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New Year's resolutions for Sacramento politicos

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 31 Desember 2012 | 12.56

SACRAMENTO — From my skimpy research on New Year's resolutions, I've learned that 40% of us make them, and about 90% end in failure.

A dismal record of weak will.

Yet, New Year's resolutions should be encouraged because they're vital to self-improvement. They reflect at least a brief recognition of personal flaws and the need for betterment.

Therefore I'm proposing a few, mainly for Sacramento politicians. Never mind that I've tried this in previous years and mostly been ignored. So some resolutions are repeats.

The first is for Gov. Jerry Brown, and it calls for some background:

•Be more considerate of people, and not just those he regards as intellectual peers or is hitting up for political favors.

Inconsiderateness long has been a Brown flaw, regardless of such qualities as political brilliance and an ability to charm if he chooses. This defect isn't just limited to eating off other people's plates, an annoying habit.

Here's the kind of thing I'm referring to:

Early each year, California's governor traditionally has spoken to the Sacramento Press Club. The sold-out luncheon is a big fundraiser for the club's scholarship program that benefits college journalism students. Govs. Schwarzenegger, Davis, Wilson, Deukmejian — they all came, promoting their agendas, answering reporters' questions and helping students.

Brown has stiffed the club for two years running and is heading into a third. He basically ignores the invite. Just keeps the club dangling.

This is an old Brown trait.

The first time he was governor, in 1975, the state Chamber of Commerce invited him to speak — as governors always had — to a huge annual breakfast of California business leaders, industrialists and growers.

"We couldn't get a response from him," recalls Sacramento attorney John Diepenbrock, one of the event's organizers. "He wouldn't say yes, wouldn't say no. We were getting to the point of desperation."

So Diepenbrock, a Republican VIP with strong ties to the White House, invited the president of the United States. President Ford flew out, subbed for the governor, and the rest is history.

Ford walked across the street into Capitol Park en route to paying Brown a courtesy visit when Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme pulled a Colt .45 on him in an assassination attempt.

Fromme, from the old Charles Manson gang, served 34 years in federal prison. Ford, 17 days later, returned to California and another crazed, armed woman tried to kill him in San Francisco. The next year, Brown began accepting the chamber's invitations.

We'll keep the rest short.

Here are two resolutions for both the governor and the Democratic-dominated Legislature:

•Find some financial angels for your bullet train obsession before it breaks the state.

Yes, high-speed rail is cool. No, it isn't a freebie. It's very costly — $68 billion at last estimate. Only $13 billion has been lined up. But construction is about to start.

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Jane Goodall to promote conservation as Rose Parade grand marshal

The Rose Parade is Pasadena's premier event, but its 2013 grand marshal admits she learned about it only after receiving her title.

"When you grow up in England and spend all your time in Tanzania ... I hadn't heard of the Rose Parade," Jane Goodall said. "It was only gradually that I realized what a big honor it is."

Goodall is perhaps best known for setting up shop in 1960 in what is now Tanzania to conduct what would become groundbreaking research on wild chimpanzees. Now 78, she remains focused on issues involving conservation, crisscrossing the globe to visit schools and give lectures.

Tuesday's Rose Parade will be a "wonderful way" to share her mission, Goodall said, given the tens of thousands of people who watch the annual event along the streets of Pasadena and on television.

"It's an opportunity to send a message to many people who might not hear it otherwise," Goodall said. "I think they'll be quite a few people who might have heard of me but might not think about the message I have."

That message, Goodall explained, is simple.

"It's up to us to save some of these amazing places that our children today can go to for the future," she said. "Millions and millions of people making the right choices for the future is going to lead to the kind of change we need."

Goodall's global nonprofit, the Jane Goodall Institute, and its youth-focused Roots & Shoots program are promoting individual projects in conjunction with the parade, asking viewers to do things such as donate old clothing, take steps to reduce household waste and spend time outside. Goodall will also use the parade to spotlight animals in need, and she will be accompanied by a "lovely, beautiful dog" available for adoption.

Tournament of Roses President Sally Bixby called Goodall's background "a testament to the sense of adventure and openness to possibility" represented by the parade's theme, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

"The theme can be interpreted as a celebration of accomplishment, discovery and travel, of course, but equally valid is its implicit call to action," Bixby said in a statement. "Dr. Goodall is now an international icon, but it is her passion for discovery and how she has used her celebrity for the betterment of the world that has drawn us to her."

Past grand marshals include celebrities (Shirley Temple Black, Bill Cosby, John Wayne), former presidents (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower) and frogs (Kermit). Iraq war veteran and "Dancing With the Stars" winner J.R. Martinez led the 2012 Rose Parade; Southern cooking queen Paula Deen was grand marshal the year before.

"It's an honor and a fascinating list," Goodall said.

Goodall has turned to another former grand marshal for advice, consulting former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (2006) about the coin flip that will start the Rose Bowl game.

Goodall said she was nervous about the toss — and apparently O'Connor could relate.

"She said, 'Oh, I was terrified,' " Goodall said.

Coin tosses aside, Goodall said she is looking forward to her time in Southern California. Her family will be in town for the festivities, and she's scheduled to give a lecture Friday in San Pedro with Betty White and Tippi Hedren, fellow animal activists.

"It's a bit chaotic," Goodall said of her schedule. "This Rose Parade is quite something, isn't it?"


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Pasadena-area leaders hold peace and unity rally against violence

Pasadena-area community leaders staged a peace and unity rally Sunday afternoon to denounce recent violence that claimed the life of longtime youth sports leader and community activist Victor McClinton, among others.

About 250 people gathered on the steps of All Saints Episcopal Church near City Hall to hear city leaders, clergy members and law enforcement officials discuss ways to stem the violence.

"It was a call for peace and for the community to come together in light of some of the recent gang violence and shootings that have occurred," said William Boyer, a Pasadena public information officer.

Speakers included the Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints, Pastor Jean Burch of Community Bible Church, Pastor Kerwin Manning of Pasadena Church, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and a representative from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"The message was we need to do something about all the gun violence that seems to be happening across the country," Boyer said. "It can't just be the city alone. It has to be the public, the clergy, parents and young people. It has to be a collaborative effort. We have to take back the city, say no to gangs and say no to guns. We have to turn it into a message of hope for young people."

About 400 people gathered Thursday evening at Pasadena City Hall to mourn McClinton, who was killed by stray gunfire on Christmas morning.

McClinton, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department technician, died outside his home in the 1900 block of Newport Avenue, near Wyoming Street. A second man, who may have been the target of the drive-by shooting, was wounded, according to police.

McClinton, 49, founded the Brotherhood Community Youth Sports League nearly two decades ago and served as its volunteer director, the Pasadena Sun reported.

Two others were killed Christmas day when a driver being pursued by police crashed into a minivan. Tracey Ong Tan, 26, of Glendale and an 11-year-boy from Daly City, Calif., were pronounced dead at the scene. Three other occupants of the minivan were seriously injured.

On Friday, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed murder charges, with an enhancement for gang activity, against Darrell Lee Williams, 22, of Pasadena and Brittany Michelle Washington, 21, of Los Angeles. Williams was allegedly driving the Dodge Durango that struck the minivan. Washington was a passenger in the Durango. Two other passengers were not charged. All four occupants sustained moderate injuries.

Pasadena police said Williams was a parolee with ties to gangs and that there was a warrant out for his arrest at the time of the collision.

Williams is being held at Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles in lieu of $1.095-million bail. Washington is being held in lieu of $1-million bail at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood.



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This Rose Parade marks a major step for a young float designer

Charles Meier pulled his first all nighter when he was 11 years old. His mother found him asleep in a flower box.

It was the night before final judging for the 1990 Rose Parade. Meier, a volunteer, had been running around for hours helping float decorators fill vials of water, scrape seeds and glue last-minute details. Exhausted, he finally crawled into a box that still smelled of orchids.

His parents snapped a picture, not knowing that their son would go on to win South Pasadena's float design contest just two years later, making him the youngest designer in Rose Parade history.

Nor did they imagine he would one day break through a tight-knit institution and start his own float company. When the 124th Rose Parade rolls out Tuesday, Meier's company will be the event's first new professional builder in almost two decades.

"I basically traded in stuffed animals for Rose Parade floats," said Meier, 34. "Other kids were at home reading comic books, and I'm here organizing my float pictures into photo albums. It was what captured my imagination."


Meier still remembers the moment he fell in love.

He was 9 years old, sitting in grandstand seats his parents had won in a raffle. It was sensory overload: Booming marching bands. Floats adorned with tractors and dancers on a giant piano. And color. So much color.

He started drawing floats that day. He studied flowers, memorized parade brochures and, accompanied by his parents, joined float decorating committees. He couldn't stop talking about his ideas.

"I don't want to hear you describe another float," his mother, Carol, told him. "Just draw one and send it in and see if they will build it."

Every year, he submitted designs to his hometown float committee. On his 13th birthday, South Pasadena selected his drawing. Instead of letting the experts take over, he insisted on working with the graphic designer on his vision of two aliens playing tug-of-war with a spaceship.

"It was really kind of funny. He was so young. I mean, he was 13, just a kid," said Dex Regatz, 82, the graphic designer who took Meier under his wing.

"Before they knew it, I had insisted I do the complete floral plan," Meier said. "And they actually took most of those ideas and ran with them."

He quickly became a live encyclopedia of flowers and colors.

