Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Living Wage and A Stronger City

Los Angeles remains an enduring symbol of the promise of economic possibility for those who seek a better life for themselves and their families, a light that reaches across the globe. For many Angelenos, however, this dream is out of reach. Unable to participate in the prosperity that they came to Los Angeles to find, they are left in the shadows, uncertain about their economic future.

The city’s continuing efforts to bridge the divide between this economic ideal and the everyday reality of life in Los Angeles has taken a strong step forward. I joined my colleagues on the city council to pass three ordinances that protect and improve conditions for hotel workers in the Century Corridor near LAX. This legislative package will give a boost to some of the poorest workers in Los Angeles, clustered in communities that are dominated by employment in the tourism and service sectors.


The three ordinances require that workers in the 13 Century Corridor hotels be paid the "living wage" as set by the city, which is $9.39 per hour with health benefits and $10.64 per hour without; institute tip protection for many workers who had never seen gratuities passed on to them even when hotels placed 20% service charges on banquet invoices; and mandate that workers not be fired simply because a hotel's corporate ownership changes hands, in line with the Worker Retention Ordinance on the city's books.

The Century Corridor hotels thrive because of the massive public investment that is LAX—no one pretends for an instant that they would be there or that they would have the high revenues per available room that they do if LAX were not there. It's also my hope that this is only the beginning of our investment in an area that it is an underdeveloped gateway to Los Angeles. Easing poverty in the neighborhoods will move us towards a more welcoming gateway, but there is more to be done, and I look forward to working with the council (Councilmember Bill Rosendahl represents the area and has been a major sponsor of this legislation, and Councilmember Janice Hahn, in her capacity as chair of the Tourism, Commerce and Trade committee, really led the charge), the mayor and the Century Corridor businesses and employees to continue to improve the community.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The New Frontier Award

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the Institute for Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, I received the New Frontier Award, presented by the Institute along with the Kennedy Library Foundation. The award is given to Americans under the age of 40 for demonstrating leadership in their communities.

I was honored along with Jane Leu, the founder and executive director of Upwardly Global, which helps refugees and immigrants from developing countries find employment in the United States.

Caroline Kennedy and Senator Teddy Kennedy presented the awards in a ceremony at the Kennedy School. It was a tremendous honor, and I am most grateful to the community that I serve and the staff that helps me serve you. All of the work that was recognized in this award was work that we did together.

After the jump, an excerpt from the remarks I gave in accepting the award. My full remarks are online in the "Speeches" section of this website and at the Kennedy Library's site as well.


In 1960, standing in the Los Angeles memorial coliseum, John F. Kennedy accepted his party’s nomination for President of the United States.

In that moment in history, facing west to the pacific, he called upon a nation to join him in his vision for a new American frontier.

But John F. Kennedy also spoke that evening about where he was, a place, in his words, that "was once the last frontier" of this nation.

Today, that last frontier—Los Angeles—is an American gateway, a place where more than 140 languages are spoken, where 20 nations find their largest population outside their countries of origin, and where 43 percent of all the nation’s goods come into the country through our ports.

In L.A., I live in the neighborhood of Echo Park, a beautiful corner of America, close to downtown Los Angeles. Spanish, mandarin, tagalog, and khmer all mix with english on our streets. My neighbors face the same challenges felt by too many Americans these days—can they find an affordable and safe place to live, can their children receive a good public education, and can they find a job that rewards their hard work with decent pay, health care and time off with their families.

But Echo Park and in turn, Los Angeles, is a place of immense promise and hope, a place where the ideals embedded in this award today are played out every day by everyday people.

So today, I come to you from that place John Kennedy described as America’s last frontier, inspired by the call to action, given by a young candidate to a hopeful nation forty-six years ago.

Read the whole thing.

Thanksgiving Giveaway

I ventured over the CD13-CD1 border and joined Councilmember Ed Reyes and former Dodger skipper Tommy Lasorda at Dodger Stadium at the annual Thanksgiving Day give away, sponsored by Ralphs/Food for Less, the Dodgers Dream Foundation, and Council Districts 1 and 13. Ralphs and Food for Less provided whole turkeys, along with corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and cornbread. Volunteers from the various sponsors helped distribute the turkeys and fixings, which were donated to families who have requested assistance from council offices and the Dodgers over the past several months. Additionally, the community organizations that serve some of the individuals in our city most in need came to collect turkeys and fixings in bulk to distribute. These organizations include El Centro del Pueblo, LA Bridges, Echo Park/Silver Lake People’s Childcare Center, the Glassell Park Senior Center, Communites in Action, and various homeless services organizations. Thank you to all who helped, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Outreach, Services, and Housing, or, the Three Legged Stool

As many of us take the opportunity tomorrow to break bread with our friends and families, there are nearly 90,000 souls in the Los Angeles area who will sleep without a roof over their heads. With winter quickly approaching, I joined Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and my colleagues on the Ad Hoc Homelessness Committee, Bill Rosendahl and Jan Perry, at People Assisting The Homeless (PATH)'s services center in East Hollywood to announce the dedication of $4.6 million towards relieving homelessness for this and every season. PATH provided the ideal setting to make this announcement: as the program at this innovative services center shows us exactly how we can transition individuals from the street to productive lives permanently.

