New Tustin principal Jon Tuin strives to convince all kids they can learn

  • Jon Tuin, who will take the reins at Tustin High as principal, leads an assembly at his current school, Larkin High in Elgin, Illinois. (Courtesy Jon Tuin)

    Jon Tuin, who will take the reins at Tustin High as principal, leads an assembly at his current school, Larkin High in Elgin, Illinois. (Courtesy Jon Tuin)

  • New Tustin High principal Jon Tuin, left, and his family: wife Heather, son Ty, daughter-in-law Anelys, son Jordan and daughter Jens. (Courtesy Jon Tuin)

    New Tustin High principal Jon Tuin, left, and his family: wife Heather, son Ty, daughter-in-law Anelys, son Jordan and daughter Jens. (Courtesy Jon Tuin)

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For Principal Jon Tuin, Tustin High is familiar territory on a couple of fronts.

First, he grew up nearby in Santa Ana. After graduating from Saddleback High, Tuin spent the next three decades in the Midwest – starting at Wheaton College.

Second, his current school in Elgin, Illinois, demographically mirrors his new place of employment.

Before applying, Tuin went on the Tiller website and studied the statistics, which show that 65 percent of the student population live beneath the poverty line.

“It’s so similar – that’s what got me excited,” he said. “If it were an affluent school, I wouldn’t have been interested. I feel it is my calling to work with students in poverty.”

Tuin, 55, will take the reins at Tustin this summer after tying up the school year at Larkin High – where he has served for eight years. He replaces Christine Matos, who will move to a district-level position.

“He is an experienced principal who has a proven record of leadership and commitment to the achievement of all students,” said Tustin Unified Superintendent Gregory Franklin.

Todd Duty, a division chair at Larkin High, agreed: “Tustin is getting a top-drawer leader. Jon wants nothing but the best for students.”

Tuin began his career as an elementary teacher, which led to his role as a K-5 principal and an assistant high school principal in the Elgin Area School District — 40 miles outside of Chicago.

In 2008, he received a call from the district’s new superintendent requesting a meeting.

“I thought he was going to fire me,” Tuin said.

After all, the district had just given notice to all 13 administrators at Larkin High, which was sorely lagging behind in performance.

But instead, Tuin was named the high school’s new principal.

“Over the previous 10 years, the demographics at Larkin had completely flipped, which caught everyone off guard,” Tuin said.

As an indication of increasing poverty and diversity, 70 percent of students qualified for free and reduced lunches in comparison to less than 20 percent a decade before, he said.

The school’s administrators became bogged down in a sense of hopelessness and negativity, recalled Duty, a fine arts teacher at the time.

“Those were dark days,” he said. “Morale was horrible.”

Tuin’s mission: “Bring back Royal pride.”

“The first two years were pretty tough, but we’re in a much better place now,” he said.

The new guy emphasized that all could find a path to college – adding AP classes and hanging university banners around campus. Every spring, he accompanied students on college trips – sometimes out of state.

“He truly believes that no matter what, all kids can learn,” said Donna Saurbaugh, Tuin’s secretary for 12 years.

Tuin rarely sits in his office but, rather, strolls around campus chatting with students, she said.

“I swear he probably knows the first name of each of our 2,000 students,” she said.

Tuin and his wife Heather, a sixth-grade teacher, started thinking about relocating when the oldest of their three children moved to Los Angeles. He still has family here and visits frequently.

“We love California,” he said.

What changes would he like to implement at Tustin High?

“Absolutely nothing,” Tuin said. “It is a high-functioning school with a lot of good things going on. I’m not coming in with any preconceived ideas. I’m just going to listen, learn and build relationships.”

His main goal as a principal is, he said, straightforward: “How do we reach even more kids? There’s always room to convince students that they can do more than they think they can.”

Tustin High’s gain is a big loss for Larkin, Saurbaugh promised, choking back tears.

“He is the most awesome person ever,” she said. “I know that sounds over-the-top. But there will never be another Dr. Tuin.”

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Freeway pedestrian dies after being struck by van

A man who was struck by a van while lying in the slow lane on the 55 Freeway in Santa Ana early Friday morning, May 5, died in the hospital on Saturday.

The Orange County Coroner’s Office on Sunday identified the man as 30-year-old Oscar Bonilla, of Tustin.

The crash occurred a little after 1:20 a.m. on the northbound
freeway, south of Edinger Avenue, said California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera.

Bonilla was transported by ambulance to Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana.

The driver of the van remained at the scene and no citations were issued.

Officers are investigating why the man was in the freeway lane, Olivera said. It has not been determined if drugs or alcohol contributed to the incident.

Witnesses reported that Bonilla had been walking against traffic in the slow lane before lying down, Olivera said.

 

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One person dies, another hospitalized after car hits pole in San Clemente

One person died and another was injured after the car they were riding in crashed into a power pole in San Clemente early on Saturday morning, May 6.

The pair was discovered in an overturned Honda Accord on Avenida Vaquero and Camino de los Mares, according to Orange County Sheriff’s deputies. The crash, reported at 12:47 a.m., did not involve any other cars, said sheriff’s Lt. John Roche.

A witness from the scene reported hearing loud engine revving before the car collided but major crash investigators were still trying to confirm if speed, alcohol or other factors contributed to the crash.(Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)
Investigators were trying to determine if speed, alcohol or other factors contributed to the accident. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

One person in the car, reportedly the driver, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, and the passenger was taken with injuries to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

The deceased victim’s identity has not yet been released.

A witness from the scene reported hearing loud engine revving before the car collided, but major crash investigators were trying to determine if speed, alcohol or other factors contributed to the crash.

