A Lonely Visit to Congressman Xavier Becerra’s Echo Park Digs

A sign on the ground level of the Citibank building on the 1900 block of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park instructs visitors to check in with security before entering the elevators.

A quick glance at the sign-in sheet showed that no other visitors had been to Rep. Xavier Becerra’s office in the past four hours.

The guard at the front desk called another security officer when it became clear that this visit to Becerra’s office had not been arranged in advance.  They chatted briefly, inaudibly, before the second officer swiped a card through a reader inside the elevator door, pressed the button for the 8th floor and said, “I hope you fed the meter.  You could be here awhile.”

The plan was simple enough.  Stop by a representative’s office, find out what their constituent traffic is like these days, and try to get a feel for the Congressman’s reaction to the newly proposed Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction plan, which includes significant cuts to Social Security benefits.

This visit was not an act of espionage, but the longer the experience lasted, the more it felt like the act of visiting the Democratic representative of Los Angeles’s 31st Congressional District was something unheard of–wrong at worst and sneaky at best.

The congressman’s waiting room nearly is plain.  Four chairs lined one wall, all facing the same direction.  Walls the color of newly bleached teeth were adorned only by a framed picture of President Obama’s inauguration ceremony and a periodicals rack offering a selection of outdated People magazines.  The sparse decoration is enhanced by the lack of any other visitors in the office.

The man at the front desk, dressed impeccably yet casually in a blue v-neck sweater and slacks, was polite and informative, offering that meetings can indeed be set up ahead of time while pointing to the telephone.  He excused himself to see if the congressman’s press secretary was available.

Greg Buss’s first words were, “I can’t tell you anything on the record.”  Becerra’s press secretary extended an invitation to his office, where he had just finished turning down CNN for an interview too.

Buss grew up in Portland, Ore.  The picture of Mt. Hood hanging over a message-filled bulletin board was the first hint.  His green and white-checkered shirt screamed Pacific Northwest.  He went to undergrad at Occidental, and has been in Los Angeles ever since.  He is, despite his brusque introduction, perfectly pleasant.  But he refuses to say anything on the record.  Nor, he says, is there anyone in the office who could say anything on the record.  He does, however, print off some press releases quoting Becerra’s praise for H.R. 5297, the Small Business Jobs Acts the House passed in September.

According to his business card, Buss is also Becerra’s web manager.  A big sheet of white paper hangs from his office wall with marker-scribbled notes: “Update website.” “Add W&M to top banner?” “2nd highest ranking Democrat in the house?”

Using basic decoding techniques, one can assume Buss’s notes refer to wishing to highlight Becerra’s position on the Committee on Ways and Means and his role as the vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, a post for which he was re-elected by Democratic House Members last week.  The vote also retained Nancy Pelosi as Democrat’s chief.  She’ll become the minority leader in January when Republicans become the majority in the House.

At the end of the meeting, Buss walked out of his office and past the door to the waiting room, opening another door that led directly into the hallway, completely outside of Becerra’s office.  This was clearly the preferred route for visitors leaving the office.

Calls to Becerra’s office in Washington yielded similarly polite but essentially empty interactions.  Someone picked up on the first ring, both at his main office and upon being transferred to his Washington press secretary, James Gleeson.  At least their interview policy is consistent.  No one was talking here either.

Gleeson wasn’t sure how constituent traffic is right now compared to other times.  He guessed that more people may be calling Becerra’s office about the budget compared to other representatives because of his role with Ways and Means, but still couldn’t come up with a ballpark figure.  He offered to look up some numbers later in the day, but those numbers are yet to come through.

Luis De Avila, a 31st District resident, started a discussion thread about budget plans on Becerra’s Facebook page on Nov. 16.  In his post, he encourages civil, bipartisan discussion and hopes that Becerra with explain to his constituents what he thinks works and doesn’t work in the budget proposal.  So far, no one has responded to his post.

In a separate correspondence, De Avila said he has also written letters to Becerra and Senators Boxer and Feinstein asking them to be open-minded about the proposal.  He has not heard back from any of them, but plans to write again after Dec.1 when the deficit commission is due to officially present their recommendations to Congress.

