Unions no longer necessary

Dear Editor:With all due respect to Roger Smith, a proclamation by Joe Biden praising unions is called "fundraising. I read with incredulity his assertion that due to the stubborn unemployment rate, this country needs more unions. ("American Workers Deserve Respect," The Downey Patriot, 9/22/11) So, public employee unions are bankrupting states and localities left and right, unions in the private sector are bankrupting private companies like GM, jobs are moving overseas because labor has become too expensive in the U.S., and Mr. Smith thinks we need more. Unbelievable! Forget about Scott Walker and what he did to save the state of Wisconsin, let's talk about an issue closer to home. Everyone knows that Ralph's, Vons and Albertsons are the priciest grocery stores in town. While I can appreciate their friendly service and clean stores, I prefer to shop at non-union stores like Food 4 Less and Fresh & Easy because their prices are affordable. Forgive my lack of sympathy for grocery workers having to contribute more to their health and retirement plans, but we, in the private sector, don't get such cushy deals. We even accepted major pay cuts due to the bad economy and said, "Well, at least we still have a job." Mr. Smith's class warfare rhetoric and encouraging a "sea of red spilling in the streets" reeks of a Marxist revolutionary, and it should come as no surprise that the Communist party often walks hand-in-hand with union workers at labor rallies. I can agree that unions once played an important role in providing balance in our capitalistic economic structure, but now that we have laws protecting workers from truly egregious working environments, unions are no longer necessary. Because of this truth, unions are getting desperate, or more specifically, high-paid union leaders are getting desperate, even resorting to thuggish tactics akin to the mob. I stand for the right of every American to negotiate what he/she thinks is fair compensation for their time and effort spent in a job. And the idea of being forced to join a union to get a job, as is the case in states without Right-To-Work laws, is simply un-American. P.S. Did I read correctly that Mayor Luis Marquez, a paid board member of SEAACA, has authorized a door-to-door shakedown of pet owners for pet licenses? Harassing people in their own homes will hardly help him win the hearts and minds of Downey residents. Someone needs to alert the ACLU, but in the meantime, my advice to residents: stop answering your door! -- Alaina Niemann, Downey

********** Published: September 29, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 24

Former detective pleads no contest to fraud

LOS ANGELES - A former Los Angeles police detective charged in connection with a workers' compensation fraud investigation pleaded no contest Tuesday and resigned from the LAPD.John Xavier Vach Jr., 38, pleaded to two misdemeanor counts of insurance fraud. He is due back for sentencing Nov. 7. Vach, a 15-year veteran of the LAPD, operated two private businesses while out on a disability claim for job-related stress between February and November 2008. He also purportedly sought a lifetime disability pension. Under the terms of a negotiated settlement, Vach agreed to pay $105,000 in restitution and will be placed on summary probation for three years. He was also made to resign from the police department.