He once exercised his mental floral database by designing a Valentine-themed float with 94 types of roses, an unmatched feat in Rose Parade annals. He juggled hot pink Hot Ladys, bicolored Panamas and King Kongs with hints of green.

He experiences his life through the prism of floats. Walking across moss inspired the furry texture for an animal. Coconut flakes, so white he thought they sparkled, looked perfect for celestial stars and eyeballs.


To pay his bills, Meier worked as a senior caretaker and freelance floral designer.

But on the side, he continued to volunteer for South Pasadena and Sierra Madre. He won fans with his enthusiasm, many said, and he treated each float as an intricate work of art.

"I'm always so impressed with his floats. You can stand anywhere, from any angle, and it looks good," said Gwen Robertson, a longtime Sierra Madre volunteer.

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Rocket launchers turned in during L.A. gun buyback not functional

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 30 Desember 2012 | 12.56

Two rocket launchers turned in to the Los Angeles Police Department as part of the city's gun buyback event appear to be antitank weapons from the military, experts said.

Police said the people turning them in at the buyback told officers they had family members who were at one time in the military and "they no longer wanted the launchers in their homes."

Several military experts said one of the weapons was probably a version of the AT4, an unguided antitank weapon. It's a single-shot weapon that a soldier fires and then the tubing is discarded.

The two launchers — long metal tubes that were once capable of propelling rocket grenades — were turned in along with 2,037 weapons at a gun buyback Wednesday, and exchanged for supermarket gift cards.

Det. Gus Villanueva said the launchers were "stripped-down shells" without the technical parts needed to discharge a projectile. "They don't have capability to discharge anything anymore," he said.

Los Angeles police gun experts will be checking the origins of these weapons with the U.S. military to see if they were ever stolen, he said.

Villanueva said officers could not provide details on the models.

Among the 2,037 firearms were 75 assault weapons, officials said. The total was nearly 400 more weapons than were collected in a similar buyback earlier this year.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said he's used to military-style weapons being turned in at such events. He noted that neither of the launchers had rockets in them, and they did not pose a danger.

Still, he said assault weapons have no place on the streets of L.A.

"Those are weapons of war, weapons of death," Beck said. "These are not hunting guns. These are not target guns. These are made to put high-velocity, extremely deadly, long-range rounds down-range as quickly as possible, and they have no place in our great city."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the collection at two locations was so successful that the city ran out of money for supermarket gift cards and got a private donation through the city controller to replenish the pot.

The gun buyback was moved up from its usual Mother's Day date in response to the massacre Dec. 14 that claimed the lives of 26 people, including 20 students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"As you can see to my right and left, these weren't just guns that weren't functioning anymore," Villaraigosa said at a news conference Thursday morning. "These were serious guns — semiautomatic weapons, guns that have no place on the streets of Los Angeles or any other city."


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Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed leaves a mixed legacy

As chancellor of California State University, Charles B. Reed became a symbol of the problems and the promise of the massive public higher education system.

He has received national recognition for his efforts to increase the number of underserved students — low income, minorities, veterans — and for steering the country's largest four-year university system through a period of crippling budget cuts at a time of large enrollment growth.

He has been mocked in effigy by students critical of rapidly increasing tuition and slammed by lawmakers for granting executive pay hikes as others in the system were forced to tighten belts.

Reed, 71, who retires at the end of the year, offers no apologies for a leadership style that is seen as often blunt and bullheaded. He is an admitted workaholic, his only extensive time off a week in Italy for his daughter's wedding 11 years ago.

He's not much for sentimentality. Weeks before his departure, he cleaned out his office, inviting staff members to take his honorary degrees and awards. There will be no trophy room in the Florida home where he's retiring.

He arrived at Cal State in 1998 at a time of burgeoning state budgets, almost immediately butting heads with academic leaders while vowing to increase enrollment by more than 100,000 students.

But it is likely that the Reed legacy will hinge on the latter part of his tenure and on his management of nearly $1 billion in state funding cuts since 2008. Enrollment in the 23-campus system peaked at about 440,000 students in 2008, falling to its current 425,000 as many campuses turn away eligible students and reduce services.

"I may have done some of the best work in my 40 years as an educator these last five years figuring out how to continue to provide access and fund the system, keep the doors open," Reed said. "It's been a real struggle, and what I've seen is a lack of political will and a lack of political leadership in California."

And despite the passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's November tax measure that prevents even steeper cuts to higher education, Reed is not bullish on future financial support.

His supporters said that despite the challenges, he has maintained a perhaps underappreciated commitment to students.

Some of those efforts include increased recruitment of African American, Latino, Asian and Native American students and the development of an early assessment program for high school students to test their readiness for college-level English and math. (The percentages of African American and Asian students have declined in recent years mainly because of population shifts, officials said.)

His tenure saw the opening of Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo and the first Cal State doctoral degree programs in educational leadership, nursing practice and physical therapy.

"You always know where he stands, and I find it interesting that a lot of people talk about wanting leaders to be honest with everybody and I think he's one of those leaders," said Cal State Fresno President John D. Welty. "He's consistently clear and honest even though not everyone likes what he says."

Reed developed a tough skin as a high school quarterback growing up in the coal-mining town of Waynesburg, Pa., the eldest of eight children. That won't-back-down attitude has placed him in frequent conflict with faculty and student activists.

In the last 10 years, student fees have increased 167%. Protests exploded on campuses and at meetings of the board of trustees. Demonstrators were pepper sprayed outside one meeting in November 2011, and people picketed outside Reed's Long Beach home.

An impasse over salary and class sizes led hundreds of members of the faculty union to stage a first-ever strike at two campuses last year. And the system's leaders received widespread condemnation after trustees approved a $400,000 compensation package for the new San Diego State president — $100,000 more than his predecessor — at the same meeting at which tuition was increased by 12%.

(Reed's successor, UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy White, requested a 10% cut from Reed's $421,500 salary and will receive $380,000 plus a $30,000 supplement from the Cal State foundation.)

"We felt like he [Reed] came in leading with his chin, ready for some kind of slug fest," said Lillian Taiz, a history professor at Cal State L.A. who is president of the California Faculty Assn. "The fundamental problem is, we don't share the same vision for the system and that has moved from a model that more resembled a privatized [corporate] university."

Reed has few kind words about union leaders.

"They don't represent the rank and file of our really good faculty out there every day working hard, doing really good things with our students," he said. "With the union, we have a group that want to fight, that want to demonize me for whatever reasons."

Reed made unpopular decisions by necessity, said incoming state Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego), former chairman of the Assembly's higher education committee. Block said he largely agreed with the decision to offer high pay to get well-qualified campus leadership.

However, he said, "the timing was terrible. Making public the decision with salaries at the same meeting with student fees being raised was not the best public relations, and if Charlie has a fault, it is that he was more concerned with doing the right thing than getting the public relations right."

Despite a gruff exterior, Reed was fiercely loyal to his staff, board Chairman A. Robert Linscheid said.

"When we lost a staff member who died suddenly, Charlie did a lot of comforting for the family and a lot of comforting for the staff," he said. "Some consider him to be pretty headstrong, but I just look at him to be matter of fact."

Reed won a football scholarship to George Washington University and eventually earned a doctorate in education. He worked as the chief of staff for Florida Gov. Bob Graham and was chancellor of the Florida State University system for 13 years before heading west.

In retirement, Reed is likely to remain a national authority on higher education: He has committed to several speaking engagements each month through April.

"I feel I've had a good 15-year run at Cal State and it's hard work every day," he said, "but I don't know anything else I'd rather be doing."


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An unlikely player in L.A. County assessor scandal

Scott Schenter sat in a small cubicle and dreamed big.

In his late 40s, he was a property appraiser at the assessor's office who ached to be known as an international entrepreneur.

"My current job is working for Los Angeles County, I don't like to admit it," he wrote in a 2009 email to The Times. "I would rather be known for my expertise in my marketing and finance ventures."

But he needed money, and investigators say he knew where to find it.

Schenter was the first and lowest-level county employee arrested in a wide-ranging corruption scandal at the assessor's office. His odd business dreams appear to have inspired a scheme to sell property tax breaks for cash that spread to the agency's highest level.

The investigation has also resulted in the arrests of county Assessor John Noguez, his deputy Mark McNeil and private tax consultant Ramin Salari, all of whom have pleaded not guilty and deny any wrongdoing.

Together, they shaved hundreds of millions from the county tax rolls by manipulating assessed property values, investigators and county officials say, saving millions of dollars for Salari's clients. Schenter took at least $275,000 in bribes for his efforts, according to court records.

Schenter, who has pleaded not guilty to 60 felony counts including fraud, has spent hours with The Times and investigators from the L.A. County district attorney's office this year discussing details of the alleged conspiracy and is expected to be the prosecution's star witness.

In an odd but related twist, he is also at the center of an NCAA investigation into USC's athletic program that could result in yet another post-season ban for the school.

Former co-workers in the assessor's office are still scratching their heads over how Schenter could have been at the center of such conspiracies.

"He was like a scatterbrained Walter Mitty," said a colleague who asked not to be identified because assessor's office policy prohibits employees from speaking with the media. "He was not a slick guy at all."

Acquaintances described him as an office "goofball" who arrived at work in a gold Mazda Miata, incongruously equipped with customized gull-wing doors.

He chattered constantly about his entrepreneurial aspirations. One colleague described how Schenter taught him to pump and dump penny stocks.

Schenter didn't do much to hide his dual life as an appraiser and an international man of business.

