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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.

The Government You Deserve

May 21, 2013

“In a democracy, people get the kind of government they deserve.”

Turf War

Turf War

Election Day for Highland Park’s District 1 is today, May 21. The choice is between termed-out state legislator, Gilberto Cedillo and Jose Gardea, Chief of Staff to our retiring CD 1 councilmember, Ed Reyes.

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Gil Cedillo needs a job.

Council District 1 is the most densely-populated district that occupies the central and most historic core of the city. The district covers the diverse neighborhoods of Highland Park, Mount Washington, Cypress Park, Glassell Park, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Solano Canyon, Dodgertown 90090, Chinatown, Elysian Park, Echo Park, Angelino Heights, Westlake, Pico Union, and portions of West Adams and Koreatown.

On one side of the ballot, you have Jose Gardea who has spent nearly all his life in Council District 1 and worked as the Chief of Staff for Ed Reyes for the last 10 years. (To say he is familiar with CD1 is quite the understatement.) Gardea is endorsed by the LA Times, Eric Garcetti, Ed Reyes, Jimmy Gomez, and Highland Park’s other councilmember, Jose Huizar among others. On the other side is Gil Cedillo, who has represented the heavily Latino 46th California Assembly District, later the 45th Assembly District, and the 22nd California Senate District for a combined total of 14 years before being forced out by term limits. Cedillo is endorsed by Governor Brown, Mayor Villaraigosa, and essentially every Who’s-who of the California Democratic Party. (Interesting to note he also claims to be endorsed by Eric Garcetti, but is not.)

Cedillo Campaign Headquarters reflected against the No on I-710 sign in Folliaro's window.

The Pro-710 Expansion Cedillio campaign headquarters reflected against the Anti-710 Expansion sign in the window of Folliero’s on Figueroa Street.

Gil Cedillo has done a lot for California. He is among the top five Latino politicians in the state. No legislator has fought more for immigrant rights in this state than him. His greatest achievement is authoring the California DREAM Act for undocumented students of California. He has stood with union workers and championed the core Democratic causes. And yet, in this race, in this district, he represents the Right Wing of the two candidates. He is actually the most conservative candidate this area has seen since Sam Yorty prodigy, Art Synder ran the adjacent District 14. He is for Big Business, heavily supported by Chevron and the billboard industry (as if you haven’t noticed). He wants to build a Walmart in Chinatown. He is also THAT GUY, who for reasons most of Northeast Los Angeles, Pasadena, and South Pasadena can’t understand, keeps voting to spend millions and millions of dollars on trying to extend the failed Interstate 710 Freeway by any means necessary.

Nap time outside the Cedillo Campaign Headquarters.

Nap time outside the Cedillo Campaign Headquarters.

Cedillo likes to ask people when he meets them if they need a job. Which is a pretty clever way of getting people’s attention. That has been his focus for his CD1 Campaign: Jobs. How the Reyes administration hasn’t created jobs, how he will create jobs, how it is all about jobs. Because we all want a job, don’t we? The problem is, his approach to job creation is about empowering his corporate donors, rather than empowering the people of Council District 1. When I think about what the a city councilmember can do for their district, I think about how they can make our city safer, how they can improve transportation, how they can enhance our neighborhoods, how they can effectively provide a high standard of city services.

The Cedillo Campaign refuses to support safer streets and bike lanes on Figueroa Street outside their office.

When asked by Josef Bray-Ali to support safer streets with bike lanes on Figueroa outside their office just like the Gardea Campaign did, The Cedillo Campaign refused.

If you want to understand what a candidate’s campaign is really about, all you have to do is follow the money. When looking at who is contributing to who, one soon realizes this election is being bought by outsiders. Simply look at the zip codes and amounts being contributed to the different candidates: 38 people in 90042 contributed to Gardea, compared to Cedillo who received funding from only seven. (And that is with his campaign headquarters being located here.) On Cedillo’s donor list, you are more likely to find contributors outside Los Angeles (Beverly Hills, Sacramento, New York, etc…) while Gardea’s contributor list is made up almost entirely by individual donors who reside in the district he serves. This election comes down to promoting the man who has done the day-to-day administration for this district for over ten years to the elected position of City Council; verses electing a seasoned Sacramento politician who needs the job with its $178,789 annual salary. (Highest city council salary in the nation.)

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As Chief of Staff for CD1, Gardea helped improve pedestrian safety with crosswalks and signage like this one outside my daughter’s preschool on Figueroa.

The City Council is all about the myriad of day-to-day little things that make a big difference. It is about administrating the city resources effectively and providing the services constituents need. It is about adding value to the quality of life in our fair city. Our city is about abandoned couches, dead opossums, graffiti, housing, health services, dogs and cats, sanitation, utilities, small business development, parks and recreation, public transportation, public safety, police and fire service, building codes, historic preservation, community redevelopment, neighborhood empowerment, urban planning, roads, sidewalks, street trees, arts and culture, libraries, museums, street lights and parking. There is only one candidate that is well-versed in all those departments, one candidate who has made his career to serve the city, and has worked with all of these Los Angeles interests to make our city a better place.

