Ybarra Academy discusses social issues in Rowland Unified

The elementary student snuggled in his nest of newspapers, trying to get comfortable. Victor Sepulveda, 12, offered him more papers to use as a blanket at Ybarra Academy of Arts and Technology in Walnut.

Sixth graders throughout the sprawling Rowland Unified campus were presenting their International Baccalaureate projects for their final grades. Each team of students delved into a important issue to explore the problem’s cause and possible solution.

Victor was making a poignant point about poverty in Brazil. His team had also built a small cardboard shack to represent the homes of poor families in the South American country. He had a parent join three students in the paper house.

“Many children don’t go to school there,” the IB student explained. “They often work 9 hours straight in dirty jobs and get paid 58 cents an hour.”

Across the campus, another team was talking about the plight of the homeless in America. Phoebe Sales, 12, Rachel Song, Amber Delpina and Carmen Miranda, all 11, decided to reach out to the homeless in our area.

“We wanted to make blessing bags to give out,” Carmen explained. “So we’re giving a bag to each student to make a small care package for the homeless.”

Students lined up to put soap, band aids, combs, water and tissues among other items into the blessing bags. They included a small card of encouragement.

“The sixth graders spend a couple months working on their projects. They do all the research, compile information and create an activity to share with the younger students,” said IB coordinator Mariela Moscal. “Their presentations have been very professional.”

Another team of six graders explored the issue of social stereotypes. They wanted their classmates at Ybarra to realize some of the prejudices they may find in the outside world.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story ISSUES.

Memorial Day events planned in San Gabriel Valley

Solis to speak at annual event: Rose Hills will host its 94th annual Memorial Day Observance at 11 a.m. Monday with keynote speaker U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Road, Whittier. 562-699-0921.


Veterans host service: The Azusa Veterans Committee will host a Memorial Day ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday in the front lawn of City Hall, 213 E. Foothill Blvd., Azusa.

Honoring heroes: The City of West Covina will pay tribute to their heroes on Memorial Day with a ceremony starting at 10 a.m. Monday at the West Covina Civic Center Courtyard, 1444 W. Garvey Ave. The ceremony will include performances of the National Anthem, presentation of colors and retiring of the colors from the West Covina High School Air Force Junior ROTC. Guest speaker Rosemary Rodriguez will speak about her brother Joel Sabel, a West Covina resident who lost his life in Vietnam on July 10, 1967. He posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross. 626-939-8430, www.westcovina.org.

Check out more Memorial Day events at MEMORIAL

California’s Latino students among the most segregated in the country

More than half of Latino students in California attend “intensely segregated” K-12 schools, or those that have a white population of 10 percent or less, according to a new report by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

That figure of 51 percent is the second highest in the United States and well above western and national averages, according to “Segregating California’s Future: Inequality and its Alternative 60 Years After Brown v. Board of Education.” While African-American students were far more segregated here than Latinos during the civil rights era, Latino segregation has grown rapidly and is now “very high” as well.

Meanwhile, thirty-nine percent of blacks in the state attend schools with a white population of 10 percent or less.

“What we’ve seen for Latinos is an incredible increase in isolation from white and Asian students and an extremely high exposure to poverty,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and co-author of the study. “We also see a significant exposure to linguistic segregation, which we call triple segregation (after race and income levels.) It’s gotten much worse.”

In fact, the state has seen a dramatic increase in the segregation of Latinos, who on average attended schools that were 54 percent white in 1970 but now attend schools that are about 84 percent nonwhite. Latinos here also have fewer white classmates than Latinos in any other state; the typical Latino student here attends a school whose population is just 15.6 percent white, the study found. Statewide, the proportion of K-12 schools that are “intensely segregated” has more than doubled from 15 percent in 1993-94 to 31 percent in 2012-13.

Read more in Brenda Gazzar’s story SEGREGATION.

L.A. County tries to fill ‘urgent need’ for poll workers

Patricia Mitchell cannot vote in the United States, but the Topanga Canyon resident from England will be assisting voters casting ballots as a poll worker in the statewide primary election on June 3.

With a state Assembly bill allowing permanent legal residents to serve as poll workers in effect since January, Los Angeles County election officials are hopeful that this sizable demographic will help fill “an urgent need” at polling stations throughout the county.

“I want to vote as soon as I’m a citizen,” Mitchell, a 52-year-old life coach who will be eligible to apply for citizenship by the end of the year, said during a training session for poll worker clerks in Calabasas on Wednesday. “I just thought it was a perfect opportunity to understand the system more.”

Officials have reached out to various community groups to make sure they are aware of the change in the law, which significantly expands the pool of people who can be tapped to serve and provide language assistance at the polls, said Efrain Escobedo, government affairs manager for the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters.

With the county about 1,250 poll workers still short as of Wednesday, election officials have also turned to new methods of recruitment — from automated telephone calls, to emails, to asking cities to recruit their own employees — to try to plug the gap. The automated calls and emails have been going out to registered voters in specific communities where the need is greatest, Escobedo said.

“People don’t want to volunteer or don’t find it important enough to volunteer, so we’re amplifying our efforts, trying to reach out through different methods,” Escobedo said. “If they’re not answering their phone, let’s send them an email.”

Read more in Brenda Gazzar’s story POLLS.

City of Walnut drops red light traffic cameras

The only red light cameras in Walnut have hit a stop sign. The City Council voted unanimously to allow a contract with RedFlex Traffic Systems to expire on May 27.

The controversial cameras were installed in 2007 at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Amar Road, next to Mt. San Antonio College. Since then, the digital detectives have caught thousands of unwary motorists, with many complaining about the city’s photo enforcement program. In fact, the city issued more than 5,000 citations in 2013, according to RedFlex reports.

