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Say It Ain’t So Joe

October 18, 2013
14th District Coucilmember, José Huizar with his family in the background on York Blvd in February.

14th District Coucilmember, José Huizar with his family in the background on York Blvd in February.

 

Yesterday, our Council District 14 Councilmember, José Huizar admitted to having an affair with his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Francine Godoy. This after Godoy, 34, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him on Thursday morning. Huizar, 45, released a brief statement saying that he and Godoy had a “consensual relationship” and that her sexual harassment claim is “absolutely false and malicious.”  The statement further goes on to say “Ms. Godoy is someone seeking to damage the Councilmember’s reputation because he would not help advance her career as she expected.”

Godoy’s claim states that she was “subjected to regular physical and verbal sexual harassment, including propositions for sexual favors” and “Huizar’s sexual harassment was severe and pervasive” and that Huizar “explicitly conditioned [her] employment benefits on sexual favors and when [she] refused Huizar’s sexual harassment, Huizar began a campaign of retaliation.”  The lawsuit claim centers around Huizar’s encouragement for Godoy to run for the Community College Board of Trustees. According to the claim, on Columbus Day last year, Huizar demanded Godoy come to his City Hall office that night. When she arrived after 8pm, Huizar allegedly demanded to have sex with Godoy or she would lose his support for her campaign.  When she refused, Huizar allegedly threw a fit. Later on November 1, after 10pm, Huizar allegedly went to Godoy’s home to give her one last ultimatum to be “closer” to him before his scheduled CCBT endorsement the next morning. According to Godoy, she refused him and was subsequently not endorsed the next day, and a month later banned from the office and told to “work from home”  with reduced assignments. Godoy then, after nearly seven years in the Huizar office, left her $132,000 salary position as Deputy Chief of Staff for a $118,000 position with LA City Sanitation in April of this year. (Yes, our civil servants are paid ridiculously for the amount of service they provide. Mayor Sam has a revealing list of CD14 staff salaries from 2011, including Francine Godoy’s.)

Last month, a Special Committee on Investigative Oversight formed by Council President, Herb Wesson began to investigate the sexual harassment claim that Francine Godoy filed against José Huizar state department of Fair Employment and Housing. Meanwhile, The City Maven reminds us that we, the lucky taxpayer, may be on the hook for paying for Huizar’s defense.

This is a sad day for CD14. As if this district doesn’t have enough problems already. And while the only corruption known at this point is matrimonially, it says a lot about someone’s character, especially when they regard themselves as a devoutly religious family man. Much like Villaraigosa, the rest of Huizar’s term will be tarnished, and his future plans to run for his third term will depend on his personal problems instead of his accomplishments as a City Councilmember.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that José is held in high esteem here. Professionally, he gets the job done. His side of 90042 is noticeably the better-maintained side. York Blvd as well as Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock are currently experiencing the most significant street design changes since the streetcars were removed decades ago. York Blvd will have a new park by this time next year. Thanks in large part to the leadership from Huizar’s office. He is well-regarded with his preservation efforts and is currently the only member of the City Council with a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. To lose him would be a setback for those of us that want to see Los Angeles protect its history and catch up with other world-class cities in urban infrastructure.

The rumors of Huizar’s infidellity and harsh management style have dogged him for years. Much like the kid asking Shoeless Joe Jackson if the rumors were true about being involved in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, “Yes, kid, I’m afraid it is.”

More from KPCC, LA Times, LA Weekly, and the always full-tilt Mayor Sam.

Highland Park’s New Friend

October 10, 2013
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What a friend we have in donuts…

Highland Park has long been considered a special place, but now it is a very special place because right now it is the only place in the world with a Donut Friend.

Northeast Los Angeles is no stranger to the Donut Arts. This after all, is where the most powerful donut empire in the Western United States began with Yum Yum Donuts in 1971 on the corner of Figueroa and Avenue 26. And while 90042 may still be home to the best glazed donut in Los Angeles at Monterey Donuts in Hermon, Donut Friend has upped the game considerably. Over in the East San Gabriel Valley,  Glendora’s Donut Man has been blowing people’s minds for decades by putting fresh fruit on their donuts. Which is awesome. But Donut Friend has electrified the acoustic guitar of pastries, their donuts goes to eleven.