********** Published: September 29, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 24

Teens say civic involvement is lacking among Downey youth

Twenty-eight Downey teenagers have submitted applications to serve on the city's new Youth Commission, an advisory body that will provide input on youth matters directly to City Council members.Council members on Tuesday are expected to choose 15 applicants to serve as commissioners. The positions are unpaid. In their applications, many teens expressed a desire to increase civic involvement among high school students. "I believe that a large problem with the youth of Downey is that they are growing and developing with lack of awareness in their community," wrote Natalie Ramirez, a sophomore at St. Joseph High School. Rebekah Jin, a former intern at that Patriot, said teens "can definitely improve their involvement in community services activities. As a commission, we can create opportunities for youth of all ages to get involved and be proud of the city they live in." Some applicants pointed to a growing number of distractions affecting teens today. "There are many students who are distracted by drugs and several other horrible things," wrote Genesis Jara, a freshman at Warren High School. "(As) technology advances more and more, youth of Downey care less about the environment which surrounds them," is how Xitalyc Cardenas, a junior at Warren, put it. "We need to start making things happen, not just watching them." Meanwhile, Brenda Lopez, a senior at Downey High, spoke out against the growing number of hookah lounges in the city. "I feel that the biggest problem facing the youth of Downey is the influence of our city on teenagers portraying the message that smoking is okay," she wrote. "The city transmits this message through the opening of a hookah (bar) between both the city's high schools. and the allowing of public smoking. Through these actions the youth is affected by the rise of asthma and the uprising trend of going to hookah bars becoming 'cool.' I believe this is an unacceptable message sent by our city's actions..." Jacob Quiroz, a senior at Servite High School, said a youth commission could take a stance against intolerance. "It's rare to go a day without hearing some term or joke being used at the expense of the misunderstood," Quiroz wrote. "Acts of intolerances have always been present in every community and it deserves to be dealt with immediately within the city of Downey. No day should go where phrases like "retard" or "faggot" are used without correction." Predictably, too, some teens brought up the issue that there's "nothing to do in Downey." "I feel that the youth of Downey are simply bored and need more activities that pertain to them such as things they can do with their families, or simply to interact with other youth year-round," wrote Breann Mejias, a junior at Calvary Chapel Christian School. Downey High senior Kimberly Matamoros agreed. "The late Friday night parties that are compelling to teens may seem like their only alternative to a good time, but I think we need to encourage other options for a fun hangout," she wrote. "The Youth Commission could create awareness to lead the youth to good decisions for a fun Friday hangout. Posters and announcements could be posted to encourage the youth to attend a more wholesome activity like going to the movies, mall or attend an athletic event to support their school. Teens need to know they don't need to resort to the "cool thing" to do because it could possibly lead them into trouble." The youth commission is open to all Downey residents enrolled in grades 9-12, regardless of the school's location. Each council member will select three applicants.

Marquez, Vasquez say they will uphold pledge to donate stipends

DOWNEY - Hoping to make a difference in the community while honoring their campaign pledges, Mayor Luis Marquez and Councilman Fernando Vasquez have reaffirmed a commitment to both save and donate their entire City Council stipends, dedicating the funds to local charities and education projects. With thousands of dollars set aside, the two council members believe that donating the money serves as another means to give back to the community.

For Vasquez, who was sworn in nearly a year ago last December, the pledge gives him an opportunity to sponsor projects that benefit his main constituency: the youth.

"I'm the youngest of the council members so involvement with youth is one of my biggest goals," Vasquez said. "I feel like an opportunity given to me, so I want to be that person to help out the next generation."

This year alone, Vasquez helped establish the Downey Youth Commission, which will soon give 15 local high school students the chance to work with their local government.

"I said 'we've got to make this happen,'" Vasquez said. "My commitment to youth is unquestionable. I'm a believer in helping the underserved. They're our children and our youth."

Vasquez believes his Council stipend funds will provide him other ways to cater to youth by allowing him to offer academic scholarships to local students.

"I've been blessed so I want to help them further their education," said Vasquez. "My parents encouraged us to get a college education and told us not to forget to give back."

Shortly after the election, Vasquez opened a separate bank account where he now puts his quarterly stipend. Every month council members earn $731.91 plus $30 for each community development commission meeting they attend. The mayor's stipend is slightly higher each month at $862.39.

Currently, Vasquez's account has nearly $5,100 in it dedicated to local community projects. "The money is there - trust me," he said with a laugh. "And I want to spread it around."

In addition to scholarships, Vasquez is also interested in talking to local principals and the PTA about starting a culturally sensitive health program in the Downey Unified School District to combat childhood obesity by teaching kids how to eat and prepare healthier food options.

Since many schools have limited resources, Vasquez hopes his stipend funds can help get the program off the ground.

Vasquez also expressed interest in donating to other local events and organizations, but said he will decide exactly where the money will go next year when he begins donating the funds.

Marquez, elected in 2008, hopes to broaden his range of giving next year also as he continues donating his stipend to worthy local causes. In addition to donating to existing charitable groups, Marquez hopes to offer his own scholarships in the spring which will be open to local college bound seniors in high school to help them continue their education.

While Marquez is currently saving money in order to make an impact with his stipend, he expressed interested in working with Vasquez on a larger scholarship program next year.

"Have I given every dollar? I'll be honest, I haven't. But I do plan on keeping and honoring my pledge," Marquez said last week. "The economy has been tough. Both me and my wife have state jobs so with furloughs it's been challenging, but my commitment to our youth and the city is unquestionable. I will make good on all of those promises."

