5 Questions: Nader Moghaddam

"5 Questions" is an occassional feature in which we ask five questions of Downey business and community leaders. This week's participant is Nader Moghaddam, CEO of Downey-based Financial Partners Credit Union. The interview took place shortly after the July 4 holiday. 1.) How did you get into the credit union business? After going through a couple of financially rewarding but emotionally frustrating bank mergers, I was contacted by a search firm that wooed me into considering and eventually accepting a position at a credit union back in 1998. I discovered that the credit union philosophy of people helping people, which places members needs above all, had a significant appeal. It was something that I could get emotionally connected with.

2.) What is the primary difference between a bank and credit union? The primary difference is in the ownership and governance structure. At a credit union, the members are part owners of the organization. Whereas at a bank, the customers don't necessarily have an ownership stake and bank management is answerable to stockholders. Credit unions are not for profit cooperatives. As such, they are not conflicted in placing the interest of their member above all because they are one and the same.

3.) Why is community service important to you? We are a grassroots organization by nature and structure, and given our philosophical orientation we seek community involvement as a natural extension of our organization. We are proud to be part of so many positive things in the Downey community and are delighted to see so much pride and passionate care among the community leaders and the residences of this wonderful city.

4.) Have you found the Downey Patriot to be beneficial in getting Financial Partners' message to the community? I feel that the community is very fortunate to have a voice like the Downey Patriot. The newspaper brings the community together and highlights collaboration in its efforts to build a better tomorrow. The Downey Patriot has been a great source for connecting with the community and we consider it a key channel in reaching our audience.

5.) How did you spend the Fourth of July? I spent the holiday with my wife, nine-year-old daughter, and a patriotic group of extended family. We had a BBQ in celebration of our wonderful country and the good that it stands for.

********** Published: Aug. 1, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 16

Transient charged with robberies that targeted insurance offices

DOWNEY - A 22-year-old Paramount transient has been arrested on charges that he robbed at least a dozen local insurance offices in the span of only 18 days. Jordan Dejon Grimes, 22, was arrested Friday afternoon in Long Beach. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of a loaded handgun believed to be the same weapon used in the robberies and kidnappings.

Sheriff's department detectives said they have connected Grimes to 12 robberies, which began July 8.

In all of the takeover-style robberies, Grimes would allegedly storm through the door, point his weapon at employees and customers, and demand their cash.

The robberies occurred in Downey, Bellflower, Lynwood, Inglewood, Huntington Park and Los Angeles.

Lt. Kent Wegener of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said Grimes implicated himself in all 12 robberies.

"The investigation will continue, despite the violent offender being taken off the streets," said deputy Kim Manatt.

Grimes was charged with robbery and kidnapping. At the time of his arrests he had warrants for burglary and unlawful driving of a vehicle without the owner's consent.

He was booked at the Century Sheriff's Station and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Due to the ongoing investigation, authorities did not release Grimes' booking photo.

Anyone with additional information is asked to call Detective Mark Gittens at (562) 946-7893.

THE SOUL OF THE CITY, PART V

DOWNEY - The Museum of Modern Art in New York is one of the best of its kind in the world. For any artist to be included in its collection or one of its exhibits is an E-ticket to the big time of national and international art circles. MOMA recently sent the Downey Museum of Art a request for an installation view of the work of Robert Heinecken, which was part of a 1970 show called "Continuum." They're not going to get it anytime soon. Why? Because Downey museum officials can't find it. Why can't they find it? Because it's in storage, and no one knows exactly where it is. Why is it in storage? Because the city won't give them back the keys to the Furman Park building that was gifted to them.

Why won't the city give them the keys to their own building?

Your guess is as good as mine, but the implications are scandalous.

Let's backtrack: On July 14, 1957, county, state and local officials were on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating the gift of the L-shaped stucco building, located at the entrance of Furman Park, to the principals of the Downey Art Museum. The title was presented by Willard Woodrow, president of the Aldon Construction Company, a Downey-based home building outfit known for its philanthropic largesse. Woodrow's wife, Alice Woodrow, was the museum's first director. This was during the days when many of Downey's social elite also had artistic interests and accomplishments. Some members of the Downey Symphony, for example, had enjoyed international careers.

For decades, the museum held a certain prestige for its exhibits, its roster of artists, and its teaching programs for kids. The Los Angeles Times periodically sent down Suzanne Muchnic, its best art reporter, to cover the museum's showings. Part of this period was when the Times had a daily circulation north of 800,000, and bureaus in Orange County, San Diego County, and Washington D.C., where you could drop a quarter in a vending machine and read about what was going on in the City of Angels, including, now and then, the Downey Museum of Art. This means that, of all of Downey's cultural institutions, the DMOA was its most famous.