Colleagues in the Culver City office remember him having two or three private cellphones ringing in his cubicle at any given time.

Mostly, he searched for the big break that never seemed to come. "He always had another iron in the fire, he was always talking about the next big thing," said one co-worker.

Schenter's county emails from 2004 to 2011, released to The Times after a public records request, contained relatively few messages pertaining to his duties as an $85,000-per-year property appraiser. The vast majority concerned his fledgling start-ups.

He fired off dozens of messages tweaking designs, preparing presentations and negotiating small orders with manufacturers in China for solar-powered signs.

He had little in common with his alleged co-conspirators.

Salari was one of the most successful property tax agents in Los Angeles. He had a $9-million Calabasas home and drove a Ferrari to the county Hall of Administration downtown. McNeil was a graduate of Princeton University and had a law degree. And Noguez was a rising star in the local Democratic Party, seen by some as a future state legislator or congressman.

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Officials warn holiday revelers against firing weapons

By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times

December 29, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

Los Angeles officials are warning that anyone discharging a firearm into the air to celebrate the new year not only risks killing someone but could also face a lengthy prison sentence.

"Firing into the air weapons in celebration puts innocent lives at risk," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said last week. "Nothing ruins the holiday season like an errant bullet coming down and killing an innocent."

Villaraigosa said the misuse of firearms is on everyone's mind in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left six adults and 20 children dead. The mayor vowed that authorities will pursue criminal charges for anyone caught in possession of a weapon in public.

For more than a decade, city and county leaders have tried to quell celebratory gunfire.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said a bullet discharged into the air falls at a rate of 300 to 700 mph, depending on the weapon — "easily enough to crack the human skull."

"Please celebrate New Year's with your family, not in [Sheriff] Lee Baca's jail or my jail," Beck said, pledging to capture anyone firing a weapon. "Firing a gun in the air isn't only dangerous and a crime but socially unacceptable."

L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said that anyone caught firing a weapon — even if they don't hit someone — will face a felony charge and a fine of up to $10,000 and a possible three-year sentence. A conviction would be considered a strike offense and the suspect would lose the right to own a firearm.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said that in some county areas, special equipment has been deployed to spot shots within seconds and track their locations.

"The madness of gun violence has to stop," he said. "This is a matter of physics. What goes up must come down."


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Small-scale solar's big potential goes untapped

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 29 Desember 2012 | 12.56

NIPTON, Calif. — Gerald Freeman unlocks the gate to the small power plant and goes inside. Three rows of solar collectors, elevated on troughs that track the sun's arc like sunflowers, afford a glimpse of California's possible energy future.

This facility and a smaller version across the road produce some 70 kilowatts of electricity, about 80% of the power required by Nipton's 60 residents, its general store and motel.

Freeman, a Caltech-trained geologist and one-time gold mine owner, understood when he bought this former ghost town near the Nevada border that being off the grid didn't have to mean going without power.

He contracted with a Bay Area company to install solar arrays on two plots of land. The town has a 20-year agreement to buy its power at a below-market rate.

Projects like these make do with scant financing opportunities and little support from the federal government.

The Obama administration's solar-power initiative has fast-tracked large-scale plants, fueled by low-interest, government-guaranteed loans that cover up to 80% of construction costs. In all, the federal government has paid out more than $16 billion for renewable-energy projects.

Those large-scale projects are financially efficient for developers, but their size creates transmission inefficiencies and higher costs for ratepayers.

Smaller alternatives, from rooftop solar to small- and medium-sized plants, can do the opposite.

Collectively, modest-sized projects could provide an enormous electricity boost — and do so for less cost to consumers and less environmental damage to the desert areas where most are located, say advocates of small-scale solar power.

Recent studies project that California could derive a substantial percentage of its energy needs from rooftop solar installations, whether on suburban homes or city roofs or atop big-box stores.


Janine Blaeloch, director of the nonprofit Western Lands Project, said smaller plants were never on the table when the federal solar policy was conceived early in President Obama's first term.

Utilities and solar developers wanted big plants, so that's what's sprouting in Western deserts, she said.

"There was a pivot point when they could have gone to the less-damaging alternative," Blaeloch said, referring to both federal officials and environmental groups that have supported large-scale solar projects.

"There's no question that it was a matter of choice, and it was the wrong choice."

Built in far-flung locations where there is plenty of open land, large-scale plants require utilities to put up extensive transmission lines to connect to the grid.

Utilities charge ratepayers for every dollar spent building transmission lines, for which the state of California guarantees utilities an annual return of 11% for 40 years.

By comparison, small-scale plants can be built near population centers and provide power directly to consumers, reducing the demand for electricity from the grid.

Rooftop solar goes one step further.

It not only cuts demand from the grid, but also can allow homeowners and businesses to sell back excess power.

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Prominent L.A. lawyer's 2009 slaying still unsolved

Jeffrey and Sheryl Tidus had just arrived home from a charity fundraiser at Sheryl's toy store just a few miles away. They had driven in separate cars.

Once inside, Sheryl called their daughter, Ilana, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She handed the phone to her husband and began laying out food for their five dogs.

After he finished talking to their daughter, Jeffrey Tidus went back outside to retrieve a laptop from his Prius. It was about 8:30 p.m.

Sheryl heard a pop, then the motor of a car slowly driving off. When she walked outside, her husband was on the ground. Sheryl figured he had tripped or had had a heart attack. What else could it be? They lived in Rolling Hills Estates, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, one of the wealthiest communities in Southern California, where one is more likely to encounter a horse than a burglar.

A day later, Dec. 8, 2009, Jeffrey Tidus, 53, — a prominent attorney — was dead of a single gunshot wound.

Three years later, the slaying, the only one anyone can recall in Rolling Hills Estates, remains unsolved.

"It was an execution," said Det. Bob Kenney, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy working on the case.

Family and friends have offered a $90,000 reward, and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has kicked in $10,000 more.

"I'm convinced we'll have an answer," Sheryl Tidus said, "because I can't live any other way."

Detectives have pored over Tidus' work and home computers for clues, and looked at his legal cases. Sheryl Tidus is quick to point out that her husband was a civil litigator, not a criminal or family law attorney involved in cases where emotions are pushed to the limit.

He worked with a number of well-known clients, including New Century Financial, Isuzu Motors, California Federal Savings and Tokai Bank. In the last year of his life, Tidus had won a number of large settlements, Sheryl Tidus said.

Neither she nor her husband had been worried about their safety. "Never in a million years," she said.

Kenney said there are "people of interest" in the case. One, the detective said, is former Los Angeles tax attorney Christopher Gruys, from whom a Tidus client won an $11.2-million judgment in 2007. Gruys' name surfaced in connection with the case shortly after Tidus' death.

During a deposition two years earlier, Gruys pulled out a camera and photographed Tidus and made what Tidus interpreted as a threat. The lawyer called Los Angeles police and obtained a restraining order against Gruys.

The State Bar of California placed Gruys on interim suspension in April 2007 after he was convicted of possession of an assault weapon. He gave up his license to practice law in California later that year.

Tidus had told his wife about the threat but told her not to worry.

The family had so little concern about their safety that Sheryl Tidus would leave the laundry room door open so their dogs could come in from the rain. Not any longer.

Gruys' attorney, Tom Brown, said investigators have not interviewed his client. "It's not unusual for someone who was an adversary to be looked at," Brown said.

Tidus had served as president of the young lawyer section of the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. and was on the State Bar's Board of Governors, as well as the bar's Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct.

He was one of the biggest donors to the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles, and was known to represent some clients for free. One pro bono client was a Polish woman who had saved the lives of at least 12 Jews during World War II. She alleged that a film producer had manipulated her into giving him the rights to her story. As the jury was about to read its verdict, the two sides reached a confidential settlement, giving Irene Guy Opdyke back the rights to her story.

When he was killed, Tidus, a dedicated runner, was training for the L.A. Marathon to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Sheryl Tidus and Tidus' sister, Amy Zeidler, walked the marathon in his place, although they didn't complete it. "We did our best," Sheryl Tidus said. "I felt a need to be there." They raised $50,000, Zeidler said.

Sheryl Tidus, 54, walked part of the course in 2012, wearing a button that said, "I walk for Jeff."

Sheryl Tidus still wears her wedding ring, along with her husband's. Their daughter wears the watch her father received from his grandfather on his bar mitzvah.

Sheryl Tidus is angry that the legal community has not agitated harder to help find her husband's killer. "Someone was gunned down for doing his job," she said. "There has been no help from any legal association or the bar. That's sad and disappointing. He gave so much time to his own profession, yet they're amazingly silent. That's shameful."


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California to offer 'legacy license plates'

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is planning to issue nostalgia-stoking replicas of the yellow, blue and black plates that graced the state's bumpers from the 1950s to the 1970s.

But will classic car collectors buy into the impostors?

Starting Tuesday, the DMV will take orders for the so-called legacy license plates. If the department gets at least 7,500 orders, it will print them, said spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez. But if that threshold isn't met by Jan. 1, 2015, officials will refund the $50 application fee.

Though any driver can purchase a legacy plate for any year of car, commercial vehicle, motorcycle or trailer, the program's success depends, at least in part, on classic car enthusiasts. And owners who've spent tens of thousands of dollars to painstakingly restore time-worn Chevys and Fords might not want plates with modern touches, such as the ability to reflect light.

"The people I talk to at swap meets are dead set against it," said David Hindman of Vacaville, southwest of Sacramento, who sells a few hundred vintage plates a year. "They want original plates."

