Monthly Archives: December 2007

Villaraigosa to Oversee 7 LAUSD Schools

by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa got a clear mandate to manage seven Los Angeles schools as  majority of parents and teachers opted for a partnership in education reform in a plebiscite held on Tuesday, December 11. The vote was conducted in seven high and intermediate schools in the LA Unified School District (LAUSD).

The result of the vote was announced by Villaraigosa at a press conference held at Markham Middle School in the Watts section of LA on Wednesday, December 12. “Today, we can truly say that the votes are in and the status quo is out,” the mayor declared. “Close to 90 percent of the parents of these communities said; yes to lower dropout rates, yes to higher student achievement and yes to safer campuses.”

“I grew up in these neighborhoods. I know these neighborhoods. I know that parents in these neighborhoods have the same right to have a quality education for their kids as any neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles,” the mayor said.

The schools that voted to join the non-profit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools are Jordan, Roosevelt and Santee High Schools, and four middle schools, Hollenbeck, Stevenson, Markham and Gompers.

According to results released on Wednesday, about 86 percent of 1,800 parents and 69 percent of 797 teachers supported the mayor’s plan.

“If you look at the percentage of yes votes from the parents, it’s a clear mandate, and as far as I’m concerned, the faculties are also sending a clear message that they want change,” LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer said.

“Today we’re unleashing the power of LA to transform the schools. This was my vision, which I announced in June,” Brewer told Asian Journal. “These partners work for me and the Board of Education. These partners would basically replace the district superintendents in our system in these schools.”

Brewer explained that the plan would not transform the entire LAUSD into an Innovation Division. “What we want to do is to benchmark and replicate the best practices in these partnerships and apply those in the rest of the school district,” Brewer said.

He added that hiring and firing district superintendents and principals are still  governed by the teacher’s union collective bargaining agreements and regulations.

To address the issue of safety, especially in gang-ridden neighborhoods, Brewer said that they would organize a Boys and Girls Club in the Markham campus to provide a safe haven for the students.

Schools not within the partnership need not fret. “We are going to work with them. Remember, the Innovation Division is there to create new ideas and new ways of doing business. We will benchmark ideas and new ways of doing business and replicate them throughout the system,” Brewer said.

Brewer said that he was elated that the mayor is one of their first network partners. The Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and the University of Southern California (USC) have also joined. The Los Angeles Area Urban League, and the Valley Foundation have pledged to support the plan as well.

Of the nearly 800 teachers who voted, 250 opposed the plan, according to United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President A.J. Duffy. “We will work out a fair and equitable process for any of these teachers who want to transfer to another school, so that this is not a punishment,” Duffy said.

Duffy added the plan promotes an idea that is backed by the teachers union: less-centralized control and greater autonomy at school sites. “It’s historic in its possibilities, in what it can bring in the future,” Duffy told journalists. “Someone said you may not need a school board in the future. Maybe not,” he said.

The result of the plebiscite was viewed as a political victory for Villaraigosa, even if it fell short of his original plan of overseeing the entire LAUSD schools.

Although it was approved overwhelmingly, critics contended that details of the mayor’s plan remain vague, especially the cost of implementation.

Dina Wright, a South Los Angeles resident, was more concerned with basic school needs, saying that education officials need to “get the schools together.”

“Bathrooms need to be cleaned; and the students need protection from unsafe surroundings,” Wright said.  “If you can stop the mischief, I think that they can learn better.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Volunteers Continue Search for Missing Filipina

by Malou Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

MILL VALLEY, CA — The search for Veronica “Nikki” Ruiz, a 25-year-old Filipina from Mill Valley, continued Wednesday with the help of more than 200 volunteers. Friends and family refused to give up hope and organized volunteer search parties to trek the steep Mount Tamalpais trails. Police suspended their search since Dec. 5.

Veronica, an Internal Revenue Service agent, was last in contact with a friend on Dec. 3, saying that she was going for a hike on Mount Tamalpais. There were two reported but unconfirmed sightings of her at Mount Tamalpais locations: one at 11 a.m. at the Blithedale trail entrance not far from her home. The other was an hour later at the West Point Inn, to the west.

In a very brief phone conversation with the Asian Journal, Ruiz’s sister, Maricris, sounded very tired yet remained hopeful. “We will never stop looking until we find her.”

Adding to the difficulty of the Ruiz family was the news that her father, who lives in the Philippines, had suffered a massive stroke when he learned about her daughter’s disappearance. Her mother also had to be hospitalized after going through shock when the official search was suspended.

Earlier reports said that Veronica had recently broken up with her boyfriend of two years and was apparently carrying her IRS handgun when she went on her hike. The weapon has not yet been found.