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Why comic books and movies make a dynamic duo

Saturday, May 6 is Free Comic Book Day and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” opens in theaters. Here’s a look at the evolution of the comic book adaptations to the big screen and the impact of the comic book genre on moviemaking.

Compiled by CHRIS RAMOS and KURT SNIBBE/Southern California News Group

OG: ORIGINAL GUARDIANS

Invading pop culture with their blockbuster 2014 film, the Guardians of the Galaxy have gained instant success. Using characters based on the 2008 comic series, the film did not feature the original team. Here’s what the original Guardians of the Galaxy squad looked like.

First comic appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #18, January 1969

Set in the 31st century, the original Guardians of the Galaxy were freedom fighters formed to fight a system conquering an alien race called the Badoon.

original-guardiansFirst self titled issue: Guardians of the Galaxy #1, June 1990

21 years after their debut, the Guardians get a self-titled comic series of their own. Still set in the 31st century, some of their adventures have them time traveling back to the 20th century fighting alongside the Avengers.

Modern Guardians of the Galaxy team

Based on the 2008 comic series

guardians of the galaxyCOMIC BOOK TO BOX OFFICE

The first weekend in May generally marks the start of the summer movie season. In 2002, a movie grossed more than $100 million in four days for the first time. The comic book adaption “Spider-Man” reached the milestone by grossing $114 million May 2-5.
Biggest opening weekend (Film, year, in millions)

opening weekendsCOMIC BOOK LANDSCAPE

Not a month goes by without the release of a new comic book-themed movie in theaters. This has done a lot to energize the sales and popularity of the comic books.

indsutry-snapshotIS “STAR WARS” A COMIC BOOK?

The “Star Wars” franchise is one of the most successful film franchises to be a top seller in comic books as well.
In 2015, a “Star Wars” comic book was the best-selling book of the year, and four of the top 10 comic books sold were Star Wars themed story lines. The top-selling book shown to the right has sold more than 900,000 copies.

star wars coverBargain books
Comic books generally retail for about $3.99. Not a bad price compared to an average movie ticket (for children ages 2-12) which is $10.69 and May 6 you can get one for free at your local comic book store.

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Signature sauces by Huntington Beach teen with autism a big hit at Pacific City restaurant

  • From right, Julen Ucar and Executive Chef Danny Allen pose for a photograph at Ways and Means Oyster House in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

    From right, Julen Ucar and Executive Chef Danny Allen pose for a photograph at Ways and Means Oyster House in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Julen Ucar combines various ingredients in a mixing bowl to create Julen’s Non-Verbal Herbal Ausome Sauce at Ways and Means Oyster House in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

    Julen Ucar combines various ingredients in a mixing bowl to create Julen’s Non-Verbal Herbal Ausome Sauce at Ways and Means Oyster House in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • Julen Ucar combines various ingredients in a mixing bowl to create Julen’s Non-Verbal Herbal Ausome Sauce at Ways and Means Oyster House in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

    Julen Ucar combines various ingredients in a mixing bowl to create Julen’s Non-Verbal Herbal Ausome Sauce at Ways and Means Oyster House in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

  • From left, Julen Ucar and Executive Chef Danny Allen pose for a photograph at Ways and Means Oyster House in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

    From left, Julen Ucar and Executive Chef Danny Allen pose for a photograph at Ways and Means Oyster House in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

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HUNTINGTON BEACH Julen Ucar carefully measures the ingredients for his special “Non-verbal Herbal” marinade in the cozy confines of the Ways & Means Oyster House at Pacific City. The sauce, with just the right proportions of extra virgin olive oil, two kinds of vinegar, basil and other spices, has become a popular complement to the restaurant’s steak, fingerling potatoes and spinach dish.

After finishing the first sauce, he starts combining soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and enough red chili flakes to give it a little zing. At the restaurant, the sauce, called “Off the Charts,” is paired with an in-house aioli to flavor a tricolor cauliflower entree.

The 18-year-old Fountain Valley High senior with autism created two flavors of “Julen’s Ausome Sauces” that have been featured on the restaurant’s menu for the past year.

Ucar comes to the restaurant on Wednesday mornings to prepare his sauces for the day. During the rest of the week, the prep cooks prepare the sauces from recipes in a book they call “the bible.”

Executive Chef Danny Allen said when Ucar and his mother, Michelle, first brought in samples of their sauces for the restaurant to consider about a year ago, he realized they would pair nicely with the food.

“I’d put it up against anything that’s on the market,” Allen said of the marinades.

According to Allen, many cooks and chefs incorporate too many flavors into their creations. Ucar’s sauces hit just the right note.

“They’re simple, but they’re unique. It’s amazing,” Allen said.

The Wednesday morning visits, made before the restaurant opens, are clearly a highlight for the soft-spoke teen. Dressed in a T-shirt that reads “This is what ausome looks like,” he seems at home in the prep area, surrounded by jars of black pepper, paprika, minced onion and cumin.

Ucar says he likes the friendly atmosphere in the kitchen, particularly when the prep cooks crank up the music.

For years, Ucar and his sister, Isabel, have helped their mother prepare meals at home. Michelle Ucar said her son often liked to add ingredients to the salad dressing prepared for the family meal.

“We started watching him and he was really good a making sauces,” she said.

That’s when the idea of “Julen’s Ausome Sauces” began to percolate.

“We were looking forward and making a sustainable future for him,” his mother said.

After experimenting with different tastes, the Ucars, who live in Huntington Beach, winnowed their sauces to three versions of each of two sauces and held a taste-testing party for friends. They refined the selections and in February 2014 had the final recipes.

