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Ruben Martinez is a professor of literature and writing at Loyola Marymount University; his most recent book, Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West, will be released in August. At the time of 1992’s civil unrest, he was a reporter for the L.A. Weekly. Martinez spoke to Frying Pan News about his coverage during that volatile week.
Frying Pan News: What was your assignment that first day?
Ruben Martinez: I was at the courthouse in Simi Valley, camped out with Eric Spillman of KTLA – I couldn’t get inside, there were too many people there already. Outside, all the veteran journalists had their lawn chairs and umbrellas — they’d been there for weeks. The spectacle of it impressed me.
Did the acquittals shock the media?
Yes. A really motley crew of people – reporters,
What do I most remember about the uprising of ’92? That certain feeling of powerlessness.
I have so many vivid memories: People swarming the supermarket on Third Street and Bonnie Brae, just west of downtown, rushing out with baskets loaded with diapers and food supplies. Outraged young men standing in the middle of Crenshaw Boulevard near Adams, blocking my way home — at least until I figured out how to go around them. Burning buildings all around where I worked in Pico Union, and where I lived in South Los Angeles. And then the drawings of my five-year-old twins, showing burning buildings and people running for their lives.
I was a 32-year-old mother of three young children, and working as the Executive Director of the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in Pico Union. I was living in a four-bedroom bungalow house near Crenshaw and Venice boulevards, so between my home and work,
If you haven’t checked this out yet, you need to. Now.
According to the New York Times, Walmart fueled its rapid expansion in Mexico with millions in bribes paid to get building permits and land use approvals through quickly. The story is based on a whistleblower, who told Walmart leadership about the issue, which they confirmed was very likely true before allegedly sweeping the whole thing under a rug. The Washington Post reports that the Department of Justice is investigating.
From an L.A. perspective, the money quote is here: “In an interview with the Times, Mr. Cicero said Mr. Castro-Wright had encouraged the payments for a specific strategic purpose. The idea, he said, was to build hundreds of new stores so fast that competitors would not have time to react. Bribes, he explained, accelerated growth. They got zoning maps changed.
(Editor’s Note: Frying Pan News continues its series about the 1992 unrest with this account told to us by Erin Aubry Kaplan.)
I was living in Inglewood in 1992. When the verdicts came in I was getting a facial — we were all really outraged in the salon. At that time I was teaching adult education courses — basic English and math for GED exams, plus ESL classes. I felt like I had to do something and a teacher friend and I heard there was a rally at the First AME Church. I was excited — I hadn’t really seen this kind of energizing in L.A. before. But as we drove to FAME people were filling up the streets and the energy felt dangerous.
We never made it: This guy threw a trash can into the street and someone tried to stop a motorist. (My father also went to FAME and didn’t make it inside because it was too crowded —
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s preliminary budget will come before the Los Angeles City Council today. There’s lots there to consider, from hundreds of millions of dollars for rebuilding local power plants and renewable energy to hundreds of millions more to replace an aging distribution system.
Buried in the budget is a piece of good news that deserves some recognition. The LADWP’s $88 million energy efficiency budget is looking more respectable than it has in the past and more on par with other utilities. Last year, the Department spent $50 million. This year’s budget is not quite where it should be, but it’s moving in the right direction.
That is due in large part to a campaign led by RePower LA, a citywide coalition of community groups, environmentalists, small businesses and IBEW Local 18 committed to expanding energy efficiency investment in a way that leads to career-path jobs,