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No Sign Of The Anti-Christ at Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ Office

Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ office is dark and completely deserted, eerily so. Located right off the 110 Freeway on Broadway and 102nd street, the office shares a building with a construction company, a security guard service, education aids, devices and supplies, and an apartment building operator.

There are three leather chairs and a side table with the congresswoman’s newsletter on it. The reception area is behind a thick plastic barrier, baring the United States Congress seal. Below the seal are a small hole to speak through, a bell and another sign indicating that this is indeed Maxine Waters’ office.

I take a seat in one of the green, leather chairs and begin to read the newsletter, which describes Water’s work in the community, including her efforts on health care and education reform. As time passes it becomes clear that there is no one in the office, no on at the reception desk and no constituents looking to speak to their congresswoman.

What brought me to this field office in California’s 35th district was to see how constituents are reacting to the proposals from President Obama’s Debt Reduction Commission.

The proposal aims to increase the retirement age to 67, hoping to ease the strain on the nations budget, but according to the Associated Press and NPR this will disproportionately affect low-income families and people of color— not to mention raise the rates of those filing for disability benefits.

Still at the office, I decide to ring the bell through another small hole in the plastic barrier. A couple moments later a woman comes out into the reception area. I introduce myself as a reporter from USC’s Annenberg Digital News and that I am interested in speaking to someone about the congresswoman’s Los Angeles office and the type of feedback they are getting from their constituents.

The receptionist says she will go back to see if I can speak with someone. She quickly returns, letting me know that I won’t be able to talk to anyone in the office. The correct way to get my questions answered is to call the Washington, D.C. office and talk to their press people. The staff in D.C. will then relay my questions to the Los Angeles office. She hands me a business card and writes two names on the back— apparently the public relations specialists.

Before I left, I casually asked the receptionist if the office gets a lot of foot traffic.

She took a step back, still behind the plastic barrier then raised her fingers to form a cross.

“It’s not like you’re the Anti-Christ or anything but I’m not going to answer any of your questions,” she said, partially in jest. “You have to follow the proper procedures. Thanks for coming in and please have a nice day.”

This was apparently my queue to leave.

I go ahead and make the call to D.C., only to find out that no one in Waters office can be quoted except for the Congresswoman herself. My questions were simple enough: How many phone calls and emails the office receives? What types of questions are constituents asking and what concerns them the most?

I soon get an email back from the Deputy Press Secretary. Maxine Waters office typically gets 10-20 visitors a week and anywhere from 45-170 phone calls a day. The constituents are mostly worries about Social Security, the Cost of Living Allowance, Health care, Housing, foreclosure and loan modification issues, passport and immigration issues and unemployment.

These important issues are currently battling Waters’ personal problems for time.

The Los Angeles Democrat has been embroiled in an ethics investigation alleging that her and her staff “improperly exerted” influence over federal regulators and Treasury Department officials, seeking out bail out money for OneUnited Bank. Waters’ husband previously served on the board of directors and owned a substantial amount of stock with the company, which would have been rendered worthless without the $12 million federal bailout.

Waters’ case has been recently put on hold and sent back to a subcommittee for further investigation, which could either expand upon or reduce the charges against her.

The D.C. staff seems to be quick to respond to email yet the congresswomen and her Los Angeles staff appear to be staying behind their thick plastic barrier, perhaps until the investigation is over. Which begs the question, what kind of attention are South Los Angeles residents getting from the 10-term congresswoman they put in office?

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Friendly (and other) Encounters at Congressman Gary Miller’s Brea Office

Rep. Gary Miller - Brea

Inside the district office of Republican Congressman Gary Miller, a friendly receptionist sat taking call after call. A TV buzzed above her desk, playing Fox News. In the corner were two chairs and an end table with a couple of magazines. The cover of one publication featured a flattering, almost heroic photo of John Boehner, the likely next Speaker of the House who has pledged to dramatically slash government spending.

The satellite office of the 42nd District sits on the first floor of a generic two-story office building on Lambert Road in Brea. The building hides behind bushes and is barely visible from the road.

The building sits next to a Kaiser Permanente. Anyone who didn’t know Miller’s office was there might assume the building was mostly for lawyers and private contractors. It’s not exactly conducive to foot traffic.

Still, people contact the office with their concerns. I visited to find out how, if at all, the congressman’s constituents had begun to react to recent proposals to fix the federal deficit.

