Sunday, August 25, 2013

Teenage Boxers Speak Out Against City Hall - Round Three

The teenagers of the Boxing Club spoke out against the Councillors, Mayor, and the Director of Parks and Recreation for the third time.

I rounded up the boxers, about ten of them.  We walked together as a group, in our gym clothing, to City Hall.  Outside of City Hall, I informed the kids on what's happening in the city.  I gave them a brief about how the City is illegally trying to re-extend their towing contracts with Royal Coaches.  Royal Coaches gives maximum political contributions, upward of several thousands of dollars to the politicians of this city.  It's pushing for the City to extend their contract because it fears that new powers will take over after the election.  It's already done this once, illegally.  The contract needs to go up for tender.  But the Mayor had put it on agenda to renew, even though it already has a contract with the City until 2014.  Other issues included First Amendment Retaliation, and I explained how the City illegally attacked me.  The Chief of Police called me to stop asking questions to try to threaten, intimidate and bully me.  When I told the kids how I fought back, they seemed to get excited.  It wasn't in their imagination that a common citizen doesn't have to take such bullying from government officials.  Then, I explained the situation going on with how the City wants to outsource the Police with the Sheriffs.  I then told them how the Director of Parks and Recreation was suggesting to raise the fees for boxing, when he already raised them this year, and cut our hours this year.  That really upset the kids because most of them come from poor families.  You have to realize, the average person makes $11,000 a year in Baldwin Park.  But the Directors in Baldwin Park all make over $100,000.  The teenagers were informed before they spoke.

I opened the Council Chamber doors and the kids walked in a file to the front row.  We sat down, just to hear the Police President comment on how the Tres Amigos (Mayor Manuel Lozano, Mayor Pro Tem Raquel Garcia, and Councillor Marlen Garcia) didn't show up to the community function they put on - called the National Night Out.  The Tres Amigos hate the Baldwin Park Police because Marlen hates them, and she hates them because they keep her accountable by suing her and by protesting her.  As a result, the Tres Amigos are protesting the police by not showing up to their event.

When the first boxers spoke, I stood up with him in the podium, so he wouldn't be nervous.  Can you imagine a teenager speaking in front of a podium with all of the management team and the councillors and mayor staring at them?  It's intimidating for adults.  It's hard for them too.  And the harder part is that The Tres Amigos hate us because we're not afraid to expose them.  We're not afraid to speak the truth.  We're not afraid to take a stand against them.  For, I'm reminded that in our weakness, God's grace will be sufficient.  So as I stood side by side, each kid walked up and spoke.

The first person to speak was Zach.  He explained how the purpose of the community center is to provide for the community.  Why do the Council Members keep cutting?  He stated that they are either inept or corrupt.  He then attacked the director's salary of $160,000 a year.

The second person to speak was Michael, 18 years old,  a soon-to-be college student.  He said that, "I've been taught to be fair and not to lie.  But it seems like you've been unfair to our boxing program.  Your funding has been bad.  You've lied to us.  You promised to improve our facility.  But we still have torn bags.  You see all these young kids.  They have happy faces when they go.  We're grateful for what we have.  But we deserve more."

He then said, "You all went to school.  So you should learn to stick to your word.  You shouldn't be in the position you're in because you don't know simple values."

The third person to speak was Lyle, 17.  He said, "I've been boxing for six years.  I train hard.  I'm happy to see the coaches.  They're happy to see me.  I've heard that you've been trying to raise the fees for boxing.  The fees used to be $5 for us.  Now it's $10.  My brothers stopped going because it got to expensive.  I'm going to start college soon.  And my father can't afford it."  (Just a side note.  I liked Lyle.  He was my sparring partner.  And he gave me a black eye once.  Why that makes me respect him; who knows?  That's boxing.)

The fourth person to speak was Liam, 16.  He said, "I've been in boxing for two months.  I like boxing.  It's better than me sitting and watching tv.  I heard about the fees going up.  We don't even have more than one speed bag.  I have to wait around.  It's unfair you raised the prices this year.  And then you cut our hours."