Today there is only one good choice for Council District 1: Jose Gardea.

 

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Jose Gardea at Vista Hermosa Park, a park he helped to create in CD1. (Photo courtesy of Gardea Campaign 2013)

Pigeons And Parakeets

April 29, 2010

This place really is for the birds.

Many mornings, one can find the pigeons amassing over the Highland Park Metro Station, waiting for their feeding from one of the many pigeon feeders that frequent the parking lot between Avenue 57 and 58. Or you can go over to Avenue 50 and El Paso and see the Birmingham Rollers doing their tricks for their keeper. (Sometimes at their own peril.)

There is a history here.

At the turn of the previous century, just a couple of miles down Figueroa Street (Dayton Avenue then) stood the world’s largest pigeon farm located approximately where the Home Depot in Cypress Park is today.

The Los Angeles Pigeon Farm on the banks of the Los Angeles River in the foreground. Cypress Park developing in the background. Circa 1910. Photo via the USC Digital Library.

In 1900 our predecessors here had a penchant for what today we would consider unusual meat sources. Just across the York Boulevard Bridge stood South Pasadena’s famed Cawston Ostrich Farm, where the giant birds were raised for their feathers and meat. Twenty-five years earlier, the now ubiquitous backyard critter, the opossum, was itself imported to Los Angeles from Arkansas to be used as a meat source. But when it came to squab, Cypress Park was king.

Stereoscope of the pigeon farm apartment houses in 1903. Via Wikipedia.

In 1898 T.Y. Johnson opened his ranch on the banks of the Los Angeles River near the confluence of the Arroyo Seco at Dayton and Avenue 20. Where San Fernando Road and Figueroa Street is today. The ranch had the benefit of being located next to all the major railroads, which meant easy shipping in the days before refrigeration. But more importantly, the pigeon ranch was in the center of Los Angeles’ milling district, providing ample sources of spilled gains for the birds to eat.

1903 Stereoscope of 25,000 residents in Cypress Park at feeding time. Via Wikipedia

The operation grew for many years, housing as many as 500,000 pigeons at one time. It all met a tragic end with the February floods of 1914 when the ranch was washed away, killing thousands of birds, and scattering thousands more across the Los Angels basin. The ranch never re-opened, but their descendants live on.

Another Highland Park fair feathered friend of curious origin is the Mitred Parakeet (Aratinga Mitrata) or Mitred Conure Parakeet, or Aratinga mitrata tucumana, sometimes refered to as the Parrots of the Arroyo, sometimes refered to as the Avian Cacophony Society. According to the California Parrot Project, they number over a 1000 in population locally.

The insanely loud birds are native to east-central Peru to eastern Bolivia and northwestern Argentina, where their natural habitat consists of moist sub-tropical lowland forests. How they came to reside along the Arroyo Seco in South Pasadena, Garvanza, and Highland Park… no one is quite sure.

One theory is that these birds are descendants of parakeets that were released from an aviary up the Arroyo Seco at the nearby original Busch Gardens when it closed in 1938. This would explain why the birds range is centered on either side of the Arroyo.

Busch Gardens in the Arroyo Seco circa 1910. Photo via the USC Digital Library.

Something to consider on Saturday, May 22, when an Illustrated Lecture and Walking Tour is given by Pasadena Heritage at what is left of  Busch Gardens. The tour led by Michael Logan will explore what is left of the Adolphus (Budweiser) Busch estate, including the Old Mill, which is now used as a residence. Tickets are $22 for non-members and begins 10:00am  at Westridge School, 324 Madeline Drive (at Orange Grove Blvd.) in Pasadena, 91105.

Yay! Another Election!

March 1, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to crawl under the covers and allow the government to take care of things… Along comes Municipal Elections 2009!

Reyes? or Rosas? The R's have it.

Reyes? or Rosas? The R’s have it.


Tuesday, March 3rd, is the first election of 2009. Municipal Elections are being held throughout Los Angeles county, with races for Mayor, City Attorney, Controller, Odd Council Members, and Los Angeles Community College District Trustees, all happening in Highland Park. We also have the pleasure of voting on 5 different city measures that will forever change the face of Los Angeles. (Well, maybe its not that dramatic, with the exception of Measure B, and E, the other three measures are rather mundane city charter maintenance amendments.)

Lacking any controversial issues, or well-financed opposition candidates, this year’s municipal election seems to be more of a pre-determined electoral exercise, than anything close to to the type election we experienced just three months ago (Think: Lakers Vs. Clippers). The only true race seems to be for City Attorney (Jack Weiss, has my vote), that will likely go to a run-off election in May.  In parts of Highland Park, we get to decide if we are going to re-elect Councilmember Ed Reyes for the 1st City Council District.

