Diberdayakan oleh Blogger.

Popular Posts Today

Judge rejects contempt of court for Costa Mesa official

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 31 Desember 2013 | 12.57

An Orange County Superior Court judge this month refused to hold Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger in contempt of court for revealing evidence that someone put him under surveillance, court records show.

On Dec. 13, Judge David Hoffer denied the contempt motion by the Costa Mesa Police Officers' Assn. asserting that Mensinger and his attorneys violated a court order by publicizing confidential allegations that a GPS tracking device had been placed on Mensinger's truck during the 2012 election season.

In November, Mensinger and his lawyers, Vince Finaldi and John Manly, held a news conference announcing that they would add the allegations to their lawsuit against the police association, its former law firm, Lackie, Dammeier McGill & Ethir, and a private investigator, Chris Lanzillo. Mensinger and Mayor Jim Righeimer allege in the complaint that they were harassed, intimidated and embarrassed so the association could gain the upper hand in contract negotiations.

About two weeks later, the police association's lawyers objected by filing a motion accusing Mensinger of disregarding a court order that sealed results of two search warrants served as part of a criminal investigation involving the police association, Lanzillo and the Upland-based Lackie, Dammeier law firm.

"By obtaining and distributing sealed information, [Mensinger and his lawyers] have caused irreparable harm to the CMPA and others," the motion stated. "CMPA has not been charged with a crime and has fully cooperated with the district attorney's investigation.

"However, Mensinger, Manly and Finaldi are making public allegations of criminal conduct by calling press conferences, issuing press releases and responding to news media questions. Their distribution of confidential information and/or false information prejudices CMPA and others connected to the investigation."

Manly and Finaldi, however, argued that they weren't subject to or aware of the court order.

Hoffer then threw out the contempt motion.

According to a sworn declaration from Mensinger reviewed by the Daily Pilot, the councilman became aware of the alleged tracking only because the Orange County district attorney's office revealed it to him during an interview.

In early November, investigators called Mensinger and asked him to bring in his calendar to compare where he was on specific dates, according court documents.

During the interview, investigators used Mensinger's calendar to show him that he had been electronically tracked and revealed that someone had attached a GPS device to the undercarriage of his truck, according to the councilman's declaration.

In a statement asking a judge to dismiss the police association's motion, the district attorney's office said it did nothing wrong by informing Mensinger.

"An allegation that the district attorney's office violated a court order by disclosing information during the interview of a victim of a crime as part of their investigation is meritless," Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Mestman wrote.

Police association President Ed Everett said Friday that Mensinger and Righeimer were trying to smear Costa Mesa's police officers and were willing to air evidence from an ongoing grand jury investigation to do so.

"I think it's just horrific that city councilmen would do that," he said.


12.57 | 0 komentar | Read More

Calabasas crackdown on old homes has owners crying foul

Calabasas is known for its gated neighborhoods and its wealthy residents — people like Justin Bieber, Tommy Lee and Kourtney Kardashian.

But for the last few years, the city's attention has been focused on people living in some of its oldest houses, built decades ago on the mountainous south side when the area was under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County.

City officials are now cracking down on houses they consider substandard.

Among the latest cases is 67-year-old Joanne Finazzo, whose home of 35 years was slapped with nearly two dozen code violations after city inspectors showed up to check on the septic system.

That started a chain of events that ended with the bank foreclosing on the house and then deciding to bulldoze the 1939 structure after its own dispute with the city.

Finazzo said her problems began in 2009, when inspectors noticed her longtime companion, Chet Allen, standing in front of their home on Valdez Road as he worked on his septic system's leach line. When the inspectors asked to take a look, Allen invited them onto his property.

He was advised that every structure on the site was in violation of the city's current building code. When Allen reminded the inspectors that the house was enlarged in 1952 and in 1982 under county permits and thus was "grandfathered in" when Calabasas incorporated in 1991, they shook their heads.

Allen, a retired contractor who had done stone work on the property, became stressed when the couple received a 30-page list of violations that he figured could cost up to $150,000 to remediate, Finazzo said. He died a few months later at age 82.

Before his death, he and Finazzo were required to spend $373 per week to pump their septic tank because they had a tenant renting the guest quarters. When the couple was told to evict the tenant from space that lacked permits, the weekly pumping requirement was relaxed to once a month. But without the rental income, the couple took out a reverse mortgage to help pay their bills.

The bank eventually foreclosed on the property, and Finazzo moved to a Woodland Hills townhouse near where she works in a medical billing office. But the bank authorized her to sell the house and its one-acre site. A real estate company quickly found three potential buyers.

The city quashed any sale, according to real estate agent Michael Ansari. "Buyers say the city is not willing to give any guidance to remedy the violations. The city got angry and sent us a notice to either [comply] or demolish the structures," he said.

"It's going to be cleared to dirt, probably [this] week when the city issues a demolition permit. The current owner, a bank, doesn't want to fight the city. I had it on the market for six months and opened a few escrows. But the city was really not cooperating at all."

City Manager Tony Coroalles denied that Calabasas was singling out older homes to make room for new development.

He said Allen was caught digging a ditch to funnel runoff from an overworked septic tank into a storm drain. He said Ansari's potential buyers had access to a list of code violations that they would have to deal with if they acquired the property.

"We advised them to bring in experts to evaluate the property and come back to us with a plan," Coroalles said. "We're not averse to anybody buying the property. But no city can guide a buyer through the process."

Another rural resident, Robert Hahn, was ordered to tear down a portion of a Dale Road house in Old Topanga that he has lived in for 35 years after a tenant he was evicting called the city and complained of a sewage smell on the property.

When officials came to investigate, they slapped Hahn, a 67-year-old contractor, with 100 pages of violations, even though Hahn argued that the structure was built in 1928 under proper county permits.

Coroalles said Hahn remains in his home, although the city has recorded the notice of violations on his deed. That means any future buyer will have to bring the property up to code.

The city's sewage crusade began in mid-2010 when a team that included sheriff's deputies descended on a 60-acre Stokes Canyon ranch. Officials ordered the pioneering Smith family's water and power cut off on grounds that those living on the ranch "may be unlawfully disposing of human waste."

"We've been here 100 years.... We helped organize the [local] water district and school board, the chamber of commerce and the Calabasas Pumpkin Festival. We are being treated like common criminals," complained Lloyd Smith, 73, a retired Los Angeles Zoo animal keeper who was left homeless by the action. "They want to turn this into a gated community for rich people."

The specter of more gated neighborhoods is common among Calabasas old-timers. Many in Old Topanga speculate that a new sewer system could open a vast empty space between Old Topanga Canyon Road and the Calabasas Highlands area for new development.

The Hahn and Allen-Finazzo properties would provide handy access points to a new neighborhood, said Jody Thomas, president of the 38-family Old Topanga Homeowners Assn. Members have long suspected that the city's goal was to extend a municipal sewer line up Old Topanga Canyon Road that would allow for greater housing density.

Neighbor Toby Keeler, a longtime Calabasas resident who served on the city's first planning commission in 1992, noted that the city's first municipal code took pains to help preserve the feel of "mountainous areas where existing parcels were created before modern zoning and subdivision regulations."

Although the city listed 31 of the city's 120 private septic systems as problematic and 11 as "failed," it suspended its septic inspection program in 2012. Officials emphasized, however, that existing violations would remain valid and owners would be required to upgrade their property.

But the question of whether the city respects the integrity of county building permits issued before incorporation remains touchy.

Calabasas officials have announced plans to annex a gated community of 20 homes in a 146-acre area north of the Ventura Freeway that includes several older commercial structures that do not meet current city codes.

Coroalles, the city manager, has pledged that existing structures "would be grandfathered in.... There is no danger that the city is going to do anything with any of the structures or properties unless the landowners want to."


12.57 | 0 komentar | Read More

Resolved: to make a keep-able resolution

If my New Year's resolution holds in 2014, this is the last time I'll wind up staring blankly at my computer screen as my column deadline bears down.

I've been thinking about what to write all week, in between shopping, cooking, kicking back and outings with my daughters. So many things seemed to interest me during this holiday season. But now I can't seem to grab hold of a single idea.

If I'd managed to adhere to last year's resolution — keep a notebook with me at all times, to record my thoughts and feelings about what I see, hear and read — I wouldn't be struggling right now to make sense of a tired mind's cacophony.

My best ideas tend to pop up at inconvenient moments, and wind up scribbled on scraps of paper and left in random spots: on a takeout menu on the floor of my car or a Macy's receipt stuffed in a dresser drawer.

Of course, I can never find those notes when it's time to sit down and write. They turn up unexpectedly weeks or months later, when the ideas still seem brilliant but the column has already run.

Every year I plan to remedy that with a promise to organize myself and tame the creative sprawl.

But I'm no better at keeping resolutions than I am at safeguarding my thoughts.


Almost half of Americans make annual New Year's resolutions, but only 8% of them can say they always succeed in keeping them. One-quarter say they fail every year; that group would include me.

I try to keep mine pretty basic to increase my odds of success. I don't need to lose weight. I don't expect to vanquish debt. I don't drink too much alcohol. Or smoke cigarettes.

I would simply like to be more organized, so my life doesn't feel so chaotic.

I'd like to sit down at a desk that isn't strewn with newspapers and notes, littered with broken pens and Post-it notes, piled with stuff that I don't need but can't bear to let go.