Veronica is 5’5 in height, 120 pounds, with brown eyes and dark brown hair. She may be possibly wearing white tennis shoes, black capri pants, burgundy tank top, thin long sleeved black jacket, possibly a black fleece vest, a gray and orange camelpack (or hydration backpack), and a black iPod (usually on her left wrist) with black earbuds.

For information or leads about the whereabouts of Veronica, please call the Mill Valley Police Department at (415) 389-4100, or Maricris Ruiz at (650) 222-9578. For updates and donations, please log on to http://www.helpfindveronicaruiz.com.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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State Assembly Passes $14B Healthcare Reform Bill

by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

THE State Assembly in Sacramento passed the first phase of a $14.4 billion plan to provide medical insurance to almost every Californian on Monday. The achievement gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Democratic allies their first victory in overhauling California’s healthcare system, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday.

The measure, covering an estimated 3.6 million Californians, including 800,000 children, was negotiated by Schwarzenegger and Assembly Fabian Nunez–(D-Los Angeles. It would require almost every California resident to have insurance starting in 2010 with provision on subsidies and tax credits for those who would have trouble paying their share of the premiums.

Having passed along party line (45 to 31 votes), the measure was seen as an important step not only for California but for the Democrats who are crafting a similar measure for the entire country.

While the Governor and his Democratic allies in the Assembly are celebrating their victory, the State Senate is more skeptical about the measure’s survival. If it was passed by the Senate, the bill would still have to muster  significant support when it undergoes a State-wide plebiscite in November 2008. Senate Democratic leaders are questioning the wisdom of funding a measure at a time when California is staring at a projected $14 Billion budget shortfall in 2008.

“California has taken a giant step forward today on something that many people thought could not be done,” Gov. Schwarzenegger said. “With the Assembly’s courageous vote…we are closer than ever to fixing our broken healthcare system.”

Speaker Nunez said it was no surprise the plan had been so hard to forge.

“Otherwise, in the last 90 years you would have seen a successful attempt at fundamentally reforming our broken healthcare system not only here in California but around the country,” Nunez said.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), co-sponsor of the measure, who did not attend a victorious press conference called by Schwarzenegger and Nunez, issued a low-key statement praising progress. He added that he would ask the Legislature’s fiscal experts to determine whether the plan would contribute in further draining the State coffers.

To avoid a two-thirds vote required to pass the bill in the House—and would have required the support of the Republicans–Nunez had left out the measure’s financing details. The initiative would ask voters in November 2008 to approve taxes, thus: $2.6 billion on employers that don’t provide healthcare, $1.5 billion on tobacco users and $2.3 billion on hospitals.

A well-organized opposition is reportedly being organized by business groups and Blue Cross of California, the State’s largest insurer. Tobacco and drug companies are also said to join the fray, armed with their substantial financial clout. The California Chamber of Commerce, which campaigned for repeal of a major healthcare measure in 2004, has characterized the bill as “half a proposal.”

The bill’s passing in the House has resulted in a considerable amount of flak falling in Schwarzenegger’s direction from Republicans, none of whom supported the bill. They accused the Governor of reneging on his pledge not to raise taxes and for bypassing them in order to assure the bill’s passage.

“Our Governor, a governor who promised to not  raise taxes, is in fact working with the majority Democrats in this body to push through the largest business tax increase in the history of California,” said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine).

Past attempts at reforming the State’s healthcare system have all failed. The supporters of this latest healthcare reform bill hope that as premiums become more expensive and more people go without coverage, the electorate would be willing to risk rewriting the rules of the health insurance market.

Schwarzenegger’s and Nunez’s alliance–which has alienated key political support in order to find a middle ground—has drawn the attention of presidential hopefuls who hope that they could replicate California’s healthcare reform model. Leading Democratic candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, have each proposed similar measures.

“It is precedent-setting, because California, the most populous and diverse state in the nation, can make healthcare happen and show this country that it can be done,” said Andy Stern, the President of Service Employees International Union.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Galing Pinoy: Pinay Appointed to Nevada Board of Nursing

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LAS VEGAS, NV — Filipino American Belen Gabato became the first Filipina nurse to ever be appointed by the Governors Office in the State of Nevada as a member of the Nevada Board of Nursing. She is also the first Asian to get the post.

Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons will induct Gabato officially to the Nevada Board of Nursing at a special ceremony in Las Vegas on December 14.

Originally from Cebu City, Gabato said that this is the culmination of a career that started more than 40 years ago. And to think, when she moved to Las Vegas with her husband, Dr. Manuel Gabato in the 1990’s, she wanted to pursue a different profession.

