One Vote, Your Vote

In 2008, the nation came out in record numbers to vote during the presidential election. All across the country, voters lined up for hours to exercise their right to vote and the change that many hoped for happened.

Among the many questions that have been asked during this presidential campaign, one in particular is whether or not this is the change the nation expected. After all, unemployment is still hovering at 8%, gas is at $4.50 per gallon, food prices continue to rise, median incomes are lower, and in general our economic recovery continues at a snail’s pace. The government is more divided than ever and it seems as if the extreme sides of each political party are holding the rest of the country hostage. It is now in our hands to decide whom we send to Washington and Sacramento to change the gridlock that is so desperately needed.

Our decision is for us to determine which presidential candidate has the best policies, right approach and clearest vision to solve our nation’s problems. At the core of the debate is what the role of government should play in our daily lives. An example of this debate is that of trickle down economics vs. trickle down government.

One side argues that tax cuts provide businesses the opportunity to invest and create jobs, provides more money in our pockets that enables personal spending and in the end increases tax revenues. The other side believes in leveling the playing field, distribution of wealth and deficit spending to help stimulate the economy. What has transpired is that neither approach seems to be the sole answer to address our economic issues.

For example, although the Bush tax cuts provide a little more cash in our paychecks it did not appear to help grow the economy and the Obama stimulus package hasn’t created the millions of jobs that were promised. The answer resides somewhere in the middle of these two fundamental philosophies in order to turn our economy around. Our decision is to vote for the candidate that we believe can reach across the aisle to restore the belief in America and move our country forward.

Looking to California, propositions again make up the bulk of the November ballot. In many cases, it’s the propositions that we have approved over the years that have created new fees and increased our taxes. Many Californians question whether or not the state really needs more tax revenue or should focus on doing a better job managing the tax revenues it already receives along with working to bring new businesses back to our state.

Case in point, with the state’s parks department operating in the red, Governor Brown had planned to close a quarter of California’s natural attractions over this past summer. Generous donations from businesses, private citizens and cities allowed the parks to remain open only to find out later that $54 million in park revenues had been hidden in separate trust funds over the past ten years. This was not only embarrassing but also created a breach of trust with the taxpayers. Such a lack of trust with our state government’s ability to make sound financial decisions, balance the state budget and allocate proposition monies as promised may be a key factor on whether or not this year’s propositions get passed.

In the end, it is our duty to elect those who we believe represent our core values and will make decisions with the best interest of the nation and/or state in mind. We must do our homework when it comes to voting on the propositions so that we make an informed decision. Together we can put the country on the right track. After all, “we the people” determine the direction of the United States of America and one vote – your vote – can and will make a difference. So make sure to vote on November 6. spt

The Future Of SP Skateboarding

Congratulations to the San Pedro Skate Association for its role in creating the very first skate park in our community a decade ago. The Channel Street Skatepark has become a treasured asset for skateboarders in San Pedro, and is used by hundreds of skaters every week.

California is the birthplace of skateboarding. The sport began to receive worldwide attention in the late 1970s, when a group of skateboarders from Venice, known as the Z-Boys, began using empty swimming pools to practice new tricks and hold competitions. The pools – many emptied due to a severe drought – were almost always on private property, and the skateboarders usually did not have the permission of the property owner to use them. Skateboarders also used other existing infrastructure – plazas, planters, stairs, ramps and railings, on both private and public property.

In a city severely lacking adequate park and recreation space, it’s not surprising that youth began to look at the endless miles of concrete and urban sprawl as their own private playground.

The lack of dedicated facilities for this quickly growing sport led to an often-contentious relationship between property owners, police and skateboarders, contributing to the sport’s reputation as an underground counter-culture activity.

However, as skateboarding grew in popularity and became more mainstream, policy makers and elected officials began to recognize the need for dedicated skateparks, to allow skateboarders a controlled environment to engage in the sport, without trespassing on private property. This also allowed for the implementation of rules to reduce the risks involved in the sport, such as requiring the use of helmets and protective pads as a condition for using the parks.

Next summer, we will be opening a brand new skate park at Peck Park in San Pedro, and my office is working on building a new skate park in Watts. Today, skateboarding is unquestionably a mainstream, legitimate sport and, as a former Senior Lead Officer at LAPD, I would much rather kids be honing their skills at the skate park, as opposed to vandalizing property with graffiti, breaking into cars or experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Skateparks facilitate the art of maneuvering a board in one fashion, but as many of us are aware, some skaters use their boards in other fashions – including riding them down steep and hilly streets; a newer specialty of the sport, known as downhill skating, or “bombing.”

While I respect the fact that being able to maneuver a skateboard at speeds in excess of 40-mph, takes lots of skill, talent and guts, running red lights, stop signs and mixing it all with moving vehicles is a recipe for disaster.

This is why I have been so vocal about putting an end to it.