I know I'm not alone in the disorder department. Getting organized is No. 2 — between losing weight and saving more/spending less — on surveys of the top 10 resolutions almost every year.

Experts say it's the sort of resolution that can make us feel temporarily better but turns out to be so vague and broad, we're bound to feel like failures before the year is out.

Three years ago, my resolve lasted less than a month. I wound up hiring a professional because I couldn't organize myself enough to begin organizing my stuff.

A few hundred dollars later, I had a clean desk, a new filing system, a leather-bound notebook to carry around and a binder of helpful suggestions.

A few months after that, I misplaced the notebook and was back to rooting for notes, phone numbers and receipts in a neatly labeled "miscellaneous" file that had grown to epic dimensions.


My San Francisco daughter has inherited my disorder gene, but she's not fretting about it.

She stores numbers in her phone, has receipts emailed, photographs her notes and records her thoughts as voice memos. She doesn't need an organizer; at 23, she's got iCloud working for her.

12.57 | 0 komentar | Read More

Accused prankster pleads not guilty to recording calls to coaches

A man accused of making prank calls to several well-known sports coaches and then illegally recording them pleaded not guilty Monday to one felony count of eavesdropping.

Prosecutors have said that Kenneth Edward Tarr, 32, posed as a recruiter for pro teams and universities during calls in October and November to at least six college and professional coaches.

Court documents name victims including NBC broadcaster and Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, who was duped about a football coaching job at USC, and recently fired Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who was contacted about a fake Dallas Cowboys job. Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro was told he was talking to Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, according to investigators.

Tarr broke the law by not seeking the sports figures' consent before recording the calls, the L.A. County district attorney's office has said. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

Tarr entered his plea in a downtown courthouse, where he was accompanied by his mother, father, brother and three attorneys.

Robert Sheahen, one of the attorneys, told reporters that authorities had bowed to pressure from the NFL, singling out Tarr while individuals such as actor and television producer Ashton Kutcher go unpunished for similar pranks.

"To file felony charges on a case like this is absurd," Sheahen said. "He's a performance artist and social satirist, who in pushing the bounds of social satire, ran afoul of the National Football League."

Police arrested Tarr at his Hollywood home in early December, soon after NFL security consultant Dan McNeal discussed the incidents with a Los Angeles Police Department detective. McNeal, who initially thought Tarr might be living in San Bernardino County, told the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department that the NFL wanted felony charges filed against Tarr, according to court documents.

Tarr, who has bragged about his exploits in the media, caught the attention of authorities in October when Dungy said on a radio show that he had been contacted by USC about its football team's head coaching vacancy. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden later said someone had been impersonating a university official.

Other victims named in court documents include University of Hawaii football Coach Norm Chow, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Golden State Warriors Coach Mark Jackson and University of Florida football Coach Will Muschamp.

Tarr remains free after posting $20,000 bail. He is due back in court Feb. 18.


12.57 | 0 komentar | Read More

Judge will rule on legitimacy of jewel thief Doris Payne's bail money

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 30 Desember 2013 | 12.56

A Riverside County Superior Court judge is expected to rule this week on whether the money an 83-year-old career jewel thief wants to use to post her jail bond is from a legitimate source.

The hearing over Doris Payne's $65,000 bail is scheduled for Friday. A trial readiness conference was scheduled for early February.

Payne, whose exploits have garnered international headlines, is charged with second-degree burglary and grand theft — she is accused of stealing a diamond-encrusted ring from a Palm Desert jewelry store in October — and has pleaded not guilty.

In his decision to keep Payne in custody in lieu of $65,000 bail, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Richard A. Erwood noted that Payne had listed her occupation on court papers as "jewelry thief" — which she had done in at least one prior arrest.

Payne's attorney, Gretchen von Helms, said she respected Erwood's decision but was disappointed. "Doris has a long history of coming back to face the music," she said.

In a preliminary hearing this month, store manager Raju Mehta testified that it was Payne who walked into El Paseo Jewelers on the morning of Oct. 21 and said she wanted to buy a necklace with a $42,000 insurance check. The woman tried on a few pieces before leaving the store, Mehta said.

Payne returned shortly after, he testified, and said she wanted to buy a necklace, earrings and a ring for her pinkie finger. Mehta said he helped the woman try on a few pieces, then moved her to a seat at a ring display case after she complained that her hip hurt.

The woman tried on several pieces — including a diamond and white gold ring valued at $22,500 — and said she would return the next morning to purchase three items, Mehta said.

That evening, he testified, he was notified by his store employees that the $22,500 ring was missing.

Store employee Jodi Clapinski testified that she realized something was wrong when she noticed a finger mount in the display case was bare.

Mehta and Clapinski each said they didn't see Payne take the ring.

Later that day, Payne walked into the Exchange, a secondhand dealer near the jewelry store, testified Michael Jacobs, whose wife owns the shop.

Jacobs said Payne asked for $1,000 for a diamond ring, a price he said he "wasn't comfortable" offering after examining the piece. He said the center diamond had "some imperfections." He offered her $800 instead.

Payne agreed to the deal and followed store protocol by signing and putting her thumbprint on a form required for sales, Jacobs testified. A copy of that form goes to police, Jacobs said, to report what items the store purchases.

Authorities came to the Exchange "shortly" after Oct. 21 to ask about the ring, Jacobs said.

The witnesses said they didn't recognize the woman who walked into their stores. It wasn't until later, they said, that they learned who she was.



12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Federal stance on tribal casinos touches off California fights

SACRAMENTO — Obama administration policies stimulating an expansion of tribal gambling have touched off new battles over proposed tribal casinos in California and elsewhere.

Since President Barack Obama took office, the Department of the Interior has recognized dozens of new tribes and approved requests from a handful of others to acquire land that could house a casino, contingent on deals between the tribes and their home states.

The department rejected nearly all such applications under President George W. Bush.

The federal decisions are causing a ripple effect in California, home to 109 federally recognized tribes, 62 of which already operate casinos. In the last two years, Interior officials have approved new land for two California tribes that subsequently negotiated casino deals with Gov. Jerry Brown.

One compact was ratified by state lawmakers but is threatened by a referendum, set for the statewide ballot next fall. The other accord has stalled in the Legislature amid lawmakers' concerns about the gambling expansion.

Since Obama took office in 2009, just five federal applications for new land from tribes that did not have reservations have been accepted. But dozens of others are pending, and opponents of the deals fear many more may soon be approved.

Seven such requests from California tribes are now before federal officials, according to gambling critic Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up California, which monitors state gambling issues. An additional 78 tribes are seeking federal recognition, according to U.S. Census data.

Lawmakers have begun to question the historic ties the tribes have to the land where they want to build these casinos, and say major gambling operators from Las Vegas and elsewhere are funding the tribes' efforts to win federal approval in exchange for future management contracts.

State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) sent a letter to Brown last year imploring the governor to not enter into deals that would allow what he described as "off-reservation" casinos — those built on newly acquired land. Similar objections have been raised by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has written to Obama and Brown urging both leaders to halt the spread of casinos, which are inching closer to the state's urban areas.

Feinstein introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate this year that would make it harder for tribes to acquire land that could be used for a casino.

The new deals have also come under fire from leaders of tribes that operate some of the most profitable gambling halls in California. They say the compacts break a promise the tribes made to voters in promoting the 2000 ballot measure that allowed tribal casinos in the state: that the businesses would be allowed only on existing reservations.

Supporters of the newest casino plans say they are abiding by the 1988 federal law that first permitted tribal gaming, including a process for tribes to petition for new land. That provision has been used rarely — just nine times in the last 25 years.

When he announced the latest compacts, with the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians near Fresno and the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians near Yuba City, Brown said in a letter to then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that he anticipated such deals would be the exception rather than the rule.

But lawmakers and some tribal leaders say there has been a markedly different approach to Native American issues in Washington since Obama took office, although Brown does not have to grant compacts. Under President Bush, two tribes nationwide received permission to acquire casino-eligible land, including the Fort Mojave tribe on the California-Nevada-Arizona border.

"The Obama administration has taken the bolder approach," said Michael J. Anderson, an American Indian law attorney based in Washington, D.C. "The approvals granted by the Bush administration were in cases where there was no significant opposition."

That is not the case in the two California bids the Obama administration accepted.

Voters in Yuba County tried to preempt the proposed Enterprise casino with a non-binding county vote against it in 2005. But the Department of the Interior and the Brown administration approved the deal anyway.

Enterprise leaders say local backing has grown in the eight years since that vote, and noted that dozens of local officials now support the casino plan.

"We have worked very hard with local officials and submitted more than 4,000 letters of support for our casino," said Enterprise Chairwoman Glenda Nelson.

A spokeswoman for the federal Office of Indian Gaming did not return calls for comment.

"It's remarkable how tone-deaf the administration has been to concerns expressed by members of Congress, Indian tribes and others with respect to off-reservation casinos," said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) during a recent House hearing on the issue.

"As it is now, a tribe can buy a mall somewhere in a community, shut it down and open a gaming establishment," Feinstein testified during a congressional hearing on the issue last month.

De Leon, who ultimately voted for the North Fork compact this year, said the fate of the Enterprise accord is still uncertain. No lawmaker has introduced it in legislative form, and De Leon said he didn't know whether the deal had enough votes to win a majority.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Medi-Cal braces for New Year's jolt as Obamacare kicks in

It's one of the next big hurdles for the Obamacare rollout: What will happen when hundreds of thousands of low-income Californians shift from county health plans to the state's huge Medi-Cal system on Jan. 1?

