Friday, December 29, 2006

2006 Year in Review

2006 now comes to an end with some hopes realized and some challenges remaining; with some accomplishments visible, like the unprecedented success of the Orange Line on its one year anniversary and some whose effects are just beginning to show, like the budget passed that will allow the city to hire 1,000 new police officers and put more officers on the street while we train new recruits. We continue to strive to build a sustainable city. We continue to make a secure and decent home possible for every family in the city.

2006 also marks my first year as City Council President. Council offices are collaborating and working together like never before, though it's hard to know about it if you don't spend every day in City Hall ("people working together well" is not much of a news story). We're steadily building a vision for the future of Los Angeles. Our dynamic and energetic mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, has worked closely with the council to help to execute a stronger and safer city. On a host of core issues, we can mark measurable progress for the city.

Improvements in public safety top the list for 2006. The crime rate in Los Angeles decreased for the 5th consecutive year, a credit to the hard work of the men and women at the Los Angeles Police Department and their neighborhood partners. Los Angeles is now the safest it has been since 1956, making it the second safest big city in America. Los Angeles has also benefited from an historic homeland security package that included record amounts of federal money dedicated to improving safety at our port and airport. We have secured full coverage for paramedic service in every local fire station, reducing the amount of time that it takes for paramedics to respond to emergencies. The minutes saved can mean the difference between life and death.

Despite these successes, too many of our children remain at-risk, in danger of falling between the cracks and into the hands of gangs. The development of a strategic plan for youth crime prevention with the help of Connie Rice, and the increased number of after-school prevention programs will help to address this problem. We have our work cut out for us in 2007.

2006 saw numerous improvements to our public transit infrastructure. The Orange Line connecting the Valley to Hollywood, celebrated its first year with triple the riders that were originally projected. A regionally integrated transit system came a few miles of track closer to reality, as the Expo Line got the green light to connect two of the most traffic-congested areas of the city, downtown and the Westside. We saw the expansion of new neighborhood DASH lines and an Eastside rail line nearing completion, more regional rapid bus lines throughout the city and, at the state level, the passage of Proposition 1B, which will bring millions of dollars in road improvements and smart growth elements.

Through the prism of housing we may refract many of the issues facing Los Angeles. With homes built closer to jobs, traffic improves and our air quality clears. By finding affordable housing for families, we can give children a better footing to succeed in school and avoid the dangers of gang life. On this front, we are making clear progress. The city of Los Angeles is home to 15,000 new units of housing built in 2006, a record year for our city. Major building efforts have cropped up in North Hollywood, Hollywood, and Downtown. 63% of voters voted in favor of the $1 Billion Affordable Housing Bond, Prop H. Though it fell short of passage, this strong return gives us a mandate to continue our efforts to fund and construct affordable housing for people at all levels, from the homeless to families trying to buy their very first home.

This year, the city collectively faced the tragedy of homelessness in Los Angeles with an honesty and commitment not seen in years, if ever. We faced the fact that we are the homeless capital of America. The council's new Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness brought new attention to the issue. We have found funds for hundreds of new shelter beds and worked closely with the mayor to dedicate $100 million for permanent supportive housing, which will offer the homeless not only a roof over their head but the services to help them navigate their way off the streets.

2006 represented another high water mark in the number of jobs added to the region: 120,000. We saw our lowest unemployment rate since 1988. For decades, people throughout the world have flocked to Los Angeles as a place where their dreams can become a reality - these new jobs help a whole new generation of Angelenos realize that dream. We have returned more than $20 million to local businesses through tax reduction, but the stream of new and growing businesses saw our business tax receipts rise. Government and business have created an environment in which companies can thrive and residents can reap the benefits. The successes of this economy must filter down to workers at every level: that's why I joined 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. A healthy economy means a stronger civic life for us all.

Our ability to fund programs and strengthen each of these endeavors is grounded in our fiscal strength as a city. Responsible budgeting is a critical component of our ability to deliver services to millions of Angelenos. The council and mayor worked diligently this year with city departments to reduce our structural deficit. We continue to hold the highest bond rating of any big city in America. Wall Street's rating brings investor confidence and dollars.

Finally, 2006 saw a more open and accountable city government, one that responds to the needs of the people it represents and advocates for increased participation by its entire constituency. Part of the commitment I made upon assuming the Council Presidency was that council meetings would start on-time, be comfortable, and be welcoming. We started 123 of our 127 meetings within the first fifteen minutes past 10am. The pews of our council chambers now have cushions, offering a softer welcome for those who petition the council. We have protected and expanded public comment. And we saw the passage of Proposition R, whose comprehensive good-government package will strengthen our ethics laws and return power to communities by giving voters the opportunity to keep their councilmembers at work in their district - if they so desire.

And 2007? I know we'll work hard fighting for safer streets, a cleaner environment, more affordable housing, and swifter passage through our streets. I also know we'll face challenges that we can't even guess at. I also know there's nothing I'd rather do than face those challenges together with my fellow leaders of this city. And I count you, my constituents, readers and friends among those leaders.

Christmas Tree Recycling

Old Christmas trees represent a major fire hazard in many homes throughout the city. You can recycle them either by chopping them up and putting the pieces in the green yard trimmings container for trash services to pick up, or by bringing them to one of the city's many Christmas tree drop off centers. Two centers that serve CD13 are Fire Station 82 at 1800 N. Bronson in Hollywood and Fire Station #44 AT 1410 Cypress Ave. in Cypress Park, open only on the weekends. Also, while supplies last, the Department of Water and Power will be giving out free tree seedlings and energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, which save electricity and money, at all tree drop-off locations. Recycle that tree and pick up something that's good for the environment while you're at it!