After they got Food and Drug Administration approval, the first batch was commercially bottled in October 2014 by a company hired by the Ucars.

Michelle Ucar said a chance meeting with the owners of Ways & Means led to a chance to have the sauces taste-tested at the restaurant and added to the menu.

Since then, the Ucars have produced three batches of 85 cases each of Non-verbal Herbal and Off the Charts. 

Although the sauces haven’t made the family any money yet, Michelle Ucar said she is looking to widen distribution beyond a few smaller stores in her home state of Ohio and to peddle the marinades at special events and fairs.

The sauce is also available online at ausomesauces.org.

Ways & Means donates $1 from each of its meals sold with Ucar’s sauces to New Vista School in Laguna Hills, for children with autism spectrum disorder. Ucar was a student there before transferring to Fountain Valley High.

“For us, it’s great to give back and give Julen a chance to do what he loves,” said Barbara Holder, general manager of the restaurant.

Michelle Ucar said when her son was an infant he hit all the normal benchmarks for a healthy baby. It wasn’t until he was 3 years old and in preschool that teachers said he had a speech delay. That was when others began to put labels and limitations on him, his mother said.

But Michelle Ucar has a different vision.

“This journey became not about what he cannot do, but about what he can do and finding a way to make that happen,” she said.

She said the family’s goals are to strengthen the brand and possibly expand the offerings.

Until then, she says her faith makes her believe in her son’s future.

Julen Ucar is now taking culinary arts classes at Fountain Valley and says he gets “Iike Bs and As,” in his classes.

He said he plans to study culinary art at Orange Coast College next semester.

It’s likely he will be the only one in his class with his own signature sauces.

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LA Riots 25 years later: Rodney King’s ‘Can we all get along’ still matters

Rodney Glen King’s plea for peace echoes from his resting place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

It’s written on his grave marker: “Can we all get along.”

  • Police officers form a line as demonstrators make their point about the verdicts in the Rodney King beating trial. The all-white jury’s decision to acquit four Los Angeles police officers sparked days of violence 25 years ago in Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

    Police officers form a line as demonstrators make their point about the verdicts in the Rodney King beating trial. The all-white jury’s decision to acquit four Los Angeles police officers sparked days of violence 25 years ago in Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

  • A Los Angeles store owner works to save his market during the second day of rioting on April 30, 1992.

    A Los Angeles store owner works to save his market during the second day of rioting on April 30, 1992.

  • Looters charge into a store during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

    Looters charge into a store during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

  • A California Highway Patrol officer stands guard in riot gear in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles during the riots of 1992.

    A California Highway Patrol officer stands guard in riot gear in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles during the riots of 1992.

  • The afternoon sunlight hits the gravesite of Rodney King at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) in Los Angeles. (Photo by Ed Crisostomo, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    The afternoon sunlight hits the gravesite of Rodney King at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills) in Los Angeles. (Photo by Ed Crisostomo, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Rodney King calls for an end to the violence on May 1, 1992: “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

    Rodney King calls for an end to the violence on May 1, 1992: “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?”

  • A file photo of Rodney King taken three days after his videotaped police beating in Los Angeles on March 6, 1991, shows injuries he suffered. The photo was one of three introduced into evidence by the prosecution in the 1992 trial of four Los Angeles Police Department officers, who were acquitted by an all-white jury. The verdicts sparked rioting 25 years ago that spread across the city and into neighboring suburbs.

    A file photo of Rodney King taken three days after his videotaped police beating in Los Angeles on March 6, 1991, shows injuries he suffered. The photo was one of three introduced into evidence by the prosecution in the 1992 trial of four Los Angeles Police Department officers, who were acquitted by an all-white jury. The verdicts sparked rioting 25 years ago that spread across the city and into neighboring suburbs.

  • Looters lie prone on the ground behind stores near the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. as officers stand over them. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Looters lie prone on the ground behind stores near the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. as officers stand over them. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Members of the news media, right, photograph rioters hours after the verdicts in the Rodney King beating trial were announced on April 29, 1992. The unrest lasted six days and left at least 55 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.

    Members of the news media, right, photograph rioters hours after the verdicts in the Rodney King beating trial were announced on April 29, 1992. The unrest lasted six days and left at least 55 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.

  • Back in 1992, Rev. Mark Whitlock was a member of the board at First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles. Los Angeles. ÒWe have an opportunity to set a new trend. We have an opportunity to show the world what Rodney King tried to say to us. He said canÕt we all get along, said Whitlock (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

    Back in 1992, Rev. Mark Whitlock was a member of the board at First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles. Los Angeles. ÒWe have an opportunity to set a new trend. We have an opportunity to show the world what Rodney King tried to say to us. He said canÕt we all get along, said Whitlock (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is credited for expanding community policing efforts that observers say have led to better relations between LAPD and minority communities. But critics say deadly use of force against African Americans and Latinos continues to be a major problem.

    Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is credited for expanding community policing efforts that observers say have led to better relations between LAPD and minority communities. But critics say deadly use of force against African Americans and Latinos continues to be a major problem.

  • These burned-out businesses were part of more than $1 billion in property damage in Los Angeles and its suburbs that resulted from the civil unrest in April and May of 1992.

    These burned-out businesses were part of more than $1 billion in property damage in Los Angeles and its suburbs that resulted from the civil unrest in April and May of 1992.

  • At Parker Center, the downtown headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department, rioters destroyed a guard shack and set it on fire the night the verdicts in the Rodney King beating trial were read. April 29, 1992.

    At Parker Center, the downtown headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department, rioters destroyed a guard shack and set it on fire the night the verdicts in the Rodney King beating trial were read. April 29, 1992.