Judging from a similar surge in 2011, patients and physicians could see plenty of problems.

Starting on New Year's Day — Wednesday — as many as a million formerly uninsured or underinsured people will begin moving onto Medi-Cal rolls and reporting to clinics and hospitals that have agreed to provide treatment at set rates.

Also for the first time, childless and healthy low-income adults will be eligible, and benefits will include mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Healthcare advocates are overjoyed about the expansion of services, which is subsidized by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, they recognize that this is the kind of influx that can leave patients and doctors in a lurch — confused about such things as whether a long-planned surgery is still authorized or where patients should go for prescription refills.

When 380,000 senior and disabled Medi-Cal members were gradually switched into managed care in 2011, advocates reported numerous cases in which patients suffered as doctors and health plans didn't coordinate properly to deliver necessary ongoing medications and treatments for ailments as serious as cancer, schizophrenia and diabetes. Healthcare providers struggled as well; many were assigned new patients with no way to review their medical histories.

This time, officials and healthcare providers say they hope to avoid such disruptions.

"We're using the same system we would use in an earthquake," said Louise McCarthy, chief executive of the Community Clinic Assn. of Los Angeles County, comparing the planning effort to a disaster drill. "This is going to be seismic. We have to approach it as such."

The first step in getting ahead of potential problems: making sure computer systems align.

According to the state Department of Health Services, about 400,000 Californians are likely to wind up in Medi-Cal — a $70-billion program — after applying for the first time through Covered California, the state healthcare insurance marketplace; 195,000 others have tried to sign up through county human services agencies. Those new members won't join a Medi-Cal managed care plan right away.

But more than 600,000 new Medi-Cal participants will roll over immediately from special county-based health programs formed to ease the transition to Obamacare. Using money from the Affordable Care Act, some California counties opted to start providing medical services for Medi-Cal expansion eligible patients early in 2010 so those patients could be cued up to move automatically into Medi-Cal this week. Los Angeles County's Healthy Way LA program represents more than half of this population, with 315,000 people signed up as of Nov. 30.

Planners are attempting to make sure that the state and county records for these patients match up with the enrollment rosters at the health plans contracted by Medi-Cal — giving providers at least some idea about which patients are headed their way and what their needs may be.

While some advocates fretted that the proper data weren't coming in fast enough, Amy Luftig Viste, who directs community partner programs for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, said on Dec. 19 that she "was feeling like we're in a good place" with the process.

When Los Angeles County compared its preliminary enrollment lists to those kept by the health providers who will run Medi-Cal's managed care plan in the county, it found that the records matched for 99% of members, Viste said. Most Healthy Way LA patients are sticking with clinics and providers they visited in the past, she said.

But even if every bit of data aligns perfectly and people go to doctors who expect them, problems getting patients the care they've been promised will probably arise, she said.

California has determined that the vast majority of patients making the transition can continue seeing their current doctors — regardless of whether the providers are in their managed care networks — for 12 months. It will be up to the the health plans and providers, including L.A. County, to work out how to make that happen.

Hoping to give clinic and hospital employees tools to help, L.A. County ran training sessions to let them know what to expect starting Wednesday. The health plans Health Net and LA Care, which will run the Medi-Cal operation in the county, have staffed up for the change, creating special triage teams to handle problems.

Preparations at community clinics have been "frantic," said Cynthia Carmona, director of government and external affairs for the Community Clinic Assn. She described near-daily transition planning meetings late this month as "a sprint to get things thought through."

The clinic staff wanted a crisis plan by Christmas, she said, so her association began circulating an eight-page collection of frequently asked questions on Dec. 20.

The document attempts to answer such questions as, "What should a patient do if they were scheduled for a Department of Health Services specialty care appointment but were turned away?" "What is the pharmacy network for LA Care and Health Net?" and "How do I know my former Healthy Way LA patient successfully transitioned to Medi-Cal?"

The document also discusses failed enrollments, missing paperwork and ID cards, misidentified "medical home" assignments, physician networks, specialty and follow-up care. It comes with a list of key phone numbers for when problems arise.

Carmona has asked member clinics to report incidents starting Wednesday. The association will begin summarizing problems that arise in emails to healthcare centers starting Friday.

The bottom line, planners said, is that Medi-Cal patients should get treated no matter what.

"We're hammering home the message that continuity of care trumps everything," Viste said.

McCarthy, of the Community Clinics Assn., was on board — if still concerned.

"If we can't figure out your coverage, you'll still get cared for," she said. "Whether we can figure out if we'll get paid for it, that's a big question there."


Twitter: @LATerynbrown

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Community pushes for stoplight at intersection where teen was killed

Yaneth Palencia wrote a petition to the city's transportation department in 2005, urging officials to install a traffic signal or stop sign at the crosswalk near Normandie Avenue and 42nd Street in her neighborhood, south of downtown.

"We note that cars driving on that street, often, exceed the legal posted speed limit and that accidents have occurred in the past," wrote Palencia, who was worried that someone would eventually get killed trying to cross the busy street.

"I never thought it would be my nephew," she said.

Nathaniel Mota, 16, died after being hit by a car while crossing Normandie near 42nd Place in September. He was leaving a Friday night youth group meeting at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, about two miles south of USC. Mota flew about four car lengths after being struck by a white Nissan Maxima; the driver took off, according to witnesses. Mota was pronounced dead at the scene, and police have not found the suspect.

More than 2,000 cars drive through that intersection each hour during peak travel times, according to city officials.

After the accident, church members again petitioned city leaders to put in a stoplight. Department of Transportation engineers recommended installing the light along with signs and pavement markings, but officials say it could take years and cost up to $200,000.

"People are asking me: 'Father, Father, what is going on?' And I tell them I don't know," Father Jorge Ochoa of St. Cecilia said.

L.A. City Councilman Curren Price's staff had met with church officials about traffic issues the day of Mota's death, and Price introduced a motion in October calling for a pedestrian-activated sidewalk with flashing lights at the intersection. Price said he wants the sidewalk to be installed within six months and a full traffic light to be put in as quickly as possible.

"It is absolutely unacceptable to think that people have been asking for assistance with this intersection for years now with no response and I intend to do everything I can to change that," Price said in a statement. "I do not want to wait any longer than we have to and risk someone else getting hurt."

According to relatives, Mota enjoyed spending his Friday nights in church.

The senior at Verbum Dei High School had attended services since he was a child and was confirmed two years ago. "His faith was very important to him," said his mother, Lissette Mota.

At school, the teenager was known for being affectionate, said his friend, Brandon Williams. "Every time he saw you, he'd give you a big hug and wrap you up," Williams said. "It was cool."

Mota was an avid reader who went through three books weekly, according to his family. He had read everything in the "Harry Potter" and "Hunger Games" series and enjoyed science fiction books and movies. He was a bit of a Star Wars snob, believing that the original three films were the best, and was wary of the planned movies being produced by Disney.

"He was skeptical they could pull it off," Williams said.

Mota was beginning to apply to colleges and was considering Cal State Northridge, where he would be close to his aunt, Williams said.

Mota's family and friends say they are willing to help raise funds for the traffic light. His mother said she has forgiven whoever was driving the car that killed her son and hopes that a stoplight will be part of her son's legacy.

"I hope his death prevents another," she said.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Claremont church Nativity scene replaces Jesus with Trayvon Martin

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 29 Desember 2013 | 12.56

On the lawn of a Claremont church, just like at many churches at this time of year, cutouts of wise men on camelback head toward a makeshift stable, a meager wooden structure where Mary and Joseph have huddled inside.

But instead of an infant Jesus cradled in his mother's arms, the Nativity at Claremont United Methodist Church — the creation of congregant and artist John Zachary — features a depiction of Trayvon Martin slumped over in his hoodie, a pool of his blood spreading over a bed of straw.

For several years, Zachary has brought his artistic interpretations of the Nativity — as well as the occasional controversy — to the church, as he used a scene that traditionally conveys themes of joy and innocence to spread messages of social justice. Over the last few years, his installations have touched on homelessness, poverty and acceptance of gay families.

He decided over the summer that this year's scene would include the Florida teenager whose shooting death captured the nation's attention. Zachary said he wanted to draw a parallel between rampant gun violence and the dark time in which Jesus was born.

"He was, in my view, an innocent child like the innocent children killed by King Herod," Zachary, 57, said of Martin. "I think the Nativity has to be relevant to our time. I think Jesus is a symbol of hope and I think he has to be seen in today's context."

But what he sees as a respectful, if provocative, way to stir conversation has others fuming. Ever since the Nativity got national attention last week, when a local newspaper's story went viral, the church has been bombarded with phone calls, emails and Facebook messages.

The scene, which will remain in place through Jan. 5, has been blasted as "sacrilege" and an "abomination."

"How sad to replace the Savior in the nativity scene," one person posted on Facebook. "What kind of church is this??? I pray that you will understand the real reason for the season..."

"No Christian I know would ever disparage Jesus Christ with such a repulsive image," wrote another. "I would never attend your church as a fellow Methodist and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves."

The Rev. Dan Lewis, a pastor at the church, said he feared many of those complaining had seen only the photographs that had spread online but hadn't read the statement by Zachary on a placard next to it, explaining his vision. The scene was meant to do more than shock people, he said, but instead be thought-provoking.

