Monday, January 26, 2015

Two Young Boxers Improve Their Scholarship By Drawing on Their Love of Boxing - A La Opinion Translation

The Key to Success of Two young Hispanic Boxing Youth is the City's Boxing Program
-Isaias Alvarado /
Published: Jan. 26, 2016

Lyle Ibarra and Alejandro Vera hitting mitts,
Photo by Aurelia Ventura
Two Hispanic youth fight to remove the bad reputation from the boxing ring with their studies. 

Lyle Ibarra, 17, and Alejandro Vera, 18, have improved their academic performance over the years by practicing a sport often associated with violence.

"I didn't want to go to college, but after coming to the boxing club, I wanted to go," said Ibarra, who is in his third semester at Citrus College in Glendora.

Vera, also a student at Citrus College, had a similar experience. "My first year of high school wasn't very good. I had so many 'Fs.' But in the last semester in college, I got straight A's. I think without boxing, my grades wouldn't have improved," he said.

According to official reports, only one in four high school students in Baldwin Park is ready for college, while 70% are not at a competent level in comparison with other high school peers in other cities in California.

Children of Mexican immigrants, Ibarra and Vera attribute their academic achievements to focus, discipline, confidence and learned respect in the city owned boxing club.

"I learned discipline and have applied it in school and in my daily life," said Ibarra, who has been a member of the boxing club for 12 years. He became a member after his father found out that he was the victim of harassment and bullying.

"Some guys started  harassing me, pushed me, and wanted to fight me. Sometimes, they took me to the restroom and beat me. I cried. I did not want to go to school. Everything changed since my dad got me to the gym," says the boy who dreams of finishing college and becoming a professional boxer.

Their model is former boxer and promoter Oscar de la Hoya. Ibarra identifies with him because of the challenges he faced to become a champion and successful entrepreneur. "If he worked hard to do it, I can too," he said.

One obstacle to Ibarra is that his father is unemployed. "To me, boxing is a big deal, because I want to help my family financially too," he said.

Vera, meanwhile, wants to keep practicing boxing as a hobby and become a nurse. He said he stopped "being lazy" when he first stepped into the ring. "I would recommend coming to the gym and not be on the streets doing bad stuff. It's better to put the fight into the bag," he said.

The original Spanish article can be read on the La Opinion website here:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Baldwin Park Loses $40,000 for Not Releasing Records

The Los Angeles Superior of Court ordered the City of Baldwin Park to pay Casas' attorney, Paul Cook, $38,500 in attorney's fees for not releasing records - which it claimed it was going to do, but still hasn't done. This is the second lawsuit that the court judged Baldwin Park to be violators of the Public Records Act.

The City of Baldwin Park has a habit of withholding records. Citizens expect it is because the administrators and officials are concealing the misappropriation of funds. Last year, the Los Angeles County District Attorney initiated a probe against the City Council for violating the Brown Act. Furthermore, the number of lawsuits have multiplied against the City. These suits have coincided with the hiring of new City Attorney, Robert Nacionales-Tafoya, who is profiting by defending these suits (and losing them) in his self-interest of approximately $90,000 every three months - or $360,000 a year, perhaps even more as he doesn't reveal his billing.

At the attorney's fee hearing, Judge Chalfant greatly reduced the number of hours that Cook had put into the case. He also didn't uphold a multiplier effect, which is the equivalent of a punitive damage multiplier. So, for instance, a $38,500 award could be doubled with a 2.0 multiplier into $77,000.

Nonetheless, Chalfant echoed a strong message to the City of Baldwin Park. Although he didn't directly state it, he told Baldwin Park to comply with the law or monetary damages against it will be high. He sent the message by upholding Paul Cook's attorney fee at $350 an hour. Cook filed the suit three months into being licensed. At the time of Attorney's Fee motion, he's been practicing for a year and a half. A first year associate usually charges at $200-$250 an hour. In contrast, Robert Tafoya charges out at $250 an hour - although he alleges he's been practicing law for 17 years.

Tafoya protested Chalfant's upholding of the award. Tafoya derailed Cook and stated that he shouldn't be awarded such a high hourly rate because he was greedy, lived with his mother, and only practiced for a year.

Chalfant, showing his scorn for the City Attorney's arguments, stated, "A first year associate in a big law firm would not be given this type of case. Mr. Cook - although a first year attorney, prosecuted you alone. He did the work of three people. He won!

"You went to war. You weren't two buddies smoking cigars at the porch. You were the enemy. And, he won. So, fee award upheld."

Tafoya, still unhappy with the judge's ruling retorted, "Your Honor, he practices from Baldwin Park. Therefore, he's worth less."

Chalfant stated, "It doesn't matter. He litigated the case in Los Angeles. He works in Los Angeles County. It's irrelevant."