In California, owners can affix classic plates to classic cars, if the DMV authenticates them. Vintage plates are not cheap. On Friday, a pair of 1951 California plates — blue background, yellow letters — was for sale on EBay for $325.

But some vintage plates have been forged or stolen, said Robin Cole, legislative director of the Assn. of California Car Clubs. Others arrive by mail in terrible shape. That's why the group supports the retro-plate program and plans to tout it in classic car publications.

"This just solves a lot of problems," said Cole, who plans to order plates for some of her five classic cars.

California already offers a dozen specialty plates, which are typically used as fundraisers. One with a whale tail and the phrase "Protect Our Coast & Ocean" supports the state Coastal Commission; another with palm trees and a setting sun supports the state Arts Council.

The retro-plate program, the result of a bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake), is solely run by the DMV. The start-up cost, should the program move forward, will be $385,000 and covered by application fees, a legislative analysis said. Owners will also have to pay an extra $40 when they renew their registration.

More information is available at the DMV's website, http://www.dmv.ca.gov.


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Garcetti urges effort to save aviation mechanics school

Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti on Friday called for measures to keep a highly regarded aviation mechanics school at Van Nuys Airport from shutting down or being moved to smaller facilities elsewhere.

Garcetti said he will request at the Jan. 4 council meeting that Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of Van Nuys, and the Los Angeles Unified School District explore ways to ensure the continued operation of the vocational school, which has produced thousands of mechanics during its 40-year history. Because of tight budgets, the district might close or relocate the school.

"The aviation training program at Van Nuys Airport is a critical asset for Los Angeles," Garcetti said. "I am deeply concerned that it could close."

The North Valley Occupational Center-Aviation Center, which opened in 1971, is located off Hayvenhurst Avenue in a hangar filled with more than a dozen aircraft, including helicopters and an old U.S. Air Force jet trainer.

The two-year course at one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world prepares students for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration and potential employment with aircraft maintenance shops, commercial carriers and aerospace firms.

Center officials say, however, that budget problems could force the LAUSD to close the school next year or move it to smaller facilities at another vocational center unless Los Angeles World Airports can lower the rent, which has been about $12,000 a month.

There have been some tentative discussions so far, but nothing formal has been proposed.

David Bowerman, an instructor at the center, called Garcetti's effort to get substantive talks going "a good idea." He said the school now has about 100 students per semester and provides technical training to those who don't want to go to college.

The situation has attracted the attention of the Van Nuys Airport Assn. and major organizations such as the National Business Aviation Assn., the National Air Transportation Assn. and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. All have urged LAUSD Supt. John Deasy to keep the school at the airport.

Garcetti, who cited an article about the aviation center's plight in The Times this week, said that saving the program would help address a growing shortage of entry-level mechanics in the aircraft industry and continue to offer Los Angeles area residents a career path if they are interested in aviation.

"In setting priorities during tough budget times, the school district must focus on education programs that lead directly to industries that are hiring now and in the future," Garcetti said. "A trained aviation workforce in Los Angeles is critical to the competitiveness of our airports, our aerospace industry, our trade sector and our overall economy."


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Union pickets gain special protections from state justices

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 28 Desember 2012 | 12.56

Signature gatherers and protesters may be ejected from privately owned walkways outside a store, but labor unions may picket there peacefully, the California Supreme Court decided Thursday.

The state high court unanimously agreed that private walkways in front of stores, unlike public areas in shopping malls, are not open forums accessible to anyone who wants to assemble to express a view. But the justices split, 6 to 1, in upholding two state laws that prevent courts from issuing injunctions against peaceful labor pickets on private property.

The laws protecting labor pickets are justified "by the state's interest in promoting collective bargaining to resolve labor disputes," Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote for the court

California "may single out labor-related speech for particular protection or regulation" as an exercise in the economic regulation of labor relations, Kennard wrote.

Lawyers said the ruling would give stores greater freedom to remove demonstrators near their entrances but also would embolden labor unions to post pickets at doorways.

The ruling stemmed from a dispute over pickets at a Ralphs grocery store in Sacramento. Union members stood by the store entrance passing out leaflets to protest the fact that employees were not unionized.

The store had a policy of preventing demonstrators from coming within 20 feet of the entrance and asked a court to evict the pickets as trespassers.

A trial judge refused, but an appeals court struck down the two state picket protections. The appellate court said the laws unconstitutionally favored communications by labor over other kinds of speech.

Richard McCracken, whose law firm represented a union in the case decided Thursday, said the appeals court decision had "muted" labor activities in California. He predicted that unions would now have "a much greater appetite" to post pickets at private doorways "because there will be less fear of entanglement in expensive litigation."

Miriam A. Vogel, who represented Ralphs Grocery Co. in the case, said Thursday's ruling might be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We have two statutes that favor labor unions in a way the prevents property owners from getting any relief," said Vogel, a former appeals court justice who is now in private practice.

Although most of the justices upheld the constitutionality of the labor laws, they split in their advice to lower courts on how to enforce them.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, joined by two of the court's conservatives, stressed in a concurring opinion that businesses may establish rules to prevent pickets from bothering customers.

Picketing inside stores is clearly not permissible, and businesses also may restrict the sound level of picketers and the number and size of signs they carry, the chief justice wrote.

"Labor must abide by the owner's rules and policies ... to prevent unlawful interference with the business, despite the fact that the limits imposed by the owner may reduce labor's ability to communicate its message," the chief justice wrote, joined by Justices Marvin R. Baxter and Carol A. Corrigan.

Justice Goodwin Liu , in a separate concurring opinion with Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, said Cantil-Sakauye's admonitions would invite litigants to use courts to solve labor disputes, even though the laws were passed to avoid that outcome.

How is a lower court to decide which size of sign or level of volume is permissible? Liu asked.

"Any suggestion that courts should defer to restrictions imposed by a business owner or treat such restrictions as a starting point for assessing what is lawful finds no support in the Moscone Act," one of the laws at issue, Liu wrote. " The statute does not mention such restrictions or remotely hint that labor picketers must adhere to such restrictions."

Liu advised lower courts instead to rely on a close reading of the laws themselves.

Justice Ming W. Chin dissented, raising doubts about the constitutionality of laws that permit only one group to express its views on private property.

The ruling "apparently means, for example, that nurses can picket on clinics' parking lots and walkways — including, presumably, protesting against being required to aid in providing abortion services — but antiabortion protesters, and others with their own message, may not do so," Chin argued.

Chin contended that the ruling "places California on a collision course with the federal courts."

"It is far from clear to me that the high court would permit California to discriminate in this way between labor-related speech and all other speech, " Chin wrote.


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Proposals would shift shipping lanes to protect endangered whales

Shipping lanes along the California coast — the oceanic superhighways for Asian goods coming to America — are poised to be rerouted in order to protect endangered whales from collisions.

The International Maritime Organization, which governs global shipping, has approved three proposals that would shift one lane through the Santa Barbara Channel and the approaches to the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex and ports located in San Francisco Bay.

The route adjustments were recommended by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after four blue whales were thought to have been killed by ship strikes in the Santa Barbara Channel in 2007 and an additional five whales were suspected ship-strike victims off the Central and Northern California coast in 2010.

The shipping industry has supported the modest lane changes, which shift the southbound lane 1.2 miles away from Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands. The current route traverses a steep underwater drop-off just north of these islands — an area where blue whales congregate to feast on krill.

"We all agreed if we could move the lane a little bit away from the islands, it could reduce the risk to the blue whales," Chris Mobley, superintendent of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, said in announcing the changes Thursday.

The whales tend to follow the krill, which move with ocean currents. But on average, the whales spend more of their time near the north slope of the islands, he said. "It doesn't eliminate the risks, but hopefully mitigates it."

The changes in navigational charts are not expected to go into effect until late next year, when the U.S. Coast Guard publishes official notices, takes public comment and completes an environmental assessment.

"I cannot image any opposition that would halt this process," said T.L. Garrett, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Assn., a trade group representing ocean carriers.

Cargo vessels make about 6,000 transits through the Santa Barbara Channel a year, Garrett said, making it "the busiest shipping channel in the continental U.S."

The industry supports moving the Santa Barbara Channel shipping lane, as well as minor tweaks to navigational channels at the Cordell Bank, used en route to the port of Oakland, and to the approach to Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors. "It's a common-sense proposal based on good science," Garrett said.

Some groups have called for commercial ships to slow to 10 knots in areas with an abundance of whales, based on scientific evidence that slower-speed collisions are less likely to be fatal to the whales. One idea is to pay shipping companies to slow down, using credits or proceeds from California's new carbon-trading program.

The industry, Garrett said, is OK with any voluntary incentive program that would compensate shipping companies for slower transit times. "We would be very skeptical of any mandatory speed reductions, because the science doesn't support it yet."

Scientists know that ship strikes happen regularly but remain uncertain whether they are hampering the recovery of blue whales, which were hunted to near extinction.

Researchers see only some of the casualties, such as the 40-foot fin whale that washed up and decomposed on Malibu's Point Dume earlier this month. An unknown number float out to sea or sink to the ocean floor. A necropsy on the Malibu whale showed it had suffered crushed vertebrae and bleeding consistent with a ship strike.


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L.A. zoning official upholds permits for Wal-Mart in Chinatown

A Los Angeles zoning official refused to throw out building permits issued for a hotly contested Wal-Mart grocery store in Chinatown, handing the retail giant another victory at City Hall.