  • Looters leave a store during the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

    Looters leave a store during the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

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There is no question mark, as there seemed to be in King’s anguished voice 25 years ago.

But perhaps there should be. Uncertainty remains over whether or not we can all get along well enough to avoid the kind of violence that prompted King to stammer those words.

Whether called a riot, a rebellion or the neutral “civil unrest,” the troublesome thought remains: Could it happen here again?

Central to whatever the answer might be is the issue of race and policing – the same as when Watts exploded in 1965 and then in 1992, with south Los Angeles again the epicenter of violence that spread to other parts of Southern California.

Social conditions that served as kindling two-and-a-half decades ago – economic inequality, high unemployment, injustice – continue to fester in poor black and Latino communities.

Nationally, our mood is tense following an election that either divided us or revealed our division, and the introduction of federal policies that figure to widen disagreements along ethnic and class lines.  Locally, pessimism is taking hold.

A poll released Wednesday by Loyola Marymount University found that Los Angeles residents are less hopeful than they’ve been in 20 years when asked about the prospects of another violent convulsion. Researchers found that about 60 percent of a cross-section of Angelenos believe a civil disturbance could happen again sometime in the next five years. LMU’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, or StudyLA, began taking the survey at five-year intervals after 1992.

Young adults 18 to 29 were even more convinced another riot is looming, with seven out of 10 expecting one in the near future.

The survey also found a lingering chasm in how residents perceive the Los Angeles Police Department, with white and Asian American respondents more likely to view the police in positive terms than African-Americans and Latinos.

That’s not much different from how things were leading up to April 29, 1992.

Long simmering

For decades before Rodney King became a household name, African-Americans and Latinos viewed the department’s officers as an occupying military force in their neighborhoods, rather than public servants there to protect and to serve.

Race was a flashpoint issue for much of the 1980s and early ‘90s, fueled by drug and gang epidemics, high crime rates and unchecked police discrimination and brutality.

Then came the beating of King in March 1991, following a police car chase.  King, forever labeled “a black motorist” in news accounts of the chase, later acknowledged that he had been drinking. He was on parole and feared a return to state prison.

Millions of people who saw his videotaped beating were outraged.  African-Americans had long complained of police brutality. With the video, everyone witnessed it.

The black community in Los Angeles was further injured that same month by the death of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, shot in the back of the head by a Korean merchant who later that year was convicted of voluntary manslaughter but served no prison time.

When an all-white jury in Simi Valley acquitted the four police officers on trial in the King beating, outrage turned to violence.

King spoke his unforgettable words at a televised news conference May 1, 1992, hoping to stop the deadly unrest. By the time peace was restored, after six days of upheaval, at least 55 people had been killed, the injured exceeded 2,000, and upwards of 11,000 people were arrested.

Property damage was estimated at $1 billion, with Korean merchants suffering heavy losses. Many never returned to their Los Angeles-area businesses.

Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, is reluctant to predict the future. But he believes both the LAPD and race relations in Southern California have improved since 1992.

“It doesn’t go from horrible to perfect, but we’ve evolved with some really promising things,” said Sonenshein, a political science professor.  “It’s taken quite a while to get to this point.”

Those who see progress look beyond the police department’s various scandals and setbacks under a succession of seven police chiefs since the June 1992 departure of former Chief Daryl F. Gates, who many blame for letting the violence spin out of control after the verdicts in the King beating trial.

“There’s no question the LAPD has moved far beyond the basically occupying army metaphor and has become, not without its problems, more of a normal police department,” Sonenshein said. “(It) has a closer relationship to the community.”

With reforms approved by voters in the summer of 1992, increased emphasis on community policing, better accountability to elected officials, stronger civilian police commission oversight and more diversity in its ranks, the LAPD is not the same under current Chief Charlie Beck as it was under Gates.

But LAPD continues to face fierce criticism over police encounters that led to the deaths of young black and Latino residents in recent years, most notably that of Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old mentally ill man, three years ago, and last year Carnell Snell, 18, Daniel Perez, 16, and Keith Bursey, 31.

“There’s a lot of conflict with activist groups,” Sonenshein said. “Black Lives Matter is in a lot of conflict with the chief and the police department. But, again, when you compare it to when Gates was chief, it was open political warfare.”

Halting progress

While their tactics appear to differ, efforts undertaken by public officials, civic and religious leaders, and grassroots organizations appear to be making a difference.

The LMU poll found that, overall, 76 percent of Angelenos said racial and ethnic groups are getting along; in the 1997 poll only 37 percent responded positively. Whether black, Latino, white, Asian Pacific Islander or other, respondents consistently viewed race relations today in a positive light.

If you ask Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and chair of the Pan-African Studies Department at Cal State L.A., some things have changed for the better, but use of deadly police force is not one of them. It remains a problem in Los Angeles and around the country, she said.

“Think about what’s happening now,” said Abdullah, citing the uptick around the country in fatal police encounters, many caught on video, and the outrage of communities responding to one killing or another of young African-American males. And in most cases, Abdullah added, police officers are not convicted or even prosecuted.

“They are killing with complete impunity. Nothing is happening there. They are not being punished for what they are doing.”

The death of Michael Brown during an altercation with a white police officer, who said Brown tried to take his gun, ignited protests that turned violent in Ferguson, Mo., and captured the attention of the nation.

Closer to home, the 2014 shooting death of Ford during a confrontation with Los Angeles police officers – whose actions were determined justified by the department because Ford allegedly grabbed for an officer’s gun – sparked candlelight vigils, rallies and protests that included demonstrators blocking freeway lanes.