Jam, cheese, bacon, bananas, basil, nutella, mint, fudge, olive oil, jalapenos, sriracha, ice cream, chocolate mousse, candied oranges, caramel, and sugar glaze are among just a few choices you can put on you’re basic $2 vegan traditional or cake donut.  (For $2.50, you can get a stupid-healthy vegan baked donut.) The D.I.Y. donut option is a fun way to show yourself and your friends (who are not donuts) what an awesome or awful pastry chef you could be. But don’t let that stress you out, there is a list of Donut Friend Compilations where you can show off your music prowess by getting the band and song references that the donuts are named after. (Fudgegazi = Fugazi, Lemon Weapon = Legal Weapon, GG Almond = GG Allin, Caramel on Parade = Christ on Parade, Dag Nutty = Dag Nasty, Jets to Basil = Jets to Brazil, Rights of Sprinkles = Rights of Spring, etc…) The donuts are good. Really good. I find myself avoiding York Blvd all together, just to keep from eating too many of their donuts. To go with these spectacular donuts, they have the usual milks and juices, but also serve a surprisingly good micro-roasted coffee from The 909, called Klatch. They also make pre-made donuts that you can pre-order by the dozen and be the most popular person in your office.

The backstory about Donut Friend is that when multi-platinum record producer, Mark Trombino (Jimmy Eat World, Blink 182, The Starting Line) had to “Go big, or go home,” he went donut. Inspired by Donut Man, he decided to open a kustom donut shop on York Blvd where previously there was a Chinese massage parlor. The happy ending for us is that while people from all over California will be driving here to try Donut Friend, we can simply walk over and indulge our fancy any time between 8AM and 7PM, seven days a week.

Donut Friend
5107 York Blvd
Highland Park, CA 90042
(213) 995-6191

The Hammer In The Night

September 11, 2013

5150

 

Street Art is somewhat rare in these parts. Sure we have many murals, thanks in large part to the Los Angeles Mural Moritorium rarely being enforced around here. Yes, there is lots and lots of graffiti on every reachable surface in our corner of Los Angeles. Tags, toys, stickers, stencils, sometimes a random hanging bear or knitted installation, and there are plenty of impressive pieces along our alleyways. But Street Art, its not what we see much of around here. That is why about a year ago something beyond the daily stapled flyer, nailed yard sale sign or graffiti tag on the telephone pole caught my eye.

Corner of Ave 52.

Banded around a 1945 inspection stamp on the corner of Figueroa and Ave 52.

 

At first, I thought the nailed metal was just hardware placed by a utility company. But then, upon closer inspection, I realized it was something more, something artistic.

 

Metal medallion around a 1960 inspection stamp at Cypress Park Village on Figueora, in front of Nightingale Middle School.

Metal medallion around a 1960 inspection stamp in front of Nightingale Middle School at Cypress Park Village on Figueroa.

 

It was then that I started to notice the nailed metal pieces seemingly EVERYWHERE around Northeast Los Angeles.

 

On Colorado Blvd at Townsend in Eagle Rock.

On Colorado Blvd at Townsend in Eagle Rock.

 

Highland Park, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Eagle Rock, all have them. The wooden telephone poles of Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock Boulevard, York Boulevard, and Figueroa Street are all potential pop-up galleries for the artist who calls himself “5150.”

 

Nail flower on Eagle Rock Blvd.

Nail flower on Eagle Rock Blvd.

 

Crazy or not, the artist 5150 (Or as Amy Inouye reports in September’s NELA Art News, his name is either Blake, Blaine or Brent) has made traveling about Northeast Los Angeles a lot more interesting. Finding the art about town is a lot like coming across geocaches, often hidden in plain sight, they add value to the day’s monotony.

 

 

The pieces are usually just abstract scrap metal repurposed from Lockheed Martin aerospace parts or metal container lids nailed to telephone poles with an abundance of nails. Sometimes 5150 creates a star or flower pattern with his nails, but for the most part the shapes are non-representative. So far, I have come across 32 of the art pieces, and surely expect to find more. Especially when I hear that hammer in the night.

