Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Am I Thankful For?
Happy Thanksgiving
By Jamie Gonzalez, Port of Los High School senior
As a young child, my parents have taught me that family is everything in one’s life. As the years have passed by, I have learned that this is true. I am thankful for everything my parents and my family have done for me.
My parents are the ones who gave me life and gave me a chance to grow up to become someone important. They have struggled through many years, but despite all those challenges we have all stayed together as a happy family which I am thankful for and will cherish forever.
I am also thankful that God has given my mother strength to take care of me and my three brothers by always having food ready for us so we can have a nice lunch or dinner. I am thankful that God has given my father strength to keep on working in roofing and take care of the whole family financially, but also still being a great father.

Education wise, I am thankful for many great things. I thank God for giving me a chance to go to a great school that doesn’t compare to other schools. If I didn’t go to Port of Los Angles High School, I wouldn’t have met the great friends that I know to this date. I wouldn’t have gotten the chances to go on a onc- in-a-life time trip to Washington D.C., join SRLA, the Spanish club, and also represent my school. But also, if I didn’t join the College Bound program in the Boys & Girls Club of the L.A. Harbor, I would have been lost college wise.
This is why I am thankful that Jenna and Marcey (of the Boys and Girls Club) are always there to help me out and answer my questions about college. Lastly, I am thankful that God has helped my family through the good and bad and has always kept us moving forward. Now that I am transitioning from a teenager to a young adult, I now see how life really is and thank God that he has let me see this.

Students give goodbye hug to the plant manager. Alonzo LeFridge thanks Craig "Edward" Dykes for helping him stay on track since he was a 6-year-old. Alonzo now
plays for the San Pedro High School Pirates Football Team.

Students at Crestwood Street Elementary School Bid A Great Farewell to the Custodian Who Served the School for 28 years; Good Bye Mr. Dykes
Edward "Craig" Dykes did many things beyond the call-of-duty for students at Crestwood Street Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes. He cleaned up after them. He listened to their stories. And for some, he helped instill a good sense of values and taught them responsibility.
It was a bitter-sweet day for Craig, who served his last day at the school as the plant custodian, on Wednesday -- but not before the students were able to tell him the auditorium received a new name in honor of his efforts for nearly three decades.
The auditorium will now be called "The Edward "Craig" Dykes Auditorium" honoring him for not only his work to keep the school clean and safe, but due to the extras he did for so many of the students.
San Pedro High School football player, Alonzo Lefridge, 17, came to thank the custodian on Tuesday for the values he instilled in him when he started at Crestwood at the age of six.
"He always helped me," Alonzo explained, saying the custodian was the reason he raced to school every morning. "He always had a job for me. He taught me responsibility. I watered plants, helped him open doors and put up the flag. He taught me respect. He taught me morals. And he kept me on the right track."
Alonzo was able to thank him along with many other students when the school held a ceremony honoring the plant manager on Tuesday.
The custodian was known for not only putting the students to work, and teaching them -- but he gave them treats -- delicious glazed donuts.
Not only did the school rename the auditorium, but every student received a glazed donut -- a tradition that the custodian established to thank all the students who helped him.

Monday, November 24, 2008


By Diana L. Chapman

Edward “Craig” Dykes was blasting across the asphalt campus a few years ago, huffing and puffing as though in a race. He was in a race, he shouted, to lock up the school gates because dogs were roaming the neighborhood.

He didn’t want them on the campus, because he had to keep the kids safe. And that’s exactly what Craig has done for the past 28 years as a plant manager at Crestwood Street Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Considered popular, kind and caring, the tall 56-year-old man, who looks like a giant in a sea of kids, has concluded it’s time to hang up his shovel, put away his broom and walk away from years of service.

A good-bye celebration is planned at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the school.

“I’m happy, but I’m sad about leaving the kids,” he explained. “The kids are wonderful and this place is a wonderful, wonderful work environment. The kids are saying: “Are you leaving?” And I break it down for them,” because financially now is the time, he explains, to the students.

For those who are too young to understand financial reasons, he simply tells them: “I’ve been here a 1,000 years and it’s time to go.”

Over the years, he’s shared the kids tears, their fears and taught them responsibility by allowing them to help him clean for small rewards Craig has shoveled up messes, raked up leaves, come when he was called for extra paper towels or to unlock doors and managed a small custodial staff at the campus.