Marquez said many of the donations he's already made have been done behind closed doors with little to no fanfare.

"I've given quietly," he said. "I've helped out in my own quiet way."

"For the past 3 years in a row I've participated in the turkey give away meal at West Middle School for people who don't have as much as others during Thanksgiving. With my own money I purchased 300 turkeys and gave to different groups," said Marquez.

Marquez also said he has donated funds to the Young Women's Empowerment Conference held at Cal State Long Beach. Last year, Marquez gave money to go towards Downey women attending the conference, which is hosted annually by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal.

"It is my strongest commitment to help out residents the best I can as much as I can in every way I can whether through PTA Helps, Rancho Los Amigos, The Arc...my commitment is true," he said.

Unlike other cities such as Cerritos, Downey does not offer council members health care benefits, car and cell phone allowances and retirement plans. Marquez believes local representatives should run for office to serve, not for the perks.

"We are a perfect example of what a true public servant is," said Marquez speaking of the Downey City Council. "You do this because you care and want to make a difference. Not to get rich. Whatever I can do to help, I'm here to do it."

Vasquez echoed Marquez's sentiments, reiterating that his time on the Council is about serving others, not himself.

"Personally, I come from very humble beginnings. My parents came here over 40 years ago and taught me to give back. That's why you're in public service," said Vasquez. "You don't do it for the money - you do it to give back."

Jessica Flores

Jessica Flores, an associate planner for the city of Downey, recently traveled to Guatemala in Central America with her boyfriend, Lawrence Apeldoorn, a longtime Downey resident and Downey High School alum. He is pictured above in front the National Palace in the capital city of Guatemala City. "We had a blast and thought it was quite interesting that he took his Patriot with him to read on his travel," said Flores. "We had a blast." ********** Published: September 29, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 24

Man arrested after arranging sex with teen

DOWNEY - Downey Police arrested 38-year-old Luis Jose Ramirez, of Hollywood, on Sept. 1 after he arranged to have sex with a 13-year-old girl, authorities announced this week.The girl and her father visited the Home Depot in Downey on Aug. 29 at about 8:15 p.m. The father went inside to look for a sales associate while the girl waited outside. Ramirez allegedly drove up in a white pick-up truck and struck up a conversation with the girl, eventually asking for and receiving her phone number. Ramirez called the girl at home the next day, according to a press release from Downey Police. On Sept. 1, Downey detectives used a decoy to call Ramirez back. During the conversation, Ramirez said he would drive to Downey and rent a hotel room "because he wanted to have sex with her," authorities said. While under police surveillance, Ramirez allegedly rented a hotel room in Downey and then called the decoy and told her what room to meet him in. Detectives entered the room and took Ramirez into custody. He was booked for attempted lewd and lascivious acts upon a minor and transported to Los Angeles County Jail. The District Attorney's Office has filed one felony count on Ramirez for contact of a minor with the intent to commit a sexual offense.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Barbecue at church Saturday

DOWNEY - The city of Downey will host a free community barbecue Saturday for residents of the "triangle" neighborhood east of the 605 Freeway.The barbecue is from 2-4 p.m. at Redeemer Covenant Church, 10801 Fairford Ave. City officials and members of the Downey police and fire departments will be present. Information on city programs and resources will also be available. For questions or more information, call (562) 904-1895.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Conservancy hosting fundraiser

DOWNEY - The Downey Conservancy, a newly-created non-profit group working to preserve Downey's historical and cultural resources, will host a fundraiser Oct. 20 at Bob's Big Boy.Anyone who shows an event flier between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. will have 20 percent of their purchase donated to the Conservancy. The Conservancy was just awarded official non-profit status from the IRS last month, and already secured a $4,000 grant to study the Molly Prichter Estates neighborhood near East Middle School. Fliers are available online on the Downey Conservancy's Facebook page.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Beulah Elizabeth Axton

