City Council approves $50,000 reward for info on murder

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to renew a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the murder of 20-year-old Cesar Garcia two years ago.  Garcia was riding his bike in the 600 block of West 81st Street on Aug. 10, 2009, when a young Latino male approached him and shot him several times.  Garcia died at the scene of the shooting.

According to City News Service, LAPD Detective Bertha Durazo said past reward offers have brought few leads.  Durazo says the victim was not a gang member.  It’s not clear if the shooter was affiliated with a gang.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Criminal Gang Homicide detectives Durazo or David Ross at (213) 485-1383.

Perry re-elected as L.A. City Council’s President Pro Tempore

imageDistrict 9 Councilwoman Jan Perry, who is serving her third term in the Los Angeles City Council, was re-elected as President Pro Tempore in vote of 12-1. Councilman Richard Alarcon voted against her appointment.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue to address the challenges ahead,” Councilwoman Perry said in a statement.

The city’s new fiscal year began July 1st. Eric Garcetti, of District 13, was unanimously re-elected as Council President.

Councilwoman Perry is only one of two women on the City Council. That’s why, she says: “this position is even more meaningful to me; I hope that young women will see that they too have a place in local politics and can be leaders in their community.”

Perry was first elected to the City Council in 2001. She will be ineligible for re-election to her current seat at the end of her term, but is currently exploring a possible mayoral bid in 2013.

City Council votes to oppose ‘Secure Communities’

The Los Angeles City Council voted today in favor of opting out of the controversial “Secure Communities” program that requires police and law enforcement agencies to submit fingerprints of arrested people to federal immigration officials.

City Councilman Bernard Parks, who is also a former Los Angeles police chief, introduced the motion supporting current state legislation that proposes to suspend the federal program in California.  Parks said that while the intention of “Secure Communities” was to target undocumented immigrants with violent criminal backgrounds, the program has gone off-course.

Almost 70 percent of people deported under “Secure Communities” had no convictions or were accused of minor offenses, according to a report by the city’s chief legislative analyst.

Parks pointed out that one of the biggest problems with the program is that it hinders safety by making victims think twice before reporting a crime.  Councilwoman Jan Perry, who co-sponsored the motion, said “Secure Communities” also threatens victims of domestic violence, who would be too fearful of getting deported if they report their abusers.

According to LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore, the city has been much safer since it established Special Order 40 in 1979 preventing police officers from considering immigration status when initiating a police action.

The “Secure Communities” program was created in 2008. It requires police to submit suspects’ fingerprints to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) so they can be cross-checked with federal deportation orders.

The states of New York, Massachussetts and Illinois have recently suspended their participation in the federal program, citing some of the same concerns the L.A. City Council voiced today.

City Council offers $75,000 reward for information on shooting of South LA toddler

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion authored by Council President Pro Tempore Jan Perry that authorized the issuance of a $75,000 reward for information leading to the identification and apprehension of the person or persons responsible for a shooting that killed 22-month old, Joshua Montes, and left his uncle, Josefat Canchola, in critical condition.

On May 23, 2011, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Josefat Canchola was holding his 22-month old nephew, Joshua Montes, on their front porch at 1278 East 55th Street when gunfire broke out and both were struck in the head. Joshua Montes died as a result of his injuries that evening and his uncle remains in critical condition.

“It is my hope that this reward will help us find the person or persons responsible for this unimaginable crime,” said Council President Pro Tempore Jan Perry in a press release. “These people obviously have no regard for human life and we need to do everything in our power to find them before they hurt anyone else.”

If you have any information regarding this shooting, please contact Newton Area Detectives at (323) 846-6556. On the weekends and during off-hours, please contact the 24-hour toll free number at the detective Information desk, at 1-888-LAPD-24-7. Anonymous tips can also be left at the 24-hour hotline number.

Metro begins tests for Expo Line, a controversial topic in South Los Angeles

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News story:


On Monday, Metro began testing its Expo Line tracks. A high-rail truck pulled an empty light-rail train to test side clearance and overhead.

image “This is just a slow walking speed type test,” said Jim Jasmin, Metro’s start-up manager. “When we get to an object, if it looks iffy, we’ll stop. We’ll move up slowly until we get to it and then check the measurements and go on.”

Jasmin and other safety officials wearing bright yellow vests with orange reflectors followed alongside the train.