It seemed he was always there for -- everyone.

He was in particular there in crises situations like the time he spotted a small fire smoking on the school’s roof caused by spontaneous combustion in a bed of leaves. He’s backed the school’s principal many times over the years, including one where a man was outside the campus exposing himself. They called police.

The custodian started his career with Los Angeles Unified School District in 1973 at Belvedere Junior High and was made the official plant manager at Crestwood in 1980. While retired, he plans to hike in the Sierras and the Cascades mountains.

“I will miss the kids because they kept me laughing,” he explained. “It’s a happy time of their
lives." Wednesday will be his last day at the school.

Monday, November 17, 2008

San Pedro English Teacher Gives Interesting Assignment: Write About a Paper Clip; The Relevant Stage Offers a Free Performance for Schools of the Christmas Carol and Bayer Aspirin Announces an International Art Contest for Children Ages: 6 to 14

Dear Readers: I so enjoy creativity and got a chuckle out of Mrs. Hoffman's (English AP teacher at San Pedro High) assignment asking students to write about a paper clip. To me, this is a great exercise. Here is what one student wrote:

By Kelsi, 16

My life is like that of a paper clip

Always alone, but constantly meeting with other beings

When one and one need a connection, I am there to connect at the tip

Still alone, but clinging to other things

No, I must say, it is not always fun

But it is my job, and it has to be done

I hold things together; I have done it all my life

I make things easier and better

And stay even when these actions give me strife

These things I hold together, well, they become the best of friends

And when they decide to get a staple, my job with them must end

As I leave my newly stapled papers, I am put into a bowl

I wait until I have new orders

And do the same thing [yet it's getting kind of old]

I connect a few more friends together, but my body is getting brash

So I leave my job for good, and am thrown into the trash


The Relevant Stage Announces Free Trips for Schools to See A Christmas Carol and Information on the Play for Those Interested in Obtaining Tickets

Submitted by Ray Buffer

Schools that are interested can sign up for a free show of the Christmas Carol at 1 p.m. Friday, December 5, 2008 for The Christmas Carol.

This will be a fairly loyal adaptation of Dickens' story (written in Dickens' own prose) about Scrooge's path to redemption and is accompanied by Old English Christmas Carols sung by carolers.

Currently only one school: Downey High School, has signed up to bring students (200). Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn's office will be happy to arrange buses for any other interested schools. It seems a shame if schools from our own area are not able to participate.

If any schools are interested, they can email me at or call our office at 310.929.8129.

The Christmas Carol:

Who: The Relevant Stage Theatre Company

What: The Christmas Carol: The Tale of Ebenezer Scrooge

When: December 4, 5 and 6 at 8PM, and December 7 at 7PM

Where: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th Street, San Pedro, CA 90731Tickets: $20 Adults; $15 Seniors (55+) and College; $5 Age 18 and under; $25 for wine tasting prior to show with ticket included.

How: Buy online at or at Sacred Grounds Coffee House, Williams' Book Store, Off The Vine, The Corner Store

Duration: 100 minutes (with a 10 minute intermission) More Info: 310.929.8129The Christmas Carol is a production by The Relevant Stage Theatre Company at San Pedro's Warner Grand Theatre.
Dickens' classic tale of the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge is told through staged drama, and Christmas Carols 2008 marks the first year of this annual holiday offering. The cast of The Christmas Carol will also appear in the San Pedro Christmas Parade on Sunday, December 7.Tickets:

Bayer Aspirin Art Contest for Ages 6 to 14

If you have an artistic child or student, check out this international contest: (Submitted by Rori Roje)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

By Diana L. Chapman

You can imagine how I am feeling.

This weekend, my whole family will celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. My two sisters and cousin have been working on a sit-down dinner bash for months. They invited 75 people thinking 50 would come, but everyone responded they would be there.

My husband is going. My son is going. My in-laws and their children will be there.

The one person missing will be me. It’s not that I don’t want to go; it’s that I’m not well enough to travel any quick-turn around trip. These days, a lunch outing causes so much fatigue that I fall into bed for hours. (I have multiple sclerosis which makes me feel like I have mono everyday).

Feeling crushed, I wanted something so special for my mom, something lasting and something that wasn’t going to break the bank since my bank is already broken. Then I remembered Mike Walker, the guy who is organizing a giant Christmas rush of care packages to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, telling me his wife made jewelry.