But Los Angeles did not go up in flames over Ford’s death. That might be attributed in part to the existence of groups like Black Lives Matter, a social movement that started as a Twitter hashtag in 2013 with the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

The organization has chapters around the world, building a following through social media and a democratic style of leadership. Their tactics are confrontational and disruptive, which Abdullah – who heads Black Lives Matter Los Angeles – feels is justified. She said pushback in the local black community is as strong as it was in 1992. But for now it’s taking a more targeted approach.

“We didn’t have freeway shutdowns and mall shutdowns and airport shutdowns in ’92. We do now. Black Lives Matter is very thoughtful and intentional in what it is we’re disrupting,” she said. “We’re disrupting the systems that oppress us.

“That’s why you see us shut down the 101 or Christmas at The Grove. You don’t see us shut down Christmas on Crenshaw.”

That disruption also has included loud protests at city council and police commission meetings, and even a town hall meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti organized by black church leaders last October. Just days earlier, Abdullah and two other Black Lives Matter leaders in Los Angeles were arrested during a protest at police headquarters over the shooting death of the teenage Snell.

Where Abdullah views Black Lives Matter as a positive force, others see division and a political agenda that they say may not always be in the best interest of beleaguered communities.

Police see change

“I question Black Lives Matter,” said retired LAPD Commander Bob Taylor, who in April 1992 was headquartered in Hollywood, assistant commanding officer of operations in the city’s west bureau. He took a rock through his patrol car windshield.

“I don’t see (BLM) protesting or doing any outreach in the community when a black life is extinguished through homicide or hit-and-run traffic. I don’t see anyone from their group out there saying, ‘This is a terrible thing. We have to stop the violence.’”

Taylor, 74, left the police department in 1993 to work in the USC campus police department. He later served as an ombudsman and chief probation officer for L.A. County before retiring in 2010.  He spends much of his free time as a volunteer at the Los Angeles Police Museum.

From Taylor’s perspective, LAPD had taken steps toward becoming more involved in the communities it patrolled under the concept of team policing in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. But then, as has historically been the case, he said, the department was undermanned when crime rates began to rise. Under Gates’ leadership, the department abandoned team policing.

“Police officers were just chasing their tails,” Taylor said. “We were so busy we didn’t have time to engage in community functions. Most officers, including me, wanted to make sure we were able to bring crime down.”

The violence that destroyed so many parts of Los Angeles in April and May of 1992 represents a sad time for the city and its police department, Taylor said. He believes that current relations between police and minority communities are, to some degree, better.

“In some areas,” he said, “but not all.”

Taylor attributes that in large part to the department’s community policing strategy and the relationship-building efforts of individual officers.

“You have to personally engage in the community in order to get the community to buy in that you are not some kind of occupational force; that you are there for their interest,” Taylor said.

Overall, respondents to the StudyLA survey deemed police more trustworthy than any other civic institution, including local government, the news media and religious institutions. But only 39 percent of the city’s black residents said the same.

The department’s own report last year on biased policing – requested by the Police Commission – found that complaints of racial profiling lobbied against LAPD went 0 for 97 when investigated by LAPD in the first half of 2016. A survey also showed that 32 percent of black people disapproved of how LAPD officers did their job – about twice the rate of disapproval expressed by white residents.

Abdullah, who also sits on the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, believes that safe communities are created by what happens outside the realm of policing – jobs, after-school programs, mental health services, arts and culture programs.

“I hope we begin to learn that lesson and it doesn’t take us another 25 years to come back and say, ‘Well, what’s changed?’”

To her, the greatest victory to celebrate is the empowerment of everyday people.

Abdullah points to the development of organizations like Community Coalition, founded in 1989 by now-Congresswoman Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, who was an emergency-room physicians assistant at the time. She also cites the late 1992 peace treaty negotiated by gang members in south Los Angeles.

“Communities,” Abdullah said, “are really coming up with ideas about what makes them safer and freer and more just.”

Spiritual connection

There is also the historic and ongoing role of churches.

The Rev. Mark Whitlock, pastor of the growing Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Irvine, said his life changed profoundly because of what happened on April 29, 1992. He thinks the same can happen for an entire community with the right commitment.

In 1992, Whitlock, now 62, was a member of the board of directors at First AME Church in south Los Angeles who worked as a vice president at Chicago Title Co. On the day of the King beating verdict, Whitlock was closing a multi-million dollar real estate deal. When verdicts were announced, he got a call to leave his business meeting and head to the AME church for a rally.

Whitlock never went back to corporate America.

He became an ordained minister and was assigned to Christ Our Redeemer in 1998, where he has built a diverse congregation of more than 3,000 parishioners. He is also busy forging alliances with other churches across racial and ethnic lines, noting that Sunday remains the most segregated day of the week.

“We must tear down racial barriers within the church world,” Whitlock said. “We as pastors must lead the charge to not only fully integrate the church but also help people to learn that we have more in common than in contrast.”

Whitlock points to a recent Sunday when he preached to the largely white and affluent congregation led by Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in Orange County. Previously, Whitlock and the pastor of Rock Harbor Church in Mission Viejo swapped pulpits.

“We may not be a stone’s throw away from an incident,” he said. “But we are not too far away in the future if the church does not do what we are called to do … To teach how to love one another.”

Los Angeles is not the only area in Southern California where civil unrest fueled by racial and economic disparities has left a community on edge. Anaheim, home to Disneyland and the Angels baseball team, experienced several weeks of turmoil in the summer of 2012 after a two-day span in which two young Latinos, Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo, were fatally shot by police.

The shootings, viewed as fatal examples of police brutality by family members and hundreds of supporters, took place in poor neighborhoods where gang activity is common. Rocks and bottles were thrown at police; store windows were smashed; trash bins were lit on fire.