 

The artist, 5150 hammering though the night.

The artist, “5150″ hammering through the night.

Not A June Bug

August 12, 2013
Not a June Bug, but a Figeater beetle

Not a June Bug, but a Figeater beetle feasting on corn pollen at Milagro Allegro Community Garden.

It is August in Highland Park. Which means that it is time for FIGEATER BEETLES!

Iridescent green and gold, your flight ever so bold.

Iridescent green and gold, your flight ever so bold.

Cotinis mutabilis, the Figeater beetle is not a June Bug. And yet, that is exactly what many of us (myself included) have called this beetle all their lives. (Blame the yoke of the East Coast transplants to Los Angeles.) But then again, we should know better: June Bugs emerge from the soil in June. Whereas the overshadowed Figeater beetle emerge and take their sloppy flight in August.

Figeater beetles are common to the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Like their eastern cousins, the June Bug, they are notoriously poor flyers that have the capability of achieving a 100% Success Rate at flying into your hair, regardless of where they are actually trying to go. But while they are quite annoying when airborne, they unlike their eastern cousins, are not brownish green, but a gorgeous iridescent green and gold. The Figeater spends most of its two-year life living in soft soil and compost piles as larvae, eating the same things that pill bugs, and earwigs like to eat. In August, the Figeater takes flights, feasts on Figs, nectarines, peaches, plums, sunflowers, and pollen-plenty flowers. It mates, lays tiny yellow eggs in the soil, and drops dead to the ground to menace us no more.

The beetle as a grub. Not so pretty now are they? (Photo by Rob Swatski via flickr)

The beetle as a grub. Not so pretty now are they? (Photo by Rob Swatski via flickr)

Supposedly the larvae is edible, very rich in protein and a favorite treat for the packs of raccoons that frequent the urban setting of Highland Park. But rather than eating them, I remember them best as those little creatures we liked to enslave for our amusement as kids:

Occidental Children’s Theater

July 31, 2013

Noahs-Jurassic-Ark

 

Thee very best in local children’s entertainment can be found every summer at the Occidental College’s Remsen Bird Hillside Theater in the form of the Occidental Children’s Theater. Now in their 18th year, the Oxy Children’s Theater brings original and intimate hour-long productions to the lawn of the Hillside Theater located near the top of Oxy each summer. Created and directed by Jamie Angell, the plays are typically hilarious adaptations of traditional folktales performed aerobically by Oxy Alumni without the use of props or scenery. The current production is a mash-up of the classic folktale of Noah’s Ark, and the 1993 film, Jurassic Park. To get some idea of the gist of these plays, some previous titles include: Trumpelstiltskin, 1001 Arabian Nights of the Living Dead, PinocchiOklahma!, Repunzilla, Dr. Jeckyll And Mr. Rogers, Snow White And The Seven Samurai, Han Solo And Gretel, among others. (To get even more of an idea, Angell happens to be life-long friends with The Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, the two share wonderfully subversive senses of humor.) The plays are tremendous fun for just a pittance of only $10 Adults, and $7 for kids.

Occidental Children’s Theater
July 11 through August 24, 2013
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10AM.
Remsen Bird Hillside Theater
Occidental College, Eagle Rock, CA 90041
Tickets are $10 Adults / $7 Children, Group Rates available.

How John Nese Broke My Heart

July 28, 2013
John Nese gives Josef Bray-Ali a talking-to during the NELA BUYcott Ride in May.

John Nese gives Josef Bray-Ali a talking-to during the NELA BUYcott Ride in May.

Today is the Third Annual Galco’s Summer Soda Tasting fundraiser for the Friends of The Southwest Museum. But I won’t be there this year because John Nese broke my heart.  You see, Mr. Nese does not like bikes. That in itself would not be so bad. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But Mr. Nese is actively working to prevent people from riding bikes on York Boulevard or to his store, just as I used to do all the time.

Erased sidewalk markings outside Galco's where a LADOT Bike Rack was prevented from being installed.

Erased sidewalk markings outside Galco’s where Nese prevented LADOT from installing a bike rack.

