worked on, foster care, education reform, health care, criminal justice issues, it’ll take me a month or two before I can determine what I can start working on. The good thing about Congress is that I won’t be term limited. Naturally, I have to run for re-election, but I can actually have a long-term plan, and I will begin to establish that after January is over.

Contact Karen Bass:
Capitol Office
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0047
(916) 319-2047
(916) 319-2147 fax

District Office
5750 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 565
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-4747
(323) 937-3466 fax

Email: [email protected]

New immigration bill reignites debate and country divide

Listen to the audio story here:

Supporters of the immigration bill gathered at MacArthur Park Thursday to praise Menendez, question Meg Whitman and plan what is next.

OPINION: An open letter to Stephen Colbert

imageJamiel Shaw was a 17-year-old Los Angeles High School student and football player who was shot and killed by gang members on March 2, 2008. Undocumented immigrant Pedro Espinoza, 19, was arrested and charged with Shaw’s murder. He is currently awaiting trial.

Open Letter to Stephen Colbert

By Althea Rae Shaw, penned Sep. 24, 2010. Presented without modification.

Dear Stephen Colbert,

In preparing this open letter to you, I am literally fighting back the tears! It truly breaks my heart that so many people in positions of power and authority continue to make light of illegal immigration!

Are you aware of, and/or concerned with the fact, that American citizens and legal immigrants are murdered everyday by illegal aliens? Have you ever spent one second thinking about that?

In speaking to congress today, do you think you would have prepared anything different if one of your love ones was murdered by an illegal alien? You think you would make fun of this illegal alien invasion if you lost a loved one to this crime?

What if your mother was shot in the head by an illegal alien? Do you think you could make that funny? What about your children? Would it be comical if your daughter or your son or your niece or nephew was lying in the street dead, shot in the head, by someone living in this country illegally?

Here’s a challenge for you Mr. Colbert. I challenge you to visit a memorial plaque in Los Angeles, California. The plaque where my 17 year old nephew, Jamiel Andre’ Shaw II, was murdered on March 2, 2008, by a documented illegal alien gang member.

Minutes after Jamiel hung up the phone with his father Jamiel Sr., Jamiel was shot in the stomach and then shot in the head, three doors from our home. Jamiel’s mother, U.S. Army Sergeant Anita Shaw was serving in Iraq when her son was murdered. Would you like to meet Anita, Mr. Colbert?

I challenge you to visit where Cheryl Green was murdered in Los Angeles. Cheryl Green was 14 years old when she was shot and left for dead by an illegal alien. She was riding her bike across an imaginary line that the illegal alien gang members told each other, “the next black person that crosses this line will die.” Would you like to meet Cheryl’s mother, Charlene Lovett? I’m sure she could use a good laugh!

Maybe walking the streets of Los Angeles are not a challenge you would accept. So, how about Arizona, Mr. Colbert? I challenge you to visit the place where Robert Krentz was murdered by an illegal alien. Robert Krentz was 58. He was a well-liked cattle rancher, working on his 34,000 acre ranch, when he and his dog were shot dead by an illegal alien.

These are just three of the American citizens who I’m sure were not laughing when they were shot and murdered. Unfortunately, we have a long list of names of American citizens who were murdered by illegal aliens. Would you like to see their faces and meet their families?

As a matter of fact, there are tens of thousands of American citizens across the United States of America who were murdered and left for dead by people who were never supposed to be in the USA! Many of these criminals have never been caught!

If you decide to accept this challenge, why not invite about 40 families who lost love ones due to illegal immigration, to come to your studio? Then, you can tell us all about your experience working on this farm. You can even tell us, “how bad your back was hurting when you were working with illegal aliens”. I wonder how many families would laugh and think that’s funny.

To be honest with you, I’m having a very hard time trying to understand why Representative Zoe Lofgren invited you, to speak on this serious issue! Perhaps she too thinks illegal immigration is a laughing matter! She seriously needs to be replaced!!

Call me Mr. Colbert if you accept this challenge, because I know my family would love a good laugh!!


Jamiel Shaw’s Angry Aunt!
Althea Rae Shaw
Los Angeles, CA

“In life, there comes a time when people must stand up for what they believe in”.

Do you think Althea Rae Shaw’s anger is justified? Let us know in the comments box below.

View Stephen Colbert’s statement to congress:

Past year sees many women in politics

So far, it has been a good year for women in politics.

In the past couple of decades, hundreds of female candidates have set their sights on Congress, governorships and state legislatures, the Associated Press reported.

And in Tuesday’s primary election, a few women racked up big wins.