Like all museums, it had its ups and downs and financial scares. But it held on to that unlikely site. It kept on showing. Then, in 2008, a bizarre conflict took place between DMOA co-director Kate Davies and her former director of business and development (meaning marketing). Details are murky, but it appears that the marketing lady put money into a raffle scheme that fizzled, and then she turned around and sued Davies and the DMOA to get her money back (whether the city of Downey is named as co-defendant is also unclear). As the battle heated up, the museum's collection was held hostage. According to DMOA treasurer Barbara Briley Beard, a museum employee was returning with the mail one day just as the marketing lady was having a locksmith change the lock to the museum's front door. The Downey police were called. In the imbroglio that ensued, the police took the keys to the building. They haven't been seen since, at least by the museum people. In the meantime, the DMOA collection has been packed up and placed in storage and, according to Beard, the building is being used, illegally, by the city as a warehouse facility.

The story might end there, in bitter stalemate, except that the board, under George Redfox, sidestepped the conflict by reorganizing under the museum's old nonprofit banner. Enter the Deputy Attorney General of the State of California, Tania M. Ibanez, part of whose job is to make sure that nonprofits stick to the letter of the law. After investigating the case, and acting for Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Ibanez wrote to then Downey Mayor Luis Marquez on September 28, 2011.

In the letter, Ibanez states, "When property is donated to a public entity for a specific purpose, the public entity is restricted from selling the property or using the property for other inconsistent uses." She cites a number of legal precedents, which prohibit the city from violating those restrictions. They include using the public entity, the Downey Museum of Art, for storing city stuff ("Because the Building was donated for the specific purpose of housing DMOA, the City of Downey shall not be using the Buiding for inconsistent purposes.")

Ibanez' letter concedes that her investigation revealed some evidence of DMOA mismanagement, but no theft or fraud.

"It has come to my attention," she adds, "that DMOA has not been allowed by the City of Downey to return to is Building in Furman Park. We respectfully request that the City reconsider its decision not to allow DMOA to return to the Building."

The city's answer? Silence.

There's no evidence, as far as I've been able to discover, that then-mayor Marquez acted on the Deputy Attorney General's request, either by answering it or sharing it with the council (he hasn't responded to my e-mail requests, but in fairness to him, they've been made in just the past few days).

The city's reconsideration? A 4-1 vote in 2012 to keep the building closed (Roger Brossmer cast the sole vote to reopen the museum, and Alex Saab, an arts supporter and former DMOA recording secretary, wasn't yet in office).

Queried on the issue, current Mayor Mario Guerra says that he (and the city) have supported the museum by paying for storage space and by offering a site in city hall for the museum to hang one picture a month. The general consensus among city officials seems to be that the building is unsafe.

"It's sinking," says Parks & recreation director Arlene Salazar.

"It's a bad building," says Guerra.

Counters Redfox, "Buildings that were built in Downey between 1950 and 1965 are so structurally sound that they've all withstood the wear and tear of time. Besides, we have carpenters and electricians willing to come in and fix what needs to be fixed. It may not be the greatest location, but it's the only one we have, and until we can get open and exhibiting, we can't get the grants to keep us going. All we need is to get back in there. Just give us a shot."

As for meeting Ibanez' request, Guerra e-mails, "The city told the attorney generals (sic) office face to face that we would be happy to help in preserving the collection...I was in the room when that was stated."

Answers Beard, "Tania said she'd notify us in writing if such a meeting took place. We never received a letter. The meeting never happened. Mario just tells people what he thinks they want to hear."

Enough of all this he-said, she-said. You get the idea. If the city wanted to reopen the museum, then it would be up and exhibiting again in no time and all would be forgotten--except by Kate Davies, who left Downey after losing her house trying to keep the museum afloat.

By December 31, if the Downey Museum isn't operating in its Furman Park site, it will have to disperse its collection. At that point, all those people out there who crow about a vibrant and emerging art scene in Downey should take a moment of silence. There will have been a death in the family.

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Mayor's Corner: halfway through 2013

Dear Downey family and friends, I hope you are all enjoying your summer. We are halfway through the year now and I can't believe how quickly time flies by.

The City's summer Concerts in the Park series is in full swing and I encourage you to join us Wednesday evenings at Furman Park. Bring the whole family and enjoy great music and great food. The band Stone Soul will be performing next Wednesday playing the sounds of classic rock and Motown. Arrive early at 6 p.m. and join me for my Mayor's Walking Wednesdays, which are taking place at Furman Park during the summer. And feel free to ride your bike there too.

Speaking of my Walking Wednesdays series, this is just one of the many activities that are part of the Healthy Downey initiative. We have wonderful community partners who share the same vision and goal for our city, which is to encourage healthy and active lifestyles. We meet every month to come up with innovative programs and ideas that will help encourage healthy living and positively impact our current and future generations. More to come, stay tuned. I know what a difference it has made on me personally. At my council meeting weigh-in this week, I hit a milestone of losing 70 pounds since being sworn in as your Mayor last December. Healthy Downey can work for us all.