President Obama’s Budget Deficit Commission, which consists of Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles, released their budget proposal on Nov. 10. Their report suggests major cuts to social services (Social Security, in particular), a gradual raising of the retirement age and heavy tax reform.

Many Republicans have responded fairly warmly to the Simpson-Bowles proposals. Gary Miller is a strict fiscal conservative who favors tax cuts and reducing government spending, though he has not publicly stated a position on the recent reform proposals.

Bowles told Charlie Rose on Thursday that “we have to start the dialogue. The path we’re on is unsustainable. Every member of Congress knows that.”

My goal in visiting the office was to find out if that conversation had yet begun between the congressman and his constituents.

A lonely pair of flags stood outside the office door.

The receptionist wore a lavender sweater and black framed librarian glasses. She was new to the job and was less than a year form graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in political science. She said she planned to do grad school and eventually become a professor.

She took my questions and went to the back to find someone who could help.

A man in a white shirt, tie, and tight butch haircut came out. I told him I had come to gauge the public’s reactions to the commission’s far-reaching proposal.

“Did you talk to our press secretary?”

“No.”

“Uh, huh.”

He said he would see what he could do. He gave me the contact information for the press secretary and disappeared down the hall.

I called the press secretary, but her assistant said she was in a meeting. I stayed in the office to observe.

Another office worker came out to the lobby and asked if I had been helped. I told her what I told the first person.

“Uh, huh,” she said. And then she stood up and walked away.

There was some bustling in the back. A man called for a staff meeting. People gathered in the meeting room next to the lobby, making chit chat about someone’s wedding dress.

Then the district office manager appeared. He told me he’d called the press secretary and suggested I go through her. I told him I had also called and would like to wait in the office for her to return my call. He laughed a little.

“Well, how long are you going to stay?”

“I don’t know.”

He explained that there were procedures when it came to press inquiries.

“We want to benefit from it,” he said. “And we want you to benefit from it. I’ve got to go into a staff meeting.”

“That’s fine.”

“And I’ve already taken up my time and I’ve taken up their time trying to help you.”

“I appreciate that.”

He said he was sorry I drove all this way, but there was nothing he could do.

The staff meeting continued.

A young man walked in the door and spoke to the receptionist. He was there to see a caseworker in the office. The receptionist said there was a staff meeting going on, but it shouldn’t take long.

“I don’t mind waiting,” he said.

He sat down and I introduced myself and told him I was a reporter. Before he could really respond, the district manager ran out of the meeting and faced us with his arms stretched out like an umpire’s, or like someone trying to break up a fight.

“Excuse me, stop talking to him! Sir, do you know he is a member of the press?” he shouted to the man sitting next to me.

The young man looked surprised.

“It’s okay,” he said.

The manager walked back into meeting room. The man next to me shrugged and began looking over his paperwork.

Miller’s Washington press secretary Jessica Baker eventually called. I took the call in the office lobby, but lowered my voice to not disturb the staff.

She said her office had not heard much from Miller’s constituents about the recent recommendations by President Obama’s budget commission.

She said the issues that the congressman hears about most from his constituents have to do with health care, immigration, and government spending, which she described as “out of control.” Repealing the recently passed health care laws is a priority, she said.

No surprise. Miller has voted against most of the appropriations bills of the Obama administration and has voted to reduce Social Security benefits in the past.

She added that the congressman supports Rep. Boehner, and the Republicans’ calls for smaller government. “There is a huge emphasis on making sure Congress is more transparent,” she said.

I left the office with little new information but a greater sense of what it might be like to get help from a congressional district office. After a few minutes of wandering around the parking lot looking for people to speak to (to no avail), that feeling grew. All politics may be local, it seemed, but local politics remains as foreign as ever.

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Jobs And Mortgages Top Concerns In Congresswoman Judy Chu

Outside the modest commercial building that houses the 32nd congressional district office

EL MONTE — From outside it’s difficult to locate the 32nd Congressional district office, tucked away in a beige commercial building. The building—one of two identical structures on the block—houses a tutoring service, a dentist office, and other businesses.

Inside, the interior follows the same bare décor —the beige walls seem to be bleeding into the building. As you approach the entrance to suite 201, a bell with a sign that reads, “Ring for Service” on top a half door comes into view.

