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May 23, 2013

City News Service

 

Los Angeles World Airports plans to name the new central hall of the LAX international terminal the “Antonio R. Villaraigosa Pavilion,” it was recently reported. Airport commissioners voted Tuesday on the honor, the Daily News

reported on its website. The $1.7 billion expansion of the terminal, named after former mayor Tom Bradley, is about $200 million over budget, according to the Daily News.

Airport officials defend the overruns, noting that the curved, wave-like roofs of the new structure were an ambitious and difficult project.

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May 23, 2013

By Xavier Higgs

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

A multi-agency task force arrested 10 gang members last Wednes­day as part of a two-year investigation stemming from a series of cold case homicides.

Montebello police and federal agents targeted a Southside Monte­bello gang in an attempt to resolve dozens of unsolved homicides and gang-related activities.

As a result of “Operation Sudden Impact,” thirty-nine people indicted, thirty-three arrested, six homicides solved, seized 600 grams of methamphetamine, and 20 firearms were apprehended.

Montebello police and Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents made these arrests. Furthermore with several dozen federal and state indictments, authorities are confident this will be a factor to resolve several unsolved gang homicides.

Authorities said dozens of killings stemmed from ongoing rivalries over drugs and turf.

Nevertheless, those in custody face an usually long list of federal and state charges, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, witness intimidation, extortion, and assorted weapons and drug charges.

As a part of the investigation, law enforcement officers infiltrated the Southside Montebello gang and obtained evidence of alleged crimes. Their activities included extortion, carjacking, armed robbery, homicides, drive by shootings, as well as firearms and narcotics trafficking.

At a news conference in Montebello, U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr. said, “the beauty of this investigation is we’re going to attack this from different angles.”

Among the arrested gang members is Joe John Dorantes, 27. Detectives say Dorantes gunned down Albert Garcia and his 12-year old son, Juan, in June 2008 at a graduation party.

Another of the main suspects is an original member of the "killer squad." Jimmy Valenzuela, 27, who lives in Montebello, is accused of suspicion of committing two gang-related execution style slayings. He was arrested in June 2012.

According to LA County District Atty. Jackie Lacey, charges ranging from narcotics sales to sale of an assault weapon, to being a felon in possession of a gun, will be filed against 14 of those arrested. Also the District Attorney’s office has associated six Montebello gang members with four homicide cases.

District Atty. Lacey also praised the collaboration of federal, state and local police. “This represents a win for the residents of Montebello and surrounding communities,” said District Atty. Lacey.

In a 68-page indictment, Federal prosecutors said nine of the 18 charged in four indictments violated the RICO statue.

U.S. Atty. Birotte also said the Southside Montebello gang is the target in this case.

“We believe there are other gangs that are involved as well,” said U.S. Atty. Birotte.

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May 09, 2013

By Maya Rhodan

NNPA Washington Correspondent

 

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Whites had an average wealth of $632,000 in 2010 while Blacks had about $98,000 and Hispanics had $110,000, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute.

“Such great wealth disparities help explain why many middle-income blacks and Hispanics haven’t seen much improvement in their relative economic status and, in fact, are at greater risk of sliding backwards,” the report says.

Blacks start out at a disadvantage.

Whites begin  with about 3.5-4 times more wealth than their Black and Hispanic counterparts in their “wealth-building years,” defined as 32-40 years old. By age 60, the wealth of Whites increases to seven times the amount of wealth Blacks are able to accrue over the same amount of time.

Levels of homeownership and retirement savings are shown to contribute to the differences in wealth among races. In 2010, less than half of Black families owned homes, while more than three quarters of White families did.

Algernon Austin, director of the program on race, ethnicity, and the economy at the Economic Policy Institute, says that Blacks were more likely to have loss their homes during the recession because they couldn’t keep up with ballooning mortgage payments.

“What we’ve seen recently is a dramatic loss of wealth for African Americans because there has been a dramatic loss of homeownership,” Austin explains. “Blacks were more likely to be given high-priced sub prime loans and were hit much harder by unemployment. Both factors—more loans, losing a job– makes it more difficult to keep up with mortgage payments.”

The recession has had a dire impact on the wealth of all Americans, with Hispanic families reporting their wealth declined by 40 percent between 2007-2010, according to the report. Blacks experienced a 31 percent decline while Whites’ wealth declined by 11 percent.