My actions enacting an ordinance banning reckless skateboard bombing does not mean that I do not recognize the fact that many of our young skaters have a need and desire to participate in this sport, which is growing in popularity. In fact, there is a worldwide sanctioning body – the International Gravity Sports Association – that has established rules and guidelines, and arranges competitions all around the world.

As your elected representative in the City of Los Angeles, I constantly strive to represent everyone in our district and everyone in our community. Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to give back to the young boys and girls who feel I have taken something away from them, and there is no way I can pass it up.

A group who wishes to hold a downhill skateboarding competition in San Pedro this spring has approached my office, and I am proud to support their efforts. The event would close Gaffey St. from the lookout point down to Paseo Del Mar, creating a temporary closed-course for all skaters to enjoy, while providing safety and emergency resources to create the safest and most fun environment.

I understand that there will be a few members of the community who will argue that sanctioning this event sends mixed messages. However, I have consistently stated that I am not against skateboarding, I am against reckless skateboarding.

By providing downhill skateboarders a closed course, where they will not be sharing the road with automobile traffic, requiring liability waivers, and implementing safety precautions like requiring protective gear, lining the street with hay bales, and having first aid standing by on-site, we hope to reduce most of the potential risks.

I don’t believe holding this special event encourages reckless skateboarding any more than the Long Beach Grand Prix encourages reckless driving. In fact, it provides a unique opportunity to reach out to young skateboarders, and educate them on the new ordinance, as well as the importance of wearing helmets and protective gear.

Creating smart public policy is often about striking an appropriate balance between two important, but contradicting positions. In this case, it’s about finding the balance between ensuring public safety and protecting personal liberty. I believe my skateboarding safety ordinance did that by requiring that skateboarders obey the same rules of the road as motorists and bicyclists follow, without banning them on public streets altogether, as many had advocated for. Similarly, I believe this downhill skateboarding event strikes that same balance.

As a parent, I understand the desire to protect kids from any activity that could bring them bodily harm. But, we have to recognize that we can never make this world as safe for them as we would like, and that government can never replace the role of parents, nor should it attempt to. The best we can do is to reduce and minimize risk, and hope that by providing necessary education and safer alternatives, kids will make smarter decisions on their own.

Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns Home

On April 12, 1981, the maiden voyage of space shuttle Columbia not only marked the day twenty years prior when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth, but also began the first of 135 STS missions to and from space with a reusable spacecraft. One of the most complex machines ever devised the space shuttle was the only spacecraft capable of delivering and returning people, large payloads and scientific experiments to and from space. So, when NASA announced that the California Science Center in Exposition Park would be awarded Space Shuttle Endeavour it not only complimented Southern California’s rich aerospace history but also the dedication and commitment of thousands to shuttle missions over the past 30 years.

The arrival of Endeavour is also a homecoming for one of the nation’s space shuttle fleet that were built and maintained in Downey, Canoga Park and Palmdale by our regions once dominant aerospace industry. Up until the early 1990s, the aerospace industry not only dominated the Southern California job market but the industry itself transformed the city as a whole. Companies such as Rockwell International, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation and Rocketdyne employed thousands who all contributed to the shuttle program. Edwards Air Force Base served as the shuttle’s second home and alternate landing facility if bad weather was forecasted for Cape Canaveral, Fla. On those occasions sonic booms would quickly catch our attention and would be overcome by a strong sense of pride that “our” shuttle was landing.

The presence of Endeavour at the California Space Center will not only provide a learning experience for students and pride for those who designed, built and launched it, but will also be a constant reminder of those brave astronauts who perished aboard Challenger in January of 1986 and Columbia in February 2003, including local Hughes Aircraft Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis who was a member of the Challenger crew.

The last of NASA’s shuttles to be built, Endeavour was the second to the last of all space shuttle flights, STS-134. Atlantis STS-135 would be the final flight and mission of the space shuttle program. In 25 missions over 20 years, Endeavour logged more that 122 million miles in space and circled the globe at 17,500 mph, but it will be the last 12 miles that may be the most memorable for this shuttle. As Endeavour made its grand entrance to the west coast this month a top a modified 747 flying as low as 1,500 feet passing by some of California’s points of interest as well as over the very facilities that gave life to the shuttle program here locally.

Among others, the shuttle derived technologies that have been used in developing an artificial heart and limbs, three-dimensional biotechnology, a light for treating tumors in children, improving crime prevention and wildfire detection to name a few. Endeavour’s final journey will be a reminder of the last 30 years of space shuttle missions, a sign of American ingenuity, pride for thousands who dedicated decades to its success and will remind us of a shared commitment to sending humans into space and returning them safely to earth. This will be the legacy of America’s space shuttle program.

We experienced the exhilarating triumph and dealt with two heartbreaking shuttle tragedies together. Endeavour’s presence will tie us all together to this as well as this great national accomplishment. The ending of the shuttle means the beginning of a successor to once again have American’s send astronauts into orbit and beyond to do what we do best, explore. Godspeed, Endeavour and welcome home. spt