The fifth person to speak was Erik, 18.  He was the star of the week.  Council Member Marlen Garcia verbally attacked Erik on Facebook because he was protesting online about how she was wrong for cutting the boxing program.  Marlen Garcia called him misinformed.  She alleged that the boxers were selfish because we only care about our program and not the rest of the City.  She also stated that we "strong armed" her - "no pun intended."  I guess she thought herself clever, but this lady has been screaming bloody murder because she's now apparently the victim by this eighteen year old.

Before he spoke, he wanted help with his speech.  So, I looked it over and taught him some lawyering skills.  I said to Erik, "At this point of your speech, you want to break it down point by point.  Ask a question.  Pause a few seconds.  Then start again."  I thought that was pretty cool that I was teaching an eighteen year old some advance lawyering points.

He said, "Good evening, my name is Erik Garcia.  I'm part of the boxing club.  I'm enrolled in Cal Poly Pomona.  I'm here to talk about how Council Member Garcia verbally attacked me on facebook.  I'm here to clarify some of the statements she made towards me."

At this point, I saw shock in the face of the audience.  I saw people shaking their heads.  

Erik said, "First, Ms. Garcia proceeded to call me misinformed.  It is to my knowledge that the boxing program has enough money to fund itself from Monday to Thursday, possibly even Friday.  But our money is being funneled elsewhere. But let me tell you - I think Council Member Garcia it's you who are misinformed.

"Council Member, do you know what the boxing budget is?


"Do you know what other programs are mixed in with the boxing budget?

"There are many others, but the main one is the City Fleet.  This is the city cars.

"Do you know what the Aquatics budget is?

"I do.  It's $200,000.

"How about our coaches?  Do you know how much the boxing coaches get paid?

"It's $8.40.

"Do you know how much your daughter got paid?

"It's $10.40.

"Do you know how much Jessie got paid?  If you don't know who he is, she's a friend of Marlen's daughter?


"Do you know how long Julian Casas, head boxing coach, has been working without a raise?

"14 years.

"Nope, you don't know anything.  Ms. Garcia, I suggest you get your facts straight before you go on a rant, attacking eighteen year olds."

The applause started.  He continued, "If the First Amendment is ever abolished, you can slap handcuffs on my wrist."

Then Gordon Allen, the NBC producer, started speaking.  He's not a kid.  He talked about how the boxing program is financially self-sufficient.  He was questioning why our days are getting cut.  He criticized how the equipment is broken.  The fees are being raised.  The days are being cut.  Gordon spoke about how it didn't make sense to him.  He said we should have our equipment refreshed.  Some of our gym bags fell and broke.  He mentioned how disgusting our unsanitary boxing gloves were. 

The next person who spoke was Alisa.  She was a former boxer of Julian.  But what Marlen didn't expect was that she was a former trustee of the Board of Trustees at the local community college.  She's still with them as a delegate.  Julian used to train Alisa in boxing.  And so, Alisa talked about how great the boxing program was for her life.  And Marlen just stared and glared at her.  Marlen Garcia is stepping down and not re-running for Council Member, but she's trying to get her candidate in.  Instead, she wants to run for the Board of Trustees at the local community college.  So, it was sweet to see that Marlen Garcia didn't understand the history and influence of that the boxing program had in the community and even further out of it.  Alisa was definitely not going to endorse her for a trustee position at the local community college. 

Then Julian, the head coach spoke.  He said, "There's a problem with the budget.  The numbers are showing that the boxing program pays for itself.  There's no way to trace the boxing budget.  How could anyone in their right mind mix up the budget with the City Fleet?  We're getting gypped.  The Aquatics Program is running at $200,000.  That's human resources.  I can't understand why there's this huge gap between boxing and aquatics?"

Julian then said, "Ms. Susan Rubio and Council Member Pacheco, I would like to put the Director of Parks and Recreation's fitness as an agenda item for the next council meeting.  I would like to get your assurance about this.  The boxers have needlessly suffered enough because the director is unfit to manage the program.  It'd be good if we could do that."  People clapped.

