Recently the Los Angeles community obtained two important victories. One involved the "shelving" of a proposal to cut the main funding stream for the city's Department of Cultural Affairs. Hundreds of people gathered at City Hall for two days to protest and speak out against these cuts as well as cuts to the neighborhood councils, the disabled, the elderly, and hundreds of city jobs. Trini and I were two of the speakers at the full City Council meeting on February 3, along with many others, who made impassioned pleas to keep the arts alive--as well as the jobs of city workers and programs for the smaller bureaus and departments helping the disabled, homeless, and senior citizens. Presently LA City is facing a $700 million deficit. It must make cuts. But very little imagination or even community input is utilized to help address this crisis. Instead fiscal officials are proposing to slash whole departments and projects, mostly on the backs of the most underrepresented constituents in the city. This recent demonstration of defense for the little that exists for artists and the underrepresented was heartening--and needs to continue. The City will have to keep looking at where to cut. For now, we've held off the big cuts that were on the table. We need to stay involved so that our most precious essentials--like care for the disabled, homeless and the elderly as well as the arts--are not sacrificed. Arts for LA took on much of the organizing and outreach to save the Department of Cultural Affairs--they generated 5,000 letters to city council members and had hundreds attend both the city's Budget & Finance Committee meeting and the full City Council meeting. Go to www.ArtsforLA.com to find out more--and how you can help. ALSO--community leader and gang intervention expert Alex Sanchez, wrongly accused of conspiracy in a RICO case involving 23 alleged members and associates of the Mara Salvatrucha street gang in LA, is now free on bail. He was let go on February 5 to the arms of his family after community and family members put up $2 million in sureties and property--this is how much the community believes in Alex's innocence. Alex spent seven months in downtown's federal lockup waiting whether he would even get a chance to make bail. Two federal judges turned down bail for Alex until the Ninth Circuit Court ordered a reopening of the bail hearing after it found that Alex was neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. The community is only asking for a fair trial where the truth is allowed to be heard so Alex can clear his name and continue to do the invaluable work to save the lives of young people in the predominantly Central American communities he's dedicated his life to. Again, if anyone wants to get involved please go to www.WeAreAlex.org. Funds are also needed to help with Alex's defense and for his young family, which has suffered seven months without Alex's support. Please send checks for Alex's Defense Fund and to assist his family to: Delia Sanchez, 1625 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 706, Los Angeles, CA 90015. We've had two major victories recently. But the struggle continues on these and other fronts. We need to keep organizing, keep writing, keep sending funds, and to keep hope alive for a decent and just world. c/s
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