“I wanted to be a showgirl,” Gabato joked in a recent interview with the Asian Journal.

Seriously, Gabato said “I’m thankful for Governor Gibbons for recognizing that and believing in diversity. It’s important to have different points of views and reflect the constituents of the community where we have a diverse population.”

“I think [her appointment is] long overdue,” added her husband Dr. Manuel Gabato. “There are so many Filipino nurses in Nevada, they should be represented by one of their own.”

Nurse Activist

Gabato has been a nurse advocate and leader since her days in Cebu City, Philippines. She studied at the Southern Island Hospital school of Nursing and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the Southwestern University in Cebu City. In college, her peers voted her president of the student council. When she took her Philippine board of nursing exam, Gabato placed fifth in the whole country.

“She’s always been a very smart woman,” said Dr. Manuel.

In 1964, she went to the US under an exchange visitors program. She relocated and became a nurse at a hospital in Chicago, Illinois. While in Chicago, she continued her studies teaching at St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital and pursued a graduate degree.

Once her husband, finished his training as a doctor at Cook County Hospital, they moved to Indiana and started a private practice.

“It was small townish,” she said about living in Indiana. “You knew everybody, you saw everybody, and you knew all the teachers. I liked it but my husband got tired of the winter weather.”

In 1990 the couple moved to Las Vegas and began another medical practice. Gabato ran the office learning about insurance, Medicare, HMO and Medicaid.

Nursing, however, continued to be part of her life.

In the early 90’s, she along with four of her friends founded the Philippine Nurses Association of Las Vegas.

She admitted that starting an organization from the ground up was difficult.

“Nobody joined,” she said. “Naturally, everyone wanted to know why they should join. I told them that, ‘if they joined that I’d give them a pencil,’ I’d be lying. But I told them [nurses] that there might be issues in the future that they might be concerned with and need to pay attention to.”

Gabato said nothing happened for two years.

Then in 1993, a nursing bill floated around the Nevada State Congress. The bill would have allowed Canadian nurses the ability to be a nurse in Nevada without having to take the state’s licensing exam to practice nursing.

“We thought this was unfair,” she recalls.

Gabato said that members of the Philippine Nurses Association started a petition, rallying other nurses who opposed the bill. They began to work with the State’s Board of Nursing and other Nevada Nurses organizations. Gabato also wrote a position paper and testified in front of the Nevada State Congress against the bill.

“They [the state legislators] killed it,” she said proudly. “We didn’t say that they [Canadian nurses] couldn’t come [practice nursing in Nevada] that just they have to take the test like everyone else.”

This was the first of many victories. Not only was it significant because the Philippine Nurses Association helped defeat the bill but also State politicians recognized that the organization had political clout.

Gabato said, “That got the ball rolling. Now through the years, we’ve partnered with the Board of Nursing, appeared before them, supported or not supported them depending on the issues.”

She said that the Philippine Nurses Association of Las Vegas boasts more than 400 members. The organization is also aligned with the larger nationwide Philippine Nurses Association of America to continue to promote professional excellence and contribute to significant outcomes to healthcare and society.

Tough task

As one of the seven members of the Nevada State Board of Nursing, Gabato has a large task ahead. She will be part of the governing board that is responsible for protecting the public’s health, safety and welfare through effective nursing regulation.

“The Board’s mission is to insure the public gets safe, effective quality care. It’s not to protect nurses or doctors,” she said. “It’s not a board for nurses. We are here for the public. We have to uphold regulations, and disciplinary actions. We have to make sure that nurses know what they are doing and the public will get the care they deserve.”

“There is an increased responsibility because it deals with people’s careers, reputation, the public rights for safe care,” she added. “ I have to make sure that I look at all the angles of a situation and be fair, objective and responsive.”

One key issue that she continues to fight for is the State’s nurse to patient ratio.

Nevada ranks last in the nation in the number of nurses per 100,000 people. A 2005 Medical Education Council of Nevada (MECON) University of Nevada School of Medicine study revealed that there are 548 licensed Registered Nurses (RN’s) per 100,000 people in the state of Nevada. The number is way below the national average of 782 per 100,000 people.

“We [Nevada] still don’t have a nurse to patient ratio,” she said. “We have tried to work on a nurse/ patient ratio bill to pattern ourselves from California for a couple years now [but] our bill has never made it out of committee.”

“That’s a bill that we will continue to support and again bring to the State legislators,” she added.

Gabato said that she’s taking her role as a member of the board very seriously. She knows that her leadership is being counted on not only by the community for better healthcare but other Filipino nurses who look up to her.

