By Veronica Mackey
A tearful father whose son was murdered in Inglewood drew support from the city council and residents at Tuesday’s meeting. It also inspired a conversation about gun violence.
Mr. Rivera, a 22-year resident who is legally blind, read a letter to Mayor James Butts and council members about his heartbreak and frustration in trying to bring the elusive killer to justice.
“My son was killed on La Brea and Hyde Park. They (police) said they could not do anything because the cameras were not working. Then they said the pictures on the camera are too grainy. Which version of the lie should I believe—the cameras don’t work or they (images) are too grainy? How is this killer going to be identified? Where should I go to ask for help?”
Mayor James Butts could only offer his condolences. He allowed Rivera extra time to speak.
One woman said there were 20 shootinsg in the past two months. Mayor Butts immediately put that rumor to rest. “That’s just not true,” he said.
Another Inglewood resident whose son was killed by gun violence is looking for support for families of crime victims. She asked the City to find a way to help parents cope with the loss of their children. “These parents are really suffering,” she said.
Allegations were made that the city is squandering money, which the mayor flatly denied. If you look at the recent budget, the City of Inglewood has actually saved money, Butts said.
He added: “When I came to office, we had $11 million. At the end of last year, we had $22 million. We hope to do much more than that next year.”
City business was brief. The Council received an annual audit report for Fiscal Year 2012-2013, presented by audit firm, Mayer, Hoffman, McCann PC. A resolution was adopted for a Retiree Health Savings Plan which offers tax-advantage savings with no annual limits for contributions.
The council also approved revisions to the Homeowner Rehabilitation Loan Program for senior-citizen homeowners. Now seniors with an income of up to $45,650 annually can qualify for assistance with home repairs related to health and safety.
Fire Marshall Luis Hernandez invited the public to attend free CERT classes. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. “It is specialized training to help you get ready for the big one (earthquake) or for any disaster. This is one way to get everybody going in the right direction.” CERT classes are free and open to everyone Tuesdays and Thursdays through August 26, from 6-9pm at Inglewood City Hall in the Community Room. To register, go online to www.fire.lacounty.gov/cert or call 310-412-5571.
A pancake breakfast will be held to support Inglewood youth firefighters, ages 15-21. It will be held on Saturday, August 2, 2014 at Fire Station #171, located at 141 West Regent Street. Breakfast will be served from 9am until noon. A donation of $5.00 is requested, with all proceeds benefitting the Fire Explorer Program of Inglewood Post 20. The event will include fire station tours and apparatus displays. Fire fighters will demonstrate what happens during real life situations which require them to rescue people to safety. For more information or to make a donation, call (323) 707-9185.
Former District 1 Councilmember Mike Stevens appeared at Tuesday night's meeting, more than a year after losing his district to Councilman George Dotson, to make a big announcement:
"I'm here to announce my candidacy for the Mayor of Inglewood. The way the mayor is strong-arming the council people is wearing a bit thin on the residents. I hope that we have many debates, Mayor Butts.”
Inglewood Parks and Recreation Commissioner Willie Agee will not be casting his vote for Stevens: “What did he do when he was here before? Nothing. And Ms. Dunlap (former Inglewood Councilwoman), they're twins!”
Dotson commented on the badge ceremony held to honor Inglewood police officers. “You don’t have any idea of what these people that represent us do…How they put their life on the line for us. I know the (police) department is doing everything they possibly can to get rid of the gangs in this city.
“As far as finances, we pay people a lot of money to tell us about our finances. Are we going to take the opinion of others who have not got (any degrees)? Just remember where we came from and check and see where we are now.”
There was some discussion about Stevens’ criticism of the council voting alike. “We show up prepared. If we wait until we get here (to discuss the issues), all we would be doing is pointing to problems. We wouldn’t have any opportunities to fix it,” Councilman Eloy Morales said. He also gave Mayor Butts a nod in response to Stevens’ announcing he’d run for mayor.
“I will announce my endorsement of you," Morales said.
“The crime rate is the lowest it’s been in decades, but we do have bad folks out there,” Councilman Alex Padilla said. He spoke to Rivera in Spanish, and explained in English that he was offering his condolences.
Addressing Stevens’ remarks, Padilla said, “Someone says the council is being strong-armed by the mayor. There’s nothing farther from the truth. We are all adult professionals. We stand on our own.”
Councilman Ralph Franklin gave kudos to a few of the Inglewood police officers honored at the badge pinning ceremony:
“Officer (Marvin) Aguilar was badged. He graduated with my son. Now he just earned the rank of sergeant. Officer (Nicole) Loudermilk has also received the rank of sergeant and our own distinguished administrator Michael Falkow. He is the key guy we reach out to as homeland security. These are the officers that we recognized today.”
Others who were either promoted or received badges as new officers include: Dirk Dewachter, Freeman Smith, Cilia Islas, Brian Poor, Marc Robinson, Angelica Vega, Felicia Zamora, Daniel Lee, Jonathan Rivers, and Brittania Hurst.
The mayor offered his condolences again to those whose children were killed by gun violence, and admitted, “There is nothing that the City is going to do to…I don’t run the police department.” Nothing can make up for the loss of a loved one and one death is one too many, Butts said.
He then explained what the department is doing to reduce violent crime in Inglewood: “We have 4 gang injunctions that have had an impact. We have the lowest 3 consecutive years for violent crime in the city since it started keeping records in 1978.
The department will have $3 million next year to update our dispatch system. We are investing in our police department. We are managing our money in such a way that we can afford to invest in our key (priorities). We have managed this city in an exemplary manner.”