My thoughts on the Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce

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Through conversations with elder activists who work with the Chamber, I have concluded that the role of the Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce is a very important and unique one for our community, as our city itself is important and unique.

We are an immigrant city, to such an extent that we made national headlines when we received the title of Sanctuary City for the undocumented.  We are a city with potential, as many of our youth, mere children just a decade ago, are now on their way to gain the knowledge and skills to produce the wealth that will make our community thrive further.

The wisdom of age and the energy of youth comes together in our small businesses.  Our community, with backgrounds of struggle and growth, establishes business that sell their talents, strengths, and wisdom and showcases the best they have to offer.  This happens because many people decide that the typical 9-5 job, with a standard salary and scrutiny from management, is not for them.  People who venture to establish their own enterprise are very brave; they would rather take risks to be richly rewarded than to settle for the typical employment for a big company.  Small businesses are indeed a source of emancipation for the worker; small business employ the most people in the United States.  We must also face the fact, however, that small businesses are the ones that fail the most.

The Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce, therefore, must notice and harness the energy and potential of our small business, while at the same time protecting them from failure.  It must do this by continuing to do what it already does; providing a space for small business to network, providing workshops, and helping small businesses promote themselves.  It is by doing these three things that our small business community can come together in solidarity and mutual support.

The national and corporate chambers of commerce look out for their own: big business and corporations.  It is time for the small business of our city, and also those of the surrounding communities, to come together and have our own support network.  It is us who should have think tanks, advocates, and networks of support.  It is time for our community to use the countless talents that it already has to help iself.

No organization can thrive without the support of all its members.  I for my part feel very invested in this project that I believe will make our communities wealthier and safer, and I hope that others will do the same or more.

If you are a small business, or a talented individual who would like more information on the Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce and is considering joining, please contact us at:

Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce
(323) 560-1111
4554 E. Slauson Ave. Suite #5
Maywood, CA 90270

Exide is Shutdown

The L.A. Times reports that Exide Technologies and the Federal government have reached a deal that will shut down a battery recycling plant in Vernon, CA.  This is great news for the people of neighboring Maywood, who can now rest assured that air quality will improve in the upcoming days, greatly reducing the amount of lead and arsenic, which are cancer-causing contaminants.  The deal states that Exide will avoid criminal prosecution in exchange of shutting down its plant in Vernon, CA.

“Under the deal between federal officials and the company, Exide acknowledges criminal conduct, including the illegal storage and transportation of hazardous waste. Company officials will avoid criminal charges in exchange for shutting down, demolishing and cleaning the 15-acre battery recycling plant about five miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.” (from the L.A. Times article: Regulators detail Exide battery plant closure after decades of pollution- by Tony Barboza and Rube Vives)

Just weeks prior to that, the Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce encouraged residents to participate in an event to lower or eliminate lead emissions from Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon, CA.

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Air Quality Management District of Southern California met in the Long Beach City Hall to listen to concerns from residents of areas affected by Exide, and also to hear what the company has to say regarding a proposal to require it to reduce lead emissions.

Maywood residents successfully expressed their concerns, and Exide was required to reduce lead emissions.  This was a success in it of itself.  But now, the entire facility will have to close down, further reducing the amount of contaminants in the air and water that Maywood residents have to deal with.

CODELA Private Preschool Interview

Most people spend much of their childhood and adolescence in school.  It is a period of time that strongly determines a person’s career options later on in life.  Kindergarten teachers felt that their kids did not arrive to their schools ready, so the concept of preschools came about.  There needed to be a place where young children got used to the school environment, learned fundamental things about safety, health, and literacy, and got to interact with other children under the supervision of professionals.  So how is the Maywood community being served in regards to educating our younger children?  Let’s have a look at one of those of our city’s preschools.       

CODELA, which stands for Coalición de Latinos Americanos, is a private preschool that serves low income families by providing healthy meals, active play, and engaging educational activities to young children, all the while staying in touch with the community at large.  With the goal of making children comfortable and successful in the scholastic world, CODELA takes the initiative in providing a preschool experience that is memorable and useful to all involved.  Their Maywood branch is located within Iglesia Betania exclusively for reasons of space; CODELA is secular in instruction; respectful of and neutral to all religious beliefs.

I interviewed the leaders of the school; dedicated educators who have the community’s success in mind.  Carlos Ruvalcaba, Martina Díaz, and Ana Popper guided me in a tour of the history, activities, and goals of CODELA.   

How did CODELA start?

CODELA had its inception in the Willy Velazquez Center in Bell, California.  In our efforts to help people become legal residents and citizens to increase the voting demographic in our community, we got the attention of Mario A. Muniz.  He was a top official in the state Department of Education.  It was an opportune moment when we met him as he was instrumental in funding the preschool, as well as other organizations such as: the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, Quality Children’s Services, Kids First Learning Centers, Institute for Leadership development in Education, and the UNIMAX Foundation.

