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Message from MRT, April 2014

Welcome to our April 2014 Newsletter.

Join us today for an afternoon of family fun as we open the newly renovated Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center with entertainment for the entire family, including activities for children and teens, and refreshments. The new library will have a children’s section and teen study room and of course, an adult reading area. There will be nine new public access computers and a community meeting room with seating for 75 people. This new facility promises to be a civic center and community hub for the residents of Lennox.

Protecting our children extends beyond our streets. You may remember last year in response to a range of systematic failures with children in the care of the county, the Board of Supervisors appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission to rigorously examine child protection reforms at the Department of Children and Family Services. On April 18, that commission will present a final report that will serve as a comprehensive roadmap to improve child safety throughout the county. Please check back on our website for the final report and other updates.

As you know, April 22 marks Earth Day. And throughout the month of April we invite you to join with us in a variety of events throughout the county aimed at protecting our earth. Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Earth Day, we encourage you to use the day as an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to protecting our planet during the month of April and throughout the year.

Lastly, we close out the month by sustaining our commitment to end sex trafficking of children.  At 9:30 a.m. on April 26, we will continue our march against trafficking along Western Avenue. Many of you joined us in November on Long Beach Boulevard to let it be known that our children our not for sale, and we invite you to stand with us again. So long as such a serious violation of human rights continues to plague our community, we will continue to stand together. Join me and Mayor Eric Garcetti, and hundreds of concerned residents as we march to protect children and take back communities. Register here.

As always, thank you for your attention. I look forward to seeing you again in May.

With hope,

Young Musicians Hitting All Chords

Alexandria Garcia, 15, cannot imagine life without her trumpet. Now thanks to the seven year old Youth Orchestra LA program (YOLA), brainchild of LA Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, the petite freshman at Foshay Learning Center in South Los Angeles does not have to. For the past five years she’s been practicing at least 2 hours a day, every day, honing her technique, musicianship and abilities so that in a few years she can attend a conservatory and eventually, play professionally in an orchestra.

“When I tried the trumpet, it was just calling my name,” she said. As it is now, she can’t imagine her life without her trumpet or music. “Music gives children something productive to do with their lives instead of sit at home and play video games. I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t have music.”

Garcia is one of the more than 600 students whose lives have been forever changed by the youth orchestra program. Inspired by Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema, a rigorous music instruction program that also teaches children about leadership, teamwork and becoming thriving citizens, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its community partners — Harmony Project and the EXPO Center, a Los Angeles recreation and parks center, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) and the LA County High School for the Arts –provide free instruments, intensive music training and academic support to a select group of students every day of the week.

One of the YOLA sites includes three orchestras that rehearse at the Expo Center in South Los Angeles. Each orchestra is made up of children ranging in ability from several schools from the area. On May 10, six of YOLA’s orchestras will perform at Walt Disney Hall for their families. This year, 10 of the advanced orchestra students, including eight from the Second District, were selected to travel to Boston where they met the famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma and were coached by musicians from one of the city’s world-renowned music conservatories. Then the students themselves coached younger musicians in community music schools and performed an open rehearsal under Dudamel’s baton at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They enjoyed visiting the conservatories, but to some of the students, mingling with Dudamel and Ma is just par for the course of being a YOLA musician.

“The kids are almost celebrities around here,” said Belinda Jackson, executive director of the Expo Center, where three YOLA orchestras practice every day of the week. “I mean, they have played at the Hollywood Bowl.”

But nothing gets the students more excited than the music. At a recent rehearsal, the students fluttered like a flock of birds at feeding time when it was time to play Mexican composer Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No. 2. Conductor Bruce Kiesling, tapped his baton on the music stand and brought the room to order. Then clarinet and the oboe began, weaving together in perfect harmony, slowly building as the violins swooned into a rising tempo. As the brass joined in, the room exploded into a tropical danzon, with the children dancing in their chairs, unable to contain themselves.

“I move so much that my butt is going to fall out of my chair,” Garcia noted, whose favorite piece is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2. “Moving just shows the real passion I have for music.”