Downey - Beulah Elizabeth Axton, age 95, passed away in Downey on Saturday, September 10, 2011.She was a long-time member and very active in Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Long Beach. Mrs. Axton is survived by daughters, Carol Webb of Downey, Barbara Watkins of Portola, California, 5 grandchildren,14 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband of 73 years, Sharold Axton, on May 10, 2009, granddaughter, Wendy McCoy, on September 6, 2011, and great-grandson Jay Trevor on March 11, 1999. Services are scheduled at Rose Hills Memorial Park for Friday, September 23 at 1:00 p.m.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Mall to hold food truck 'rallies'

DOWNEY - Stonewood Center, hoping to capitalize on the growing popularity of gourmet food trucks, will host 15 of the trucks starting in October."This isn't your typical roach coach that rolls up to a construction site," city planner David Blumenthal told planning commissioners Wednesday. "These trucks can draw up to 1,000 people a day." The food trucks, which can sell anything from macaroni and cheese to bacon-wrapped hot dogs - and everything in between - will be at the mall from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 15, Oct. 29 and Nov. 12. The trucks will be located in the mall's east parking lot, near Sears Auto Center. Mall officials said they will not provide tables or chairs, but a "trash staff" will be emptying trash cans and picking up litter. Planning commissioners admitted they were initially hesitant to OK the food trucks, worrying they could take business away from traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants. "My initial thought was 'This is absurd.' We don't want trucks coming in and taking away business," said commissioner Michael Murray. "But then I did research on the Internet and these things could bring in 1,000 people." "Now that I understand it more I'm looking forward to it," said commissioner Louis Morales. "I'm interested to see how it's received in our city." If the food truck events are popular, mall representatives said they may bring them back next year, possibly with a live music component. "I think this is a unique opportunity here," said commissioner Robert Kiefer. "I think it's something that could be interesting and is definitely worth a try."

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Teacher workshop at space center

DOWNEY - The Columbia Memorial Space Center will host a teacher workshop on Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to noon.The workshop's theme is "Robotics," and admission is free for K-12 teachers with a valid I.D. Reservations are required by calling (562) 231-1200. The space center will be hosting monthly teacher workshops covering different subjects throughout the year. For more information, log on to columbiaspacescience.org. The center is located at 12400 Columbia Way, in the city of Downey.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

'Robber Bridegroom' opening in Long Beach

LONG BEACH - The International City Theatre production of "The Robber Bridegroom," described as "funny, rowdy and sexy," opens Oct. 14 at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.Low-priced previews take place Oct. 11-13. Based on the 1942 Eudora Welty novella, "The Robber Bridegroom" is a comic, adult fairy tale loaded with symbolism, innuendo and double entendre. It's the story of a charming gentleman bandit, the rich plantation owner's daughter he loves, the wicked, sex-starved stepmother who wants her dead, and an evil thief who carries his brother's head around in a trunk - all set to an infectious Broadway/bluegrass score. "It's a Southern, country Appalachian, bluegrass celebration," enthused director Todd Nielsen. "It's been beautifully adapted from the novella, bringing out all the colorful, rough and ready characters that Eudora Welty created, and with a wonderful sense of romance and humor." "The Robber Bridegroom" originated at the Musical Theatre Lab in 1970, pioneering the "workshop" process during its developmental stages. The 1975 Broadway production received a Tony nomination for "Best Book of a Musical" and six Drama Desk nominations, including "Outstanding Musical" and "Unique theatrical Experience." The production established the career of playwright Alfred Uhry, who would later write the acclaimed "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Last Night of Ballyhoo," and catapulted the careers of its two stars, Kevin Line and Patti LuPone, both recent graduates of Juilliard making their professional debuts. Following a successful national tour, a second Broadway run was mounted just one year later, earning Barry Bostwick the Tony Award for lead actor in a musical and another eight Drama Desk nominations. The New York Times called the "The Robber Bridegroom" a "modern fairy tale, where irony and humor, outright nonsense, deep wisdom and surrealistic extravaganzas become a poetic unity through the power of a pure exquisite style." "The Robber Bridegroom" runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., from Oct. 14 through Nov. 6. Tickets are $37 on Thursdays and $44 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night which is $55 and includes a reception with the actors following the performance. Preview tickets are $29. For tickets and information, call (562) 436-4610 or go to ictlongbeach.org.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Veteran receives brother's overdue medals