A year ago in May, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation attempted to install a much-needed city bike rack in front of his store. These bike racks can be requested from LADOT’s website. It was a big surprise to this blogger, as well as many other long-time Galco’s enthusiasts, to learn that Mr. Nese would actually work to prevent the installation of a free bike rack on the public right-of-way outside his store.

John Nese fighting against bike lanes on Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock.

John Nese fighting against bike lanes on Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock.

Mr. Nese likes to claim that he is not anti-bike, yet he has been working so hard over the past year to prevent the implementation of the 2010 Los Angeles Bike Plan in Northeast Los Angeles. Over the past year he has organized his fellow Friends of The Southwest Museum to turn-out at local Neighborhood Council meetings and oppose the installation of bike lanes as part of the already-approved bicycle lane network in Northeast Los Angeles. And while I can’t say I will never shop at Galco’s again, I can say as someone who would regularly bike over to his store for a six-pack, I no longer feel welcomed doing so. (It is sort of like a Person of Color in 1955′s Alabama being told they are welcomed on the bus, as long as they sit in the back.)

Mr. Nese made a name for himself championing small independent bottlers of soda pop. He rejected the large multi-national corporations that demanded shelf space in his store. A classic tale of the underdog triumphing against Goliath. A minority niche soda market given the space they deserve. Yet he intends to keep bicycles marginalized to side streets and parks. More ironically, Mr. Nese wants regular hours restored to the Southwest Museum, even though attendance numbers would not warrant it. Yet, he makes the same argument that bike racks and bike lanes should not be installed because not enough people will use them.

Support Friends of The Southwest Museum, support Galco’s too. But if you think bikes belong, be sure to let Mr. Nese know.

The Next Twelve Years

July 27, 2013
The post-election pile.

The post-election pile.

The results have been certified. The people have spoken. Another member from the California Legislature has been sworn into the Los Angeles City Council. 10,152 residents of Council District 1 voted for Gil Cedillo and 9,389 voted for Jose Gardea, giving Cedillo a victory by 763 votes. For all intents and purposes this could mean the next twelve years will likely be spent with Gil Cedillo as Councilmember for CD1 until he is forced-out by law after three terms.

Now our City Council with the most lucrative salary of any municipality in the United States ($178,790 annually) is nearly half-filled with professional politicians who were forced-out of the state legislature by term limits, with more certainly on their way in the coming years. This unintended consequence of term limits is explored by David Zahniser in a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. The fear is that a council filled with old-pros instead a diverse pool of local faces could hinder the democratic process. That a Council obedient to the charming yet iron fist of former Assembly speaker, now Council President, Herb Wesson will not serve the people who elected them. This growing lack of diversity in City Council could be found on July 3rd when a council comprised ENTIRELY of men came to order in Council Chambers. (First time since 1969.)

Gil Cedillo at the City Inauguration.

Gil Cedillo at the City Inauguration.

The good news is that Gil Cedillo is a capable leader with many political friends in labor and in the California Democratic Party. How will that will be applied to Council District 1 is unknown. What is known is that Highland Park will be getting more attention by mere proximity with the addition of his district office on the corner of Figueroa and Avenue 56. So that’s a plus. Maybe he will be successful in fulfilling Reyes’ promise to make the long-vacant Security Pacific Building across the avenue into a Northeast Los Angeles City Hall. There is a lot for Cedillo to learn about local issues, luckily for him, an opportunity to educate our new councilman will take place this Tuesday, July 30th from 7pm to 8pm at Ramona Hall (4580 N. Figueroa St) Mt. Washington Elementary School (3981 San Rafael Ave). We will have just an hour to express our concerns for CD 1 at what he is calling “Mt. Washington Town Hall.” See Patch for more.

Now if we can just get Gil to understand and respect what Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZ) and Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument (LAHCM) status means…

The 1923 Highland Hall with historic windows.

The Highland Park Masonic Temple Building  with historic windows from 1923.

The Highland Hall with historic 1923 widows removed for Cedillo's new district office.

The Highland Park Masonic Temple Building with historic 1923 widows removed for Cedillo’s new district field office.

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