But reforms later took hold. The conflict led to the creation of a civilian police-review board; an independent audit of Anaheim Police Department tactics and operations; and a switch from at-large to district voting for Anaheim city council members, a shift that better represents the city’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods – the result of a lawsuit the city settled with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Cal State Long Beach professor Jose Moreno, who heads up the rights group Los Amigos, one of the city’s oldest grassroots organizations, was elected to the Anaheim City Council in November 2016. He pushed for more diverse representation in a city that’s about 53 percent Latino.

Moreno said the shootings of 2012 and the aftermath “woke up a lot of people” about the friction between police and some parts of the community.

“Relationships were not as deep as they thought,” he said. “Social cohesion was not as strong as they thought.”

Latinos in the city’s poorer neighborhoods still feel marginalized, Moreno said. But ongoing relationship building may have helped keep protests relatively calm in February, after an off-duty Los Angeles police officer discharged his gun during a scuffle with a 13-year-old boy. Cellphone videos of the incident, which involved some Latino school children allegedly treading on the officer’s lawn, quickly went viral.

That was a test of a relationship that is much stronger now, Moreno said. “But if that gunshot had hit the boy, that would have been maybe a whole different story.”

Social media, which didn’t exist in 1992, also plays a critical role in how people react to an incident, with the ability to either incite violence or defuse it. “Social media folks can remind each other, ‘Hey, come out with a purpose, with passion, but come out with solidarity,’” Moreno said.

King’s “Can we all get along” – which helped calm the Los Angeles unrest in ’92 – predates viral dissemination. But work toward that goal continues to provide an answer.

Whitlock maintains his ties to First AME and remains close to the retired Murray, serving as executive director of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement, where he helps train other pastors in community engagement, civic development and financial literacy. He spent the past week at events in Los Angeles that included a panel discussion at USC about what happened 25 years ago.

Whitlock worries that the region could see a repeat of 1992. Tension and fear are swirling around the issues of immigration, deportations and travel bans, and the clashes that have already happened over disagreement about those issues.

“My fear is that it could happen again,” Whitlock said.

“We have to be very careful about maligning any race. If you stereotype a group of people, then they will rebel and riot.”

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Far-right to rally in Berkeley after Coulter talk canceled

By JOCELYN GECKER

BERKELEY, Calif.  — Far-right supporters planned rallies Thursday to denounce what they called an attempt to silence their conservative views after Ann Coulter said she was forced to cancel a speaking event at the University of California, Berkeley amid concerns violence could break out.

The conservative social and political commentator and writer said she still might “swing by to say hello” to her supporters as police and university officials braced for possible trouble whether she shows up or not, citing intelligence and online chatter by groups threatening to instigate violence.

The tension illustrated how Berkeley has emerged as a flashpoint for extreme left and right forces amid the debate over free speech in a place where the 1960s U.S. free speech movement began before it spread to college campuses across the nation.

As far-right groups and a leftist group prepared for their protests, university police set up barricades as a precaution for possible use in crowd control on the university campus and city officers patrolled a park where two far-right groups said they would hold their protests.

KCBS reported (http://cbsloc.al/2qiK5yi ) that Gavin McInnes, founder of the pro-Trump “Proud Boys,” said he will speak in the afternoon at Civic Center Park and encouraged other groups to help make a large showing at the gathering.

The group describes itself on its Facebook page calls itself a fraternal organization aimed at “reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism during an age of globalism and multiculturalism.” It said it support minimal government and is also “anti-political correctness, anti-racial guilt, pro-gun rights, anti-Drug War, closed borders.” Another group called the Orange County Alt Right Group planned a rally in the same place.

The International Socialist Organization said it planned an “Alt Right Delete” rally about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the right-wing protests and just outside the university campus to show support for free speech and to condemn the views of Coulter and her supporters.

In emails to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Coulter confirmed that her planned speech on illegal immigration, followed by a question-answer session, was canceled. But she remained coy about what she might do instead.

“I’m not speaking. But I’m going to be near there, so I might swing by to say hello to my supporters who have flown in from all around the country,” Coulter said in an email. “I thought I might stroll around the graveyard of the First Amendment.”

Officials at UC Berkeley said last week they feared renewed violence on campus if Coulter followed through with plans to speak.

They cited “very specific intelligence” of threats that could endanger Coulter and students, as Berkeley becomes a platform for extremist protesters on both sides of the political spectrum.

Efforts by the university to cancel or delay the Coulter event dealt a blow to Berkeley’s image as a bastion of tolerance and free speech.

Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks sent a letter to the campus Wednesday saying the university is committed to defending free speech but also to protecting its students.

“This is a university, not a battlefield,” Dirks said in the letter. “The university has two non-negotiable commitments, one to Free Speech the other to the safety of our campus community.”

Berkeley’s reputation as one of the country’s most liberal universities, in one of America’s most liberal cities, has made it a flashpoint for the nation’s political divisions in the era of Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, a bloody brawl broke out in downtown Berkeley at a pro-Trump protest that featured speeches by members of the white nationalist right. They clashed with a group of Trump critics who called themselves anti-fascists.

Similar violent clashes also erupted at the same site, a public park, on March 4.

In February, violent protesters forced the cancellation of a speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who like Coulter was invited by campus Republicans.

The Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative group that had helped book Coulter’s campus speaking events, both pulled their support Tuesday citing fears of violence. They blamed the university for failing to ensure protection of conservative speakers.

“Berkeley College Republicans do not want to endanger people’s lives so because of the university’s unwillingness to do their job we are forced to cancel the event,” Troy Worden, president of the campus Republicans, said Wednesday.