"Nothing is done flippantly here," Lewis said. "It's got great thought, great depth and great meaning."

Lewis said some members of the congregation disagree with the Nativity, and he was hesitant when he first saw Zachary's renderings. Zachary admitted that even he had some doubts.

"I have had reservations, although I have come to think that it's the right way to do it," he said. "I feel a little sad that some people are so outraged about it."

Around dusk on Friday, Moni Law pulled up to the scene with her son, Matthew Law-Phipps. Law, a housing counselor in Berkeley, had grown up in Claremont, and when she went back to visit family for Christmas, she would go see Zachary's work. "It pulled at your heart and your mind," she said.

"God calls us to speak truth to the reality of the world," she said. "Why would we ignore this travesty of justice?"

Law-Phipps, a 22-year-old Loyola Marymount film student, said he saw something that was more personal than political, and more about violence than race.

"That is brave," he said. "It's very blatant. Subtlety isn't at work here.… I will say, it got our attention."

As mother and son stood back, taking in a Nativity scene caked in blood and talking about violence, he figured that's exactly what the artist intended.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Veterinary nonprofit tends to animals in wake of Typhoon Haiyan

As aid workers from around the world descended on the Philippines to help the people hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan last month, Springer Browne headed toward the devastation for a different reason: the animals.

The 31-year-old Newport Beach native made the trip as a volunteer for World Vets, a sort of veterinary equivalent of the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, which provides urgent medical care worldwide.

World Vets sends veterinarians to work with animals around the world through various projects based on an area's needs. The nonprofit is one of just a few international aid organizations founded specifically for veterinary health.

"Most people were super-excited" to have medication and food for their pets, he said.

For many, Browne added, the emotion was about more than preserving creature companionship.

"Animals are their livelihood," he said.

Browne spent about a month traveling through storm-ravaged cities and farming villages in the Philippines, dispensing vaccines or patching up animals wounded by flying sheet metal.

But, he said in a phone interview, "a lot of it was just talking to farmers about animal husbandry."

That kind of long-term impact — achieved through education and outreach — is one of World Vets' major goals, said founder and Chief Executive Cathy King. Overall, she said, projects vary widely.

"Each country identifies what kind of veterinary health needs they have," she said. "It might be education in one country, then vaccinating water buffalo. The next might be a spay-neuter campaign."

Sure, King said, part of the organization's disaster relief work entails "rescuing puppies in crushed buildings," but response teams also make a point of addressing veterinary health issues that could become public health issues — such as controlling diseases that can be passed from animals to humans.

For instance, she said, in Philippine cities such as Tacloban, rabies was a particular problem.

King said the organization's corps of more than 1,000 vets has responded to project requests in 39 countries since she started World Vets with a donation jar on the counter of her Washington vet clinic in 2006. Although the organization receives some grant funding and donations, typically volunteers pay their own travel expenses.

Browne, who grew up with turtles, mice and "slightly illegal" chickens — along with six older siblings — on Lido Isle, said he had wanted to be a vet since he was a kid.

His studies and research have taken him to such far-flung locales as Dublin, Ireland, for school; Kenya to research diseases afflicting camels and humans; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to work with falcons; and St. Louis, where he did research at the zoo.

Then, having already traveled last March to Ecuador for one of World Vets' spay-neuter programs, and with plans to move to New Zealand to research E. coli for his doctorate delayed, Browne said he was "looking for something to do, frankly."

He contacted World Vets and shortly after was on a plane to the Philippines, where he teamed up with Danish vet Helle Hydeskov.

Though the level of destruction left by the storm was striking, Browne said the generosity and determination of the people in its wake were encouraging.

And for Browne, getting to know exotic fauna is always fascinating.

Carabaos, a kind of water buffalo, are "pretty neat animals," he said.

"They're so giant, but very mellow."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Northern California counties revive an old idea for a breakaway state

YREKA, Calif. — Farmers, ranchers and onetime loggers were among those who packed a church community room here in August to listen to a former state lawmaker convey his vision of a cleaved — and more governable — California.

The theme was familiar, the resonance deep for those convinced that relentless regulation is strangling the economy of this northern border county. But this time, a tall man sporting a baseball cap stood up with a challenge.

"Are we just going to go have an ice cream and complain?" said Mark Baird, a pilot of 747 cargo planes who with his wife runs a cattle ranch and the local radio station. "Or are we going to do something about it?"

Within two weeks, Baird had crafted a declaration in support of the breakaway State of Jefferson and placed it on the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors agenda. It was approved a week later on a 4-1 vote.

And with that, a movement that has waxed and waned for 150 years was born again.

Neighboring Modoc County's supervisors soon clamored for a similar declaration, and also voted "yea"; the Tehama County board agreed to put the matter to voters; and organizing committees sprang up in seven other counties.

The State of Jefferson flag — which dates to a 1941 effort — is now flown from the Nevada border west to the Pacific Ocean and as far south as Yuba City. (It features a gold pan with two X's, for the double-crossing purportedly dealt to residents of Northern California and southern Oregon by their respective seats of state government.)

Baird rattles off the movement's rationale: An independent state would deliver local control to a region whose residents have long chafed under Sacramento's rules, feel alienated from urban culture and believe in greater push-back against an overreaching federal government.

Most notably, supporters say, it would provide stronger representation to a swath of counties so sparsely populated that their collective voice is now lost in the breathtaking landscape of mountains, rivers and alfalfa-dotted valleys.

"All we want is the right to determine our own future," Baird said. "This is for our children, and their children."

Majority votes are required in the state Legislature and U.S. Congress for separation to occur. The last state to do so was West Virginia — in 1863 — and dozens of regions across the U.S. have since seen their efforts fizzle, most recently last month when just five of 11 Colorado counties voted to form an independent state.

But in the northern rural counties of California, the idea has widespread backing from frustrated residents craving economic opportunity and control.

"We are staking our futures on our ability to live and thrive in this area," said Kayla Nicole Brown of Redding, a 23-year-old student of early American history who has become a leader in Shasta County's movement for the sake of her 10-month-old son, Hunter. "And if we can't, we have to leave."


In Yreka's Palace Barber Shop, a State of Jefferson flag hangs near heads of bear and elk, and a tiny stuffed Bigfoot doubles as cheerleader, a sign proclaiming Jefferson "the 51st State" in its hand.

Owner John Lisle, 55, chats easily about California's "growing urban/rural divide." As he rattled off obstacles to those "making a living off the environment" on a recent evening, a young customer weighed in.

"I think we should do it," blurted Isaiah Solus, 14, a descendant of Siskiyou County pioneers from Portugal. "We're a whole different part of the state. We need our own water, we need our own rules.... We need a whole different set of things than the city people."

The menu of grievances includes a proposal to remove Klamath River dams, a crackdown on gold dredging and a fire prevention fee for rural areas that has been challenged in the courts as a tax.

They are recited in the remotest pockets, where the movement's talking points have spread thanks to Facebook and websites devoted to the cause.

The Scott Valley stretches green and languorous in the shadow of the pristine Marble Mountains. Punky Hayden, 72, was born here the year the movement first sparked, and his father, a county supervisor, spoke of it often.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Korean War POW finally laid to rest

Sixty-three years after his capture during the Korean War, Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Gantt was laid to rest Saturday in an Inglewood cemetery with full military honors in the presence of his widow.

Clara Gantt, 94, said she was happy that she had lived long enough to bury her husband.

"I wish it could have been earlier, but it's one of those things," she said. "I just prayed to the Lord to let me live to receive him, and he did."

Gantt was taken prisoner defending his unit's position near Kunu-ri, Korea, in 1950 and presumed dead. His remains were only recently identified and returned to his wife, who never remarried.

During Saturday's celebration of his homecoming, some spoke of Sgt. Gantt's good character and bravery and his wife's enduring strength and devotion.

"Not only did one come home, but one fought a good fight down here," said Pastor Lamont Leonard. "Love is Mother Gantt," he continued, and, reading from Corinthians: "Love is patient."

Other speakers praised Clara Gantt as a woman of true faith who trusted God to bring home "one of Inglewood's own heroes."

"They don't make 'em like you anymore," Mayor James Butts said, his words met with cheers.

Ozell Edwards, 58, Clara Gantt's nephew, said he's never seen his aunt break down like she did when her husband's casket arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in the early morning hours of Dec. 20. His remains were among those returned to the U.S. by a South Korean citizen and were identified at a forensics lab in Honolulu, according to the Defense Prisoner Of War/Missing Personnel Office.

"It's been a long road. I've been hearing about it all my life," Edwards said. "We didn't think this was ever going to happen."

Standing in front of his casket at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Clara Gantt laughed as she fondly remembered her husband, an understanding man. She loved being married, she said.

"We understood one another," she said. "Anything I said, it was agreeable. Anything he said, it was agreeable. We just loved each other."

When he reenlisted, she told him, "I see you love the service, I will not hinder you. That's your life. Wherever you go, I will go."

"And that's the way it was," she said.

Frank Aragon, a volunteer with the Patriot Guard Riders, said he felt honored despite the sadness to be a part of such a special service. Members of the motorcade, including dozens of other veterans, came from as far away as Ventura and San Diego to pay their respects.

"We know what it's like, and we like to welcome our heroes home," said Aragon, a 69-year-old Vietnam War veteran.