Going to her website:, what I saw looked promising – starting with tiny roses, made from silver and gold-filled metal, beautiful crystals in many shapes and hues and the fact that each piece was hand crafted and individually designed.

Meeting up with Shirley, we sorted through her many homemade inspirations (she actually melts and makes glass beads at her home) I saw piece after piece that were beautiful, but didn’t quite fit what was needed. One that caught my eye was a clear pink crystal, encased in a silver border trimmed with a heart on top. It was stunning.

I loved it; but the trouble was: pink is not my mom’s color, she wears gold, not silver, and it didn’t have the rose I wanted to represent my father since he gave her roses. So I asked: "Could you make something similar?"

The answer was yes.
This is what we settled on: a topaz-colored gemstone to represent her birthday, a heart to represent my family and a rose tucked in the middle as a symbol of my father, who died about 12 years ago. Within two days, I was able to bring it home and proudly show it to my husband, Jim, and Ryan. They both thought it was the perfect gift to represent me since I cannot be there in person.

The price: $64.40. Had I gone to the store and spent $300, I couldn’t have found something that means so much symbolically. So it’s true, I am sad that I can’t go.
But being able to put together such a special gift, makes it somewhat easier. Thank you Shirley for saving the day for the one kid who can't go to celebrate her mother's big birthday!

By Diana L. Chapman

Cupcake Queen Update:

I love success stories – especially the kind where you think your life is marching one way and then the road suddenly veers in another direction.

This is what happened to my long-lost friend, Rose Cigliano, who works full time as a nurse, but began to miss terribly those cozy days she spent baking cookies, cupcakes and other treats with her Italian grandmother. So, she started baking.

And baking. And baking. With thousands of cupcakes made, and thousands sold, Rose officially soon hopes to have – Cuppacakes – sold at local restaurants – especially after she took 600 of her gourmet babies, such as red velvet topped with cream cheese icing, pumpkin with cream cheese frosting and chocolate with purple butter cream frosting – to a carnival in Manhattan Beach. All 31 dozen sold in 5 hours “with nothing to spare.”

“We sold out completely,” Rose explained, who added that her sister and neice came to help for one hour, but couldn’t leave because Rose was so busy. “People were begging me to open a store.”
Her cupcakes will soon be sold at Nosh in downtown San Pedro.

Right now, you can order her made-from-scratch cupcakes—pumpkin, chocolate, anisette and many more --- at Orders for the pumpkin cupcakes are already rolling in for Thanksgiving. A cupcake fad quickly is spreading like frosting across the nation -- especially with the opening of Sprinkles, a homemade cupcake bakery which opened several stores, including one in Hollywood where people stand in line to purchase them.

Why has the popularity increased? According to Rose, it stems from cupcakes reminding people of their childhood days. Within a week and if all goes well, the Nosh eatery will start carrying her cupcakes for ordering downtown San Pedro at 617 S. Centre Street.

“They are delicious and lovely and I’m thrilled to help that business move along,” said Nosh Owner Susan McKenna, a long-time foodie, who jointly owned the Corner Store, before she started Nosh. Being artistic with food is one of Susan’s many talents and she’s planning to add more food “artisans’ to her menu which ranges from specialty quiches to bread pudding.

Now, Cuppacakes will be sold there individually, and Nosh will help take larger orders.

Recently Rose donated her cupcakes to a writing class at the Boys and Girls Club and the kids were asked to write about them: Two high school students wrote the following:

“This cupcake reminds me about my youth, my childhood that was full of excitement and bliss,” wrote Brian, 17.

Armando, 15, wrote: “The cupcake has sprinkles that look like stars on the sand and the cookie atop looks like the moon. The cupcake is like a mountain in Big Bear and people are going down from the mountain with snowboards and skis. Cupcakes just make people joyful and happy. The people that make the cupcakes have a love for it. They put all their (soul) inside of it to make it taste so good.”