“There are so many of us now,” she said. “I hope this [my appointment] will continue to open the doors for other Filipino nurses to be considered for this Board or other positions of political power. This could break the glass ceiling for us.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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California’s Budget Shortfall Estimated at $14 Billion

by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

SACRAMENTO — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reportedly told a gathering of social services advocates in Sacramento on Tuesday that California’s expected budget shortfall has widened to $14 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times. The budget crisis is feared to be the worst since Schwazenegger took over in 2003.

The State Legislature’s chief budget analyst has computed that the State is on track to come up with a $10 million shortfall by the end of the state’s next fiscal year. The shortfall would equal more than 12 percent of California’s budget if spending continues to rise as projected.

Last month, Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill suggested to legislators to considering doing without some State programs created in recent years like abolishing tax breaks, raising taxes and cutting benefits for beneficiaries of government programs. The centerpiece of Schwarzenegger’s campaign is not to raise taxes.

Gov. Schwarzenegger reportedly told the group that he wanted to try reducing spending evenly across the State’s programs, including running prisons, providing healthcare for the poor and the disabled, and paying for public schools. He had also asked State agencies in November to trim at least 10 percent of their spending immediately.

“It was more of a ‘we want a fair and across-the-board approach’ rather than picking on one particular sector,” said one social service advocate.

However, H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the State Department of Finance, declined to confirm these accounts, saying, “we’re not going to discuss the specific number until the governor has completed briefing the legislative leadership on what we project the scope of the problem will be.”

The spokesman added that he attributed the State’s woes were accelerated because of the housing slump that has lowered property tax revenues, delays in expanding Indian gambling that lawmakers had approved in hopes of earning more revenues.

This State’s budget troubles comes at the heels of the governor’s and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez’s (D-Los Angeles) efforts to reach an agreement on how to overhaul the California healthcare system. These efforts have occupied the leader’s focus for almost the entire 2007, having been stymied on how to pay for it and how much it would cost.

The healthcare plan’s details are still unresolved, but it apparently includes a need for businesses to spend 6 per cent of their payroll cost on healthcare. It also includes plan to increase tobacco tax, which would help buying medical insurance for lower-income and some middle-class families, and requires everyone else to purchase private insurance plans. The cost of that healthcare plan has been estimated at $14 billion annually, and proponents that the cost would not affect the state’s budget shortfall in any way.

Observers, however, believe that even if Legislative leaders reach an agreement on healthcare this week, the plan would still face some daunting hurdles, including winning approval in the Legislature and being approved by voters next November.

Blue Cross of California, the State’s largest healthcare insurer, and tobacco companies are reportedly poised to fight the bill if it passes the Legislature.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Cardinal Assaulted Over Sex Scandal

by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the largest Catholic archdiocese in the nation, revealed that he was assaulted by a man enraged by the Church’s sexual-abuse scandal, a few days after it announced a multi-million settlement deal with hundreds of victims.

Mahony made the announcement before hundreds of priests during an annual conference held in October, according to the Daily News.

The story about the assault surfaced even as the Catholic Church had begun the process of paying sex-abuse victims amounting to $660 million. As of Monday, $500 million have already been mailed. Coupled with an earlier $114 million settlement payments to 86 victims, the payments represent the largest ever made by any Catholic archdiocese in the country.

The assault reportedly happened in July, after the Los Angeles Superior Court had ordered the settlement with 508 alleged victims. Four priests who attended the conference said the attack happened near Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Downtown LA.

According to Rev. Sal Pilato, principal at Junipero Serra Catholic High School in Gardena, it took Mahony about a month to heal. He added that the Cardinal was attacked while dropping off letters at a mailbox.

“Somebody recognized him and attacked him,” Pilato said Mahony told the gathering. “It was shocking because it was an act of violence and it was someone we know and respect.”

Mahony declined to comment on the news reports.

According to the other priests who did not want to be identified, Mahony told them that after his attacker recognized him, the man began shouting expletives and knocked him to the ground. “Whatever conversation might have taken place between the priests and their bishop was a private conversation and not meant to be made public,” said Carolina Guevara, a Los Angeles Archdiocese spokeswoman.

Before the court-ordered $660 million settlement, Mahony came under attack from victims and their lawyers who alleged that he moved sexually abusive priests to different parishes and blocked efforts in court to keep records of abuse and suspect priests secret.

But officials of the Los Angeles Archdiocese claimed that Mahony had made an effort to reach out to victims. He even met with them and their families in person and offered free counseling.