Congresswoman Judy Chu’s  represents the portion of Los Angeles County that reaches from East Los Angeles to eastern San Gabriel Valley. The district office is a few miles off the Santa Anita exit from the 10 freeway.

It’s about 1:30 p.m. but the office is empty. It resembles a dentist office—quiet, sterile, and artificially cold. To the right of the entrance sits a young staff assistant who is working on her computer. And across from her is a waiting room with a few chairs and a shelf stacked with metro maps and pamphlets about social security benefits.

Fred Ortega (left) and Congresswoman Judy Chu (right) Credit: Cal State LA (http://bit.ly/eMbsnK)

Fred Ortega is the district director for the 32nd district office. Although Ortega’s only been with the district for about nine months, it’s obvious he’s the one to approach while the congresswoman is in Washington, D.C.

Although reluctant at first to see anyone without an appointment, much less a reporter, Ortega extends his hand and offers to have a quick chat.

My purpose for the visit was to figure out what the constituents are saying about the current state of our economy.

Amid bipartisan talks in search of a feasible deficit-reduction plan, California’s 32nd congressional district office is quiet—not because of a lack of interest but because its constituents are busy living life. For many people of the 32nd district the concern is with what hits closest to home.

“Our district is mostly a working class,” Ortega says in describing the district’s political involvement. “A large percentage of our population is pretty busy at this point trying to survive.” Although there are small groups more vocal than others in policy discussions—mainly immigrants rights groups and labor union—majority of the concerns from the community are about what affects them personally: jobs and mortgages.

“They may not be aware of the policy behind it,” Ortega said, “they just know that, ‘hey all my friends are losing jobs or I’ve lost a job…what is a congresswoman doing to help improve the situation.’”

Jobs

Of the thousands of emails, phone calls, and letters that arrive at the district office (the Washington, D.C. office was not able to provide specific data before the deadline of this article), a popular theme is the lack of jobs in the area. And with California’s unemployment rate holding at 12.4 percent as of September—roughly 3 percent higher than the nation rate—it’s no surprise why.

“Most people know that when call here, we can’t just give them a job.” Ortega said. “[The calls] are more about what the government is doing, what bills are being considered, and what the congresswoman has done.”

Congresswoman Chu has, in the past, fought to bring jobs in the district through government funding. In February of last year the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, through Emergency Contingency Fund a component of the stimulus bill, brought over 10,000 jobs for the district according to Ortega.

Through the contingency fund, the federal government subsidized 80 percent of the pay for low wage jobs ($10 an hour) allowing for businesses to hire more people. Although the staff at the 32nd district considered the contingency fund to be a success, the funding came to a halt September 30, 2010 when it lost support for extension.

Chu, Ortega said, is currently seeking other means to bring jobs for the district.

Mortgage

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, roughly 47 percent of residents in the San Gabriel Valley are homeowners. What seems to be plaguing homeowners in the 32nd district is the mortgage crisis.

“Most congressional offices receiving [mortgage] calls would say, ‘That’s out of our jurisdiction. That’s an issue between you and your lender.’’ However, with the Making Home Available program, Ortega said that there are now a few options that the office can provide.

“The key is for them to reach us early in the process.” Ortega said.

If they call early enough, the district office can refer them to federally approved loan modification agencies.

However, if they’ve already contacted the agency and they qualify for loan modifications, the district office can contact the banks to instigate a response back to the homeowner.

“Under the federal program, if they qualify, the bank is responsible to follow the rules.” Ortega said. “And if there’s some serious malfeasance on the part of the bank, we can go farther than that by instigating investigations through the federal department that oversees them and even through [congressional] hearings.”

Despite major battles to fight at home, Chu is standing firm on national issues while in Washington, D.C.

“When it comes to deficit balancing and taxes, she is opposed to vote in favor of any compromises that would involve extension of Bush tax cuts for the highest earners,” Ortega said.

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Local immigrant rights group seek justice for the death of Manuel Jamines

By: Jacob Chung

Members of the Southern California Immigration Coalition were protesting in front of the LAPD station in downtown. The group is demanding updates to the investigation of the death of Manuel Jimanes.