BELLFLOWER - A Bellflower veteran earlier this month received the long overdue service medals earned by his late brother, Charles Duessent, who served in the Navy as a hospital corpsman third class.Duessent was killed in action on Feb. 12, 1970 in Quang Nam, South Vietnam. He was 21. As his only surviving relative, James Duessent contacted the office of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard for help in obtaining the medals. The congresswoman wrote a letter to the Department of the Navy on April 27. The Navy delivered the medals on Aug. 26. The medals included a Bronze Star (with Combat V); Purple Heart; the National Defense Service Medal; the Vietnam Service Medal (with one Bronze Star); a Combat Action Ribbon; a Gold Star Lapel Button; and the Vietnam Campaign Medal with a 1960 Device. In memory of his brother, James Duessent, who also served in Vietnam, initiated the successful effort to have a baseball field named after him at the Dean L. Shively Middle School in their hometown of South El Monte. The site is where the two brothers played baseball together as children. The medals will be on display at the school.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Baseball players awarded scholarships

DOWNEY - Baseball players Juan Avena, a recent graduate of Warren High School, and Steve Pascual, a graudate of Downey High School, have each been awarded $2,000 scholarships from the 10-20 Club.Avena and Pascual both played on the RBI team out of Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy in Compton. Darrell Jackson, president and founder of the 10-20 Club, was pitching coach on the team. The team eventually won the RBI World Series played in Minneapolis, where Jackson pitched for the Minnesota Twins from 1978-82. Avena is currently attending Arizona Western in Yuma, Ariz., and Pacual is attending Golden West College in Huntington Beach. Funding for the scholarships was provided by Gangs Out of Downey, the Optimist Club of Downey and the Kenny Landreaux Celebrity Golf Tournament.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Sheriff's deputies fatally shoot attacking pit bull

NORWALK - Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies searching for a suspected armed gang member shot and killed a pit bull last Saturday after it attacked a police canine, authorities said.Deputies responded to a call of several gang members, including one armed with a gun, at Hermosillo Park at 3:30 p.m. The suspects fled when deputies arrived. One deputy saw a man with a gun running towards a nearby residential neighborhood in the 12000 block of 161st St., officials said. Deputies surrounded the neighborhood and called in support from SWAT and the K-9 team. As they prepared to search the neighborhood, deputies said they asked a man, whose backyard was the last seen location of the armed suspect, to secure a pit bull that was in the backyard. While attempting to secure the dog, it overpowered the owner and charged into the middle of the street, officials said. The pit bull attacked the K-9, named Tosca, as it stood on the end of its leash next to its deputy handler. Deputies shot the pit bull after it bit Tosca's neck and pinned it to the ground. The pit bull released its bite on the K-9 and later died. Tosca is "doing well" and expected to survive. After the search resumed, deputies found three known gang members, who were arrested for parole violations. A resident at the home where the pit bull lived found a fully loaded handgun in his backyard.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Elks hosting Hawaiian dinner

DOWNEY - Downey Elks Lodge No. 2020 will host a Hawaiian dinner show Oct. 1 on its patio from 4-10 p.m.A Hawaiian band will perform and there will be contests for best and funniest Hawaiian outfits. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children. Proceeds will help fund the Elks' charitable projects. The event is open to the public.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Donation appreciation

Dear Editor:Children's Dental Health Clinic expresses its appreciation to Assistance League of Downey for its generous donation, making it possible to treat underserved children in our community and surrounding cities. Children's Dental Health Clinic is proud to be the dental home for thousands of children who need comprehensive dental treatment and specialty dental care. Faced with the dichotomy of decreased funding sources and increased need, the clinic is especially thankful for the support of Assistance League of Downey. -- Children's Dental Health Clinic, Downey

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23

Jack Pelton dies peacefully at 87

DOWNEY - Dr. Jack Bennett Pelton, 87, died peacefully on Sept. 13 at Southland Care Center in Norwalk.Pelton, a resident of Downey for 60 years, is survived by his wife of 67 years, Ruth; their four children, Margie Elvin, Kurt Pelton, Danny Pelton and Jack Pelton; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. At his request, no services will be held. His final resting place will be at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

********** Published: September 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 23