Coulter echoed the blame on Twitter: “I’m very sad about Berkeley’s cancellation, but my sadness is greater than that. It’s a dark day for free speech in America.”

Capt. Alex Yao of the Berkley campus police force said police presence will be strong Thursday.

“You will see a high number of highly visible law enforcement. We’re going to have a very, very low tolerance for any violence,” he told a news conference. He said Berkeley police had reached out to local and state police forces “to let them know we might be calling for assistance.”

___

Associated Press writer Kristin J. Bender contributed to this report from San Francisco.

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Venture capital investors betting big on cannabis

Silicon Valley investors are known for pouring money into risky bets like flying cars and asteroid mining. Now, a handful are diving into one of the few industries that makes most of their peers squeamish — pot.

As the marijuana industry soars, with New Frontier Data predicting legal pot sales will balloon to more than $24 billion by 2025, a handful of venture capitalists are climbing on board — albeit cautiously. Those putting money into the industry say it’s a rare chance to stake an early claim in a lucrative market with little competition from other investors. But they’re keeping one eye on President Donald Trump’s administration, watching for signs of a federal crackdown that could derail the burgeoning industry.

“It’s a completely untapped market with huge opportunity,” said Tusk Ventures Founder and CEO Bradley Tusk, an investor in Eaze, a marijuana delivery company founded by Orange County entrepreneur Keith McCarty.

For Tusk Ventures, a VC firm that specializes in helping startups like Uber and FanDuel navigate complex regulatory landscapes, the controversial marijuana industry seemed like a natural fit. The firm is considering a second investment in the space.

And it’s not alone. DCM Ventures, a 21-year-old VC firm with an office on Sand Hill Road, also invested in Eaze, as did Fresh VC and the Winklevoss twins — the brothers who made headlines by claiming they came up with the idea for Facebook. Other investors dabbling in pot companies include prestigious Mountain View-based startup accelerator Y Combinator, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and New York City-based Lerer Hippeau Ventures — which also backs big names like Soylent, which makes meal-replacement drinks and bars popular among Silicon Valley techies, and Venmo, a mobile payments platform.

Industry insiders say there’s been a slow uptick in interest. Investors have poured nearly $30 million into marijuana-tech startups — companies that sell marijuana-related technology or use tech to sell cannabis products — so far this year, according to PitchBook Data. That means 2017 is on track to beat last year’s total of $49 million. But much of that money is coming from niche firms created exclusively to fund cannabis-related businesses, such as Phyto Partners and Poseidon Asset Management.

Despite the marijuana industry’s massive potential, interest from Sand Hill Road has amounted to more of a trickle than a flood. Though California voters approved recreational marijuana use last November, and lawmakers are working on crafting regulations to allow sales to start next year, the plant remains illegal on the federal level. That leaves most VCs unwilling to venture into the industry. Many venture capital firms are forbidden from entering the space by agreements with their limited partners — the pension funds and other institutions that supply the VCs’ investment capital.

“This is a no-go area for traditional venture funds, at least for now,” said Venky Ganesan, chairman of the board of the National Venture Capital Association and managing director of Menlo Ventures.

While mainstream VCs hesitate, a crop of investment firms specializing in marijuana have sprung up to fill the void. Groups like Los Angeles-based Casa Verde Capital, backed by rapper Snoop Dogg; and Gateway, an Oakland-based incubator for cannabis startups, can take much of the credit for keeping the marijuana tech industry afloat.

Pranav Sood, whose Oakland-based startup Trellis sells inventory management software to cannabis growers and distributors, recently turned to the industry’s niche investors after striking out with mainstream VCs.

“It quickly became apparent that more traditional VCs are not really getting into this space,” he said. “That’s when we kind of shifted focus as well. It was a pretty quick lesson learned.”

Trellis is closing its first round of funding, which will bring in $2 million from a group of investors led by Casa Verde. Sood said investor sentiment toward the marijuana industry has been volatile — spiking as support grew for legalized recreational marijuana, dropping with Trump’s arrival in office, and picking back up recently.

“Honestly, it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster,” he said. “On any given day, you don’t know how an investor’s going to feel.”

Brian Sheng, a partner at Fresh VC, said his firm was drawn to Eaze partly because the startup never actually touches marijuana — Eaze only provides the online platform that connects dispensaries with customers. That cuts down on the risk, Sheng said.

Private equity also is expanding into marijuana. MedMen, a Los Angeles-based firm that manages companies in the cannabis space, launched its first marijuana-focused private equity fund last summer, which now controls almost $100 million in assets. The firm also held its first investment conference last month, drawing more than 300 people interested in putting their money into the marijuana industry. So far the cash going into these types of funds has mostly been from wealthy individuals and families, MedMen Co-Chairman Chris Leavy said, but pension funds, endowments, foundations and other institutional investors are starting to show interest.

“Access to capital for this industry is slowly improving,” Leavy said. “Wherever you look, you can see signs that the investor interest is broadening.”

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Learning patience can lighten our load

Linda McNamar
Linda McNamar

Waiting for the bus, waiting for the repair person, waiting for the doctor; so much of our lives seem to be spent in waiting.  Some people get impatient, some are bored and often people get so edgy that anger spills out on the next person who arrives at their side.  Yet, there are people who seem to wait easily and patiently. They are a light to the people around them.  Author Mandy Hale said, “What we are waiting for is not as important as what happens to us while we are waiting. Trust the process.”