Earthquake Drill in View Park

Earthquake safety has become a primary topic of conversation following the 5.1 magnitude earthquake and series of aftershocks responsible for shaking the Los Angeles area last week.

So, on Saturday, April 5 at Monteith Park in the View Park neighborhood, the Los Angeles County Fire Department gave residents who completed a free Community Emergency Response Team class the opportunity to apply what they learned in a stimulated earthquake drill. As part of the drill, CERT members made Monteith Park their command post and organized themselves into teams to survey the neighborhood. Under the supervision of Los Angeles County firefighters, CERT members went into homes, searched for injured victims, triaged the victims and moved them to a treatment area where they received care.

Maria Grycan, Community Services Liaison for L.A. County Fire Division 7, whose jurisdiction includes View Park, noted that the drill was designed to reinforce what residents learned in their CERT trainings, empowering them to be less reliant on first responders.

“Residents are going to have to come together to help one another because first responders are not going to be there to help them,” Gryan said. “They need to help themselves.” She also noted that in the View Park and Ladera Heights area there are only nine firefighters who serve the needs of nearly 20,000 people on a daily basis; those same firefighters will not be able to meet all the immediate needs of the community should a significant earthquake occur.

“We encourage residents to watch CERT members participate in the drill with the hope that they will want to go through the CERT training,” said Grycan.

Ramona La France, 52, a View Park resident and an emergency response team member, decided two years ago to enroll in a free CERT class with seven of her neighbors. There, the former police sergeant and mother of three learned techniques on how to put out small fires, administer first aid and conduct search and rescue.

La France knows that assistance from fire and emergency crews may not be available for 48-hours depending on where the most drastic emergencies are located. She recalls the streets of South Los Angeles and Inglewood during the L.A. Riots when food and water were scarce.

“People were reliant upon their neighbors, the Red Cross or had to travel to other counties to get food or water, which is not practical,” said La France. “It’s good that neighbors shared their food and water but it’s also bad because they exhausted their own resources.”

La France says residents have decided to make it an annual event and they are the only community where real homes are used in the drills.

“We want to protect life during and after a major disaster,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We want to make sure residents know what to do to sustain themselves and others.”

For additional upcoming CERT Classes, please visit: Fire.lacounty.gov/cert

April 2014


Crenshaw Boulevard: A Greener Space for the Community

The Crenshaw Boulevard Streetscape Plan, designed to go hand in hand with the construction of the Crenshaw-to-LAX rail line, lays out an ambitious vision that will transform the look and feel of this historic street from concrete-heavy and car-centric, to “green” and pedestrian friendly.

The plan, which was funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority but created by the Los Angeles Department of City Planning calls for renovations and street beautifications that will stretch for 8.5 miles– from I-10 Freeway to 79th Street – with the aim of supporting vibrant neighborhoods around transit stations, where people can live, work and shop, all within a safe and pleasant walk to transit stations.

Although residents and commuters will experience some inconveniences during the construction of the rail line, set to begin this year, there are efforts underway to heed community concerns, including the creation of a small business mitigation plan to help businesses affected by the construction.

For three years now, the Crenshaw Leadership Council as well as the Leimert Park Village Vision Initiative has helped to increase public participation in the process. Community meetings have been held and those who have attended made their voices heard. The plan for Crenshaw will have twice as many trees as there are currently on the street, in addition, street benches, lighting and wider sidewalks will give it a more pedestrian-friendly feel. Camphor Trees, Date Palms, Jacarandas and other tree canopies will line the boulevard in a unified look.

Residents have said that they want to live in a community that is green, walkable and safe, with retail, restaurants and other services for residents, visitors and workers. Special attention will be paid to efforts underway to preserve the unique character and cultural identity of the Leimert Park neighborhood.

The plans for Crenshaw will complement the West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert New Community Plan, which is now moving through the City’s adoption process. For more information please visit: http://www.latnp.org/crenshawlax-line/crenshaw-draft-plan/.