Austin calls the loss of wealth experienced by the Black community a “symptom of high levels of unemployment and low wages, but particularly unemployment.”

Today, 27 percent of Blacks live in poverty. In March 2013, Blacks experienced an unemployment rate of 13.3 percent, compared to the national rate of 7.6 percent.

“Homeownership is a really important factor in terms of wealth, but so is unemployment,” Austin says. “If you’re going through frequent spells of unemployment, you’re either going to be losing wealth or going into debt.”

He adds, “The issue of jobs and income are important to address. The higher your income, the easier it is for you to build wealth. The government needs to enact policies that allow for Blacks to get greater income and get better job opportunities.”

Blacks represent about 11 percent of the total workforce, but 14 percent of the poverty-wage workforce, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

According to the Urban Institute findings, Black families saw the most dramatic decrease in their retirement assets, experiencing a 35 percent decline in retirement savings between 2007-2010.

“This finding is consistent with research that suggests lower income families are more likely to withdraw money from retirement savings after a job loss or other adverse event,” according to the Urban Institute report.  “The high rates of unemployment and other financial needs that took hold with the Great Recession appear to have led to larger declines in retirement savings for black families.”

While the Great Recession can account for much of the loss of wealth, there are other contributing factors to African Americans’ low-wealth, including policies designed to help Americans accrue wealth and policies aimed at low-income families, a large proportion of whom are African American.

“There’s lots that the federal government does that if it was targeted to lower income Americans it could impact the wealth gap, “ Austin adds. “However, unfortunately, it’s a difficult battle because current policies benefit people who have significant political power and influence.”

In 2009, the federal government spent about $384 billion on policies that help families buy homes, start businesses, put their children through college, and retire.

Many of these policies, however, are administered through the tax code and “subsidize wealth building for the wealthiest among us, rewarding them for the size of their homes and investment portfolios,” according to a 2010 report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development titled “Upside Down: The $400 Billion Federal Asset-Building Budget.”

“The federal asset building budget provides a variety of things—opportunities for families to buy homes, start businesses, and prepare for retirement,” says Jermie Greer, the director of government affairs for CFED. “Yet, this $400 billion budget is skewed to benefit the very wealthy.”

According to the report, a middle class family making $50,000 annually receives less than $500 in benefits from federal asset building policies, while families that make $100,000 receive $2,000 in benefits.

Tax payers who make in excess of $1 million, however, can see more than $92,000 in asset building support through mortgage and property tax deductions and investment tax breaks. Over half of the nearly $400 billion in benefits, according to the report, goes to the top 5 percent of tax payers.

“Conversation around tax reform so often focuses on the relationship between revenues for deficit reduction, but missed the mark on what is the social policy we want to address through the tax code,” Greer says.

“They can take some of the tax benefits that go to the very wealthy and bring them back down to people that are trying to build wealth and scratch their way out of poverty,” Greer adds.

Most low and middle-income families use homeownership to build wealth. In fact, homeownership accounts for the largest proportion of wealth among lower and middle-income households.

Yet, homeowners with lower incomes often don’t receive enough of a deduction to make a difference. According to the CFED report, nearly 80 percent of the value of mortgage and property tax deductions went to the top 20 percent of taxpayers.

“Social policy is really focused on income and the income people earn,” Greer says. “While people need jobs and it’s important that people are able to earn income, but that’s not the only piece of puzzle when you think about wealth.”

“We need to think not only about income, but providing benefits and incentives that help people build wealth through starting businesses, buying homes, being protected from predatory lenders.”

For low-income families in particular, federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, help ensure families have basic necessities, but don’t assist in helping to develop economically stable households.

“Many safety net programs even discourage saving: families can become ineligible if they have a few thousand dollars in savings,” he Urban Institute report says.

Individuals who receive benefits from assistance programs can only have savings that equal up to $2,000 before risking losing their benefits. States currently have the flexibility to wave these limits, which keep people from accumulating money that can help them start a business or build wealth that can lead them out of poverty.

Thirty-six states currently waive limits to the SNAP and Temporary Assistance to Needed Families programs.

There are also programs, such as the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP), which helps low- to moderate-income families purchase homes, that can help low income families build wealth through homeownership, but the programs received less funding than low-income rental programs in 2010.

Austin says that through implementing more policies that benefit a wider range of people from varying socioeconomic backgrounds, we could begin to see the wealth gap “start shrinking instead of watching it grow.”