That is certainly true of Rose and her cupcakes; the best review I can give you is that the students inhaled her cupcakes in a few seconds flat.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Losing a Woman Who Did So Much for Our Community at Such an Early Age Is Painful for San Pedro; Michele Burke, Sweet as Sugar, Rough as a Razor, Died Unexpectedly Shocking All that Knew Her and Were Awestruck by Her Remarkable Intelligence & Her “I-Can-Do” Abilities

By Diana L. Chapman

It seemed just two weeks passed by when I e-mailed Michele Burk to tell her how much I appreciated her offer, but until a cure for multiple sclerosis was found, I had to forgo her gift because my condition was getting worse.

Sending me a sweet email back, she wrote: “I didn't contribute much in time or anything else, but I am sorry that this great program for younger teens is apparently coming to an end - at least as it's been known. I'm certainly not aware of any new 'miracle' drug to help treat MS, but my thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Not once did she mention that she was diabetic and was suffering as well and had been steadily slipping in health since the spring, said one close friend. By September, she died suddenly. When she quit answering her phone, her friends went to search for her. The diabetes had caught up with her – at much too young of an age, 54.

She died of complications from diabetes, said one of her closest friends and executor of her estate, Mark Ihlendfeldt, who lives in Michigan.

The gift Michele had offered me was to take my hand and walk me through the gauntlet of paper work to become a non-profit for what I’d been calling for three years, LA Network for Kids. The program was designed to keep kids busy after school by offering many clubs, such as cooking, basketball, art and swimming, to distract them from gangs, to build their confidence and help them explore future careers.

Using parent volunteers and in some cases, teachers, local businesses and money from two of our Neighborhood Councils, Coastal and Central, my friend, Kim Blanks, and I hobbled together a Mom-and-Pop program that the students at Dana Middle School seemed to enjoy.

Kim, in turn, linked me to Michele, who was born and raised in San Pedro. Even though she had no children, she continued to help kids in a myriad of different ways and one was taking the reigns for three years as the president of the San Pedro High School Lady Boosters.

While she was president, she helped the booster club achieve non-profit status as well as repeatedly guiding the campus in organizing many high school reunions. She cared, in part, because the school was her Alma mater and because she enjoyed kids. Her house was bathed in San Pedro High School memorabilia – that was how loyal she was to the school.

When I heard of her death, I couldn’t get over it. I kept saying to everyone: “She was a total stranger and she offered to help me build a non-profit,” which is a time-consuming world to navigate, not to mention tedious.

But one of her closest friends for 20 years, Mark, wasn’t surprised one bit. Michele, he said, was the type of person who dropped everything to help others. She was a perfectionist, organized and an amazingly talented resource, he explained. Had I asked her to do the whole thing on her own, she would have done it for me, he said.

“The first five minutes after we met, we were laughing so hard, I knew we’d be best friends,” Mark told me at her service. He met Michele at the now-defunct Data Count in Torrance where they both worked.

“I liked so many things about her,” he added. “I liked that she was so sweet, but then she’d have that sharp, smart tongue that straightened everybody out in seconds. She went from being like a butter knife, then turning into a straight sword, and then back into a butter knife in seconds. And she never backed down.”

Her friends in general explained their many favorite characteristics, but the one that kept coming up repeatedly was the way she could dissect any difficult problem.

She’d do the research, determine how to resolve an issue and provide ample information to undergo most tasks the rest of us would just want to avoid.

She was such a resource, Mark said, that even though he now lives in Michigan, he would routinely call her for help. “She was there and she’d take it down to the smallest of details. Everything she did was researched.” She even left implicit instructions of what she wanted after she died, he said.

Another close friend of Michele’s, Mark Wells, said she had so many “best friends,” that he and his wife include themselves in that category as well.

“Michele was a true friend to Terri and me and she was simply the best mentor I ever had,” Mark wrote via email. “Michele had such a wonderful gift of being a best friend to so many people. She was a tremendous listener BUT she also had absolutely no problem speaking her mind and telling you what she thought of things.”

Michele’s last job was working the telephones to collect debts for a wholesale fuel distributor.

One thing that illustrates Michele’s loyalty was that despite it being a two hour plus drive to Ojai, she left San Pedro every weekend to drive there and help her mother for years. Both her parents and brother have passed on. She is survived by a sister, Pat Qualls.