On Tuesday, Aug. 6, we will have the first National Night Out event in our City, which is aimed at bringing the community together to help promote and educate residents on crime prevention, health and resources. There will be free food, children activities, a community walk, City Hall tours, bicycle safety workshop, information booths and much more. It will take place in the Civic Center area beginning at 5:30 p.m. Great community event so hope to see you there!

I am proud to announce that I was elected President of the Independent Cities Association last week and will be sworn in this September. I am honored to lead such a prestigious organization consisting of 53 local independent cities, representing more than 7 million people. Local government working together to represent our communities. From public safety to quality of life, we have and can make an impact on the lives of our residents. I am only the second person ever from Downey to hold this office and I promise to represent our City with the values of Character Counts.

A few weeks ago, our City Council approved a new "plan" for our Civic Center area, which proposes to improve parking and traffic around our downtown. As part of a long term "plan," we hope that this will revitalize our Civic Center and draw more visitors to the area. As the old saying goes, a long journey begins with a first step. We now have a Master Park Plan and are looking at a Master Bike Plan. Our future has started.

Another exciting project on the way is our City's new branding concept. We expect to unveil it this coming October. We look forward to an image of who we are, where we are today, and that our brand will incorporate our amazing past and bright future.

Please save the date for our 4th Annual Taste of Downey event. This year it will take place on Downey Avenue on Thursday, Sept. 19, and will feature local restaurants, an art show, music, and an adult beverage area. Not only does this event help bring our community together, but it helps highlight our local Downey restaurants, and now even our Downtown. And speaking of that, our Downtown Specific Plan is vibrant and working. As I drove around downtown one evening last week, I saw our community alive, busy, active and full of people enjoying one of 15 restaurants within a mile radius. As a City we can of course enhance and promote business, but we as citizens speak with our patronage.

Lastly, our City lost a true dedicated public servant this week. Battalion Chief Brian Wolf passed away last Sunday at the young age of 44. Raised in Downey he made his career serving our community with our Downey Fire Department. He was a special person that truly made a difference to all who knew him. He was a friend to many and will be truly missed. Rest in peace Chief Wolf.

Feel free to call me anytime on my personal cell number, (562) 706-4114, or email at mguerra@downeyca.org. Until next time, all my best, God bless.

Dn. Mario A. Guerra Mayor

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Eliminating illegal immigration

Dear Editor:The debate about immigration reform puts a lot of emphasis in securing our borders to avoid having another 10 million undocumented immigrants sometime in the future. I question the effectiveness of all the proposed solutions. Even having electrified fences, mining the border area and having all the armed forces guarding the borders, we will not be able to keep out highly motivated people who want to come to the US because they are following the only voice that never lies, that is the voice of the stomach. More revolutionary thinking is required to solve this problem. Given that the only reason undocumented immigrants come to the US is because they can find jobs here, then the obvious answer is not to have jobs for them. We can not depend on businesses to deny jobs to illegals as long as it is financially profitable to employ them and especially so because they are willing to do jobs that most Americans are unwilling to do. I propose that the answer lies in technology. We must build the machinery needed to eliminate menial jobs from the economy. The day that we can take a car to a tunnel and get it at the other end completely cleaned, washed, vacuumed and polished without the intervention of human hands we would have taken a big step into eliminating a good source of jobs for illegals. When our agriculture machinery allows farmers to automatize the harvesting of tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables we will accomplish what no other action can do to eliminate illegals aliens prospective jobs. Now this will require a true high tech effort to get it done. Probably tomatoes will have to be genetically modified to have stronger skin so that they don't bruise when picked up by machines before totally automatic harvesting machines can be produced. It doesn't take much imagination to create an urgent high tech project designed to create the equipment and products necessary to eliminate minor labor from our society. The devil is in the details and in our elected officials doing the right thing for the country instead of what it is politically favorable for their careers. Our science and engineering students are getting the training necessary in robotics and cybernetics design to be able to accomplish the development of the necessary equipment. Any funding appropriated to this project will be a lot smaller than the one needed to implement the plans currently under consideration. This proposal makes a lot of sense so I don't expect that it will be ever considered. Jorge Montero Downey

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Funeral Saturday for Warren High teacher

DOWNEY - Warren High School teacher Mariateresa "Tess" Bobadilla died July 11 after battling a brain tumor. She was 49.She was born March 30, 1964 in Mexico City and earned a BA in psychology and Spanish, and a masters in education, from Cal State Dominguez Hills. She "accomplished many things in her life," friends and family said, but she was best known in Downey for being a Spanish teacher at Warren High for more than a decade. She is survived by her daughters, Carla and Gabriela; sisters, Betty and Marilu; brothers, Michael and Alex; and boyfriend, Rick Rodman. Her life will be celebrated this Friday, July 26, from 6-10 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Downey. A reception is scheduled for Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, with a funeral service starting at 12:30. Graveside services will follow. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for monetary donations to help offset funeral costs. Donations can be made online at gofundme.com/3kjng4.