The sixth kid to speak was Christian.  He said, "Good evening council members.  I've lived in Baldwin Park all my life.  And my beautiful mother right there has been a taxpayer for over 20 years.  I've been in the boxing program for eight years.  When I first started, the program was about Monday to Saturday.  But this year, the fees for the program were rising.  I can't understand this.  Why are the fees rising are our days cut?  Can you guys tell me?  And recently, I heard that someone came into the gym to raise fee membership.  Again, for what?  Less days?  Less hours?  That's all I have to say Council Members."

Now, it was my turn.  I had tough job because I had a lot to say in only three minutes, which is the speaking time.  The thoughts were organizing in my head, one by one.  As Julian sat down, I moved to the center of the podium.  It was just a few steps but important steps.  I felt two emotions.  The first one was the ire of the court and the Councillor Garcia and Mayor Lozano.  The second emotion was the spirit of pride and joy I had for my boxers and they had in me as their representative.

I started, "Hi, Paul 'the Boxing Lawyer' Cook here.  For those of you who are new, on our last episode at the Council Meeting, Coach Julian Casas asked for the resignation of Director Carrillo of Parks and Recreation.  Paul Cook, I, demanded the resignation of Mayor Lozano, Mayor Pro Tem Garcia, and Councillor Marlen Garcia."

I wasn't expecting a loud applause but one came.  So, I said, "We'll get to that later people."  I knew that I had much to say and little time.

I said, "Something is seriously wrong in Baldwin Park.  The Director of Finance, Craig Graves, doesn't have a CPA license.  Public Works Director has understaffed his division, and it's four times more understaffed than the City of Whittier or South Pasadena.  We have a Chief of Police, with her great and fatty salary of over $180-$200,000 who can't be present this month because she can't take the stress.  Must be nice to be her.  And let's not forget kids, she violated the First Amendment by threatening me just for me asking questions of people in this town.  Then - there's the City Manager who committed 12 violations of law in eight days with the public records request.  We have a City Attorney who costs the City already $90,000 in a lawsuit, violates law, and libeled me on email.  I'm suing you.  I really am.

"But what I'm really here to talk about is how I'm alleging the Director of Parks and Recreation is cooking the books."  I won't quote what I said because that'll be in my next post.  But I'm going to outline for you, the reader, right now the gist of it.

Money just doesn't disappear.  The Hong Kongers and Chinese and Koreans have it right when they say money is like water.  It flows, from one account to the next.  But it's not destroyed.  It just goes somewhere.

So what the Director of Parks and Recreation did was mix the boxing account in with the City Fleet Account, which also has wacky line items like, "Consulting," and "Miscellaneous Benefits." It's not clear what those line items are.  The City Fleet is the account for the city vehicles.  Boxing is a parks and recreation sport.  These two budgets should never ever be mixed in together.  The boxing program had a budget for this year that would cover Monday through Thursday.  But the Director told us there was no money.  So, he cut a Thursday, which means the boxing budget won't be all spent.  Yet, money goes somewhere.  So, when it's not all spent, it can be going to the City Fleet, or the consulting or the miscellaneous benefits.  I can tell you this - it's not going to boxing.  Furthermore, the cash the kids are paying is not being accounted for well.  Now, that's the easiest money to steal.

Now, I don't think the whole audience caught what I was saying because I was speaking quickly and throwing figures out there.  In law school, I learned math is the hardest thing to present without a chart or a diagram.  But, what I suggested is that the City is playing this trick with not only the boxing but the main accounts as well.  I hope the reader sees how seriously illegal all of this is.  The boxers, I think, broke through the first evidence of serious corruption, cooking the books, with its boxing budget.

Then the Mayor cut me off.  I had finished but still said, "I have one more thing."

The Mayor said, "No.  You're done."

But it was too late, the boxing kids chanted, "Re-sign!  Re-sign!  Re-sign! . . ."

I took a step back from the podium and also chanted, "Re-sign!  Re-sign!  Re-sign!"