Lt. Col. Solomon Jamerson, who also attended the funeral, said he was listening to NPR when he heard Sgt. Gantt's remains had been found and were being returned to his widow.

"I said, 'Oh! That's Joe!' " the 86-year-old recalled, eyes gleaming with the memory.

Jamerson, who served with Gantt in Korea, remembered the man as eager to help a "young greenhorn" learn the ropes.

"He pitched in and helped me to overcome the mysteries of guiding the unit, taking care of artillery pieces and so forth," Jamerson said. "I thank God for the closure this has brought to Clara's family."

Gary Boyle celebrated his 65th birthday in the church, with a family he had never met but with whom he felt a deep connection. He said his mother waited decades for news of his father after he was shot down in Korea in 1951. She never got word. He's still waiting.

With nearly 8,000 service members still missing from the Korean War, he said, receiving remains is like winning the lottery.

"What are the odds?" said Boyle, who is a board member of the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs.

"To me, this is the greatest gift I could have, to see a wife receive him back, something I wanted for my mother for 60 some years," Boyle said at the service, wearing a brown flight jacket that read MIA on the back, in memory of his father. "We honor you, we love you, you're so admired, I can't begin to say."

Dozens of veterans, some in uniform, others holding flowers, gathered at the grave site to pay their respects to a fallen brother in what today is commonly referred to as the "forgotten war."

Just as the casket was raised to be moved into its crypt, Clara Gantt stood and with the help of her niece slowly made her way to her husband's side. She spoke to him a moment, then leaned forward to kiss him goodbye.


nt, then leaned forward to kiss him goodbye.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

L.A. is on track to set dry-weather record

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 28 Desember 2013 | 12.56

As 2013 draws to a close, it is headed for the record books as the driest year in downtown Los Angeles since 1877, when official measurements began.

Only 3.60 inches have fallen at the National Weather Service station at USC since Jan. 1, about half an inch less than was recorded in 1953 and 1947, which until now had tied for the lowest rainfall.

With sun, sun and more sun in the forecast for the remaining few days of the year, meteorologists say there is virtually no chance of wet weather to undo the new record.

Statewide forecasts developed for the California Department of Water Resources suggest that dry conditions are likely to persist this winter.

Although this year's No. 1 ranking makes for an interesting conversation piece, it has little practical effect. As anyone driving around Los Angeles can see, lawns are still green, swimming pools are full. Southland water officials aren't sounding the alarm bells.

It has been a century since Angelenos relied primarily on local sources for their water. The city is mostly sustained by imports from other parts of California and the Colorado River. And though it has been dry all over, regional water managers say they have ample supplies in reserve.

"We're at record storage throughout our whole system," said Armando Acuna, head of media services for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water agencies with imports from Northern California and the Colorado River.

MWD's large reservoir in Riverside County, Diamond Valley Lake, is nearly three-quarters full. Pyramid Lake and Castaic Lake, two reservoirs in the State Water Project system that MWD draws from, are more than 90% full. The agency also has banked supplies underground and in Lake Mead on the Colorado.

As a result, MWD officials say that despite the meager precipitation, they don't expect to ration water sales this year or next.

It was the first three months of 2013 that were largely responsible for catapulting the year to the parched top. January, February and March are typically when Los Angeles gets most of its precipitation. But last winter the rain switch never turned on.

"And this fall we haven't been able to catch up," said Carol Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge blames a long-lasting weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

In the cycle's negative phase, the surface waters of the western Pacific warm while the eastern Pacific cools, rather like a big La Niña that pushes the jet stream and the storms it carries to the north of California.

The reverse ocean temperature pattern prevails when the oscillation is in the positive phase, producing wetter, El Niño-like conditions.

For more than a decade, the oscillation has tended toward the negative. "Since 1997-98 more or less, we've been in a dry pattern" in the West, Patzert said.

A glance at the weather service records backs that up. Of the 10 driest years recorded in downtown L.A., two — 2013 and 2007 — have occurred in the last decade.

But meteorologists look at rainfall years, which extend from July 1 through June 30. Three of the 10 driest rainfall years were recorded since 2001 — though at 5.85 inches, 2012-13 falls to the sixth-driest in downtown L.A. The driest rainfall year was 2006-07, when a mere 3.21 inches fell.

Despite the dry winter outlook, atmospheric rivers — large atmospheric bands of moisture from the Pacific — can drench the state on short notice. And the fact that neither El Niño nor La Niña is expected to develop this winter makes predictions even trickier.

Some of the wettest and driest winters in the West have occurred under those volatile "La Nada" conditions, Patzert said.

Whatever the winter brings, local officials say it's important that Angelenos continue to conserve. The city's per capita water use has dropped from 187 gallons a day in 1986 to 123 gallons in recent years. Overall, L.A. uses less water than it did 40 years ago, despite the addition of more than 1 million residents.

"Los Angeles has really pulled together to make conservation a priority, and we need to keep this momentum going given what may look to be the third dry year in a row," said Jim McDaniel, senior assistant general manager at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The city's water conservation ordinance, adopted in 2009, remains in effect. It limits outdoor watering to three days a week and bans hosing down driveways and sidewalks. The DWP is also paying homeowners $2 a square foot to tear out their lawns and replace them with drought tolerant plants or permeable hardscape.

On average, Los Angeles gets about a third of its supplies from the Owens Valley in the Eastern Sierra and buys about half from MWD. Only about 12% is local, most of it groundwater.

This winter has gotten off to a dry start in the Eastern Sierra, where the Mammoth Pass snowpack is less than 30% of normal for this time of year. If it stays low, the DWP will have to purchase more supplies from MWD.

It may be tough to forecast this winter's precipitation, but Smith was comfortable saying the last days of 2013 will be dry, establishing a record that Los Angeles could do without.

"It's notable," she said. "But it's not like we're celebrating — 'Come on, no more rain.'"


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

College recruiters give low-income public campuses fewer visits

The Webb Schools, a private high school in Claremont, is a magnet for college recruiters from around the country and the world. This fall, 113 Ivy League and other schools sent representatives to the campus — more than the 106 students in the senior class.

At Jefferson High School, a low-income public school with 280 seniors in South Los Angeles, eight recruiters from local universities showed up.

Recruiters' visits often are an important first contact for students to discover campuses far beyond their hometowns and for the colleges to discover talented applicants. Students may be left behind in the competition for college entrance and financial aid when admissions officials skip their campuses, counselors and education experts said.

A Times survey of public and private high schools across Southern California found that campuses with a high proportion of low-income and minority students had far fewer visits from college recruiters.

Among schools in affluent communities: La Cañada High School hosted 127 visits from recruiters between August and November. Palisades Charter on the Westside, 133; the private Marlborough School, a girls campus in Hancock Park, 102.

Corona del Mar, a public school in Newport Beach, had 85, sometimes booking as many as six in a single day. On Oct. 10, for example, representatives of Pepperdine, Yale, Lehigh, Washington State, Columbia and Whitworth, were there between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., according to college coordinator Mary Russell. The recruiters meet with students in a special lounge recently refurbished with parent donations.

By contrast, Pasadena High School had 20 visits over the fall semester; Compton High, five; Hoover High in Glendale, 15; Santa Ana High, five; Belmont High near downtown Los Angeles, about 25; Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights, 20.

"Underserved communities have trouble getting resources and access to things like that," said Jefferson Principal Michael Taft. He said his school lost funding for a full-time counselor who arranged for the visits and who could encourage recruiters to overcome negative images about low-income, heavily minority public schools.

Colleges, particularly from out of state, say they do not discriminate against those schools. But they say time and money constraints compel them to return to schools where they've been successful in enrolling students or at least garnering applications. Some concede that students' ability to pay tuition without substantial financial aid also can sway their choices.

Students at high schools receiving few recruiters often need more information and encouragement because they are more likely to come from families with less college experience, according to Gregory Wolniak, director of New York University's Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes.

"Having visits from schools can serve to compensate for some of those family background differences," said Wolniak, who has studied how high school alumni enrollment networks help students get into college.

Roosevelt senior Beverly Vasquez said she found the college presentations at her public school helpful; she is applying to the University of Redlands now, in addition to Loyola Marymount, Occidental, UCLA, UC San Diego, Cal Poly Pomona and others. But she believes more visits could expand students' horizons, particularly with private and out-of-state colleges.

"I think it would make a huge difference," said Beverly, who wants to study engineering.

Her classmate Javier Evangelista is applying as a mechanical engineering major to Notre Dame, Stanford, UC Davis, UCLA and Cal State Long Beach, among others. He said some colleges probably stay away from public schools because they don't think "there could be a student in this school who has the potential to win the next Nobel Prize, come up with a new technology or change the world."

"I do believe they are making a mistake," he said.

Too many colleges stick to traditional recruiting efforts — often concentrating on high schools with substantial numbers of students who meet eligibility requirements and those that have previously sent graduates to enroll as freshmen, according to Shaun R. Harper, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.

"That is shameful since so many talented students are not given a chance or not introduced to the vast landscape of higher education opportunities," he said.

In research that tracked young Latino and black men with good grades in New York City, Harper found that many colleges avoided their high schools, wrongly assuming "that nothing good is going on."

Recruiters say they seek talented minority and low-income students through large college fairs, city-wide recruiting sessions, online outreach and videotaped presentations. Some join community-based organizations that help young people enter college, such as the national Posse Foundation, Bright Prospect in Pomona and One Voice in Los Angeles.