In a 24-page report, Associate Zoning Administrator Maya Zaitzevsky found the Department of Building and Safety did not err or abuse its discretion when it gave Wal-Mart permission to upgrade an existing retail space at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues.

The decision, issued Dec. 20, was praised Thursday by Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo, who said it would send "a clear message to those who seek to block economic development only to serve their own special interests." Restivo said it was the third unsuccessful attempt by Wal-Mart foes to keep the store from opening.

"We look forward to soon opening our doors and providing the community what they have wanted all along: a new choice for their grocery shopping needs," he said in a statement.

The Chinatown market and pharmacy, which will be roughly one-fifth the size of a typical Wal-Mart discount store, is scheduled to open by the end of March. The project has been challenged by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, an organization that has criticized Wal-Mart's handling of employee wages and benefits.

Both groups have accused city officials of rushing the permitting process to give Wal-Mart its approvals before a vote by the City Council on a plan to ban large retail chains from opening in Chinatown. Activists have warned that the store will have a negative effect on the environment and hurt small businesses in the area.

Gideon Kracov, attorney for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, was reviewing Zaitzevsky's decision but said his client would probably file an appeal to the Central Area Planning Commission, a panel whose five members are appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Wal-Mart is slated to open inside Grand Plaza, a six-story apartment building with stores on the ground floor. Opponents have argued that Wal-Mart's building permits should be invalidated because Grand Plaza's developer did not complete key environmental measures required by the city when the 302-unit building was approved two decades ago.

Wal-Mart opponents accused the developer of failing to prohibit parking on streets that run alongside the building, including Cesar Chavez, according to the city's report. They also said an additional right-turn lane had not been installed at Grand and Cesar Chavez, as required by the city.

In her report, Zaitzevsky said changes to street parking are handled not by the landlord but by the city's Department of Transportation, which added meters to the area in 1993 and 2011. She said transportation officials ultimately concluded that an extra turn lane was "not acceptable" because a bus stop was already on the same corner.

Zaitzevsky also rejected requests by Wal-Mart opponents to cross-examine five city officials about the decision to issue permits for the 33,000-square-foot store. That process is not required under the City Charter, the city's governing document, she wrote.


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Media may argue against redactions in church files, judge rules

Media organizations will be allowed to argue against redactions in secret church files that are due to be made public as part of a historic $660-million settlement between the Los Angeles Archdiocese and alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.

Pursuant to Judge Emilie Elias' order, The Times and the Associated Press will be allowed to intervene in the case, in which attorneys are gearing up for the release of internal church personnel documents more than five years after the July 2007 settlement. The judge's ruling came after attorneys for the church and the plaintiffs agreed to the news organizations' involvement in the case.

The Times and the AP object to a portion of a 2011 decision by a retired judge overseeing the file-release process. Judge Dickran Tevrizian had ruled that all names of church employees, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and other top archdiocese officials, should be blacked out in the documents before they were made public. In a hearing, Tevrizian said he did not believe the documents should be used to "embarrass or to ridicule the church."

Attorneys for the news organizations argued in court filings that the redactions would "deny the public information that is necessary to fully understand the church's knowledge about the serial molestation of children by priests over a period of decades." The personnel files of priests accused of molestation, which a church attorney has said were five or six banker's boxes of documents, could include internal memos about abuse claims, Vatican correspondence and psychiatric reports.

Contending that the secrecy was motivated by "a desire to avoid further embarrassment" for the church rather than privacy concerns, the media attorneys wrote: "That kind of self-interest is not even remotely the kind of 'overriding interest' that is needed to overcome the public's presumptive right of access, nor does it establish 'good cause' for ongoing secrecy."

An archdiocese attorney said Thursday that the church had spent a "great deal of effort" in redacting the files to comply with Tevrizian's order, and said the media attorneys misunderstand the legal process that both parties in the settlement agreed would be binding.

"We agree with Judge Tevrizian that enough time has passed and enough reforms have been made that it's time to get off this and move onto another subject," attorney J. Michael Hennigan said.

An attorney representing the victims also filed papers Thursday arguing that the church was "too broadly construing" Tevrizian's redaction orders, and asking Elias to release the files with church officials' names unredacted.

"Each of the higher-ups in the Los Angeles Archdiocese who recklessly endangered generations of this community's children by protecting pedophile priests will themselves be protected," wrote Ray Boucher, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

A hearing on the release of church documents is scheduled for Jan. 7. At the hearing, Elias will also hear objections from an attorney representing individual priests, who contend that their constitutional privacy rights will be violated if the files are made public. In a court filing this month, the priests' attorney, Donald Steier, said Tevrizian was "dead wrong" to rule that the documents can be disclosed because the public interest outweighs the clerics' rights.

"Under California law, it is the employees who own the information in the files, and the Archdiocese is merely the custodian who has a legal duty to defend the contents of the files and has no legal right to agree to disclose them," Steier wrote.


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Regulators ask Edison questions about San Onofre restart plan

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 27 Desember 2012 | 12.56

Federal regulators have sent Southern California Edison a new set of detailed questions that will help them evaluate the feasibility of a partial restart of the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant.

The plant, which once supplied enough power for about 1.4 million homes, has been out of service for close to a year because of unusual wear on steam generator tubes that carry radioactive water.

Edison has requested permission to restart one of two reactor units at the plant and run it at 70% capacity for five months. The company provided analysis to show that the lower power level would alleviate the conditions that caused the tubes to vibrate excessively and knock against support structures and adjacent tubes.

In questions submitted Wednesday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission asked Edison to provide additional analysis showing what the extent of the tube-to-tube wear would be and whether the plant would meet standards for tube integrity if the unit were operated at 100% of its licensed power.

Activists opposed to the plant's restart expressed hope that if Edison can't show that the plant could operate safely at 100% power, it might be required to apply for a license amendment and go through a courtroom-like hearing to operate at reduced power — something they have been pushing for.

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks declined to comment on that issue.

Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said the company would be answering all of the NRC's questions as part of a thorough review process. She declined to comment on how Edison's response might affect that process, but said the company is "confident that Unit 2 at San Onofre can be operated safely and within industry norms."

Dricks said he did not anticipate that the latest round of NRC questions would extend the timetable for reviewing the restart plan. The NRC has said tentatively that it could reach a decision on the restart proposal in March.

The questions submitted Wednesday addressed some other issues discussed at a public meeting between Edison representatives and NRC staff earlier this month. NRC senior materials engineer Emmett Murphy questioned whether tubes that have been plugged to take them out of service — either because of wear or as a precaution — could eventually pose problems.

Some of the tubes, Murphy pointed out, "are adjacent to a retainer bar that vibrates, and this vibration was the cause of wear in some tubes." In the long term, he said, the plugged tubes could wear through and break, damaging other tubes.

The NRC also queried Edison on details of an upgraded loose parts monitoring system the company proposed to install.

Edison has not proposed a restart plan for the plant's second reactor, where the tube damage was more extensive.

But Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the manufacturer of the steam generators, has been testing mock-ups of redesigned support structures that could be part of a longer term repair plan for the plant. Inadequate support structures in the steam generators have been blamed in part for the wear problems.

The NRC last month cited some procedural issues with the testing. A Mitsubishi spokesman said that the issues had to do with documentation and that the test results were accurate.


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Mechanics school at Van Nuys Airport threatened by budget cuts

A popular vocational center at Van Nuys Airport that has trained thousands of aviation mechanics during its 40-year history faces closure or relocation next year if the Los Angeles Unified School District can no longer afford to keep the facility open.

Educators, students, national organizations and business owners at the airport say the loss of the program would be a blow to those seeking technical careers in the aviation industry, which is already suffering a shortage of qualified entry-level mechanics.

"Many businesses hire our graduates, from small engine shops to major aerospace firms," said Michael Phillips, a senior instructor at the school. "It would be devastating to our program if we had to close or move."

The North Valley Occupational Center-Aviation Center is housed off Hayvenhurst Avenue in a hangar with adjoining workshops and classrooms. The facility is filled with more than a dozen aircraft, including helicopters and a U.S. Air Force T-33 jet trainer from the 1950s.

Jet and piston engines are cut away, exposing their internal workings. Students work on small Cessna 150s and sit at tables filled with technical manuals and aircraft parts.

The setting is ideal. Van Nuys is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world and home to hundreds of aircraft. Scores of aviation businesses surround the runways. There are engine shops, airframe shops, flight schools and fixed-base operators that offer an array of services including charter aircraft.

"It's an inspiration," said Matthew Dods, a 24-year-old student from Thousand Oaks who left a retail job to pursue an aviation career. "Closing the school just doesn't make sense when so many people are looking to hire fresh air-frame and power plant mechanics."

The center, which opened in 1971, offers a two-year program that prepares students for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. About 100 students attend per semester and the total cost of tuition is $2,400, far cheaper than at private technical colleges.

Carlynn Huddleston, the school's principal, said the district's budget problems are continuing to threaten the program, which has already cut its staff and canceled evening classes.

The school might be relocated to another North Valley Occupational facility in Mission Hills, but there would be less space and students would have to share workshops with other trades.

"We would be squeezed into some rooms. There is no hangar," Huddleston said. "The program would become second rate."

If closed or relocated, the center would join other aviation programs that have been shut down or scaled back at school districts and community colleges across the region.