In California, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, two wealthy businesswomen, captured the Republican nomination for governor and Senate. State Legislator Sharron Angle, in Nevada, received the GOP Senate nod and will face Democratic Leader Harry Reid in November. Despite allegations of infidelity, Nikki Haley grabbed the spot in the GOP gubernatorial runoff, the Associated Press reported.

But one of the biggest wins of the night came from two-term Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, the Associated Press reported. Lincoln received just a few more votes than Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. In Iowa, Roxanne Conlin won the Democratic Senate, and in Maine, Elizabeth Mitchell is the Democratic nominee for governor. Mitchell is the first woman in the nation to serve as both state Senate president and state House speaker.

In 1992, 24 women went to the House and five women went to the Senate. Now, 75 women are in the House, including the first female Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and 17 women are in the Senate.

“Many women are running and taking advantage of this moment,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said. “When voters are looking for something new and something different, women can really fit that bill because they are not the status quo, they look different.”

Just two years ago, Sarah Palin was the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket, and Hillary Clinton almost won the Democratic presidential nomination.

Today, two women sit on the Supreme Court, and there is a chance Elena Kagan will join them.

Forum explores impact of health care overhaul

imageLeticia Rodriquez, a nutrition assistant with the Watts Health Care Corporation and SEIU 721 member with her three children.

South Los Angeles residents gathered for a community health forum on Saturday, March 27, held at the Bethune Park, to hear Rep. Laura Richardson speak about the impact of President Obama’s health care overhaul on community clinics and hospitals.

“The bill is not perfect, but it’s a good start,” said Richardson, who just flew back from Washington D.C., after last weeks final vote on the bill. “From here we can begin to make improvements.”

Under the congresswoman’s 37th district, which includes Watts, Willbrook, Compton, Carson, Long Beach and Signal Hill, the bill will fund $11 million towards clinics, improve coverage for 299,000 residents and will extend coverage to 92,500 uninsured people.

“In America you have the right to life. You can’t have a life if you don’t have a healthy life,” said Richardson.

The bill will also begin to close the Medicare Part D drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole” for 63,000 senior citizens, said Richardson.

Under the “donut hole” system, Medicare beneficiaries were required to pay 25 percent of their medication after paying deductibles and premiums. Once the plan exceeded the $2,830 limit, they had to pay the full cost of their medication. After they finished spending more than $3,000, they qualified to only pay 5 percent of their costs.

“Senior citizens shouldn’t have to choose between food or medication,” said Richardson.

The congresswoman also endorsed the involvement of the health care workers union, SEIU 721, in negotiating contracts and organizing possible strikes.

“It’s so important that SEIU be at the bargaining table,” said Richardson after giving an anecdotal speech on her mother’s days as a Teamster labor unionist. “With the 30 million people that will be receiving health care, a lot of money is going to be made, and health care workers should receive reasonable wages and pensions.”

Following Richardson’s applauded speech, a nutrition councilor from SEIU 721, told the audience the union is fighting to save the Watts Health Care Corporation, an urgent health care center that extended its service hours after the closing of the King Drew Medical Center emergency room in 2007.

“The clinic may have to shut down its extended services and cut staff, which will increase lines and wait time,” said Luz Leon who has worked for the Watts Health Care Corporation for more than 18 years.

After the emergency room was shut down, the Watts Health Care Corporation, located less than two miles away from the King-Drew hospital, was allocated money from the Los Angeles Medical Preservation Fund. The bill provided $100 million a year to help neighboring clinics and hospitals expand their services. This permitted the Watts Health Care Corporation to extend its work hours and remain open on Saturdays.

The bill, however, did not contemplate funding past 2009-2010. The MLK-Drew “replacement hospital” will not open until December 2012 at the earliest, and this is projected to be a partial opening.

SEIU 721 is now trying to gain support for the SB 1409 bill that would prolong the additional funding.

Managers of the Watts Health Care Corporation are also in negotiations with SEIU 721, to bargain their employees’ contracts that expired in January. The managers wants to raise their employees’ monthly premiums for families of two or more, from $20 to more than $500, said Leticia Rodriquez, a nutrition assistant at the clinic.

“It’s scary. If they raise the premium, we are going to have to go without health insurance,” said Rodriquez, a mother of three children. “Our income is over the guideline for Medical.”

The problem with health care access in South Los Angeles, Rodriquez said, “is that people who have no income qualify for public services, but small businesses and companies can’t do that.”

SEIU is planning to hold another community forum April 6 to further discuss the needs of community clinics in South Los Angeles.

“Count me in the fight,” Richardson said.