The Councilmember led his annual Fall Equinox hike Thursday evening to the peak of Mount Hollywood 1,625 feet above sea level.
“I’ve been hiking here for over 30 years, but nothing compares to hiking with my friends and neighbors,” Councilmember LaBonge said. “The exercise you get isn’t the only reward; that golden sunset will greet us at the top.”
The Councilmember, dubbed “Mr. L.A.” by Los Angeles magazine because of his enthusiasm for his hometown, hikes Mount Hollywood every morning. He has been organizing quarterly sunset hikes in Griffith Park since he was elected in 2001.
Tom, members of the community, officials from the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of Water and Power gathered at Robert Burns Park on Thursday. The pocket park in the Windsor Square area has undergone improvements funded largely by State Quimby funds.
“Parks are the centerpiece of a neighborhood,” Councilmember LaBonge said. “It’s so important to have a place for the community’s members to connect, for their kids to play together and for neighbors to relax together. It’s all about celebrating nature and these improvements will encourage more visitors to enjoy and love Los Angeles.”
Carl Cooper from the Department of Recreation and Parks applauded the upgrades that include new playground equipment, fencing and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant facilities. Jane Galbraith, the representative from the Department of Water and Power spoke about the improved irrigation system, estimated to save 554,000 gallons of water annually.
In addition to City-implemented improvements, members of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council added new park benches and trees. The Windsor Square Association painted the exterior fence.
The reopening culminating in the unveiling of a new plaque donated by the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society memorializing Robert L. Burns, after whom the park was named. Known for championing the City he loved so dearly and for his strong leadership during World War II and economic crises, the former City Council President and representative of the Fourth District was honored in 1959 for 30 years of public service which included a stint as president of the Board of Recreation and Park Commission. Burns served as councilmember from 1929 to 1945.
Since 1975, local governments have been authorized by the State to require developers to contribute to the green spaces of a neighborhood by setting aside land, donating an easement or pay fees for park improvements. These Quimby Funds may not be used for park maintenance.
The Councilmember spoke to a packed house of interested residents at the Metro building on Tuesday. Plans for the California High-Speed Rail are in motion and Tom is singing its praises.
"The High-Speed Rail will reduce congestion, boost the economy and bring jobs," the Councilmember said. "It's a fast ride to our future."
An estimated 600,000 jobs will be created by the project, with nearly 125,000 of those in the Los Angeles-Palmdale area. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is holding public hearings open for question and comment. To attend a hearing or to schedule a presentation for your community or business, call 877-583-0263 or visit their web site at cahighspeedrail.ca.gov.
Tom joined Mayor Villaraigosa on Monday in launching "We Serve LA," an initiative aimed at empowering volunteers of every age to improve their neighborhoods, get involved in the city and strengthen communities.
"Become one of our great L.A. volunteers today," said Councilmember Tom LaBonge to a crowd of volunteers gathered for the launch at George Washington Carver Middle School in South Los Angeles. "When you engage in volunteerism, you provide a tremendous benefit to your community but also to yourself."
"Our goal is simple," Villaraigosa said. "We're going to engage more Angelenos in meaningful service activities. We're going to utilize volunteerism and service as a strategy to tackle critical local challenges."
We Serve LA is funded by a Cities of Service Leadership Grant received by the Rockefeller Foundation the Bloomberg Philanthropies. The grant provides $200,000 over two years for management and partnership building.
Part of the program installs a new Chief Service Officer, Rafael Gonzalez. Gonzalez will create a database of volunteer opportunities to connect participants with needs in their communities. He estimates the website will be launched by the end of the year.
Councilmember LaBonge is asking the Department of Water and Power to defer bills to city parks and libraries until the economy turns around.
The city park and library departments have been forced to limit hours of service to the public because of severe budget cuts. Delaying those utility bill payments could free up money to keep parks and libraries open more.
The DWP was not in the practice of billing these departments for utilities until recent years.
"I am working hard to create additional revenue for departments that were hard-hit by the recent city budget cuts," Councilmember LaBonge said. "Restoring park and library hours is good for the entire city. I hope we can make it happen."
The DWP, Library Department, Department of Recreation and Parks will report to the Budget and Finance Committee and the Energy and Environment Committee later this year so the Council can better assess the affect of the deferment. Read the motion here. You may follow committee rulings and other reports on this motion here as they become available.