She is also survived by her two animals, Chuy, a 10-year-old Chow, and Pretty Boy, a male cat. Friends have taken both of her beloved pets and given them new homes.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Dear Readers: This letter was written by San Pedro resident, Derrick Kelly, now a UC Santa Barbara student. He worked for the Obama campaign for three weeks in Philadelphia

To All that Stand for the Progress of This Country:

It's true. When you woke up this November 5th morning, and looked at the headlines, flipped on your TV, or talked to your friends and coworkers, you saw that it wasn't just a dream. If there was any dream that occurred as Barack Obama was elected the first Black President of the U.S., it was that which Dr. King described 45 years ago. Congratulations to every one of us. Who thought we'd see this day? I myself am only 23 and even I didn't expect this. Not only is this a day to be heralded by Blacks around the world, but it is also a day for the progress of all Americans.

Two years into this. Two months until a new era begins. Two terms is the goal. Embrace and cherish these times infinitely, but be wary of those who will try to snatch away our integrity. Yesterday indicated that the vast majority of Americans who care wanted change in several ways. Let's come together. Let's stand up now before they can take away one of the greatest opportunities this nation has ever had.

Let's not ask "Is this nation ready for a Black President?" but rather, "Are we ready to unite as a whole?" Pray for those deviated from the path of equality, and for the strength of those promoting it. Yesterday was a gigantic step towards unity. Today begins a series of much more formidable tests. So again, let's place our signatures in the cement this day. Because if we don't, we, nor our children, may never see another day like this again. -- Derrick Kelley

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Closure of Los Angeles City Council Office in the Harbor Gateway Sparks Outrage Amongst Officials Who Wonder Where all the Politicians Have Gone Just Two Short Years After the Infamous Shooting Death of 14-year-old Cheryl Green

By Diana L. Chapman

Despite political promises to change the Harbor Gateway region where the infamous shooting of 14-year-old Cheryl Green took place, a new storm of rage has gathered there as Los Angeles closes its only City Council office that serves the community.

Officials from two of the neighborhood councils that represent the area said they are outraged by the move that leaves them hanging and forces them to drive to San Pedro or Watts to work with the staff of Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

The fervor reflects what seems to stem from failed political promises that much would be done in the area to help the residents receive better city services and to reduce crime – particularly hate crimes after Cheryl Green, who was standing on the corner with three friends was gunned down by a Hispanic gang members in December 2006 because she was African-American.

While the facility has been used by Harbor area officials for 16 years, ominous budget cuts and difficulties working with the landlord forced the councilwoman to close the office, located at 19401 S. Vermont Avenue, said her Chief-of-Staff Courtney Chesla Torres. The city is expected to save $28,000 a year and will hunt for a new facility.

At this time, however, the lowest amount they could rent a space for was $54,000 a year. The council office will officially close at the end of December leaving Harbor Gateway South to move it's records along with the Harbor City/Harbor Gateway Chamber of Commerce, which shared the space.

The budget woes have not appeased many in the Harbor Gateway-Harbor City area who consider it a reinforcement that they continue on as a “step child.”

Adrienne O’Neill, president of the Harbor Gateway South Neighborhood Council, said she and many others are furious over not just the closure of the field office, but by the way it was handled.

They were not notified by the councilwoman , she said, and they were confused by what was happening, they said. The council office, however, says they did give the council's notice.

The move has sent Adrienne searching for a new council candidate.

“We are less angry about the closing than we are in the manner in which it was done,” the council president contended. “We were all notified by a third party – not by Hahn or her office. She stated in City Watch that her office was working with us to find a new space for our meetings. What a bunch of bull crap! Pardon me. But other than a response to my email regarding the closing, we have heard not one thing from her office.”

As the council office pulls out due to budget cuts, Katy Carlson, the vice president of Harbor Gateway South Council, said they are frustrated by the closure and what day the office will officially shut its doors. This council uses it for its meetings and has no place yet to go.

“Her (the councilwoman’s) field staff, Reginald Zachery is in the Watts office now and we have to call him there,” Katy said. “Some one said they thought it would be 60 days, but we have no idea from what date they’re counting from. This is where we have our board meetings every month.”

The office will close at the end of December, Courtney said. She added that her staff had been in touch numerous times with Adrienne and has been searching area businesses for a new location. The lowest cost a year has been $54,000.

The budget crises has led the city of Los Angeles to sell its surplus property across the city and each council member was asked to review their leases. City officials were not pleased by the conditions at the current location and with an “uncooperative landlord,” the decision was made to close the office, the chief-of-staff explained. .