Photographers often wait for the right light in order to get the best photo. A skilled photographer wants to be present, with camera ready, when the light is right. There is something that photographers call the “golden hour,” the hour before sunset or the hour after sunrise. The sunlight is soft and diffused and everything looks golden.  I call it the in-between time; the waiting time. Part of waiting is knowing when to be patient and when to take action. Waiting is often difficult because we live in such a get-it-done culture. Yet we can, by paying attention, allow our waiting to be soft and diffused, becoming lighter ourselves.

Light is not only from the sun. It comes from many sources: candles, chandeliers, campfires, and especially the human heart.  Heart-light is not visible but it can be felt.  In hospital waiting rooms, in grocery store lines, at a bus stop, we can give ourselves over to our heart-light and trust the process. Trusting the process transforms our awareness of our own and others’ pain, fear or anger. Say yes to your heart-light.  Don’t bury it under negative thinking.  Finding the alternative creates tremendous clarity of our own feelings and the feelings of others. It creates freedom and safety. We can use this time to think of as many positive things as we can that are in our lives now.  We can choose them as positive affirmations to light our way.  Even when we are having a bad day we can bask in the light of others until we begin to glow again.

The Rev. Linda McNamar is a Village resident.

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Cheap ways to use your tax refund to fix up your home

If you’re looking to spend it on your home, the typical tax refund is no great windfall. It won’t cover a kitchen revamp or a solar system installation.

The average refund through early April was $2,851, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The California Franchise Board typically gave back about $850.

Almost any remodeling job requires more than a paltry $3,700. Even adding a deck can set you back more than $13,000, according to Remodeling’s online Cost Vs. Value report.

Still, that refund check could come in handy around the house.

It may not get you a makeover. But it can give you a marketing edge.

It can pay for modest home fixes to spruce up your property before you put it up for sale. Even if you’re staying put, it can turn a loathsome eyesore into eye candy. It can help you splurge on a trend.

Here are a few ways to improve – or indulge – on even a skimpy sum.

BRING THE BLING

The market is hot, home prices are up and interest rates are still low. Thinking of making a move?

“I would focus on increasing the ‘bling’ in the house to capture the attention of buyers,” said Ryan Lundquist, a Sacramento real estate appraiser.

He reeled off some smaller-ticket examples: New light fixtures, a few ceiling fans, an updated kitchen faucet, switch plates and some fresh paint in the living room. Even a new mailbox out front.

In all, you’ll be giving your home a more polished presentation, said Lundquist, who writes a lively blog to educate consumers about all things related to the housing market.

“In contrast, I could spend $3,700 on brand new insulation,” he said in an interview. “But focusing on what buyers can readily see instead is a better way to get higher offers.”

However, adding cosmetic improvements to make your home more appealing doesn’t mean it will eventually appraise for more, even if it may appear that way on reality TV.

“That’s not how the real world works,” Lundquist said.

TRENDING NOW

A stroll through HD Buttercup at the SoCo Collection in Costa Mesa revealed some items pronounced drool-worthy in House Beautiful’s 2017 home design forecast.

For one, you can embrace what the editors call hygge – pronounced hoo-ga – a trendy Danish concept that translates roughly to a cozy feeling, by purchasing one of the large, soft throws adorning sofas all over the sprawling store.

A white, furry-looking one for $125 would just take a nibble out of that tax refund.

That would leave plenty of money left over for furniture with nailhead accents, or something covered in what designers say is also popular these days: Benjamin Moore’s 2017 color of the year, Shadow. (Yeah, we had to ask, too. It’s a deep purple.)

Nearby at Pirch, a kitchen and bathroom showroom, we found a sleek, oversized kitchen faucet that would eat up the whole $3,700 refund – and then some.

But, as salesman Jon Brown (whose business card reads “Advisor, Lifestyle Experiences”) noted, “It’s a statement all by itself.”

The Gantry faucet, with an “articulated” spout (it moves a couple of different ways), goes for $3,895.

We also saw a Coyote grill priced at about $2,500 with exact spots designated for beef, chicken or vegetables.

In the bath section, shower heads in the shape of large water drops were grouped together. They cost $1,500 each, Brown said, and people typically like to buy them as a trio.

“It’s a piece of art,” he said. “Plus a functional fixture.”

SECURITY CHECK

You’ll probably never come anywhere near to affording the James Bond-like set-up at “The Fortress,” a seven bedroom house in the Hollywood Hills that recently wowed readers of The Wall Street Journal.

But do you really want to bother with a key fob for every room? And how often would you use a bulletproof plate that slides down from the ceiling?

You can put in a less intensive security system at your average castle for an affordable price.

PC Magazine’s Best Smart Home Security Systems of 2017 has an extensive round-up including a wide range of do-it-yourself products, professional services and reviews.

At home improvement stores like Home Depot, video doorbells, motion sensors and security cameras sell for just a few hundred dollars.

BOOST CURB APPEAL

Dean Zibas, like Lundquist, cites small fixes that can add up – especially outside your home.

“In general, it is typically best to just do an overall cosmetic improvement if one is looking for the best return,” said Zibas, a real estate appraiser based in San Clemente. “Put in some elbow grease. Buy some new plants at the local nursery or home improvement warehouse and spruce up the front landscaping.

“Most homes, I believe, can be repainted for less than $3,000, so perhaps get the house painted,” he said.

Install new window screens, and do minor repairs to the hardscape and planters yourself, Zibas added. And don’t stop at the curb.

“Carry that effort over to the side and rear yards,” he said.

If you think that’s too much DIY, or you won’t get enough of an ROI, there’s always another option.

You can do nothing.

Sock the money away. Add it to other savings to add a room someday or go full-on solar.

Over the years, tax refunds can add up. So can your home equity.

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