DOWNTOWN - It’s now a month since the shooting of Manuel Jamines and immigrant rights groups like the Southern California Immigration Coalition are seeking updates to the investigation.

At a demonstration in front of a LAPD station in downtown on Tuesday, demands were made to Police Chief Charles Beck to follow through with the “quick and transparent” investigation he promised at the September 8th community meeting. The coalition believes that the shooting of Jamines was unjustified as corroborated by eyewitnesses at the scene and a full investigation will bring truth to light.

Officer Frank Hernandez is infamous in the Westlake area according to Southern California Immigration Coalition member Ron Gochez. “Everyone in the community knows him as ‘El Pelon’, which means the bald-headed guy,” said Gochez, “He terrorize[d] street vendors on a daily basis.” And in their view, Officer Hernandez, who holds 2 previous shootings in his jacket, is getting away with murder.

Today, many conflicting details still loom over the investigation. For one, it is yet unclear whether Jamines was actually wielding a knife as police reported. A woman who claimed to be a witness to the incident recently spoke out and lent credibility to that affect.

Additionally, concerns still remain regarding the officer’s decision to shoot Jamines on the head instead of trying to subdue him in a nonlethal way. “It was an extremely close distance,” Gochez said describing a second-hand account of the shooting, “…anyone with even a half-decent shot could’ve hit the man anywhere but the head. That was not to stop him. That was to kill him.”

The LAPD Union in a LA Weekly interview, however, defended Officer Hernandez stating that even the notion of shooting an advancing attacker on the legs is “preposterous,” and “the result of the influence of television and movie portrayals of police work.”

Mayor Villaraigosa, in earlier statements, sided with the LAPD by lauding the officers involved as heroes who, “…acted in order to protect [the] people.”

As the demonstration progress in front of the LAPD station, the Southern California Immigration Coalition marched inside to deliver, for the second time, an official letter requesting a meeting with Police Chief Charles Beck. After a short exchange between the officers at the entrance and the chief’s office, the coalition was asked to leave the premises with a promise of a public meeting soon to come. Police Chief Beck was unavailable for any comments.

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Metro’s Regional Connector is great for many, and grim for some

By: Jacob Chung

DOWNTOWN – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) held the first of two

Rendering of the all underground alternative

public hearing Tuesday to gather comments and questions from the community of Little Tokyo as part of the second phase in their Regional Connector study.

At the hearing, majority of the comments were in favor of the fully underground alternative as it would be the least invasive to the Little Tokyo community while concurrently advancing public transit. Through this option a new line will connect from the 7th Street/Metro Center station directly to the Gold line with three stops along the way. This is vaunted to “[close] the gap in our railroad system,” by Metro Project Manager Dolores Roybal Saltarelli. Despite its promised blessings, concerns were still looming in the minds of many business owners.

On 1st street in downtown Los Angeles between Central Ave. and Alameda St., sits a row of private businesses in the heart of Little Tokyo. Among those is The Spice Table, a Singaporean themed restaurant still at it nascent stages.  Bryant Luu-ng and his wife Kim Luu-ng are the proud owners of this privately owned establishment slated to open for business in a few months time. Businesses like The Spice Table bring flavor to the community preserving its quaint character. However, the Luu-ngs fear that their dreams may be destroyed before the doors even open if the Regional Connector project goes through as planned.

A block west of the Luu-ngs, Brian Kito manages Fugetsu-do Confectionery, a business that’s been in his family since 1903. A long time resident of Little Tokyo, Kito too is concerned with Metro’s Regional Connector project. And that’s because for

Brian Kito stands in front of his store contemplating the future of Little Tokyo

Kito it’s a painful reminder of what his family went through during the city developments in previous decades.

In the mid 80s, Kito remembers finishing his studies in college and returning home to help his dad fight for the family business. As part of an expansion plan, the city purchased the family bakery below market price, under rules of eminent domain. The Kitos, however, were not compensated for their relocation because, according to Brian, the funds were depleted before it got to their property.