The situation has attracted the attention of the Van Nuys Airport Assn. and major organizations, such as the National Business Aviation Assn., the National Air Transportation Assn. and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. All have urged LAUSD Supt. John Deasy to keep the school at the airport.

"This is a huge asset for the city," said Curt Castagna, president of the Van Nuys association. "A couple hundred students from the school have been hired at the airport. These are good-paying jobs, and they have provided economic value locally and to the industry."

Bill Dunn, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn.'s vice president of airport advocacy, reminded Deasy in a letter that the mechanics school has gained national recognition. Closing it, he wrote, would only aggravate a growing shortage of aviation mechanics.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the need for aircraft mechanics and service technicians will increase 11% annually at least until 2016. Industry analysts say the number of graduates will not keep pace with retirements and those leaving the trade, let alone the projected need.

Huddleston is looking into whether Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of Van Nuys Airport, would be willing to lower or virtually eliminate the school's rent, which, she says, is about $12,000 a month. She added that she is also working with the district to see if the lease can be extended for a year to buy some time.

Though the FAA requires airports to charge tenants a fair rent, agency policy allows reduced or nominal rents for nonprofit, accredited education programs that benefit aviation.

Diana Sanchez, a spokeswoman for Van Nuys Airport, said that Los Angeles World Airports has long supported the mechanics program but that the school district faces financial challenges beyond rental expenses.

Though there have been tentative discussions, she said, district officials have not formally approached the airport department about a new rental agreement. She added that Los Angeles World Airports is willing to work with the aviation center and the FAA if a proposal is made.


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Young Ugandan orphan treated at L.A. burn center

Adolf Baguma's caretakers at the orphanage call him their Christmas gift, because it was on Christmas two years ago when they found the 9-year-old in the bushes behind a building in a small Ugandan town.

Like many Ugandan children, Baguma was orphaned when AIDS claimed his parents. But he had an extra burden to bear. When he was about 5, the teenage aunt left to care for him got angry and hit him in the back of the legs with flaming banana leaves.

Scar tissue from the burns fused each of his legs into a permanently bent position so that he was unable to walk upright.

Townspeople said the young beggar was a "bad boy," whose aunt had abandoned him and left him to fend for himself. But the Home Again Children's Home in Kyenjojo took him in.

Soon, he was accompanying the other children to school, crawling on all fours down the road.

Despite his disability, he was a cheerful little boy, always playing and laughing, said Eva Mbabazi, 32, one of his caretakers at the orphanage.

"God gave him that gift," she said.

Baguma, now 11, got another gift this year, just in time for Christmas. Well-wishers from the United States brought him to the Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles. After two surgeries, Baguma's legs are straight, and he is able to walk unassisted for the first time in years.

The boy's journey began in June, when Los Angeles attorney Laine Wagenseller traveled on a mission to Uganda and met him while volunteering at the orphanage.

Wagenseller reached out to the Children's Burn Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that provides services for young burn victims. Every year, the organization pays for full recovery services — including surgeries, physical therapy and other follow-up care — for about 200 children, according to Executive Director Carol Horvitz.

The group arranged for his visa and trip to Los Angeles.

Since he arrived last month, he has undergone two surgeries — one to release the scar tissue and stretch his compressed muscles and tendons to their full length, and a second to place a skin graft on his legs. A few days before Christmas, the boy stood and took his first steps upright, smiling from ear to ear, said Peter Grossman, medical director at the burn center.

Although the procedure was complicated, Grossman said the medical team was confident from the beginning that it could be performed successfully. But the price tag is far beyond what most Ugandans could afford. Horvitz estimated that Baguma's treatment will cost more than $50,000.

The boy still has a splint on each leg to keep them straight, and a walker that he avoids using. Grossman said it may take months of physical therapy and corrective splinting before Baguma's recovery is complete.

But, he said: "Kids tend to always surprise us with their rapid progress."

Baguma returned to the burn center Wednesday for doctors to check on how the grafts are healing. He also took several confident steps for TV cameras. For Grossman, he reserved a special hug and a series of high fives and fist bumps.

Baguma is staying with Wagenseller's brother and sister-in-law in Thousand Oaks while he recovers, playing with their four children and going to school at Westlake Hills Elementary School. Horvitz said some people had inquired about adopting the boy, but it's not yet clear whether he will be able to stay in the United States or will return to Uganda.

Baguma, who speaks little English, said only that he felt "good" and that when he recovers fully, "I want to play baseball."

Mbabazi, who accompanied him to Los Angeles, was more eloquent: "I'm seeing him walking with joy in my heart."


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Trucker to appeal manslaughter conviction in '09 accident

The truck driver convicted of manslaughter after a fatal 2009 collision on Angeles Crest Highway in La Cañada Flintridge is taking his case to an appeals court.

Marcos Costa, 46, was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison after his 2011 conviction in the deaths of Palmdale resident Angel Posca, 58, and his 12-year-old daughter, Angelina. His case will be heard by the 2nd District Court of Appeal on Jan. 29.

Angel Posca was driving through the intersection of Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard on July 1, 2009, when Costa's truck, which had lost its brakes, barreled down Angeles Crest and slammed into the car before striking a building.

At trial, prosecutors provided evidence that Costa had failed to check his brakes or take into account a warning about the difficulties of driving a big rig on Angeles Crest Highway.

In papers filed with the appellate court, an attorney for Costa said that he checked his brakes regularly and that the crash was the result of unforeseeable mechanical failure, not negligence.

"I think that's what's lost sometimes in the grief of losing two people is that this was just a tragic accident," said Sally Brajevich, who was appointed to represent Costa in his appeal.

Brajevich argued in court papers that Costa didn't have the experience and training necessary to know his actions were likely to result in harming another person. She also contended that the crash could have been avoided if Caltrans had kept a truck escape lane open on the highway.

The jury heard similar arguments, but Brajevich said the appeals court would weigh the evidence differently.

"It's not a retrial, but the court does look at things again," she said.

In response, the state attorney general's office said there is substantial evidence that Costa knew he was taking a risk when he took Big Tujunga Canyon Road to Angeles Crest Highway to reach Los Angeles from the Antelope Valley.

Costa was warned about the curvy and steep road by off-duty firefighter Juan Palomino, who testified that he flagged Costa down to tell him that his brakes were smoking and that he should use the 14 Freeway.

According to prosecutors, Costa saw that his brakes were smoking but poured water on them rather than wait for them to cool.


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L.A. architecture school  is poised to spread its wings

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 26 Desember 2012 | 12.56

The Southern California Institute of Architecture has a most unusual college campus: a quarter-mile-long former railroad freight depot near the Los Angeles River in downtown. Students skateboard inside the skinny structure, from end to end, passing exhibition halls, a robotics lab and studios packed with wooden models and computers.

But some physical deficits come with that urban coolness. Unlike more traditional colleges, SCI-Arc, as it is known, has no lawn or central quad to accommodate graduation ceremonies and other big events. The school uses the parking lot for such gatherings, but it lacks amenities and charm, despite remarkable views of downtown skyscrapers.

Now an ambitious project is in the works to create what teachers and students believe will fill the need and become a landmark in a neighborhood that is morphing from gritty to artsy.

A faculty member has designed an unusual steel-frame and fabric pavilion that will include a stage for graduations, concerts and community events and provide shade for 1,200 guests on movable chairs. It will be shaped like an enormous bat with wings, poised to fly above nearby lofts and galleries.

And thanks to an arts foundation grant, the $170,000 project is slated to be constructed by next spring in the school's parking lot, at the foot of the 4th Street bridge near Merrick Street.

Marcelo Spina, the professor heading the effort, said he hopes his pavilion will help bring more attention to the 550-student school, which now tends to anonymously inhabit the concrete depot. The 50-foot-high, 110-foot-wide graduation structure, topped with a school sign, "will be a kind of institutional beacon, a kind of marquee for the school's presence in downtown. It will allow people to know what is going on in this long building," Spina said.

It is already providing lessons for students.

As part of their classes, architecture students are helping with the design and construction of the so-called "League of Shadows." The name is a partly tongue-in-cheek reference to a group of Batman characters and to the pavilion's ability to block the L.A. sun. Its three attached boxlike forms will tilt above open arches and will be covered in black and turquoise fabric. The structure will be lighted at night.

On a recent day, a dozen students were working on a large model of the structure, figuring out how to attach the fabric to the wooden frame, and projecting its effect on sunlight. Among them was Suky Ho, 34, a master's degree student from San Francisco, who expects to graduate at the pavilion in 2014. "I feel very privileged to be part of that," she said.

The pavilion is important, she added, because the school "lacks a grand entry.... Maybe this will give us our own location and identity because it is on a corner."

Founded in 1972 as an avant-garde alternative to conservative architecture schools, SCI-Arc moved from a Westside warehouse in 2001 to the century-old depot, which it recently purchased after some legal wrangling. The private campus offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Over the past few years, students designed and built much smaller, temporary installations as backdrops to the graduations. Those were intended to last just a year or two. The school wanted something bolder that would last at least four or five years. So, the college's director, Eric Owen Moss, a renowned architect based in Culver City, held a design competition among four professors.

"Part of the responsibility of SCI-Arc, as I see it, is to cultivate not only the capacity of the students but to make it clear that the faculty who sit in judgment of the students also have to be productive and be judged and evaluated," Moss said. "You not only tell people what to do but you do it too."

The school received a $400,000 grant from ArtPlace, a consortium of public agencies, private foundations and banks that says it encourages "creative placemaking." That helped fund the graduation pavilion and a new indoor social gathering spot next to the cafe.