Admissions recruiters from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign travel to about 800 high schools nationwide, casting a particularly wide net around the school's home state and neighboring ones. When it gets farther afield, to California, for example, representatives tend "not to visit a school where the majority of the population may not be mobile and are not going to leave a certain radius of home" and are unlikely to be able to afford out-of-state education even with some aid, said Mike Drish, director of undergraduate admissions recruitment and outreach.

Given limits on recruiters' time, the pattern of high school visits can be "self-perpetuating," said Robert Springall, admissions dean at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. "The downside is that it locks you in to a circle of colleagues and schools, and it doesn't necessarily give you great opportunities to discover completely new schools."

His representative visited about two dozen high schools in the Los Angeles region this fall, including Marlborough and La Cañada, but no schools in the L.A. Unified district.

To help compensate for that, Springall said, Bucknell is part of the Posse Foundation, which connects bright public school students to colleges that offer them full-tuition scholarships. Bucknell annually enrolls 30 Posse freshmen, including 10 from Los Angeles.

Students who impress college representatives during high school visits may have a leg up because the recruiters usually help make admissions decisions.

Joshua Vincent, a Webb senior, said college visits to his school proved "super-important." As a result of one such meeting, he added Babson College in Massachusetts to his list of schools that includes Notre Dame, UCLA, USC and Claremont McKenna.

"I got to know the people who might have my fate in their hands," he said. "It doesn't feel like I am handing my application to some random strangers."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

One in four GPS devices on criminals in L.A. County were faulty

One in every four GPS devices used to track serious criminals released in Los Angeles County has proved to be faulty, according to a probation department audit — allowing violent felons to roam undetected for days or, in some cases, weeks.

The problems included batteries that wouldn't hold a charge and defective electronics that generated excessive false alarms. One felon, county officials said, had to have his GPS monitor replaced 11 times over a year; for five days during the 45-day audit period, his whereabouts were unknown.

"If you have faulty technology, that is a recipe for disaster," said Reaver Bingham, deputy chief of the probation department.

The findings come as nearly every California county is moving forward with some form of electronic monitoring to contend with tens of thousands of state inmates being released to their supervision, an offshoot of the effort to reduce prison overcrowding.

In Kern County, officials have instituted a "virtual jail." San Bernardino County is using GPS to track its homeless felons. And Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has floated a proposal to move 3,000 inmates out of crowded jails and into the community wearing GPS trackers.

Mandated for use on high-risk sex offenders by the 2006 passage of "Jessica's Law," GPS tracking has been promoted by both lawmakers and state law enforcement officials as a safe and cost-effective alternative to prison or jail. However, a Los Angeles Times investigation earlier this year showed that California corrections officials were aware of massive problems in their program. Citing an "imminent danger" to the public, the state in 2011 quietly replaced the GPS monitors on half of the paroled sex offenders.

Los Angeles County began leaning on electronic monitoring heavily in 2011, putting GPS devices on its highest-risk felons — repeat sex offenders, domestic abusers who had violated restraining orders and violent gang members.

Typically strapped onto a subject's ankle, the devices were supposed to collect a location point every minute and send that data to a central computer every 10 minutes. GPS monitors also are designed to alert authorities if wearers tamper with them, try to flee or stray too close to a school or other forbidden area.

By law, Los Angeles County must conduct monthly reviews and yearly evaluations of its program contractor. But, officials said, they did not review Sentinel Offender Services' work until problems surfaced elsewhere.

In June, Orange County discovered multiple failures in Sentinel's GPS and home detention systems, prompting the county to cancel its contract. That triggered a Los Angeles County audit, the results of which were obtained by The Times through a public records request.

From Aug. 1 through Sept. 11, Los Angeles County had 23 high-risk sex offenders on GPS monitors, along with 196 felons who had finished their prison terms and been released into the county's care.

Probation department officials say they do not know how long Sentinel's devices had been failing, or how many probationers went untracked.

The firm, which provides monitoring for the county under four different contracts — including a newly awarded $7-million arrangement with the Sheriff's Department to track up to 1,000 offenders — declined several requests for comment.

The audit showed that one probationer wore a tracker that Sentinel knew to be faulty for 45 days. Another told investigators that his GPS device had to be replaced four times in the month after he was released from prison. And a Sentinel employee, whose name was redacted from the report, told an auditor that a third felon's monitor apparently had not worked since the day it was strapped on.

In several cases, probationers were released without a GPS device because the company had run out of working equipment, documents show. In three other instances, Sentinel on its own decided to stop tracking the locations of some offenders — and did not resume monitoring one felon until contacted repeatedly by his probation officer.

Under its contract, Sentinel is required to document each time a device worn by an offender experiences a false alarm or fails to work, as well as record all other interactions with probationers. County investigators checking the system found those records for only three of 139 offenders before July, and no notes on 87 offenders after that date. Those missing files might have alerted county officials earlier to the problems within its GPS program.

In a detailed written response to the audit, sent to the county Nov. 27, Sentinel contended that the majority of the problems were caused by untrained probation officers and felons who had failed to follow directions.

The county employees mistook dead batteries for malfunctioning equipment, the company said; problems also developed when homeless probationers followed "inconsistent" patterns in recharging their trackers, thus shortening the battery life. A probation official noted that a large proportion of those the county tracks by GPS are transients and have uncertain access to electrical outlets.

Sentinel's chief business development officer, Mark Contestabile, also complained that his firm had "sought direction" from L.A. County on fixing the problems, but had not gotten a response for four months. Even so, he said, the company in late October began holding training sessions for county probation officers, and started replacing all of the GPS devices with newer models.

That job, he said, should be completed by the end of the year.

The company also has suggested that Los Angeles County could extend the battery life on its GPS devices by collecting location data less frequently — a proposal the probation department has rejected.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Neighbors criticize proposed Costa Mesa homeless facility

Condominium residents near the site of a proposed homeless recovery complex in Costa Mesa are criticizing the plan, saying that the project has the potential to harm their neighborhood and pose a risk to their children's safety.

Earlier this month, the City Council recommended looking into using Civic Center Park, a 2.52-acre grassy expanse across from City Hall and the Orange County Fairgrounds, as the site for permanent housing with support services for Costa Mesa's homeless.

If approved, a complex with as many as 50 units could be built at the undeveloped park — it contains a few dozen trees and one bench.

Santa Ana-based nonprofit Mercy House Living Centers and San Diego-based Wakeland Housing and Development Corp. are collaborating on the plan. It is expected to involve local volunteers and churches and have on-site staff.

The plans are preliminary, though neighborhood opposition has grown since the council made its recommendation Dec. 10.

Homeowners association board members from two nearby condo complexes, Monticello and Newport Landing, said they have grave concerns about the project.

It could pose a safety risk and hurt home values, they said.

"I would like to think I'm as caring or as sensitive as the next person, but I don't think putting any additional low-income housing in the middle of an established neighborhood is the best use of city resources," said Jeff Ledbetter, one of Newport Landing's five homeowners association board members.

Newport Landing, an 88-home development, is about a third of a mile south of Civic Center Park.

Ledbetter said one of the biggest concerns he's heard is that this area of Costa Mesa would lose its park.

"It's really the only place that we have that's open, that's green, that's not concrete, a street or parking lot," he said.

Monticello, with 330 condos and town homes, is one of the city's largest residential developments.

"We've been really disheartened," said Bill Mitchell, Monticello's homeowners association vice president. "It's not that we don't want to help the homeless in Costa Mesa."

Mitchell said the development could attract the homeless from the other end of town.

"People will be swarming [at Civic Center Park], and if they can't get help, they'll be wandering around the neighborhood," he said.

Monticello resident Anna McCarthy said she fears for children's safety because they typically walk through the park to get to Costa Mesa High School and adjacent schools.

McCarthy said she sympathizes with the plight of the homeless. One of her own family members is schizophrenic and, despite receiving help, can't seem to get his life on track, she said.

"I have firsthand knowledge," McCarthy said. "I have two horses in the race. I want to make sure people like him have help, but with the impact on the community, we're concerned that it's spreading the problem further into Costa Mesa. It's going to be the first impression people have in the city when they come to the Orange County Market Place and Orange County Fair."

Becks Heyhoe, a local homeless advocate and director of the Churches Consortium, said the residents' fears are real, but she emphasized that the project would be a quality development with professional on-site staff. Residents would also undergo a screening process before being allowed to move in.

"It's a new concept, but I think we have those concerns wherever we are, and it's not that I want to belittle that," Heyhoe said. "This is housing. This is not a center. This is not a shelter."

Mercy House and Wakeland also have a good reputation, she said.

"You could drive down the street where some of their projects are, and you'd never know you drove past a place that was affordable housing or permanent housing," Heyhoe said. "They look beautiful."

Public meetings could come as early as mid-January, he said, as will a fact sheet about the proposed project, which could be eligible for up to $3 million state Mental Health Services Act funding.

"We definitely will listen to the community," Councilwoman Wendy Leece said. "This is an idea. It's not set in concrete. We need to look at supportive housing for Costa Mesa homeless people who have a connection to Costa Mesa."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Produce inspectors keep farmers markets honest

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 27 Desember 2013 | 12.56

On a recent Saturday morning, Ed Williams stood off to the side at Santa Monica's downtown farmers market, scrutinizing a bright red mango like a detective trying to solve a mystery.