“I think that incidents like this are pretty rare because most abuse victims turn their pain inward and engage in self-destructive behavior. If this happened, we feel sorry for Mahony as we do anyone who’s been assaulted in any way,” said Barbara Blaine. She is National President of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

It was unclear whether the attacker was a victim himself.

Priests in the conference described Mahony’s confession as both deeply moving and disturbing because of the violence. The Cardinal told the priests they all had a price to pay for the sexual abuses done by their brethren, saying the story of his assault was an example of the personal toll he has endured.

“The main message was that his wounds healed within a month, bruises and all, but the victims of child abuse are still suffering after many years; that their wounds are far deeper than what he experienced,” Pilato said.

Another unidentified priest said he thought Mahony and others had mismanaged the scandal by not removing priests who were sexually abusing children sooner and failing to settle cases quicker. That lack of action, said the priest, damaged the Church’s reputation and cost millions of dollars.

However, the priest was impressed by the fact that Mahony chose to not report the attack to authorities. LAPD officials said that they were unaware of any such incident. Fr. Joseph Shea, Pastor of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Glendale, and who attended the conference, said, “Like Jesus, we must offer our lives and even suffer for Christ, even for things we didn’t do.”

Some of the priests in attendance were shocked and thought that the Cardinal should have reported the assault to the police, adding that something like that could happen to the leader of more than four million Catholics in the Archdiocese.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Police Chief Bratton Sets Goal for New Term

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton set forth his goals for the LAPD for the coming year in a community forum summit at the United Methodist Church last December 4.

“My goals are the same thing they were five years ago when I first took over [as Police Chief],” said Bratton. “Crime reduction, crime prevention, and continue to work in partnership with the community.”

Bratton was re-appointed as police chief last summer. He said that crime figures since he took over in 2002 are down. This year alone the number of homicides is down compared to last year’s.

The LAPD crime statistics reveal that overall crime in Los Angeles has reduced by 15 percent in the last year.

“We are in a good place where fear, crime, disorder should not be occurring in this great city of ours,” he said. “Thanks to all the efforts of all the different [police] bureaus we are in a good place but we’re still not where we want to be. We still have a lot of work to do.”

LAPD Assistant Chief and Director of Operations Earl Paysinger reiterated Bratton’s crime figures. “There are 74 less homicides than the same time last year [December],” said Paysinger. “That means 74 lives have been saved; 74 families that did not have to go through that pain; 74 probably young men not in jail; and 74 communities that does not have to deal with that horrible crime.”

Lessons to learn

Despite the crime number being down around the city, Bratton said he and the LAPD still needs to learn from this year’s mistakes. The police chief and the LAPD have been criticized this year for the May 1 immigration rally dispersal and the proposed creation of a “Muslim Map.”

The LAPD took a serious hit in their credibility  on May 1 when police shot rubber bullets at protesters and journalists during the May Day immigrant’s rights rally in MacArthur Park. A number of people were injured including journalists covering the event. They have since filed a class-action lawsuit. A month later, Bratton admitted the LAPD’s mistake on the handling of the situation in front of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Most recently, the LAPD scrapped a plan that would have mapped the city’s Muslim population after Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent letters to city officials protesting the plan.

“We are going to learn from out mistakes,” said Bratton. “We’re going to make the negative into good and create more forums so we can be active in that community. Next year, we are creating a Muslim forum so we can reach out to them.”

Community concerns

The forum also allowed concerned citizens to thank and vent out their frustrations with the LAPD.

A woman from Echo Park said she is tired of seeing the young people in her neighborhood be “racially profiled” by police.

“This is an entirely different police department,” said Officer Paysinger. “We have thousands of police officers risking their lives to protect and serve our community. We [the LAPD] have a process that if you or anyone else feels that they are being [racially] targeted to complain against that officer.”

Police Commissioner Alan J. Skobin agreed. He said that’s a reason why they are trying to add more in-car cameras on police vehicles. “We want these in-car cameras so it can provide a proper check on our police officers,” he said.

Another concern that citizens expressed during the forum was gangs in their neighborhood.

Paysinger said that the LAPD with the help from the City Attorney’s office, have placed several gang injunctions and civil abatement programs that would make it illegal for gangs to congregate. He added that the best way to combat gangs starts at home and in the community.

He said that the LAPD has an Explorer Recruit Academy program to “shape young men and women into fine individuals.” Paysinger added that the parent’s needs to do their job too.

“We [LAPD] have to do a better job but we still need a lot of help from the community, and gang intervention specialists,” said Paysinger. “There’s only so much this badge can take us. We need all the help we can get.” (For more information about LAPD recruitment and/ or the Explorers Program please go to http://www.lapdonline.org.)

(www.asianjournal.com)

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