Tafoya kept protesting, and when he didn't get what he wanted - he asked Chalfant to sanction and punish Cook. The court clerk stared at Mr. Tafoya with contempt. Mr. Cook just stayed quiet. The attorney's waiting for their case listened attentively.

When that didn't work, Tafoya stated, "Well, your Honor, he could keep suing us at that rate."

Chalfant stated, "Take it up with the next case then."

Mr. Cook received a number of congratulatory emails from all those who helped him. He stated, "We can only hope that the city officials change and realize that they are not above the law."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Future of Cities

I told my family over dinner once, if America enters into bankruptcy, we're all moving to New Zealand. I'm a New Zealand permanent resident; so I can petition all my relatives for a green card if they needed one. My father looked at me and said, "You're talking all that crazy stuff, again." My mother said she left Korea to come to the best country. Why would we ever leave?

Well, I don't know much about the true state of the federal government, but I think I know the health of at least our city budget. This article is important because I'm going to forecast what's happening in the future for cities in California. So, even though Baldwin Park might not seem important to you, it represents what's going to happen in the future to all cities all over California - if not in America.

I predict Baldwin Park will go bankrupt in three and a half years or less. Baldwin Park has $6 million in reserves. What that means in fancy talk is that in the bank account, which Baldwin Park has, it has $6 million dollars sitting there. That sounds good, right? No, it's not enough to even pay the debts.

The biggest problem with cities and government agencies is that they've all become socialist powers. I explained it to a relative, who works for the government. He said, "How dare you accuse me of socialism?" I said, "Well - let's say that they can't pay your pension anymore. Should they cut your pension or should the City raise taxes?" He said, "Well, that's obvious. Raise taxes on people." Do you see the problem? All these people in government want us to take care of them for the rest of their lives, while they retire at the age of 50. I mean - that's unbelievable. Why should we be responsible for that?

Well - at any rate, going back to debt, Baldwin Park has $15 M in outstanding pension liabilities for the employees and another $18 M in outstanding pension liabilities for the police. In other words, that's $33 M and probably higher because it's a conservative estimate. What that means is that if every one retired today that worked for the City, the City would have to pay out $33 M, which it doesn't have. Remember, it only has $6 M. So, there's $27M left.

And on top of that, the City owes $60 M to the bank for all the useless projects its done - like the Baldwin Park Transit Center - a parking structure that has no value for the citizens. It was the biggest scam the City Council and Mayor pulled over the citizens. They borrowed all this money and grants. They voted to do this project at a low rate. Then they hired consultant friends and families. These consultants every year increased the project price of the parking structure. The friends and family gave cash kickbacks back to Council Members. And now we owe more money.

So, in total, Baldwin Park owes $93 M. $60 M has a 5% interest rate. I believe they pay $1-$2M out for the pensions a year. So, all in all, Baldwin Park is only paying off the interest on its debts. It's like they own one big credit card and never pay down the principal.

Here's what breaks the bank. There's a couple factors that can do this. One reason the feds keep the interest rates low, is for a financial crises like this. So, when Baldwin Park has to renew the loan after it expires, if the interest rate is higher at the time of renewal, that can break the bank. So, for instance, if it goes up to 8% instead of 5%, then the City has to pay out $4.8 M in interest a year versus the $3 M. That's a big difference. If every one retires once, that also breaks the bank because all the pension liabilities become due. That's already happened in some cities. Finally, a third way that the City goes bankrupt is my favorite one because I'm contributing to this one. Lawsuits, baby! The more the City has to pay out for being bad, like Desert Hot Springs did (it has a $10M judgment against it), the faster it goes bankrupt too. (I think Casas and I suing the heck out of Baldwin Park has put a target on the City; as many others are starting to sue too.)

So - what, you ask? Well, this is bad for every one because we won't have services in the end or we'll have worse services. The first people that the City will cut is the part-time employees, which it shouldn't do because these people are the least expensive and the most required to run a city. Really - they should cut the management team, like the Director of Parks and Recs, who under-performs and is overpaid at $200K a year. But that'll never happen because he launders money for the City.

In any event, the first sign that things are going South is the witch hunt for part time employees. Already, it appears that the Police Union want to go after the part time employees at Parks and Recreation because they aren't getting their raises. So, the whole trend is already put into motion.

So, I have two predictions for the future that I think I'm rather confident in:

1) I think AT LEAST ONE (maybe more) of the Directors of Public Officials will be charged with a crime this year.