The history of Little Tokyo is peppered with stories like that of the Kitos’, but despites concerns, many who attended the hearing seemed to be onboard the Regional Connector study this time around, so long as the option selected is for the fully underground alternative. This is largely due to the fact that the MTA has made efforts to listen and take comments from the community. “We’ve been working quite extensively with the community, specifically Little Tokyo, from early on,” said Saltarelli, “…and it was through all of their hard work and dedication that we came up with the additional alternative that’s been included in the draft. That is the alternative that [the] staff is designating as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). We make that distinction in the draft.” She went on to say that LPAs aren’t typically required in a draft, but because the Little Tokyo community has been so involved, they wanted to recognize their hard work.

As it stands, the Regional Connector study is just that, a study. “All this work is mythical, if you wanna think of it that way,” said Saltarelli with a polite laugh. That’s because the project is still at the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) phase. It’s still 1-2 years away from final design and 3-4 years away from construction. Furthermore, the projects completion is dependent of federal funding, which according to Metro Spokesman Dave Sotero, will total $1.3 billion.

The Metro staff will collect comments from the community until October 18th, than submit the study as well as the LPA to the board on the 28th. It’s then the candidate mitigation plans and relocation compensations will be determined. And, if the board decides to use the block with The Spice Table as a staging area another piece of Little Tokyo’s history may be lost.

“Please make the right decision,” concluded Kim Luu-ng at the end of her two-minute allotted time during the hearing.

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Media Innovations Summit shines light on the future of television

By Sarah Golden

HOLLYWOOD — Television’s best and brightest are gathering for the first day of the Media Innovations Summit, a two-day event aimed at examining the future of television and convergent media.  The Summit is the first hosted by the Directors Guild of America Headquarters.

Attendees represented every facet of new media.  Over 300 people from all over the world came to hear industry innovators predict the future of media consumption and technological innovations.

The event kicked off this morning with a keynote speech from Mark Cuban, chairman at HD Net and owner of the Dallas Mavericks.  Cuban helped set the tone for the event with his talks The Future of TV.  Panelists Albert Cheng of Disney-ABC Television Group, Paul Woidke of Advanced Advertising and Emil Rensing of EPIX, joined Cuban on the stage for a talk entitled Coherence Out of Chaos: Where is the Race to Transform Consumer Experience Taking Us?

Cuban invited the attendees to think of the future of television in terms of competing for viewers’ free time, or, more accurately put, their time spent bored.  Whatever format addresses people’s boredom best is the format that is going to thrive.

From this vantage, Cuban says that social networking sites and games like Farmville are in direct competition with television.

Farmville, which Cuban says is little more than a more social form of solitaire, “is a mindless event that is captivating and contagious.”  It is because of Farmville’s popularity that Cuban predicts the future of television will be much more interactive and apps will soon dominate our home set-top box.

Cuban predicted of a time when a viewer, while watching a sports game, will see a column appear on the screen with advertisements and options to buy things instantly.

“You’ve got people in the right position,” Cuban said.  “They’re comfortable, leaning back in their recliner, remote in one hand, they’ve had a couple of beers.”  And, if the cross marketing is done well, it is a perfect opportunity to make a sale.

The presenters spoke at length about the financial future of the industry.  Profits have dwindled in recent years as more content is available a la cart and over-the-top, meaning content is consumed through an alternative medium such as television on the internet.

Speakers unanimously agreed that television is headed towards more interactive advertising, not unlike Cuban’s scenario of TV making you a sales pitch.

Cuban says that Facebook is redefining what is possible in advertizing.  This is because for the first time, users are connecting their real identity to sites.  Advertising algorithms can now factor in an individual’s search and user history from sites like Amazon and Netflix.

Cuban hypothesized of a time when you could be watching television with your husband or wife, each of you with an iPad in your lap.  The iPad, hearing the television and knowing your Facebook identity, can show you interactive advertisements that is tailored to your interests and fitting of the situation.

Cheng said some of this technology is already at work.  He said that in the iPad download for the new show My Generation there are built in audio watermarks that trigger advertising content to pop up on the tablet at specific times during the episode.

As good as advertising gets, Woidke warns that interactive ads will only be as good as the content of the show.

“It always comes back to content,” Woidke said.  “At the end of the day, getting the right content in front of the right viewer is the same as getting the right advertisement in front of the right viewer.”

The opening presentation set an optimistic tone for the event and the future of television.  Rensing said all of the technological innovations that are challenging the traditional television structure could ultimately blend to make a stronger medium.