The League of Shadows, Moss said, pushes into the Arts District, east of Little Tokyo. "The idea was to get architecture out on the street and into the world."

The winning entry was by Spina and his wife, Georgina Huljich, a UCLA instructor and his partner in the Silverlake-based architecture firm, PATTERNS. Among their recent work is the Prism Gallery on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, which has an eye-catching facade.

Spina, who emigrated from Argentina and has taught at the college for 11 years, said he wants students to get beyond theories and computer simulations and learn how to swing a hammer and sew material. With its large wood and machine shop for creating models and other work, SCI-Arc has "an ethos of craftsmanship and making things," he said.

With the help of a professional engineering firm, most of the actual construction will be done by licensed crews. But students will be on hand to help with such things as positioning the full-size fabric skeins.

Elias Arkin, 26, a master's degree student from Mendocino County, said he found Spina's fall seminar helpful for his career. "Any time you get the chance to build is a positive. And especially when it is something so complex and unique as this," he said.

The pavilion will be a visual contrast to the adjacent 4th Street Bridge, a 1931 structure with Gothic Revival-style towers and street lights. The bridge traffic may make it too noisy for small-scale theater on the stage, but Jonathan Jerald, a neighborhood activist who is director of the nearby District Gallery, said he is delighted the space will be available for larger public concerts and community events.

"We love the shape and structure and think it's very intriguing," Jerald said. "I think it will become an icon not just for SCI-Arc but also an icon for the community."

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Holiday cheer makes its presence felt during skid row Christmas

They made their way from Watts, San Pedro, Alhambra — entire families huddling in the rain overnight and tucking their kids in on cardboard.

The backbeats of downtown Los Angeles' skid row caroled them through Christmas Eve.

By early Christmas morning, hundreds of homeless and near-homeless families had crowded into a line that wrapped around the Midnight Mission's block. Many had camped out since 11 a.m. Monday to make sure their kids would get toys, meet Santa Claus and celebrate Christmas in a way that wouldn't otherwise be possible.

Some parents who were out of work or in recovery programs said they hoped that a visit to skid row, and a glimpse of lives bleaker than their own, would teach their children about gratitude and the need to work hard.

Lucila Castano of Alhambra lost her job at a sewing factory this year. Santa doesn't come to the house in the morning anymore, she told her 6-year-old son Ivan as he played quietly with his stuffed tiger, oblivious to addicts yelling obscenities across the street. "You can meet him in just a few more hours."

A few feet away, Latoya Williams, 30, wrapped her arms around her 7-month-old daughter, Madison. Williams, her sister and their children had been outside for almost three days, waiting in line before this for a different skid row toy giveaway. Her baby's first Christmas was important, Williams said, and she thought her 12-year-old niece Ienda could learn something from experiencing skid row.

"You see? You need to go to school and work as hard as can be," she told her. "Don't just get a job because it's a job. Find something you love to do so you'll love working the rest of your life."

But there are no guarantees. Williams lost her customer service job at Wells Fargo two years ago. A month later, she found out she was pregnant. Then her unemployment benefits ran out. She now lives in transitional housing downtown.

At first, she said, she was hesitant to wait in overnight lines for giveaways, but then she saw Madison playing with new toys.

"It's worth it. It's worth it. I'll do it again," she said. "As soon as I can, I'm going to give back — because my daughter has a Christmas, and I will one day make sure someone else will too."

Inside, Midnight Mission had been transformed overnight — the walls covered with metallic wrapping paper, and tables and bins piled high with toys collected with the help of the event's lead sponsor, Nestle USA. Volunteers and city officials paired up with children and one by one walked them through Santa's Village to select their gifts: a book, a toy, a ball, a stuffed animal.

In the middle of the room, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa scooped up Amariah, a 1 1/2-year-old dressed in a pink jumpsuit.

"How about this doll that looks just like me and you?" he asked, waving a box while bouncing the toddler in his arms.

Amariah's great-aunt, Harriet Franklin, 41, wiped away tears at the sight of the mayor with her grand-niece. "I want so much for her," Franklin said as she followed her family on crutches.

Franklin, who is in one of the mission's recovery programs, had one leg amputated when she was 15 because of a tumor in her knee. She said she hopes next year to get her own apartment. Her dream is to have her grand-niece, who is living in a trailer, move in with her.

After going through Santa's Village, families lingered in the mission's courtyard, emptied of its usual visitors seeking emergency services. Kids wobbled on new skateboards, toddlers danced with their Let's Rock Elmos and parents greeted other parents they had befriended in line overnight.

As one woman walked back to the street, her daughter held on to her new teddy bear tightly with one hand and clutched her mother with the other.


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Contested UTLA panel elections signal internal fissures

The young staff at the Alexander Science Center has been hard hit by seniority-based layoffs, the main factor behind a turnover of at least 28 teachers in the last five years — this in a school with a faculty of about 28.

Teachers say that the students at the USC-adjacent campus have suffered from the lack of stability and that the faculty has felt frustrated and voiceless.

But now, three instructors from the Alexander science school are among the freshman class of delegates to the House of Representatives for United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union in the L.A. Unified School District.

The House is the union's official decision-making body: It selects candidates to endorse in elections and has the final say on policy — taking precedence over the president and the board of directors.

The recent elections, concluded this month, were the most contested in years, by far.

Of 32 election districts, 22 featured contested bids for seats that typically could be had for the asking through a self-nomination process. In all, 396 candidates vied for 209 positions, with 100 won by teachers not in the current House.

The ideology of the new delegates is varied, and still evolving. They are concerned about job security, teacher turnover, performance evaluations and funding levels. But they are also worried about what some see as a combative but ineffectual and sometimes wrongheaded union and a demanding, ossified district bureaucracy.

The level of interest in the House elections surprised union leaders and veteran teachers alike — some of whom greeted the nouveau activism with concern. They note that outside groups encouraged teachers to run and worry that such groups will try to influence union policy.

Two outside groups are local arms of national organizations, Educators 4 Excellence and Teach Plus. A third group, Teachers for a New Unionism, is headed by Mike Stryer, a Fairfax High teacher on leave who lost a bid for the school board four years ago. His team reached teachers through home mailings, urging them to run.

All the groups are funded by major nonprofits, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has huge investments in education research and sometimes controversial policy positions. And all assert their desire for a union that better serves the interests of teachers as well as students.

Some in UTLA perceive an unholy alliance among these groups, their sponsoring foundations and L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, a former Gates official.

"Taking over our House of Reps is clearly their strategy to destroy us," wrote teacher Anne Zerrien-Lee in an email posted to an online teachers forum.

"We have enough enemies outside of UTLA that we shouldn't have to deal with school district and Gates puppets within," said regional union leader Scott Mandel in an interview.

Without question, the outside groups see things differently than the leadership of UTLA.

Notably, the union has wanted to limit, as much as possible, the effect of test scores on a teacher's performance evaluation. The outside groups or their funders have backed the use of standardized test scores — or formulas based on them — as one key measure of a teacher's effectiveness.

Secondly, the outside groups want layoffs based on teacher effectiveness rather than seniority; the unions defend the seniority system as the most equitable approach.

Still, Teach Plus wasn't trying to recruit candidates who passed a litmus test, said Executive Director John Lee.

"Our desire wasn't to have a Teach Plus caucus but to connect teachers with leadership opportunities," Lee said.

The new delegates emphasize their loyalty to their profession and to their mission.

"I love teaching," said 35-year-old Antoinette Pippin, a fourth-grade teacher at Alexander Science Center. "I love my students, but I'm seeing a lot of things right now that are bad for my students and bad for teachers."

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Maps alter the course of several lives

None of them could have predicted the direction their lives would take when tens of thousands of maps were discovered this fall in a tiny cottage at the top of Mount Washington.

Just ask the librarian, the neighbor, the real estate agent and the retired Air Force man in Las Vegas, whose fates converged around the collection amassed over half a century by John Everett Feathers, who died of AIDS in February.

The cottage was crammed with bound atlases, wall-size roll-up maps and globes. Crates and cabinet drawers were filled with fold-out street maps. A gutted stereo case was even stuffed with maps where its electronic innards had once been.

The astonishing collection was uncovered by the real estate agent hired by the owners of the 948-square-foot house where Feathers had lived to empty out its contents. Told to throw out whatever he found, Matthew Greenberg instead called the Los Angeles Central Library's Glen Creason.

Creason went to take a look; what he saw would make the downtown library into one of the country's leading map archives and turn his life upside down.

It took weeks to unpack the 220 cardboard boxes that he and a group of movers, library workers and volunteers hauled from the cottage in October. It may take years to sort through all of the maps. Volunteers gathered one Saturday earlier this month and started organizing the maps by geographic area. Eventually each map will bear a Dewey Decimal System number.

Creason is already using Feathers' maps to answer library patrons' questions. One inquiry dealt with the locations of World War II era Civil Defense stations. A 1942 Jack Renie street guide held the answer. Previously, the library did not have any Renie guides earlier than the 1949 edition, Creason said.

"It's been really fun. These maps have attracted so much attention. I've gotten emails from all over the country. People come in and actually know my name," he said, with a laugh. "It's been really positive for the library. It's been a good thing."

Greenberg has found that the maps' discovery was a game changer for him, too. The unwitting public service he performed has given him new perspective on his real estate work and his life.