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What is CODELA exactly?  

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We are a preschool that had its origins in a time when preschools were still a relatively new thing.  Nowadays it’s strongly recommended, but not required, for children to attend preschool.  Kindergarten teachers can tell you that it’s very important for kids to gain the mannerism of school life early on, and preschool gives young children that experience in a comfortable, safe, and nourishing environment.

We are under Title Five of the California Department of education, and Title 22 of the Community Care licensing.  In other words, we are a private school, but we function with public funding, so that we may provide our services free of charge to our low income customers.  But beyond that, we feel that we are part of a greater cause.  As our name implies, we see ourselves as a coalition to help our community become more educated, prosperous, and adjusted.

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How does a typical day look like in CODELA in the point of view of the child?

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We open each day with a greeting, then we have a healthy meal consisting of vegetables, proteins and dairy.  We have Circle Time, Music, Visual Arts, and Open Discussions.  Aside from having our kids be physically active and playing with different toys, we also have activities that are teacher centered, as well as others that are child centered, to help kids develop reading and speaking skills.

Sounds like a lot of work for the teachers.  What kind of background do you require of the teachers you hire?  

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They must be educated in Child Development, knowledgeable of Learning Foundations standards, and understand that they are Mandated Reporters.  If we notice a significant change in the children’s behavior, we will speak with the parents, or if we see evidence of abuse, we will do what it takes for an investigation to take place from the proper authorities.  It is important for us to have a professional faculty and staff so that our children are protected and served.

Do you have a waiting list of families who want to be part of your school?

Actually, yes we do, but we have plans to expand so that we can service more families.  When we first started, the number of children we taught was around 72, now it’s around 312, and in the future, we want to service 1000.  We are located in other places besides Maywood, so you can count on us making our services reach further.

What should parents do if they want their children to join your school?  

To enter the program parents should contact the site supervisor and the facility.  Again, there is a waiting list, but everyone is encouraged to apply.  We only have one requirement; children must be potty trained.  We cannot have adults accompany children to the restroom, therefore, the children must be potty trained by their own parents or guardians.

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Interview with Gamesanytime shop owners

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I conducted an interview with the owners of Gamesanytime shop in Bell, CA.  Funny story how that came to pass:

I was riding my bicycle down Gage Ave. one day and noticed a closed video game shop.  At the top of the entrance was a big sign that said “FOR LEASE.”  I assumed it was an old store that was shutting down.  I peeked inside and saw Super Nintendo cartridges, old Game Boys, and classic consoles.  I had a brief and powerful nostalgia trip at that moment, which made me feel absolutely horrible about the notion that the shop might close down.  “If I had money, I would buy things here all the time to keep this shop from shutting down,” I thought.

Fortunately for me, the opposite of what I feared was actually true.  The shop wasn’t shutting down, it was establishing itself.  It wasn’t an old shop, it was new.  I introduced myself to the owners, and asked for them to grant me an interview for an article to be published in latinogamer.com

They kindly agreed.

The following is a link to the published version in the Latino Gamer website.

Interview with Gamesanytime store in Bell, CA. 

Interview with Felipe Aguirre: A Brief View of his Political Background

Felipe picFelipe Aguirre, former mayor of Maywood, provides insights into his political background and philosophy.  Sitting in his office in Slauson and King Ave., in a typical day at work for his non-profit Comité Pro Uno, Felipe recounts the events that shaped his political identity.

Mr. Aguirre, when is it that you started being actively engaged in politics? 

That would be a really long time ago.  It started in Chicago, Illinois.  The tenement housing where I lived in would be burned occasionally.  The landlords were committing arson to collect insurance money.  They would burn the place in such a way that people wouldn’t get hurt; choosing times when people were not inside, like during work hours.  I think a janitor got burned, tough, and ended up in the hospital.  A group of the tenants got together, including myself, and went to the Alderman, who in Chicago lingo is what is equivalent to a Councilman here in Maywood.  Nobody was paying attention to us, so we joined the Uptown People’s Planning Coalition.

Where your efforts in the Uptown People’s Coalition successful? 

Oh yeah.  We were able to get two of these landlords in prison.  These guys would pay gangsters to commit the arson, and then they would get a cut of the insurance money.  They would only burn buildings that had a high amount of debt.  The landlords had borrowed against the buildings.  They would use that borrowed money to build condos, raise the rent, etc.

How do you model your organization style? 

I am influenced by Saul Alinsky.  Have you heard of him?  He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals.  In addition to that I started getting involved with an organization called Industrial Areas Foundation.