When I voted for Ed Reyes four years ago, it was primarily because of his advocacy for parks, open-space, and his especially for his effort to push forward plans to restore and enhance the Los Angeles River. In the past four years things have flowed frustratingly slow in regards to the LA River, but there has been some movement up stream, and he certainly has some significant park projects in District One to tout his involvement with. In this regard, he has been quite successful.  As a cyclist, I am also interested in any efforts from the city council to promote a functional Bicycle Masterplan for Los Angeles. He has shown true leadership in making this happen.  I like his overall approach to making Los Angeles a greener, and more livable city.

That being said, and despite the wonderful work Ed Reyes has done, he’s not golden. As I pointed out last week, there are the complaints that his section of Highland Park gets neglected, and should be better served. (I expect this to change significantly when his office moves to the proposed city service center on Figueroa and Avenue 56.) Also, Ruth over at Metblogs, has pointed out, it was Reyes who among others on the City Council, that continued the pathetic LA tradition of kowtowing to the Billboard Industry by voting against a moratorium on digital Billboards. (Of course that vote largely affects the more affluent West-side because there are no digital billboards in his district, yet.) In another example of Reyes’ support for visual blight, look no further than the corner of Aldama and Milwaukee Ave and his support for the Curse of ALZA! (Reyes helped Mercardo Los Paisanos get a permit that made the controversial paint job legal.)

So what is our alternative? Sole opposition candidate, Jesse Rosas. You know, Jesse Rosas! No, not this Jesse Rosas. Or this Jesse Rosas. But this Jesse Rosas. Famous for his, “Marching alongside Villiaraigosa,” just as his website says! His website also provides some important details about his platform, such as, “…to protest the asellus podesa seltram socinatnatibus etdis pradert slesa nlartase doloso Lonorbinc odiogravida atus necluct reaistique orciser metasera accumsan malesuada nec sit amet er orem ipsum.[sic]

Inspirational indeed. Though I am concered after doing some digging, I suspect his candidacy may be nothing more than attempt to create a puppet regime, controlled by some fellow named “John Smith:”

Screenshot from rosas4councilmember.org; who is this John Smith character!?

 Who is this John Smith character!? (Screenshot from rosas4councilmember.org)

All I really know about Jesse Rosas is that, besides having the support of many business owners along Figueroa, he lives in Highland Park, is currently the Treasurer for the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, a father of four, went to community college, has worked for LAUSD in some capacity, and is some sort of businessman (from the looks of all the political fliers our house has received, my guess is that he is a printer.) Mr. Rosas’ candidacy reminds us anyone, yes, anyone can run for public office. And that is a good thing. But in all seriousness, if you really want to be elected to a seat on the highest-paid city coucil in the nation, ($160,000 annually) you better have some serious funding, impressive endorsements, significant accomplishments,  and at least finish your website! Besides, out of principle, I can’t bring myself to support anyone with a non-ironic, non-handlebar mustache.

Reyes is what I would describe as the antithesis of Villaraigosa. Modest, hype-free, and focused, with a real working-class ethic that goes well with the exclusively working-class district he represents.  Four years ago, (and four years before that) I championed the election of Antonio Villaraigosa as a victory for the people. It felt much like it did when Obama (another uncommon, now famous name) was elected this past November. There was the hope, that finally, there would be change, that somebody from the streets would be in charge. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed. Antonio Villarigosa has been distracted over the past four years. It started with his attempt to step outside the jurisdiction of the Mayoral office and intervene with the Los Angeles Unified School District. The district needs attention, but it came at the cost of the city, for which we elected him to administer. Then there was his distraction, from a woman other than Mrs. Villaraigosa. Then there was the distraction of campaigning for Hillary Clinton, rather than focusing on campaigning for Los Angeles. Yet, the alternative is voting for  Angry White Males, Gun-toting Christians, Pot-head Evengelicals, and outside agitators from Zuma. I like the platform from Bruce Darian‘s Federalist Party, but that’s all the info he has on his website, except for a video, where he argues why he should be Mayor of Los Angeles from the state-owned pier in the city of Malibu.

Since the Mayor has taken the politically expedient, but constituent disrespecting stance of not participating in any debates, I’ll be sure to tune into 89.3 KPCC on Monday at 1pm when Pat Morrison interviews Villiaraigosa, and asks “Why four more years?”

Then Tuesday, I’ll shrug my shoulders and re-elect our Mayor, re-elect someone who, according to his flickr profile, has my same interests, I will vote for Jack Weiss, vote for Wendy Greuel, support Nancy Pearlman, and probably re-elect all the other Community College Trusties, and the environmentalist in me says vote YES on the solar-powered Measure B. For me, there just aren’t any strong NO’s this time around. Call it apathy or voter burn-out, or the economic distraction, this election feels like it is going to be an epic lack-luster one.

And if we can’t figure out Tuesday, the City Council’s resistance to Instant Run-off Voting (IRV), will make it possible for us to go to the polls again on May 19th if no one outright wins this time. Yay. Lucky us.