Councilmember LaBonge and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) led a successful fundraising effort this year to acquire 138-acre Cahuenga Peak as an expansion of Griffith Park.
So, what's next?
The Councilmember formed a committee this week to identify other undeveloped parcels of land adjacent to the park that the city can consider acquiring as well.
"There's nothing like a wilderness mountain that you can see from almost any place in the city," the Councilmember told eight of the committee members at its first meeting last night. "Maybe there are other parcels near Cahuenga Peak that we could protect from development and open to all Angelenos for hiking." The Cahuenga Peak Next Steps Committee will meet over the next six months to help plan the Cahuenga Peak celebration event and begin the next steps.
Los Angeles Fire and Police Department (LAFD and LAPD) officials joined Councilmember LaBonge in urging Congress to pass the 9/11 First Responders Act at a rally on Friday.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, or HR 847 and SB 1334, would provide first responders and those affected by the attack with long-term health care benefits for their exposure to toxins resulting from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. It would also compensate them for economic losses due to illness or injuries caused by the attacks.
“Brave men and women from New York and across the nation worked tirelessly at Ground Zero, including some of our own Los Angeles firefighters and police officers,” Councilmember LaBonge said. “The Zadroga Bill needs to pass because we can no longer ignore the very serious health and economic needs of our nation’s heroes. Across the nation, we need to raise our voices and say ‘I support the Zadroga Bill.’”
"Some of the bravest men and women in the City of New York and from across the nation toiled to save the lives of others," Chief Rueda said. "I support those great Americans and any programs that will assist them in the future."
Ground Zero worker LAFD Chief Mario Rueda and LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore spoke about the importance of the measure. Dr. Francine Vogler who has experienced health problems related to her work at Ground Zero, also spoke.
The press conference follows a citywide resolution introduced by Councilmember LaBonge on Friday August 13, five days prior to President Obama’s announcement that he supports the bill. Calls of support came into the Councilmember’s office from across the nation. John Feal, a 9/11 first responder and founder of the FealGood Foundation, sent a message of support. The FeelGood Foundation had been key in rallying the nation around this legislation.
“On behalf of the 9/11 responder community the FealGood Foundation, I would like to personally thank the great people of Los Angeles for your unwavering support and compassion on the west coast for the Zadroga Bill,” John Feal said.
The event was held at the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center, which features a large, 23-ton steel column. The column was shipped from Ground Zero and once stood as part of the lobby at one of the World Trade Center Buildings. It now serves as a Los Angeles memorial to all who were killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
To read the resolution introduced by Councilmember LaBonge, please click here.
Councilmember Tom LaBonge flipped the switch at a ceremony on Wednesday, to turn Hollywood blue in support of the Prostate Cancer Research Institute’s (PCRI) Blue September Campaign. Dr. Mark Scholz, co-founder of PCRI and Jim Kuha, Senior Director of EMI Music North America, joined the Councilmember at the ceremony.
“It’s so important for Americans to learn how to speak frankly about this disease that affects 180,000 American men every year,” Councilmember LaBonge said. “This is my call to action for the people of Los Angeles and across the world: Let’s take care of ourselves, get your yearly prostate exam and let’s fight this killer.”
Buildings going blue include the Capitol Records Building, Paramount Studio’s Melrose Gate and Water Tower the historic Roosevelt Hotel and the Ramada of West Hollywood. International organizations are also showing their solidarity with the campaign, including The Harbor Bridge in Sydney, Australia and the Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia.
Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer in males in the Western world. Each year, 27,000 American men die from prostate cancer and 180,000 men are diagnosed with the disease. Over 2 million American men and women are currently living with the disease. Studies have shown links between a high-calorie diet and prostate cancer—a fact for serious consideration in Los Angeles where obesity has been on the rise. A 2003 report from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services stated nearly 55% of Los Angeles residents are obese or overweight.
The Blue September Campaign, launched by the Prostate Cancer Research Institute, aims to raise awareness about prostate cancer. The PCRI was founded in 1996, with the objective of educating patients and their families about prostate cancer.
For more information about Blue September or PCRI, please go to www.blueseptember.org.