“It’s a very long process,” Jasmin said. “It’s going to be a couple of days before we get this all done just in this short, start up section of the line.”

There are 10 new stations included in Phase 1. The stops include the University of Southern California, Exposition and Crenshaw, Farmdale and Culver City. The estimated travel time between downtown and Culver City will be 30 minutes, according to Metro officials.

But the Expo Line construction came with controversy. South Los Angeles community members and activists expressed concern over unsafe railroad crossings in low-income and minority neighborhoods, especially at the Farmdale station near Dorsey High School.

Damien Goodmon, coordinator of the Fix Expo citizens’ campaign, called for every intersection of the Expo Line to have a grade-separated crossing.

“We needed to do this for a variety of reasons,” Goodmon said. “There was injustice and injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere. Dr King. And two, we had to establish that you can’t just assume that since you’re coming through a black and brown community that you’ll be able to build any kind of way.”

The California Public Utilities Commission Board voted in 2010 to support a plan that called for safety improvements. The improvements included station platforms and speed restrictions.

But the Federal Transit Administration’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether or not Metro complied with the Civil Rights Act. Title 6 states that any program receiving federal funding cannot discriminate in any way.

“And so that is one long fought for victory you can say,” Goodmon said. “From that standpoint, getting them to look at that project and maybe imposing sanctions upon Metro for violations, we would hope would lead to corrective actions that will prevent this type of disparity in future projects.”

The $862 million Expo light rail line is entirely funded by Metro. Metro has not yet set an official date for the start of passenger service. But they hope to be done with most of Phase 1 by November 15, 2011. Completion all the way to Culver City might not happen until early next year, according to Metro.

City approves plans to redevelop hotel in downtown Los Angeles

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News:


The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to approve plans for a massive redevelopment of the Wilshire Grand Hotel. After two years of planning, a 13-1 vote approved plans for a groundbreaking development in downtown Los Angeles. The estimated $1.2 billion project will include a 45-story reconstruction of the Wilshire Grand Hotel with an accompanying 65-story office building.

image “I’m really amazed at how anyone could be opposed to this,” Councilman Dennis Zine said. “How anyone in their right mind would be opposed to this project that’s going to bring jobs, economy and help downtown Los Angeles.”

The agreement is between the city and two private companies, Thomas Properties and Korean Air. Council member Jan Perry says the project will bring in $22 million a year for the city’s general fund in 2015. Developers say it will bring in more than 7,000 construction jobs and 6,000 permanent jobs. The head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Maria Elena Durazo, is in full support.

“We ask you to not only support it, but to hold it up as an example that we want all employers and all developers to follow,” Durazo said.

The city council’s plans were met with some skepticism. Digital signage and LED lighting would cover the two huge buildings from top to bottom. Barbara Broide of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight said the signs could create a safety hazard to motorists on the 110 Freeway.

“You have abdicated your responsibility to protect our safety from these signs that are designed to catch the attention of all who pass,” Broide said.

The vast majority of the audience in city hall, however, was excited about the redevelopment.

“I just spoke to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and they both support this project,” said Kevin Norton, member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The existing Wilshire Grand Hotel is set to be demolished in December as part of the approved agreement.

City Councilmembers raise money for victims of Japanese earthquake


Fast food ban changes food landscape in South L.A.

Ronald McDonald and his fast food friends are no longer welcome in South Los Angeles. Instead, the Los Angeles City Council is pushing the establishment of more farmers’ markets and locally-owned businesses.

Intersections South LA’s Kate Rooney explains why fast food restaurants can no longer be built in the neighborhood.

Hogan-Rowles supporters remain hopeful

In the hours following the March 8 election, supporters of candidate Forescee Hogan-Rowles gathered at her campaign headquarters on Crenshaw Boulevard.

The mood in the air was hopeful–confident even–as the supporters chanted “Yes, We Can” and “Tonight’s going to be a good night.”

Intersections South LA was there, talking to supporters and chronicling the affair through photographs.

Herb Wesson takes early lead in District 10 election

Music, food, and yellow and black balloons made for a high-spirited evening at the Herb Wesson reelection headquarters in District 10.

The incumbent won outright in his sprawling and diverse district, avoiding a run-off election at a later time.

Wesson said that his first priority after being reelected would be addressing the budget concerns of the city. He acknowledged that the statewide budgets cuts were felt by everyone, but especially in places like District 10 where funds are needed to help “redevelop blighted communities.”