"It looks damaged by hot water treatment, which is only used on imported mangoes," Williams said to market supervisor Laura Avery. Pointing to tiny white specks on the fruit, he added, "I think these are dead scale insects."

Williams is deputy director of the Los Angeles County agricultural commissioner's office. Avery contacted him because she suspected that the vendor was buying the fruit, not growing it at his farm as required by state law.

A county entomologist later confirmed that the spots were white mango scale, a pest not present in California, but common in South America — clear evidence that the vendor was reselling imported fruit.

The vendor will probably be fined, officials said, in part of a crackdown over the last year on those who buy produce from neighbors or packinghouses and sell it as their own at certified farmers markets. It has led to 20 vendors being fined in Los Angeles County in 2013, up from two last year. San Diego County has sanctioned five vendors, and more Southern California cases are pending.

The crackdown came after Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner Kurt Floren, stung by media reports of farmers market cheating, hired Williams in November 2012. Williams, who has a degree in botany, inspected Southern California farmers markets for the state in the late 1980s and 1990s. Managers said he had a knack for spotting violators.

After 14 years in Sacramento, he's back in the Southland, with in-depth knowledge of the rhythm of the seasons, the growing areas and the tricks of market scammers.

Williams said he is training his inspectors to recognize tipoffs, such as produce that has a commercial appearance — being waxed or uniformly sized — or is out of season for a growing area.

If an investigation determines that vendors have violated state laws, they can face fines up to $1,000 for each offense. For serious or repeated violations, producers can also be suspended from farmers markets for up to 18 months.

"The whole point of farmers markets is that you know who you're buying from, and what their practices are," said Robin Holding, a regular shopper at the Santa Monica market who unknowingly bought one of the bogus "local" mangoes. "It was not inexpensive, and of awful quality. I was really turned off," Holding said.

Williams says the punishment fits the crime.

"I want compliance, but I don't want to take everybody out and damage the markets," Williams said in an interview at his office in South Gate. "You see how many violators we've caught. We're going to give them enough rope to hang themselves."

To avoid being sanctioned, investigators say, some farmers go so far as to plant dummy crops to deceive inspectors on the lookout for sales volume that far exceeds a grower's capacity.

"They plant [crops], but they never harvest, they're just for us to see," said Korinne Bell, who supervises farmers markets for the Ventura County agricultural commissioner.

Los Angeles County, which has 153 farmers markets, spent $243,000 on the program during the fiscal year that ended June 30. That figure far exceeded the $81,000 the county received from farmers market fees charged to farmers and market operators.

Floren tapped his department's general funds to boost enforcement, but it is unclear how long that can continue.

"We're spending a lot more money on this program than we can sustain," Williams said.

One of the sanctioned farmers, Victor Gonzalez of Atkins Nursery in Fallbrook, did not contest that his vendors had on three occasions sold produce not grown by the farm, records show. But he appealed the penalty to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, asking that he not be suspended from participating at farmers markets because that would "cause him and his employees a great hardship."

In a decision issued Tuesday, the agency's staff counsel affirmed his suspension for six months.

Speaking by phone Thursday night, Gonzalez said his workers had mistakenly placed fruit from another farm on his farm's tables at markets. "I fired those people, and I'll pay the fine, but please let me work, or I'm dead," he said.

Officials declined to identify the vendor who was selling the suspect red mangoes in Santa Monica, saying that the administrative process had not been completed.

Avery, the Santa Monica market supervisor, said she welcomes the oversight.

"I'm thrilled that the Los Angeles agriculture department is going after the cheaters," Avery said. "For farmers markets to continue to prosper, it is crucial that consumers have confidence that vendors really grow what they sell."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Newport Beach candidate taking donations in bitcoins

When Newport Beach City Council candidate Michael Glenn thinks of freedom, that includes the freedom to choose how to donate, be it with dollars, pesos or bitcoins.

Glenn claims to be the first local politician to accept campaign donations in the esoteric digital currency. He is seeking the Balboa Peninsula's 1st District council seat being vacated by Mike Henn. Also in the race are businesswoman Diane Dixon and Harbor Commissioner Joe Stapleton.

Glenn's announcement comes weeks after individuals used bitcoins to pay for a Tesla car, and then a Lamborghini, from a Costa Mesa dealership.

But as the chief executive of a Web development company, Glenn felt familiar with the virtual currency — created by a computer programmer in 2009 — long before it appeared in recent headlines. He even possessed some bitcoins himself.

The idea to accept bitcoins percolated in his mind until, after about two months of research into potential legal issues, Glenn took his online payment system live Wednesday.

Although he is not sure how many donations — if any — will eventually come of it, he sees the move as being in line with the ideology of an open and accessible politician who simultaneously desires to be inclusive and challenge the status quo.

"The things I'm doing are not necessarily for the benefit of my campaign," he said. "They're for the benefit of where I think the structure should be going."

From a donor's perspective, the process for giving by using bitcoins mirrors that of giving by way of credit card. Users click a "donate now" button on Glenn's Web page. They select the dollar amount they would like to give, enter the necessary personal information and proceed to a payment page, where they enter credit card information or receive steps for sending their bitcoins.

A processing agency called Coinbase receives the bitcoins, converts them into dollars and passes the money into Glenn's account.

Glenn, a Balboa Peninsula resident, feels confident that this process helps ensure compliance with the California Fair Political Practices Commission's stipulation that only a singular bank account can be used for donations. He said he never handles the bitcoins himself.

He said his account has already received donations.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Police kill man suspected of setting fire to home, apartment

A man set fire to the apartment shared by his ex-girlfriend and their 2-year-old son early Thursday, authorities said, then set his mother's home ablaze before being killed by Torrance police when they found him with a knife on a middle-school campus.

Class was not in session at Madrona Middle School when Asa James Dolak, 19, was fatally shot about 1:35 p.m. Thursday, said Torrance Police Sgt. Robert Watt. Police said Dolak made it clear in telephone conversations with officers that he did not intend to be taken into custody without a fight.

"He threatened his family and threatened to kill police if confronted," Watt said. "We took that threat very serious."

The chain of events began just after midnight, when Dolak set fire to an apartment in the 16700 block of Crenshaw Boulevard. Fire crews and officers responded, rescuing the toddler.

The child was treated for smoke inhalation and was listed in fair condition at a hospital, Watt said. The mother was not injured.

Watt said the arson was the result of "a domestic dispute that started verbally on Christmas Day." But he added that it was one of several domestic issues involving Dolak and his ex-girlfriend, who has not been identified. Watt said Dolak had been arrested before by Torrance police for "minor stuff."

Police said that about 2 a.m., Dolak went to his mother's home in the 3200 block of Opal Street and set that property on fire as well. Soon after, officers found "the vehicle that he used to go from crime scene A to crime scene B," Watt said.

The sergeant said an extensive search for Dolak ensued and about 1:30 p.m. someone "that identically matched Mr. Dolak" was seen at the school. The teenage suspect was seen in a girl's restroom, bleeding from a hand and armed with a knife.

Watt said a short foot pursuit began and Dolak ran to a nearby sports field where he was fatally shot.

"He confronted the officers and failed to comply with their demands and ultimately there was an officer-involved shooting," he said. "He was armed with a knife."

Watt said the school was unoccupied because of the winter break.

Tommy Angiano, 34, a manager at Mr. Rooter in Gardena, said Dolak did some work for the company but was fired last summer. Angiano said Dolak's mother asked about a job for her son during a plumbing repair at her house.

Dolak became a plumber's helper, and at the beginning, Angiano said, he was a good worker who was willing to show up any time of the day and willing to get his hands dirty. But as time went by, Angiano said, Dolak stopped listening to directions and once threatened a co-worker.

"He was just real quiet. Way too quiet," Angiano said, adding that Dolak could get "pretty angry," though the result was usually a quiet seething as opposed to verbal or physical altercations.

"You would see him get pretty angry and then go quiet," he said.

Still, Angiano said he was surprised when he found out about Dolak's alleged role in the arson attacks and his death.

"I'm still shocked about it," he said.


Times staff writer Ari Bloomekatz contributed to this report.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Woman, 24, killed in drive-by shooting in South L.A.

Denise Piazza was inside her upstairs apartment when the shots resounded on Christmas Day.

There weren't squealing tires or a revving engine like you'd expect to hear after a drive-by shooting, she said, just the five or six loud pops about 5 p.m. Wednesday, and then children's screams.

Witnesses said they could tell 24-year-old Juliana Barrios was dead before her panicked family carried her body into a car and rushed her to a nearby hospital.

"She wasn't moving," said Piazza, who has lived in the 700 block of East 87th Street in South Los Angeles for 14 years. "It's sad, so sad. God forbid, it could've been one of those kids."

Police on Thursday said there is still no clear motive for why Barrios or the home may have been targeted. Barrios lived in Pomona and was visiting family for the holiday, police said. Neither she nor her family have apparent gang ties, according to residents and detectives.

"It could be just to make a lasting memory for whoever the intended victim was, to let the family know that every Christmas they have to live through this again," said Los Angeles Police Department gang homicide Det. Charles Hicks. "Or maybe they were bored and just didn't have something to do. It could be any number of things at this point. It's undetermined what the motivation is. It just looks like an unfortunate victim."