2) I give Baldwin Park 3.5 years, maybe even less if more lawsuits come their way, before they file bankruptcy.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

City of Baldwin Park Illegally Pays for Attorney Defense Fees of Two Accused Money Launderers

Defendant Manuel Carrillo Jr..
Robert Nacionales-Tafoya, contracted City Attorney

Defendant Craig Graves
The City of Baldwin Park is illegally paying for the attorney defense fees of two directors suspected of laundering money. The two defendants are Manuel Carrillo Jr., the Director of Parks and Recreation, and Craig Graves, Director of Finance. Although both of them work for the City of Baldwin Park, the two are also directors of a sham non-profit corporation called the Baldwin Park Community Center Corporation (BPCCC).

Earlier this year, the boxing club discovered that Manuel Carrillo Jr. was collecting money from local businesses that the City had contracts with, and at the end of the year, was holding a sham Christmas event, called the Santa Clothes program, which allegedly purchased gift cards for poor children. Although some clothes were purchased, really, most of the money was spent on Walmart gift cards, which cannot be accounted for. It is strongly suspected that the money stayed in the pockets of the council members and the two directors.  

After outing the sham, Julian Casas, the head boxing coach was fired. The head boxing coach had a pending records lawsuit against Carrillo and Graves to account for the money of their non-profit. They withheld records; so, Casas sued.

Now in an interesting turn of events, without a city council vote, Robert Tafoya, the contracted City Attorney, is representing the Carrillo and Graves - whom are being sued as board members of the sham non-profit. There is no record of a city council vote authorizing him to represent the defendants, which is required by law. What this means is that the City of Baldwin Park is illegally paying for the defense funds of two private entities. Only if we can all be so lucky for the City to pay for our private defense fees.

Since, Robert Tafoya is a contracted attorney, he has an interest in billing the city for such work. He bills the City at $250 an hour and has an interest to bill the City as much as he can. Paul Cook, local attorney who has prevailed against Baldwin Park in two lawsuits has accused Tafoya of "churning," which in the legal practice means doing useless work for money. He points to all the hundreds of pages of declarations that Tafoya has drafted. For three months worth of work, Tafoya has charged the city over $90,000. 

The results are shameful. By committing malpractice, he has exposed Mayor Manuel Lozano to personal liability. Tafoya has lost on all 21 counts of the Public Records Act lawsuit. He has exposed the City to further liability by proceeding with several unlawful terminations and  an unlawful arrest. For this, his billing is adding up to close to half a million dollars a year. Think about this, that means he can buy a new house every year.

Now, the City is footing the bill for private defendants. My questions are who authorized this. And even if it is authorized, this is illegal. The City doesn't pay for private defense funds. 

As a reminder to the Baby Boomers, this question is what led to Richard Nixon's resignation. For those of you who are too young to remember, Richard Nixon was the President of the United States. Several burglars broke into the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC, trying to obtain records on the Democratic Party. Nixon was a Republican. Two reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, researched who was paying for the burglars' defense fees. What they ultimately discovered was that President of the United States was.

An organization usually has an interest when their agents are caught doing some thing illegal to pay for their defense fees. This is because the organization doesn't want the defendants to out those really in charge of their illegal conduct, which could be a potential defense in such a case.

Tafoya's behavior violates all types of attorney ethical rules. Perhaps, the most obvious one is that it appears he is self-authorizing who he can represent on city money. What this means is that he can charge the city as much as he wants for representing defendants. 

Just recently, Baldwin Park has been sued again and Tafoya self-authorized himself to defend the lawsuit. (See Eastern Keystone Inc. v. The City of Baldwin Park). There is no evidence of a council vote. Yet, Tafoya is representing the city, once again and charging it.

It appears that the City Mananger, Shannon Yauchzee may be in on it. After reviewing the records, he said on recorded audio that the City indeed approved the representation. This was a lie.

Casas, the plaintiff in the third public records act lawsuit against Baldwin Park, filed a disqualification motion against Tafoya. What this means is that he is attempting to kick off Tafoya from representing Carrillo and Graves so that they could find their own attorney. 

The whole arrangement raises two important questions. One, who amongst the Council Member and Mayor authorized this representation? If a secret arrangement occurred, this would be a per se (or automatic) violation of the Brown Act. Two, why are they so concerned with defending Carrillo and Graves?

The disqualification hearing is scheduled at Stanley Mosk Court House in downtown Los Angeles at Dep. 82 at 9:30 AM.

 Update:  Witnesses have confirmed that Manuel Carrillo took several boxes of records into his car. It's alleged he is going home with them. What is he hiding?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 - The Year of Being the Light in the Darkness - Letter to My Boxers

Even though we walk in the darkness alone, others still see the light we carry.
Dear Boxers:

It's Jan. 1, 2015, and I'm sitting at a restaurant. At 11:59 PM today, at the restaurant, I stopped working. I've been working 14-16 hour days, filing motions at the courthouse before our January battles. No parties for me tonight. No great celebration. But I told a friend on the phone tonight, "You know what? I've been working incredible hours ever since I came back from Chile, and I still feel excited and more alive than ever."

