Author: christinahanford

Ban on text messaging while driving goes into effect in California Jan. 1

As of Thursday, January 1st, text messaging while driving is banned in the State of California. Senate Bill (SB) 28, authored by Senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, specifically bans the use of an electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication while driving. The bill will impose a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. In September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the legislation that prohibits drivers from using text messaging devices while operating a vehicle. “Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians,” Schwarzenegger said. Sgt. Renaldi Thruston of the Santa Monica Police Department told The Argonaut in an interview in September, “We feel it’s definitely dangerous if you’re distracted while you’re driving. That was the purpose of the new law, which prohibits driving and talking on the cell phone. “This will create a safer environment for drivers if they follow the law.” Thruston even noted that texting while driving is probably more dangerous than talking on a hand-held cell phone “because you have to look at the keys, and at some point, you take your eyes off the road.” The ban on text messaging will complement an existing law — also authored by Simitian — that...

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Sculptor Robert Graham dies at 70; was inducted into The California Museum’s California Hall of Fame

and GARY WALKER Prominent sculptor Robert Graham, who created the bronze doors of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, passed away from an undisclosed illness on Saturday, December 27th. He was 70 years old. Graham had been married to actress Anjelica Huston since 1992. “Maria [Shriver] and I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Robert Graham,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a statement. “Robert was an amazing sculptor who forever shaped the presence of sculpture art throughout California and the world. “His work was truly influential and he will forever remain an icon in this state. Our thoughts and prayers are with Robert’s wife Anjelica and his entirely family during this difficult time.” Graham, who owned a personal studio in Venice, was born in Mexico City in 1938. He came to the U.S. and studied at San Jose State College, now called San Jose State University, from 1961 to 1963, and the San Francisco Art Institute from 1963 to 1964. He went on to design major civic monuments across the nation. In 1978, he created the dance door — a bronze sculpture — for Frederick and Marcia Weisman, which they later donated, in 1982, to the Los Angeles County Music Center. Graham also designed the Olympic Gateway at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial...

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School board gets a new president, VP and new member

Ralph Mechur, who has served on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education since August 2007 when he filled the seat of former board member Emily Bloomfield, was appointed school board president at a board meeting Thursday, December 11th. Board member Barry Snell, who was elected in November 2006, will serve as vice president. “Our district is fortunate to have such dedicated elected officials,” said interim district superintendent Tim Cuneo. “I look forward to working with both Mr. Mechur and Mr. Snell as they take on their new leadership roles.” Mechur and Snell will each serve for a one-year term. The Board of Education appoints its officers from among board members. Board member Oscar de la Torre recently finished serving a term as president, as did Jose Escarce as vice president. “It was great to be in this role in a difficult time in our school district,” said de la Torre. Cuneo thanked both de la Torre and Escarce for their contribution to the school board. Then the school board meeting was temporarily handed over to Sarah Wahrenbrock, assistant to the superintendent, who accepted nominations from board members for school board president and vice president. De la Torre nominated Mechur as president. “I’m honored to be able to serve as president for the next year,” Mechur said. “I’m looking forward to continuing the success of the...

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2008 Hunger and Homeless Survey released by mayors

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has released its 2008 Hunger and Homelessness Survey, an analysis of the scale of hunger and homelessness problems in a number of American cities and their efforts to address these problems. Santa Monica was one of the 25 cities on the U.S. Conference’s Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness that responded to the survey — among others including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Phoenix and Dallas — and is one of 19 that reported an increase in the prevalence of homelessness in their city. The city has participated in the survey, which asks about 40 questions, for more than a decade. “At this time of significant economic downturn, the issues of hunger and homelessness in America are more prevalent than ever,” said Miami mayor and conference president Manny Diaz. “Cities are the front lines where these effects are first felt, which is why mayors have been proactive and have implemented local initiatives to combat hunger and homelessness in their communities to take care of our most vulnerable residents.” Santa Monica, like most other cities surveyed, also reported that the demand for emergency food assistance during the past year has outpaced an increase in supply, said Stacy Rowe, the city’s human services administrator. In the last year, Santa Monica distributed 1.9 million pounds of food through the Westside Food Bank. But that is only a...

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City Council appoints Ken Genser mayor and Pam O’Connor new mayor

Councilman Ken Genser, who has served on the Santa Monica City Council since 1988, was appointed to the rotating position of mayor at the City Council meeting Tuesday, December 9th. Genser, who served two one-year terms as mayor from 1991 to 1992 and 1999 to 2000, will serve as mayor for two years, while Councilwoman Pam O’Connor serves as mayor pro tem. The mayor is not elected by Santa Monica voters. The position is ceremonial and mayors are appointed by the City Council itself. Some believed that it was Councilmen Kevin McKeown’s and Bobby Shriver’s turn to have two-year terms as mayor and mayor pro tem. McKeown, who has been on the council since 1998, and Shriver, who has been on the council since 2004, are the only members on the City Council who have never served as mayor. Both have also been very popular among Santa Monica residents. Most recently, Shriver was reelected to the City Council in November as the top vote-getter with a record 24,298 votes. In 2006, McKeown was reelected to the council as the top vote-getter with 14,000 votes. “The appointment of the mayor should be a collegial appointment,” said peace activist Jerry Rubin at the meeting. “It should be based on what’s fair. It seems to me the fair thing to do would be to appoint Councilman McKeown and Councilman Shriver for a...

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