“When HD launched, I heard we were going to stop going to movies,” Rensing said.   “When PayPerView launched, they said it was the end of HBO.   Now we are on the edge of another change.  And we have learned that these things can co-exist with each other.”

Rensing added that innovations are a way to create content in the way people want to consume it, the ultimate goal for the television industry.

Presentations throughout today and tomorrow will touch on other hot issues in television content, including web/TV convergence, relationships between service providers and content suppliers, a shift to the electronic sell-through market and the power of advanced user interfaces.

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Mother in grief seeks help from the community

Devastated by the loss of a family member, the Joneses make a plea for help to the community.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES – The room fell to a quick hush as a grief stricken mother told the story of her daughter who, in July, became an innocent bystander of a drive-by shooting in South Central Los Angeles.

She made a simple and sincere beseeching to the community before succumbing to her emotions. “I hope and pray that someone will come to the police and stop this murderer…” said Jones, “he [might] go around killing other people. Please someone come forward.”

At the press conference held in the Newton Area Police department, Christell Jones pleaded to the community for help in finding her daughter’s killer. Shaquana Watson, 23, left behind two children of her own.

Jones believes that her daughter was visiting the South Central area after work when the shooting occurred. Security footage from the incident shows Watson seated in a parked car as a white van drove past her with the alleged shooter. Officers believe the shots were aimed at two African American males behind Watson’s car.

It’s now approaching three months since Watson’s death, but for her family and the officers involved in the case, the wound is still fresh.

Police are offering a fifty thousand dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects in the case.

When asked about previous shootings in the neighborhood, Detective Julio Beneavides of Newton Homicide stated that approximately 60 percent of murders in the area are gang related and of the homicide cases about 80 percent are cleared.

Unfortunately in this case, poor footage of the shooting has halted any major progression. Police are hopeful, however, that the new incentive will bring in more information to assist in their investigation.

Robert Jones, the uncle of the victim, comforted his devastated sister in his arms, as he expressed, “my family won’t rest at all, especially me, until this guy is caught.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Newton Area Police Department’s Homicide division at (323) 846-6556.

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Assemblyman endorses bill for safer schools by Sara Ramsey

Assemblyman Tony Mendoza discusses his bill to install inside locking doors in schools.

LOS ANGELES— Standing in front of Brooklyn Avenue Elementary, Assemblyman Tony Mendoza urged Governor Schwarzenegger to sign legislation that will provide safer classrooms for students across American.

Bill AB 211, a resolution from the California Federation of Teachers and the Safe and Non-Violent Schools committee, requires all new school construction projects, beginning in 2011, to have doors with modern locks that can be locked from the inside.

“Violent or potentially violent incidents on school campuses and in the immediate neighborhoods are increasing at an alarming rate,” Mendoza said in a press release. “The safety of students and schools staff may be jeopardized as staff enters hallways in an attempt to lock their doors during a ‘lockdown’.”

Mendoza championed this cause when it was brought to his attention because of his prior experiences as a teacher at Brooklyn Avenue Elementary.

“When I was teaching, we had a violent incident occur near campus during parent conferences,” Mendoza said, “ our door required an ‘L’ wrench to lock and unlock it from the inside and fiddling with the lock in an emergency situation takes too much time.”

The locks, costing about $30 a piece, would already be included in the bid for new school constructions and would pose no extra cost for tax payers.

“By not having these locks the students and teaches run a clear danger,” Mendoza said.

Joshua Pechthalt, Vice President of the California Federation of Teachers and a former teacher of more than 20 years, also recalls incidents where lockdowns were required to ensure the safety of the students.

Pechthalt said that he was stunned by, “the fact that it takes a piece of legislation to ensure the safety of our children in our schools, the kind of safety that we take for granted at home and in the work place. It’s hard to imagine that this has slipped by, but it has.”

Many new school constructions projects are choosing to forgo inside locking doors, which are currently not required, due to the cost according to Mendoza.

“This type of legislation will guarantee that every district has to abide by this level of security,” he said, “it’s an opportunity for us to do the right thing for our students and teachers.”

The bill has been passed by the assembly and faced no opposition and is now awaiting the governor’s signature. The bill must be signed into law by September 30th.

“We are saying to the government that we deserve no less for our kids,” Pechthalt said.

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