One evening, while driving back from downtown, Los Angeles, I was thinking about the year passed: the good, the bad, and the painful. Then, I had a thought. If I could sum up this year's lesson, it'd be this: "Suffering can only be appreciated in hindsight." In other words, pain and suffering is rarely ever fun, pleasant, or wanted in the moment. But when you look back at it, some times you realize, all that pain and suffering was really necessary for your character and maturity.

In my life, I don't think I've ever faced such harsh and constant attacks by others. Sure, I've suffered a lot of times for my own foolish mistakes and my own wrong choices. But this year, I can say that I was arrested, jailed, and had my reputation defamed for doing the right thing. And that right thing was telling the world the truth about how the city officials and administrators are stealing from the city bank account. For that, I watched the city officials fire our boxing coach - for saying that a forty cent raise after fourteen years wasn't right. Let that be a lesson to all of you, just because you're doing the right thing, some times does mean that the wrong things will happen to you. So - why did I continue? Why should we continue?

Because, in the far distance, somewhere out there, we have to believe that tomorrow can be better than today. And not necessarily for us, but for others.

And so many of us will wake up and face the ugly reality of our own weaknesses, ugliness, and brokenness. We may hear that voice that tells us we're stupid, useless, or why try. Such thoughts and opinions often remind us of who we were and the failures of our past.

For instance, I remember what it was like failing the bar examination. I was going through a tragedy during that time. But when I failed, it really sucked. I didn't want to take the exam again. I remember feeling like my life was a living hell. I thought it miserable to face my classmates who passed. I just watched television mindlessly, wondering if I should take it again. I fell off the horse. I didn't want to climb back on it. To make things worse, a relative even told me, I don't want to be associated with a failure. My mentor called me every day to see if I was ok.

At some point, I told myself I would not be defined by giving up. I told myself the right thing would be to get back up and take that test, even if it meant 100 times. I didn't know how I'd manage the bills if I had to take it 100 times, but I knew that I had to find a way.

During that time, I trained hard in boxing. I made friends there. I worked on strict study regime starting at 8 hours a day for six days a week. Then, I upped it to 10 hours a day. I think towards the end, I was studying 12-14 hours a day. One day my mentor said, "Remember, you have to pass for your boxers. They need to know that a failure could be overcome." I believed this to be true. It did motivate me.

Results were released on a 5 pm. I must've counted down the seconds of when 5 pm hit. But when it actually hit, I remember that I couldn't check the results. I told myself, I'd wait until they were published officially. What if I failed again? Oh, I don't want to take that test again? What will people think? At some point, around 5:20, I couldn't bear it anymore. I thought, you need to know before other people.

I typed in my bar examination number. I held my breath. The screen refreshed. It said something like, your name is on the list of people who passed. I refreshed it. Same result. I wasn't overly happy. I just felt relieved. I felt like a heavy weight off my chest was removed.

And I'm telling you this part of my life, because those voices I heard had some truth to it. But the real truth was not in the past, it was what could be accomplished in the future, despite our weaknesses, brokenness, and failures.

If you don't believe me, we only need to look at what we've accomplished. When we started at our boxing club, the Director Manny Carrillo, who has stolen money from our boxing gym account, cut our program in 50%. Because of our efforts and our unwillingness to back down against fear, we got back all our hours. They thought we were nobodies, but we proved them wrong. Remember, how scary it was to do public speaking? But we had an effect. We were victorious.

This year, despite all the evil the Mayor and his Men intended for me, we've still proven victorious. Even after they jailed me, arrested me, and tried to file a restraining order again me, I crushed them in court.

Good can prevail over evil; it's just not that easy. Then, I won my first civil trial against the City and their attorney. Really, their evil attacks only made me stronger. And the proof of this, is how, even now I feel like my life's changed for the better: one of peace, strength, perseverance, courage, and wisdom. Thus, I know that the suffering I endured, and that we must all endure, had made me a better person.

No wonder why "the Scriptures say, 'I spoke because I believed.' In the same spirit of faith we also speak because we believe." It means that we speak the truth because we believe in it. For us, it means, we fight because we believe: we believe that our efforts make our world better for us, for others, and for those who have not yet come.

I believe this will be a year of victory for us. We are winning and we will win. Therefore, even in the ring, I'm committed to becoming a better fighter too. I realized that I don't enjoy sparring much, after one bad experience. I can't let that get to me. I can't let that stop me. In this too, I'm sure I'll appreciate the suffering in hindsight.

So no matter what you're enduring, I tell you this: Press on! Why? Because, we must believe that good conquers evil.