Freedom is not free

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The memorial to those Azusans killed in action just after new wreaths were laid by family members participating in today’s Memorial Day ceremony at Azusa City Hall.

Today’s Memorial Day ceremony in Azusa was one of the best i’ve ever attended. There were no politicians. No grandstanding. But there were heartfelt speeches from military personnel and powerful prayers from clergy There was even a touching poem read and a rendition of “God Bless America” sung.

I was moved by Sgt. First Class Martin Salazar’s closing remarks. He is the person who knocks on the door of loved ones to tell them their soldier died in battle. He spoke Monday of how he recently had to deliver the news to a family in La Puente. Though he didn’t say, I believe he was speaking about Army Staff Sgt. Esau Ivan De La Pena-Hernandez who was killed in Afghanistan last week (see Opinions, Our View, “We pray, we grieve, May 25). He said we usually thank the veterans, the soldiers on active duty for serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and that’s all well and good. But he wanted to thank the families of our troops. I second that. For almost 5,000, they are living with the loss of loved ones who fought bravely and gave their lives for us.

Also in Azusa today were the parents of Leroy Harris Kelly III. Harris Kelley was one of two soldiers from Azusa to be killed in the Iraq War. His parents laid the wreath at the memorial for all the soldiers who fought and gave their lives in the Iraq War. The other soldier killed in Iraq was Azusan Elias George Elias.

I went today because my father used to take me to Memorial Day ceremonies when I was a kid. He didn’t speak about how he fought the Nazis during World War II and was wounded (nearly killed) during his tour of duty. He would just listen to the speeches and the prayers. He’d let them do the talking.

The Azusa ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute. And a charge from Colonel Keith Bushey of Duarte and Salazar to go out and enjoy the day. America has earned it.

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John Moreno kicks off the Azusa Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning.

Keeping track of The Governator’s math

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I attended the “town hall” meeting featuring the governor at the Industry Expo Center Monday morning. I’m out of this picture, however. Photo by Raul Roa

The best moment during Monday’s town hall meeting came when La Puente City Councilman Dan Halloway verbally agreed with Arnold during his comments about career tech education.

Arnold was answering a question about career-tech schools, something he has pumped up during his tenure in Sacramento. It seemed like one of many canned questions that accentuate his gubernatorial muscle. When Arnold spoke about attending Santa Monica City College, Halloway spoke out, saying he was a classmate of his.

Arnold then walked over in the middle of the town hall meeting and gave Halloway a high five.

Before the meeting, Halloway told me the story. Halloway was attending the community college back in 1972. The instructor asked each student to stand up and introduce themselves. When he came to Arnold, he stood up and said in less than perfect English, “I am Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr. World, Mr Universe, I’ve been a body builder.”

The teacher interrupted and said why are you taking a math class in the summer?

Dan said Arnold said he wanted to get into the supplement business and he wanted to learn math to keep track of his business receipts.

In the college yearbook which came out at the end of the semester was a feature on this student from Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger, complete with a picture of the future governor of the state wearing short shorts and flexing his ample muscles.

Live Oak Avenue: The 210 Alternative

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View of the newly repaved, re-opened Live Oak Avenue in Irwindale just east of Peck Road.

It’s been a long time coming. In fact, it’s been almost two years before motorists could take Live Oak Avenue in Baldwin Park, passed the Santa Fe Dam entrance, over the 605 Freeway, and into Irwindale, Arcadia and Temple City.

A storm drain project along Live Oak Avenue is complete. The east-west route in the San Gabriel Valley, once closed or reduced to one-lane and heavy congestion, is now two, sometimes three lanes.

As the picture above shows, the roadway is fantastic. But was the wait and the new plants and palm-trees median worth it? In a way, this reminds me of the federal stimulus debate. All the median tiles, all the median palm trees and flowers can’t pretty up the street all that much. Because on both sides, there are junkyards, rusting cars, and gravel pits that are in clear view. There was little landscaping to shield those businesses from view.

Government can take a street and hopefully, stop it from flooding in the future. And also, plant trees and flowers in the median. But the nature of the street doesn’t really change. That takes small businesses to thrive and an influx of private cash. It takes code enforcement. It takes requiring junkyards and gravel pits to clean up their operations or leave.

That hasn’t happened.

But as the following pictures taken a few weeks ago show, this roadway is important as a relief valve for the busy Foothill (210) Freeway. Whenever there’s a closure, due to a jackknifed truck or some jumper on a bridge, Live Oak and Arrow Highway get jammed. I’ve seen them backed up for miles during an “incident” on the 210. When Live Oak was unavailable (basically the last 2 years), I had to take the 10 Freeway or Los Angeles Street (which has stop signs and goes through residential neighborhoods of Baldwin Park) to go home or reach the San Gabriel Valley Tribune office where I work.

So, I’m glad Live Oak has opened. I hesistated to post these photos because after I shot them, more orange cones sprung up on Peck Road and on Live Oak Avenue west of Peck Road. The roads were narrowed to one lane for some additional construction.

I hope the cities leave this crucial avenue open and construction free for a while.

The true test will come in the winter when the rains fall. Will it flood or was that problem finally solved?

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A driver’s side view of newly finished and opened LIve Oak Avenue looking east.

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San Dimas Mansion: Preservation with a purpose

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San Dimas Mansion, also known as the Walker House, during the recent grand opening.

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Side view of the Walker House in San Dimas, north of San Dimas Avenue and Bonita Avenue.

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Tall “steeple” shows the height of this two-story building from 1887.

I love the attention to detail. The restoration of this place, originally a hotel, clearly is the best restoration of any 100-plus-year-old building in the San Gabriel Valley.

Below is a full view of the Walker House:

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