"The decision to close the office was not an easy one,” Janice Hahn said. “We were on a
month- to-month lease at our current location… In trying to find a new
location, we found the rent to be at least twice as much. The community should not notice any change in service just because our community advocate does not have a desk located in the gateway any longer. In fact, I want my community advocate to be out and about
attending meetings and working with constituents every day.

“Again, there should be no change in the delivery of services from this council

The council office will seek new arrangements for the neighborhood council meeting, she added.

Rosalie Preston, recording secretary for the Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council, said her council unanimously voted Oct. 28 to express their dismay about the office’s closure. While they don’t hold their meetings at the location, she said, “it just seems like another symbolic slap in the face. Our board voted to express our disappointment.

“We aren’t as impacted, but it’s just the idea.”

Doug Epperhart, a neighborhood council veteran who serves on the Coastal council in San Pedro, said he sympathized with the councils in the Harbor area because the board volunteers work hard in a community that has a giant swath of renters, rather than home owners.

“It’s so hard to get people organized here,” he explained, noting that even homeowners don’t want to get involved due to their busy lives. “Bluntly, what kills them is they have so many renters. I feel bad for them. They always feel: “Pedro gets everything.’”

The Harbor Gateway, a thin, rectangular strip that connects the entire Harbor area to the south section of Los Angeles has complained for years that they receive less services than other areas of the city. It is the single strip of land that keeps the Harbor region, which touts the world Port of Los Angeles, a city cash cow, tied to the apron strings of Los Angeles.

Attempts to break-away from the city have failed miserably.

The area, residents said, was becoming an increasing hotbed of shootings between African-American and Hispanic gangs vying for territory. When Cheryl Green, not in any gang, became a household name after being gunned down on a Friday afternoon near 206th Street and Harvard Boulevard, police immediately called it a hate crime.

Media coverage descended on the area sparked by the shooting and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the councilwoman vowed to help clean up the area and bring more programs together to keep the children out of gangs.

Cheryl’s killing was also the reason the councilwoman campaigned so hard on Proposition A, a $36 a year parcel tax that would have provided $30 million to the city to fight gangs and to create programs to keep youngsters from joining them.

The proposition votes are still being counted. If it passes, it remains unclear whether the money would come at to the Harbor Region. The mayor’s gang reduction plan cut Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway and San Pedro from funding because those areas didn't have a high enough rate of gang violence to merit funding as other sections of the city.

Officials of the third neighborhood Council, Harbor City, could not be reached for comment.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Los Angeles Councilwoman's Staff Statement Regarding Proposition A and How the Harbor Area May Get Funds With the Anti-Gang Parcel Tax -- Here's the Last Snippet of Thought Right Before the Election! See you at the Polls...

Dear Readers:

In an earlier blog, I asked the Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn's Office to respond to the idea that Prop A money, which will be used for anti-gang programs and charge $36 a year per parcel in the city of Los Angeles will definitively be used in the Harbor area as well. If approved, the measure would raise about $30 million to fight gang problems.

Unfortunately for us, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's ambitious plan to curb gang violence only includes seven regions -- and cuts funding from Wilmington, San Pedro, Harbor City and the Harbor Gateway. The numbers of violent acts are apparently not high enough here to be considered a gang reduction zone, despite several killings and shootings in the past few years.

For the past year, Janice has campaigned hard to bring in funds via a parcel tax to be applied to anti-gang programs, such as after school programming, to keep kids out of gangs. However, since all the funding has been transferred under the mayor's direction, it is unclear whether any of the money will come to the Harbor Area.

Here is the response from Courtney Chesla Torres, the councilwoman's chief-of-staff:

"While it is true that the measure does not spell out exactly where funding will go, we are confident that Pedro and the Harbor will get funding through this measure and that unless this measure passes, it will probably be the only way in the near future for us to see the funding that we need," the chief-of- staff wrote via email. ..."that's why Howard Uller of Toberman, Mike Lansing andMike Herrera of the Harbor City Boys and Girls Clubs and the Gang Alternatives Program is all supportive--because they see it as the only chance to get the funding they both need and deserve.

"Also--the mayor does not have full control...there is a nine person citizen's advisory committee that will forward recommendations and the allocations will still come to the city council for approval. "

Now, let's go vote!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

OK, Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn: Can you answer this about Prop. A, the $36 Parcel Tax a Year -- Money Expected to Prevent Children from Joining Gangs & to Curb the Violence?; Harbor Area residents Are Confused: Please Give Us a Response by Monday So We All Know How to Vote!?