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Robert Jennings passes away at 79

DOWNEY - Robert Mansfield Jennings, a longtime Downey resident, passed away peacefully at home on July 20. He was 79.He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Betty; three children, Robert, Cindy and Ronald; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Miller-Mies Mortuary.

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

ABWA announces $1,500 scholarship

DOWNEY - The American Business Women's Association is marking the 60th anniversary of its educational fund this Sunday and to celebrate the Downey chapter of the national organization is sponsoring an Outright Grant scholarship worth $1,500.Grant nominations will be accepted beginning Aug. 1. Since it was established in 1953, the Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund has awarded more than $16 million in scholarships to more than 16,000 women nationwide. The American Business Women's Association distributes the scholarships to women in four categories, including National Scholarships, Outright Grants, Business Skills Tuition Reimbursement and Impact Scholarships. Each scholarship program has a unique set of guidelines, applicant eligibility requirements and procedures. For more details about the scholarship, or information on how to apply, e-mail Vivian Armijo at v.armijo@sbc.global.net. The Downey chapter of the ABWA meets the third Wednesday of each month at the Rio Hondo Event Center. Networking begins at 6 p.m., with dinner and meeting at 6:30. More information is online at abwa-eldorado.com.

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Baha'i continues spiritual discussion

DOWNEY - The Downey Baha'i Community will continue its monthly public Spiritual Discussion Series the first Sunday of every month from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Wilderness Park."The Journey of Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha and Baha'u'llah" is the next discussion planned for Aug. 4. Anyone interested in exploring philosophical, social and spiritual topics of relevance to the local, national and global community is invited to participate in the discussions. Featured topics may include racism, sexism, violence, peace, poverty, justice, unity, prayer, world religions and cultures, current events, books and films. "Regardless of religious backgrounds or faiths, we are here to help one another, learn, grow and unite as a community," said Merie Daniel Perry, a member of the Downey Baha'i Community and one of the organizers of the series. "We believe that religions have much more in common than might appear on the surface; we just need to give each other a chance." The Baha'i faith is an independent worldwide religion founded in 1844. Its major principles include "the oneness of humanity, elimination of prejudices, equality of men and women, world peace, independence investigation of truth, harmony of science and religion, and mandatory education." For more information, or to RSVP, call (562) 440-6156, e-mail mo.inspired1@gmail.com or go online to meetup.com/bahai-s-of-downey-ca.

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Griffiths Middle School 8th graders

Eighth grade students from Griffiths Middle School went to Washington, D.C. in June for their summer trip. Back row, from left: Katrina Estevez, Scott Schreiner, Andrew Picado, Samantha Casarrubias, Thomas Zubieta, Diego Ramirez, Malek Dweik, Eric Valdez, Kevin Duron, Gilberto Peraza-Martinez, David Casillas, Marco Aramburo, Sebastian Pierce, Randy Pena, Alex Lucero and James Torrico. Front row: Larissa Ortiz, Jhensen Rosete, Haylie Peterson, Ivette Orozco, Mikaela Dagundon, Erika Sandoval, Lennis Ramirez, Danielle Padilla, Victoria Villasenor, Leslie Fashen, Simonne Contreras, Lourdes Casillas, Danica Ferrer, Sofia Carrillo, Cassandra Flores, Matthew DeForest and Gabriel Ramirez. Front center: Heaven Rivas and Kristi Greenlee. ********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Stone Soul

Stone Soul, a band that performs spot-on covers of soul and Motown classics include works by Stevie Wonder, James Brown, the Temptations and Wilson Pickett, will perform Wednesday at Furman Park, starting at 7 p.m. Food can be purchased from the Downey Rose Float Association, and residents are invited to bring chairs and blankets (no umbrellas or pop-up structures). ********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Not guilty verdict

Dear Editor:I know exactly how the Trayvon Martin supporters felt when they heard that George Zimmerman was not guilty. I felt the same when I heard that O.J. Simpson was not guilty. Mike Sandoval Downey

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15

Constitution rulings

Dear Editor:I have a comment on the issue of abortion rights and other challenging legal issues which are erroneously viewed as violation of our constitutional rights. These are not Constitution violations that can not be overruled by the Supreme Court since the laws have been ordained by our Creator and being of divine origin are immutable as their author. The problem we have is clearly defined in that commandment, "Thou shall not kill" but mankind has perverted God's concept of who rules, as set henceforth thusly, "Let us make man in our image to man's version, let us make God to our image." That is what we now have. Frank Calderon Downey

********** Published: July 25, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 15