Also, if you're looking to get rid of dangerous, flammable, or other toxic chemicals, the nearest S.A.F.E (Solvents/Automotive/Flammable/Electronics) Center is located at 4600 Colorado Blvd. in North Atwater Village, open from 9AM to 3PM on Saturdays and Sundays.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday card 2006

Happy holidays to everyone from Amy and me and from the whole CD13 staff. Posting will be light until after the New Year.

(If you didn't get this as an e-card from me, maybe now would be a good time to sign up for the e-news? You can also see the card in the e-news archive.)

A Victory for Echo Park Activism

The Right Site Coalition, a group of neighborhood activists and organizations and homeowners whose homes were condemned, won a great victory in court. The judge ordered the Los Angeles Unified School District to do a full environmental review of site 9a, which was proposed by LAUSD for a school in Echo Park.

Our schools must be built together with the community, for the benefit of our children, our neighborhoods, and our urban fabric. There are too many good examples where LAUSD's building program has made great strides--look at the joint-use park facility at Washington Irving Middle School for one example--but the proposal for this site was flawed from the start.


The site, between Alvarado, Marathon, Santa Ynez and Mohawk streets, has already had its residences cleared out, so it's a bittersweet victory. Many families were here for more than twenty or thirty years. They've already moved out. Some owned their homes and were compensated, but others were tenants and got assistance in moving and rent.

The judge ruled in favor of our argument on six grounds:

  • it would cause traffic problems in the neighborhood
  • it would hurt the fire station's emergency route and response time
  • it would make it dangerous to cross the street
  • the demographics are changing. We won't have as many children in our schools, but we need the housing that is already here.
  • on cultural and historic resources
  • on land use and planning.
I especially want to applaud Christine Peters, who chaired the coalition and never gave up the fight.

It Came From CD13

My Top Ten Cultural Products from CD13 are up at Add yours in the comments over there!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Purple Orchids and the Blossoming of Historic Filipinotown

As part of the ongoing Temple Street streetscape improvements and of the push to green our city, I was joined by members of the Hollywood/Los Angeles Beautification Team, the city's Environmental Affairs Department, and leaders from the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) to plant the final two of 75 purple orchid trees that have been placed along Temple between Glendale and Hoover.

Planting these last two trees represented the last step in completing the Temple streetscape masterplan, a community-driven strategy to beautify the area that began over two years ago. Temple runs through the heart of Historic Filipinotown, and the revitalization of the boulevard has symbolized the resurgence of the entire community, led by the commitment of the Filipino community. From the printed sidewalks that cross Temple at Glendale, Hoover, and Alvarado to the nation's first Filipino WWII Veterans Memorial at Lake Street Park, the physical improvements are a manifestation of the community’s pride and investment in their neighborhood. And as the purple orchid trees blossom into full grown fixtures of the Temple streetscape improvement, Historic Filipinotown will continue to blossom as a center for cultural celebration and economic revitalization.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Glassell Park Seniors

The Glassell Park Seniors have added some holiday cheer to CD13's Glassell Park Satellite Office. Our office supplied the tree, and Glen Nojiri from Sanrio Surprise in Lakewood donated the decorations. Swing by anytime during business hours to enjoy the festive office or get city services with the help of office manager Sally Martinez, or come to the seniors' holiday party on December 14 at 1:00 pm. If you're coming to the party, please bring a canned food item for the food drive and a gift for the gift exchange.

Arsen Melikyan Saves a Hollywood Puppy

I've written about the exploits of my can-do staff before, but the latest heroics of Arsen Melikyan, CD13 constituent services worker, go above and beyond the call of any ordinary caseworker.

A few days ago while walking from our field office to his home in the heart of Little Armenia, Arsen saw this pooch being thrown out of a local business. Braving the dimly lit street and heavy traffic, he ventured across the road and rescued the young pup from a bleak fate.

Not content to merely turn over the two month old pure blood American Staffordshire Terrier to the pound, he pounded the pavement until he could find the dog, whom he named "Hollywood," a loving and caring home.

Just another day in the life of a CD13 staffer.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cheri Gaulke

Those of you that joined me for the unveiling of the Filipino Veteran's Memorial had the opportunity to hear from Cheri Gaulke, the artist of the monument and CD13 resident. Those of you that didn't should take the short trip over to Lake Street Park to check it out. Cheri’s work on the Filipino Veteran’s Memorial is only the latest chapter in a great partnership that she has formed with Los Angeles and numerous other local governments. She designed the Pasadena Gold Line station, was the creative force behind the city of Lakewood’s 50th anniversary glowing glass "pillars of community," and, a little closer to home, worked with the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council on the design for the permanent street medallions. In 2004, she was honored by the city’s Cultural Affairs Department with the prestigious City of Los Angeles Fellowship. Her work is a synthesis of social justice, community beautification, and artistic creativity that exemplifies the very best of the city’s creative class.

The Most Powerful Man in Hollywood

The recognition was a long time coming, but Inspector Robert Gladden was featured in this AP article as "the most powerful man in Hollywood". My office works with Inspector Gladden every week to keep Hollywood safe; there's no one like him. The accompanying photo is of him with my Senior Field Deputy Baydsar Thomasian at our "heroes' luncheon" three years ago; it's great to see one of our heroes get the attention he deserves. Don't miss the article.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Douglas Barry, Interim Fire Chief

I applaud Mayor Villaraigosa's selection of Douglas Barry to head the Los Angeles Fire Department during the search for a permanent fire chief. Chief Barry is a veteran firefighter and a proven leader. I believe that we as a city can count on him to raise up the best in our fire department and to challenge us where we have fallen down. Mayor Villaraigosa has chosen the right leader at the right time, and I look forward to working with him to move the LAFD forward and, most importantly, to keep Angelenos safe.