What is it that brought you to L.A. County?

After I finished school I got a job offer in California.  I didn’t finish my degree, but I was working on Economics and Geography.  When I moved to California to work, I started with the newspaper Sin Fronteras in January 1976.  That was the first bilingual (English and Spanish) newspaper around.  It was distributed in about six or seven states.

Is that newspaper still around?

No, it’s been gone for many, many years.  But I think the archive is in Stanford or UC Santa Barbara, I forget.  After I finished working with them I just stayed in California.

Do you feel that your politics originate from Chicago, that you have some sort of connection to the world that Barack Obama came from? 

No, he’s from a different generation.  I’m 62, and he’s in his 40’s or 50’s.  It’s a different world.  But the fact that he was also a community organizer does, I suppose, makes our backgrounds have something in common.  He knows what it’s like to knock on doors and get people organized.  We did the same thing here when the police check points were taking cars away from the undocumented.  David Velasquez, the priest that used to be in Santa Rosa de Lima, was an important participant in organizing efforts.  We were part of this coalition called One L.A., and ultimately, we were successful.

You are most known for having been a Mayor of Maywood 2008 to 2009, but what were the events that led to that to begin with?

Well basically I was working with PUMAS (Padres Unidos de Maywood).  We were helping tenants resolve problems with housing, helping with women with domestic violence cases, and we were working with a labor union to represent people in neighboring Vernon.  I got involved because a lot of people would come to our office and said that their vehicles were towed.  I helped people fill out their forms to get their cars back.  It was difficult to recover them, because they were impounded and put in a 30 day hold.  They had to pay a towing company lots of money to get their cars back.  The Maywood PD would target the undocumented specifically.  We helped people get attorneys to recover their vehicles.  We tried to get the city council to change their policy, so we made an alliance with Santa Rosa De Lima Catholic Church.  We kept petitioning the city council to stop targeting the undocumented.  When we noticed that we weren’t getting results, I ran for council member and I won in November of 2005.  Once you are a member of the Council, it is up to the Council itself to decide who becomes mayor.  There is a new mayor every year.  The council members later on nominated me for the 2008 to 2009 term.

What was one of the challenges you had as Mayor and how did you overcome it? 

The biggest challenge was when  we made the city a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.  The House passed the Sensenbrenner Bill, which was a draconian law proposal against the undocumented and those who helped them in any way, so the Council and I decided to counter that by declaring our city a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.  Immigrants are the basis of our community.  The Minute Men came and protested against us.  Our reaction to that was to register qualified Maywood residents to vote, and to make a citizenship fair, so that more people, who were not citizens yet, would qualify to vote.  It is important for our community to gain political and economic power.

Do you have any plans for the future? 

That’s it actually.  I feel like I’ve done everything I had to do.  Now I just help people with immigration and domestic violence cases, as well as lead the Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce to help businesses create a network of support.  But as for doing anything big, I think that’s it for me.

Thank you for giving me the time to conduct this interview

You’re welcome!  Any time!

Querubina Insurance Services

insurance pl

 

As part of my work with the Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce, I have interviewed Querubina Wuence from Querubina Insurance Services.  The following is a link to the PDF version of the interview.

Querubina Insurance Services Interview MCCCN1

Contact Information for Querubina Insurance Services:

4509 East Slauson Ave. STE G

Maywood, CA, 90270

Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce Meeting

 

Sabrosa Grill MCCC meeting
(Alejandra Ayala, Secretary of the MCCC, discusses the framework of the meeting)

The Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce, or MCCC, met last Wednesday in the Sabrosa Grill located in 3540 E Slauson Ave.  Participant organizations included CODELA, a private preschool, CONTACTOS, a magazine that caters to the Latino community, and Lucia Aguilar, a local singer, as well as others.  Together the participants discussed how they could help the community through food programs such as a free turkey drive for Thanksgiving, and how to make the organization better.  Querubina Wuence, from Querubina Insurance Services, suggested that there be polling of members to ask what the organization lacks, and what it does well, in order to increase and retain membership, and better serve its members.   Ana Popper and Araceli Zavala from CODELA private school explained the benefits of their school program, the lessons children learn about nutrition, and the way in which their program operates.  Felipe Aguirre, the president of the MCCC spoke about the importance of keeping the youth away from drugs and in schools, emphasizing the need for our community to continue to produce educated members of society.  The participants expressed a willingness to continue to collaborate in their efforts to increase the wealth and opportunity of Maywood’s businesses and their residents.   The event was moderated by Alejandra Ayala, Secretary of the MCCC.

For more information on this and on future events please contact:

Maywood CA Chamber of Commerce
(323) 560-1111
4554 E. Slauson Ave. Suite #5
Maywood, CA 90270