By Diana L. Chapman

It looks pretty clear to me that Prop. A, the parcel tax measure expected to provide $30 million to suppress gang violence, will go down in flaming defeat because of confusion about whether it will help the Harbor Area at all -- and because of our roller coaster economy.

While Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn has lead us down a rosy path making me, and perhaps you, believe money would filter here (she had my vote) that has now become questionable.

Recently in the San Pedro magazine, a reader spelled out clearly that the money will be under complete control of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who will no longer provide money to the Harbor Area, because there's not enough crime here and there aren't enough gangs to focus on. Our numbers just aren't big enough. That's complete idiocy.

He should tell that to LaTerian Tasby, a 17-year-old San Pedro football and basketball player, who had turned his life around when he was shot to death, allegedly by Hispanic gang members, at a party last fall.

Or perhaps he should tell that to Cheryl Green, 14, who was shot down in the Harbor Gateway while standing on a street corner, many believe because was African-American, also allegedly killed by Hispanic gang members.

With the whole media press corps racing to the area, the mayor and councilwoman showed up with big smiles and promises that they would provide much more funding to rebuild the area and work toward providing many more facilities for the youth. Since Cheryl's death was categorized as a hate crime, and perhaps LaTerian's too, it seems there should be much attention paid to this area so the violence -- and in particular -- hate crimes do not increase. Taking away our funding could lead to horrific defeat when it comes to gangs. The mayor's decision in my book is like someone pulling a finger out of a dike. And then what will happen?

What the lack of funding here means is simply this: Our efforts to keep youths in San Pedro out of gangs that date back for six generations will fail miserably. With Toberman House, the Boys and Girls Club and other agencies like it no longer getting funding for our area to recruit the kids away from gangs, I fear a complete retreat where our youth will join as their only support systems begin to collapse and fail.

I called Janice's chief-of-staff, Courtney Chesla Torres, last week to quiz her on this subject. The mayor and his gang czar, Jeff Carr, have completely eliminated Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway and San Pedro from the City's seven gang reduction zones. Even worse, I heard the Councilwoman's office in the Harbor Gateway will be shut down starting Monday (that's 11/3) due to budget cuts, although I have yet to confirm this.

Now, where are those people supposed to go for representation? Is this in fact the same area that both officials swore-up-and-down would see more facilities and have more help to avoid these horrendous crimes, such as the Cheryl Green killing?

When I first heard about the mayor's plan to create a gang reduction area -- and that it didn't include the Harbor Area -- I was angered by the failure of the mayor's office to realize cutting us out of the picture could send our kids spiraling downward. As a volunteer who works with kids, I see the suction cups gang members have. Even when kids don't want to join, they do, because if they don't, they are scared they'll be killed. Right now, they have options. Soon, they may not.

At the minimum, under the mayor's plan, they will have a lot less throughout the Harbor Area-- and I don't want to give him money from Prop. A if its not coming here at all. Why should we?

I don't want to be mean, but what does the mayor think will happen once the funding here dries up? Courtney and I called each other back and forth, enough for her to tell me via a message that the money was necessary to enlarge the reduction zones to include our area. But if the funds go directly to the mayor, how do we know for sure? That was another strategy the mayor pulled off. He put all the anti-gang monies under his control.

As a huge supporter of the measure, I settled down a bit after Courtney's answer until the weekend came and my husband, who has argued with me back and forth about Prop. A, showed me a very confusing message in the San Pedro Business Journal published by the San Pedro Chamber.

The chamber supports Proposition A, the $3 a month parcel tax on property in Los Angeles, which is expected to provide many anti-gang programs, including after school activities, to keep youth out of gangs. But the chamber's endorsement came with an asterisk: "While this measure is supported by the San Pedro Chamber, the Board wishes to express its concern that at this time there does not appear to be any funds earmarked for the gang problems in the Harbor Area. It appears that the Mayor's Office will have full control of the funds."

Now that truly scares me and would make me vote against the measure -- as all of Los Angeles should work together toward halting gang violence rather than slicing us up into little pies; I invite Janice to respond this concern immediately so we all know how to vote.