There was no discussion of the consent calendar item, but later Mayor Tony Cartagena said, “the statistical review of the RedFlex camera program did not reflect a reduction of traffic accidents, nor could the data support the cameras made the intersections safer.”

“A great number of residents and public officials here and in other cities no longer support them,” Cartagena added.

During the public comment earlier, RedFlex Program Director Robert Warner disagreed and asked for a one-year extension.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story CAMERAS.

Caltrans continues work on 60 Freeway in Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights

An ongoing series of overnight lane closures will continue on the 60 Freeway through the San Gabriel Valley this week as part of an ongoing repaving project, Caltrans officials said.

Up to three lanes of the eastbound 60 Freeway between the 605 Freeway and Azusa Avenue will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly Monday night through Friday morning, Caltrans officials said in a written statement. Also closed will be the carpool lane in the same area from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Also Monday night through Friday morning, up to three westbound lanes of the 60 Freeway between the 57 Freeway and Azusa Avenue will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., along with the carpool lane in the same area from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Detours will be posted, officials said. The closures are being carried out as part of a $121.5 million project being performed by contractor Flatiron West Inc. and scheduled for completion this fall.

Diamond Bar Council discusses new city park

What’s in a name? Obviously, a lot. The Diamond Bar Council deferred naming the city’s newest park planned for the Willow Heights section under development by Lennar Homes.

The big developer plans to build nearly 200 homes on 30 acres of land purchased from the Walnut Valley Unified School District for $40 million. The project is at the corner of Brea Canyon Road and Diamond Bar Boulevard.

As part of the plan, Lennar agreed to build a new community park. The City Council considered the park plans at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“One of the many conditions of approval that the City council attached to the project approval was that the developer create a minimum 2.5-acre public park,” noted City Manager James DeStefano.

The proposed park will have almost 5 acres, including almost an acre of land on the west side of the Brea Canyon Flood Control Channel, and 3.8 acres on the east side. They would be connected by a pedestrian bridge.

Residents and the parks and recreation commission suggested naming the new park Diamond Canyon. But Mayor Carol Herrera expressed concern that a local church already shared the same name.

Other suggestions included Willow Heights Park, Brea Canyon Park, Gateway and Peaceful Garden Park. It also could be called Crooked Creek Park because it serves as the trail head for Crooked Creek Trail.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story PARK.

Hacienda Heights man wounded in gang-related shooting

A man suffered a gunshot wound to his neck and a suspect was in custody following a gang-related shooting in a residential neighborhood Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

The shooting took place about 3:40 p.m. in the 1000 block of Olympus Avenue, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Art Marrujo said.

The victim, a 44-year-old Hacienda Heights resident and member of a local street gang, suffered a through-and-through wound to his neck but was hospitalized in stable condition after undergoing surgery, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Thurlo said.

The suspect, a local gang member man in his early 20s, was arrested nearby after the chain broke on the bicycle he was using as a getaway vehicle, Thurlo said. His name was not available Sunday afternoon pending the booking process.

All three were on Olympus Avenue when the suspect and victim became involved in an argument over gang affiliations, Thurlo said. The suspect pulled a handgun and shot the victim before fleeing on a bicycle.

A friend of the victim flagged down a sheriff’s deputy and pointed out where the gunman had gone but refused to cooperate further, the sergeant said.

Read more in SHOOTING.

Athens prepares for trash service in Rowland Heights on July 1

Just in time for the Fourth of July celebration, Athens Services will roll out the barrels, 33,000 worth. The Industry company will begin trash service in Rowland Heights on July 1.

To do so, Athens plans to deliver 33,000 new trash bins, offering three to each residence. The containers will be the large 95-gallon roll-out cans used by automated garbage trucks.

Athens Vice President Dan Edwards attended the recent meeting of the Rowland Heights Community Coordinating Council to explain the new service. He noted the family-owned business has collected waste for more than 50 years in Los Angeles.

“For the last two decades, we’ve been the fastest-growing trash company in Southern California, and there’s some very good reasons for that,” Edwards said.

He said the core of the business is 19 exclusive contracts with area cities, where it provides all waste and recycling services. The Los Angeles County Supervisors awarded Athens a seven-year contract in the unincorporated area of Rowland Heights.

“We responded to a large request for proposals on a competitive basis,” Edwards said. “They break it down basically into different elements you can score points on. Price is weighted very heavily.”

But he said the county also looked at other factors such as experience, record and financial capability.

“The benefit to the residents of this community is you’ll be experiencing a savings of almost 20 percent off your rates,” Edwards said. “The county has done a good job of negotiating on your behalf.”

There’s also a 25 percent discount rate for seniors that Edward said is a “below cost” rate of $13.17 a month.

Residential customers will pay $17.26 a month for weekly pickup, receiving a bill for $52.68 every quarter. Residents may request an extra green waste and recyclable barrel at no extra cost.

“That’s the same price we paid when we started with United Pacific Waste seven years ago,” said Ted Ebenkamp, president of the community council. “It’s a good deal for our community.”

When skeptical residents asked if Athens had turned in a low bid only to raise rates later, Edwards assured the audience that wasn’t the case.

For more, read Rich Irwin’s story TRASH.

Hacienda Heights Library holds annual used book sale this weekend

The Friends of the Hacienda Heights Library is hosting its annual used booksale on Thursday through Saturday at the library on 16010 La Monde St.

The hours are 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. on Thursday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday.  You may join the Friends support group that evening or anytime during the sale.

Available books are fiction, nonfiction, magazines, children’s books, foreign language and audio books.  CD’s and videos will be available. Proceeds go to support library activities.

For more information, or if you would like to help with the book sale itself, call 626-968-9356.