"Personally, the experience at the house was life changing. Giving away the maps was like the pebble in the lake: There was a ripple effect. It's made me look at things differently. With my work, right now I'm as busy as I could ever be," he said.

Earlier this month he was invited to discuss the maps' discovery at a rare books fundraiser at the downtown library and met several of Feathers' friends. They filled in some of the blanks about the collector's life for Greenberg.

The maps' discovery changed the fate of his listing, too. Greenberg had expected to have the lot subdivided for new homes. But the flurry of October map-packing attracted the attention of Mount Washington residents, among them Maureen Burke, who walked over with a neighbor to see what was going on.

There they met Greenberg, and Burke mentioned she was looking to move out of the small nearby guesthouse she rents and buy a tiny house of her own. When she heard that Feathers' old cottage was being viewed as a tear-down, she inquired about buying it.

Escrow closed earlier this month; and Burke, an advertising makeup artist, plans to move in when renovations are completed in early spring.

"I'd been renting 7 1/2 years on this same street and was being outbid for everything in my price range that I found," she explained. "Without sounding too out there, I'll say that how this turned out feels amazing."

Burke purchased the property from the estate of Walter Keller, who had been Feathers' companion before his own death two years ago. Keller had arranged with his brother and sister, twins Marvin Keller and Esther Baum, for Feathers to stay there rent-free as long as he lived.

"I told Marv I understand why his brother loved living there so much. The views are wonderful, the neighbors are nice," said Burke. "Walter liked to have parties. I told them that after I move in, I'll have a party and invite them."

Baum and Keller were happy with the $450,000 selling price, Greenberg said. "It was a good deal for everybody."

While Burke's purchase was still in escrow, she and Creason found two more boxes of maps that had been overlooked, hidden beneath some stairs.

The enthusiasm over Feathers' maps has made his father look at his son differently.

John Elmer Feathers, now an 82-year-old Air Force veteran and VA retiree who lives in Las Vegas, said he and his son had drifted apart in the last years of his life. "He didn't want to be a burden when he got AIDS," the elder Feathers said.

His son began collecting maps when he became an avid National Geographic reader as a boy, according to Feathers. "All of the magazines came with maps in them. After that, he would pick up free maps at gas stations when we were on road trips. He loved to travel all of his life."

The younger Feathers, nicknamed Jeff by the family, grew up a loner. He was born at an Air Force base hospital in Massachusetts with a cleft palate that caused speech problems that led him to be tagged a slow learner, his father said. In Los Angeles, he worked as a hospital dietitian and spent virtually all he earned buying more maps.

The elder Feathers said his son would be pleased to know that people will be able to use his maps for generations to come.

"It sounds like the library is going to do him up proud. He'd appreciate that."


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Youth orchestra opens up new world for participants

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 25 Desember 2012 | 12.56

Dozens of young children, some wearing shirts with their Catholic school emblem, and with last names like Gonzalez, Mendieta and Santaolalla harmonized to the chorus of the "Dreidel Song."

"Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay," they sang. "And when it's dry and ready, with dreidel I shall play."

The Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra filled the Breed Street Shul with new life as it rehearsed for its first holiday concert.

The concert, like the orchestra itself, is evidence of the community's ever-evolving history.

The Jewish storefronts on what was once Brooklyn Avenue are now occupied mostly by Latino entrepreneurs on Cesar Chavez Avenue. The large brick synagogue used to be a beacon for many in the community. It remains boarded up but a smaller adjacent one recently reopened after the Breed Street Shul Project renovated it.

"This is exactly what our mission is," said the project's executive director, Sherry Marks. To make the synagogue "an integral part of the community where it sits and not lose the Jewish history nor the flavor of the community."

The youth orchestra hopes to add a little extra sazón, or seasoning, to the mix.

Taking a cue from Gustavo Dudamel's Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, two music instructors decided to emulate the Los Angeles Philharmonic musicdirector's dream.

Dudamel's program aims to provide free instruments and intensive musical training to children from underserved neighborhoods, said Michael Hudson, the musical director of the Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra. "But we brought it to Boyle Heights because there are so many pockets of need for youth orchestras and there aren't any in the East L.A. area."

Hudson teamed up with Suzanne Gindin, a music teacher at Roosevelt High School, and decided to launch a free five-week youth orchestra program in June. Gindin also gives the children vocal instruction.

Xochitl Ramos saw a flier for the program at Kipp Raices Academy, an elementary charter school attended by her son and daughter, and was instantly intrigued.

"I grew up in Boyle Heights," she said. "I know this is rare."

Hudson and Gindin quickly filled their orchestra with more than 60 students, many of whom had never picked up an instrument or heard classical music. The students went on a field trip to see Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl during that time. Many had never been to that part of town.

"We're within a stone's throw," Hudson said. "They don't know the cultural treasures we have here. The opera, music hall and museums. It's just across the river."

He said the orchestra could have a wider significance for these children.

"It's not just a music program, it's a social change program," he said. "You create music and equality and greater opportunities for these children."

As the summer came to an end, he and Gindin saw an unceasing demand for their instruction and they decided to continue the program throughout the year free of charge.

At the holiday concert rehearsal, Ramos smiled as her daughter Julia Perez-Pacheco shook a maraca to Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad."

The 8-year-old took to the violin immediately and hates being late to orchestra practice, Ramos said, though 7-year-old Esteban stopped playing the trumpet once school started to focus on his homework.

"I look for positive things to get them involved in so they won't be influenced to do negative things," Ramos said.

Daisy Mendieta, like Julia, found her love for the violin.

The soft-spoken 7-year-old didn't join the orchestra until August but has made up for her lost time.

"Even after a long day at school, she still gets excited about coming to practice," her mother, Lucina, said in Spanish.

Some of the students' pint-sized instruments came from a grant Hudson received from Latino Arts L.A. years ago, and others are borrowed. The orchestra has applied for nonprofit status, but both musical directors say they didn't want to wait to start the program.

"There was no time to waste," Hudson said. "Our kids need music now."

Still, as the free program continues, Gindin said she starts to worry about the size and condition of some of the instruments.

But Hudson, who occasionally leaves a tip jar out for his own bus fare, is optimistic.

"Where there's a dream, money will follow."


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Massive collection of war letters coming to Chapman University

For years the stories of pain and patriotism, of loss and heroism, have been locked away in a storage facility in Washington, D.C.

But now a massive collection of American wartime correspondence from the Revolutionary War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is on the verge of finding a permanent home that will provide greater access for students, historians and the general public.

Author and historian Andrew Carroll, who has gathered 90,000-plus wartime letters since 1998, has reached an agreement to donate the ever-growing collection to Chapman University in Orange County. Only a tiny fraction of the letters have been used in documentaries, a Smithsonian Institution display, or Carroll's three anthologies.

Chapman Chancellor Daniele Struppa is eager to have selections on display and the full collection available in archives. "It's a way for us to build a memorial to people who have served this country," Struppa said.

Struppa said he can envision a display of letters from World War I as part of next year's lead-up to the centennial of the war's beginning. And possibly later, displays may center around the Korean War and Vietnam.

"It's going to be a tremendous resource for students and faculty," Struppa said.

Carroll hopes to digitize the letters and make them available on a website and possibly produce a guide for teachers.

Carroll has edited three widely acclaimed anthologies from the letters: "War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars," "Behind the Lines: Powerful and Revealing American and Foreign War Letters — and One Man's Search to Find Them," and "Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families."

Most of the letters are in a storage facility near Carroll's home. Some of the more historically precious missives, such as a letter written by an American G.I. on Hitler's stationery, are in a safety deposit box.

A history graduate from Columbia University, Carroll began his quest, dubbed the Legacy Project, in 1998. His request for letters, published in the "Dear Abby" column on Veterans Day of that year, brought more than 15,000 letters, some originals, some copies.

A decade and a half later, Carroll believes he is still in the early stages of collection. "There are a million of these letters out there, tucked away in people's attics, basements and closets," he said.

More letters — and recently, emails and DVDs — are being collected daily at Carroll's website, http://www.HereIsWhere.org. The name comes from Carroll's latest book, centered on an effort to find unmarked locations in America linked to important events.

At Chapman, the letters' project will be renamed the Center for American War Letters. If all goes well, Carroll hopes the transfer can begin this spring.

Carroll's connection with Chapman dates to 2010, when his play based on the letters, "If All the Sky Were Paper," was staged on campus, with professor John Benitz directing. The play was staged at Chapman again in November.

Included in the collection are letters from military personnel who never returned home, and from their grieving loved ones.

One letter is from Lt. Tommie Kennedy of Maricopa, Calif., who died in a prisoner of war camp in World War II. He sensed his doom as he wrote to his family:

"Hold a nice service for me in Bksfld and put head stone in new (cemetery). Take care of my nieces & nephews, don't let them ever want anything as I want even warmth or water now. Loving & waiting you in the world be on. Your son."

DeEtte Wood contributed a letter that she wrote to her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Nathan Wood, of Kirkland, Wash., six months after he was killed in November 2004 in Fallouja, Iraq:

"I wish I could spend another summer at the cabin with you. I know that when you were there you were in heaven. When I think of you now I know you are on the lake fishing with your friends, and I know that someday I can join you. Until then little man, I love you and I hold you close to my heart."

One lesson of the collection, Carroll said, is that feelings of longing and loss are universal in times of war, regardless of the location or century.

"The language may change but the sentiments are the same, whether it's the close-in fighting of the Civil War or the battle for Baghdad," Carroll said.


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