Residents said the street was quiet Wednesday afternoon before the shooting. Barrios and some children from the home were in the front yard when a truck drove by in the westbound lane, and someone on the passenger side fired in Barrios' direction.

Plates and bowls remained on a table on the home's porch Thursday. A pair of bullet holes were visible next to the front door and window; one shot narrowly missed a painting of the Virgin Mary hanging nearby.

"It's horrible … you never think something like this would happen right here," said Perry Wright, who has lived on the street for 30 years and is familiar with the family living at the home Barrios was visiting. "These kids weren't, like, in gangs or anything like that. They were pretty good kids."

It's a neighborhood where everyone watches out for each other, Piazza said.

"They're very nice," she said of the family. "They stayed in the yard. Mind their own business. No one ever had a problem."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Giving thanks to all this Christmas, one cookie at a time

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 26 Desember 2013 | 12.56

Outside a Subway restaurant in West Hollywood, Michael Hope adjusted his Santa hat, stuffed a festive Christmas bag with cellophane-wrapped cookies and prepared to make his first delivery.

"OK, let's see who's working," said Hope, 36, as he walked into the Subway. Andrew Neal, 29, peered through the window.

Like Hope and Neal in Los Angeles, volunteers around the country spent Christmas delivering homemade cookies to gas station attendants, baristas, grocery store clerks and others who had pulled the holiday shift.

"It's easy to remember the firefighters and policemen who work on Christmas Day," said John Marcotte, founder of the Cookie Project. "Even soup kitchens are booked with volunteers.... But no one remembers the guy at the fryer at a fast-food restaurant or the person making your latte."

Two years ago, Marcotte, 42, rallied his family and friends in Sacramento and surprised movie theater projectionists, Sizzler janitors and Starbucks baristas with Christmas cookies. Some cried, others danced in good humor and many were touched that they were being appreciated, he said.

Marcotte's message went viral the following year, and volunteers in San Francisco and elsewhere baked and delivered cookies to those who couldn't spend Christmas with their families. More than 1,200 homemade cookies were delivered in Sacramento, he said.

"For my kids, Christmas Day has become about giving to people rather than getting things," he said. "They're excited on Christmas Day because that's the day we go out to give to other people."

The Cookie Project is a loosely organized movement that anyone can join online, Marcotte said. Last year, someone in Portland unexpectedly sent the Cookie Project a thank-you note — Marcotte didn't even know he had a volunteer in Portland baking and delivering on Christmas Day.

This year, volunteers fanned out in West Virginia, New York, Oklahoma and Michigan. A woman from Tasmania, who happened to be in Northern California last Christmas, said she would bring Marcotte's message back to her Australian hometown.

And in Los Angeles this year, Hope and Neal were inspired to bring the Cookie Project to Southern California.

Their friends and family were busy or out of town, so the two-man team set out Wednesday morning with their Siberian Husky, Kodi, and 200 cookies. It's not easy to initiate anything in L.A., "but as long as we start it, more people will think about it," Hope said.

Traveling down Sunset Boulevard, they greeted security guards, pizza delivery drivers and people working in movie theaters, a wine shop and even a hair salon that stayed open for the customers they couldn't get to the day before. Hope and Neal shook off stilted language barriers and skeptical exchanges in good humor.

Neal jogged over to a parked taxi and presented the driver with a wrapped cookie.

Armen Arutyunyan was confused at first, but then broke into a smile. He was working because people need taxis — even on Christmas Day, he said. His two children were waiting at home to open presents when he was done for the day.

A nearby Ralph's grocery store was packed with last-minute Christmas shoppers. "If we could just plan our shopping better, these people wouldn't have to work today," said Hope, adding that Marcotte has made him conscious of just how many people work on Christmas for the convenience of others.

In a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, customers stayed glued to their phones and barely noticed Hope and Neal as they thanked the employees who had just made their coffee.

At an Arco gas station, a young man complained about the debit-card fee. Hope walked up to the counter and wished cashier David Ortiz a merry Christmas.

"It's just you working today?" Hope asked, noticing the silence.

Ortiz had been at the station since 8 a.m. and admitted he'd rather be home with his little girl. Looking down at the cookies, he grinned.

"Something to look forward to later," he said. "I'll probably save these for her."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Soil contamination could halt plans for new Jordan Downs housing

As if the task of transforming one of the city's most notorious housing projects into a new "urban village" wasn't daunting enough, Los Angeles has run into another hurdle in the redevelopment of Jordan Downs: concerns over contaminated land.

City officials earlier this year approved a plan to spend up to $1 billion to turn the often dangerous Watts housing development of 700 derelict units into a mixed-income community of up to 1,800 stylish new apartments.

But the plan hinges on building the first phase of the new community on 21 acres of former industrial land that is laced with lead, arsenic, oil and cancer-causing industrial chemicals from its past use as a steel factory.

The Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles has pledged to remove the contaminated soil to make the site safe. Officials estimate they will spend up to $8 million to haul away thousands of truckloads of contaminated soil and replace it with clean material.

"This has been an industrial site for decades, and so I would think people would be happy that we are stepping into this void to actually deliver this sort of cleanup," said Doug Guthrie, the head of the city's housing authority. The agency is seeking approval to begin work as early as the spring.

But activists, residents and environmental groups say the cleanup plan falls short of protecting the health of future residents, particularly children. Some critics are demanding a wider investigation of contaminants, including in soil in parts of Jordan Downs where people have been living for generations, saying they fear pollution has spread or remained there, undetected, for decades.

"We're going to keep insisting they do more testing to make sure it's safe to live there," Lorena Garcia, 42, said in Spanish. She lives in an apartment in Jordan Downs with her husband and six children. "We're the ones who are going to be harmed, especially those of us with young children," she said.

Residents and activists have seized on memos between the state and the housing authority over cleanup standards that they say show the plans are not thorough.

An assessment of the vacant site in 2011 found lead, arsenic and industrial compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls at levels that would pose an "unacceptable" health risk to future residents, particularly children. The analysis by a city-hired consultant also found unhealthy levels of naphthalene, an ingredient in mothballs, in vapors in the soil.

Most concerning to both regulators and activists is the soil's lead content. Children who play in dirt contaminated with the poisonous metal can ingest the dust. Over time it accumulates in their bodies and even at low levels can cause permanent health problems and learning deficiencies.

A toxicologist hired by the housing authority initially called for a cleanup plan that would leave lead in the soil at a level more than six times higher than the state standard of 80 parts per million for residential areas.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control wrote in a 2011 memo to the consultant that the higher level "may not be protective of a child resident" and called for meeting the 80 ppm standard.

But the remediation plan the city drafted earlier this year sets the goal at 315 ppm, nearly four times the state limit.

Asked about the discrepancy, state toxics department officials said they will refuse to sign off on the cleanup unless the 80 ppm average is met. Housing authority officials say they will do whatever the state requires.

Those assurances are not enough, said David Pettit, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The environmental group is one of several who say the cleanup plan may not be enough for a site that will house families with young children.

"I'm worried about babies rolling around in lead and arsenic," Pettit said.

Some residents say they now fear dangerous metals are not confined to the 21-acre site, which was a truck storage and repair facility after the steel mill closed and is now walled off from the community. The city purchased the site in 2008 for $31 million.

Soil contamination has been a problem in the surrounding area. People in the same zip code as Jordan Downs live with some of the highest pollution exposure in the state, according to a recent analysis by California environmental agencies, and also are in the top 10% of areas in California with the most contaminated land.

Students at neighboring David Starr Jordan High School were evacuated in 2002 after a Navy shell from an adjacent metal recycling facility exploded, launching a chunk of metal onto the campus. Two years later 1,250 tons of soil had to be removed from the school's athletic field because it showed high levels of metals and industrial chemicals.

A nearby property is on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency list of potential lead-smelter sites that were unknown to state and federal regulators until identified in a 2001 study.

At the request of community groups, a mobile health center was dispatched to Jordan Downs last month to test children for lead. All six of those tested during the first two visits had elevated levels of lead in their blood, said Shom Dasgupta, director of social medicine at St. John's Well Child and Family Center. Their readings, about 3.3 micrograms per deciliter, were above average but did not exceed the level of 5 micrograms per deciliter that health experts consider a cause for concern.

Even so, the elevated levels could be a sign that children are at risk. "To me that means exposure to lead in this area is widespread enough that somebody should be doing more aggressive screening for children," Dasgupta said.

Guthrie, of the housing authority, said his agency decided to forgo soil testing near existing homes because an initial survey turned up no history of industrial use there. Environmental experts the agency hired to drill into the soil of the industrial site saw no reason to test outside its boundaries because metal contaminants do not migrate, he said.

That did not comfort Jordan Downs resident Rafael Zavaleta, 20, who lives within a few hundred feet of the cleanup site and said his family was told they will be among the first relocated to the new apartments because their home would be one of the first knocked down. As a boy, he and his friends would sometimes sneak onto the vacant lot to explore the abandoned factory.

"They would say: You know, the dirt's been contaminated and you might get cancer, and we took it as a joke," he said. Only recently did his family learn of the hazards and become concerned.

"I've already lived here 14 years, so I can't go back in time and say I want my health back," he said. "But a lot of people are growing up here, playing in the grass and playing in the park. We need to know if it is clean, if it is healthy, and to make sure the contamination didn't spread."



12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More
techieblogger.com Techie Blogger Techie Blogger