After they threatened to kick me out of the assembly, I took my seat.  What was annoying is that Marlen then texted her groupies.  And all of them presented counter speech against the boxers.  The comments ranged from no money being in the budget to boxing being a dangerous sport.  Maybe money isn't in the budget.  We don't know because they won't show us the real budget and we know now they're cooking the books.

Marlen got another lawyer to counter me.  He didn't do a very good job speaking in public and only said that boxing causes brain damage.

What was most annoying is that Marlen finally spoke.  She attacked Erik Garcia.

This is what she said:

"I don't know why everyone is attacking me."

And I heckled, "Because we all hate you."

The Mayor retorted at me, "Hey!  Hey!  Mr. Cook!"

" . . .The other item that I wanted to also address is [Erik] who came and spoke (umm) again . . . People can't come up and say I was verbally attacked on facebook by council member Marlen Garcia.  I'm gonna tell you that I was stating facts, when I wasn't typing my messages.  I wasn't yelling.  I wasn't screaming, I was stating facts and unfortunately these are facts that certain people don't want to hear...  It's unfortunate, young man, that you don't know me that well because you're saying that I have misinformation. I stopped the conversation on Facebook with this young man because as you heard him say about the handcuffs, he was going way off base.  When you start going way off base on a conversation, you're trying to fit in the facts - you know what, it's not worth it - it isn't, its not even, worth talking to that person anymore because they're not thinking logically now.

I yelled, "He's just a kid!"

This time the Mayor glared at me but didn't stop me.

Marlen responded to me, "I know he is just a kid.  That, yeah, he's eighteen.  He goes to college. He goes, he is an adult.  He is an adult! He goes to college and I have the Facebook responses he was sending me.  He is actually a pretty smart kid."

Then she looked at Erik, "Ugh, you know what, you're not even a kid anymore.  He is an adult.  He is a pretty smart young man.  It's unfortunate, and you know what you have a passion for your boxing team. Good for you! ... I agree with Mr. De Leon [an individual who spoke against boxing] when he said about, when you're hit too much in the head.  And it does cause severe medical issues in the future.  It's absolutely true.  I learned that when I was in my physiology class.  That's why I - I don't support."

A member of the public shouted: "Please, they wear head gear!"

Another member of the public shouted, "Hey - time's up."

Marlen continued: "I don't support, I don't support seeing when they advertise it in the paper or umm or in these boxing events that happened because of that. But if that's a sport you like and enjoy, you know what, we approve the funding so that, that sport can continue, but every person has been slashed, now um so please, when you come up here and start accusing me of being disrespectful or being or ranting on Facebook.  Let's look at the facts here.  Let's look at the facts here... you can come up here and say whatever you want about Marlen Garcia but the silent majority out there and those who've called me say you've got my full support Marlen Garcia, they know what Marlen Garcia is about . . . And so again folks, I know I'm not here for you to like me.  I'm not here for you to agree with me. And that's fine.  We can agree to disagree.  But please don't come up there and and and start stating misinformation and and lies, out right lies about me, 'cos you don't even know me."

I've had enough.  So, I signaled to the boxers it was time to leave.  Then other people left.  They couldn't believe this was our City Council Member.

Coach Julian and I took the kids to the Pizza Company.  They all seemed happy and energetic.  They all talked about how hard it was for them to speak up.  How tired the public speaking made them.  Yet, they were proud of themselves, and we were proud of them.  We celebrated.  It's more than the boxing program now.  It's about training the youth to do their civic duty for the future.  And I honestly, do pray to God that they carry on the fight when people like Julian and I are gone.  I can tell you this: it's something they'll remember for the rest of their lives.  It was also really cool for me that one of our kids had a strategy to take on those Marlen ringers next time we spoke at City Hall.

We were excited for them too.  They actually went back home and told their parents what was happening in the city.  Isn't it usually the parents who inform the kids about this kind of stuff?  Not in Baldwin Park.  Not when the teenagers are feeling the direct effects of corruption, self-dealing, incompetence, and apathy from our decision makers.

Join the fight.  Share the story.  Support our youth.

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