PATH provides outreach, services, and housing under one roof. For too long, we have dealt with homelessness in fragments. We talk about where we can move people off the street, but not about where they can live. We talk about where people can stay, but not about how they can stay there. We talk about how we can help them, but not about how we can get them to accept help. While this initial $4.6 million is a mere drop in the bucket in our efforts to combat homelessness, by using these funds towards a strategy that emphasizes outreach, services, and housing we are demonstrating that the city will, from now on, address homelessness in a comprehensive, big picture manner. These three elements are three legs of a stool: if one is missing, we will fall down. We cannot, we must not, and we will not let those people we are trying to help fall anymore.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Filipino Veterans Memorial

This Veterans’ Day, I was joined by Congressmember Xavier Becerra and Filipino veterans from around the country at Lake Street Park in the heart of Historic Filipinotown to unveil the nation’s first monument dedicated to the memory of the Filipinos that served for the United States during World War II.

More than 120,000 Filipino soldiers served under the command of General Douglas MacArthur during the war as part of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East. My grandfather fought alongside many of them; thousands died on the Bataan Death March, forced to walk 65 miles to prisoner of war camps with no provisions for food or water.

Shamefully, after the war, the U.S. Congress stripped those soldiers of their U.S. veteran status and the benefits promised them under the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Over the next 50 years, Filipino veterans continued their struggle for recognition as veterans. Finally, in 1990, the Filipino Veterans of WWII won a major victory when the U.S. Congress restored their right to become U.S. citizens. More than 26,000 veterans were naturalized in the next five years.

The long journey from soldier to citizen is one of the most moving untold legacies of WWII. The monument he monument was designed by local artist and CD13 resident Cheri Gaulke, whose previous projects include permanent street medallions in Silver Lake and the Gold Line Station in Pasadena. It commemorates each stage of the Filipino Veterans struggle, with each of the five slabs of black granite that make up the memorial telling a different part of the story. Their service was heroic, as was their fight for recognition in the aftermath of the war. In front of the slabs sits a matching black bench, inscribed with one word in both Tagalog and English that embodies the spirit of the monument behind it, and the spirit of those that served during the war: "Kagitingan," or "valor".

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Flu Shots

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu complications annually. 36,000 die every year. Next Wednesday, November 15, from 9 am to 11 am, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services will provide free flu vaccinations at my satellite field office in Glassell Park, at 3750 Verdugo Road.

Flu season is right around the corner. Please bring your entire family and take advantage of this free service offered by the county. Thank you to the county for providing this service, and thanks too to the volunteer nurses who are donating their time to keep our city healthy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Public Safety Summit

I was joined by the LAPD and 300 area residents at Council District 13's first-ever Public Safety Summit, at Micheltorena Elementary School in Silver Lake. We began the day by having a discussion about various public safety issues facing the district and the City. After our larger discussion, we broke up into action groups that discussed a host of issues, ranging from police deployment to traffic concerns. I took part in the graffiti panel, where youth prevention and education was identified as a priority as part of the fight against tagging. Other groups identified possible neighborhood beautification projects for the city and community to partner on, and two Elysian Valley residents even decided to start their own neighborhood watch! Thank you to everyone who attended the summit - your input and enthusiasm made it a huge success.

We were later joined by Chief William Bratton, who celebrated his fourth year as chief of LAPD with us at the event. His leadership and his vision for a safer Los Angeles has helped transform Los Angeles into the second-safest big city in America, with crime at its lowest point since the 1950s. A few constituents even presented the chief with his very own bobblehead doll. As they said, every hero needs his own action figure!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One Million Trees

This letter about the Million Trees Initiative came today from my friend Cynthia Ruiz, President of the City's Board of Public Works. More information is available at

As part of a larger effort to make Los Angeles greener, cleaner, healthier, and more beautiful for us all to enjoy, the Mayor has launched Million Trees L.A. The goal of the program is to plant one million trees over the next several years. Million Trees L.A. is a partnership between the City of Los Angeles, community groups, businesses and individuals like you working together to plant and provide long-term stewardship of one million trees, planted all over the City with a focus on areas that need it most.

The trees will provide shade, clean the air and help reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, capture polluted urban runoff, improve water quality, and add beauty to our neighborhoods. We are inviting you to join with thousands of other committed residents of this magnificent City in revitalizing Los Angeles.


We need your help to plant trees today for a greener, cleaner, and healthier Los Angeles. Here are some ways that you can get involved:


Everyone can report private property tree plantings to the “Million Trees L.A.” tree count. Just go to the website at, click on "Make Your Tree Count" and enter your tree into the database. You will receive a certificate that will commemorate your tree as part of the initiative. Make your tree one in a million!

You can also find resources on the website to plan your planting. Plant the right tree at the right place! Save yourself time and energy by checking out the information sources on the website that can help you decide what to plant and where.


Learn about upcoming volunteer opportunities and organizations planning community tree plantings through the website. You can also look at the calendar of events, and sign up for Million Trees L. A. newsletters, bulletins, and announcements.

Additional information is available by dialing the City’s toll-free information line, 3-1-1.

Thank you for being one in a million!