“It’s possible to prevent [the wealth gap] from growing larger and even shrinking it, but none of the policies that will ensure that will happen by themselves,” Austin says.  “With all of these things, they aren’t likely to happen overnight.”

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May 16, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Recently during a televised interview, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made public for the first time his firm commitment to secure funding for Crenshaw-LAX light rail Leimert Park Village Station Stop.

Late, Tuesday evening the Sentinel obtained an exclusive statement from Mayor Villraigosa that reaffirmed his commitment.

“I am strongly committed to a station at Leimert Park, and my office has worked closely with the City Council to identify $40 million to contribute towards the building of that station.  I look forward to working in partnership with the MTA Board of Directors to make the Leimert Park station a reality.”

A much anticipated vote on whether to build a train station that would stop in Leimert Park Village as part of the  $1.7 billion Crenshaw-LAX light rail project is scheduled before the Metro board at a soon to be determined date, but now Mayor Villaraigosa and Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, a long time advocate of the station, have joined forces on the issue providing a unified front that can only result in a bright future for Leimert Park and the Crenshaw line.

“I have always been committed making sure that Leimert Park had a ­station and stop, but now I am proud to admit publicly and remove all doubt about my goals all along,” said Villaraigosa.

The Mayor’s public comments came on of heels of years of doubt and prodding from local, state and federal officials who fought to secure a Leimert Park Station.

The Leimert Park Station will be an economic boon for businesses in Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Vista, View Park and other African American communities.

The region consists of 11,782 residents and 79.6 percent of them are Black, making the region the heart and soul of African American culture and caretaker of its heritage.

Privately, Villaraigosa has been steadfastly committed to the project but as the final days of his two-term tenure melts away, he felt it was necessary to inform the public and quiet his critics on the subject.

Two years ago, despite overwhelming support for a station from a broad coalition of business owners, neighborhood groups, the church community and residents, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted to build one only if it could fit within the existing $1.7 billion-budget allocated for the project, leaving the station’s future in question. 

The bids for the Crenshaw-to-LAX line are in and have been reviewed and the Metro staff has already made a recommendation to the MTA board on which bid to accept – a non-binding, but early “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” for the station.

The recommendation, which will be carefully watched by residents, transportation advocates and elected officials throughout the county, will precede a vote by the full Metro board May 23.

Any decision not to include a station in Leimert Park will be widely criticized by many, including every elected official representing the Crenshaw community – City Council members and members of the state legislature and of the U.S. Congress – who all joined in an unprecedented show of unity to call for the stop in Leimert Park Village.

It will also deeply disappoint hundreds of residents who packed the Metro Board hearing room calling for a stop in what is the heart of the African-American community and increasingly, an important residential and business center for Latinos.

Pre-construction work began last year for the Crenshaw Line light rail that will connect the Green Line to the Expo Line in 2018 (and maybe LAX at some point). However, without a stop in historic Leimert Park, it may be a project not worth having, but the mayor whom Blacks elected to city hall twice has made it a final priority.

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May 09, 2013

LAWT News Service

 

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) hosted an exporter forum for small businesses on Friday, May 3 in Hawthorne, Calif. More than 75 representatives from local companies attended the event, which focused on how American companies can gain a competitive edge when exporting their products overseas. The forum was held in collaboration with Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im). Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that helps create and maintain U.S. jobs by filling gaps in private export financing at no cost to American taxpayers. Local small businesses also received one-on-one trade counseling from Ex-Im Bank experts..

“I was pleased to see so many people from the business community gather to hear presentations on how to improve their exports,” said Congresswoman Waters. “Exports create and sustain U.S. jobs, and businesses in the 43rd Congress­ional District have much to gain from such opportunities. I am confident that the forum provided them the necessary resources to sell their great exports around the world.”

“Exports help create jobs and boost our nation’s economy,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. "Ex-Im Bank will continue to host Global Access forums throughout the country so we can provide our local business leaders with the tools they need to expand globally."

Chairman Hochberg gave an overview of Ex-Im Bank's Global Access for Small-Business initiative, aimed at increasing the number of small businesses across the United States that export goods and services produced by U.S. workers. This is an integral part of the President Obama’s National Export Initiative.

Global Access is supported by a wide variety of business, financial and government partners, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Man­u­facturers (NAM), and the Bank’s 60-plus city/state partners located throughout the U.S.

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