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Hawaiian Gardens Planning Commissioner Anna Rodriguez Forced to Apologize Over Senior Citizen Comment

Anna Rodriguez (far right) with (l-r) Hawaiian Gardens Mayor pro tem Jesse Alvarado, Hawaiian Gardens employee Juan Serrano, and Mayor Myra Maravilla at the Contract Cities Convention in Palm Springs this past May.

 

BY BRIAN HEWS 

Hawaiian Gardens Planning Commissioner Anna Rodriguez, an appointee of Mayor Myra Maravilla, publicly apologized to City Council, senior citizens, and the community in general this past Tuesday for her shocking statements regarding seniors and senior programs in the City.

At the last City Council meeting, Rodriguez was caught on video, first reported by Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News, proposing to cut senior programs she said were “excessive.”

“No offense to the senior citizens, I see a lot of programs that I don’t feel that there should be, its excessive,” Rodriguez stated. 

As a planning commissioner, Rodriguez receives a stipend every month from the City, while also traveling to conventions, going to the pricey Contract Cities Convention in Palm Desert this past May.

Rodriguez went on to say, “no offense to our senior citizens but I feel like some of the events and trips they go on are excessive.”

There are a small number of senior programs that is offered by the City, including arts and crafts, billiards, bingo, and Zumba.

Others can be termed as activities occurring at the City’s Recreation Center such as cupcake decorating and free computer use.

The City also runs a well-attended Golden Age Senior Club, Sunshine Club, and delivers 1,540 meals each month to Hawaiian Gardens seniors.

Two or three excursions are offered each month to places such as the Getty Museum and Pala Casino and average 30 participants on each trip.

Still, the number of programs and excursions caused Rodriguez concern, indicating that “she wanted to see more funds spent on our youth.”

Then Rodriguez said something that caused everyone in the room to gasp, and was the driver for her public apology.

“Yes, I would like to see more of [the money] geared towards our youth because eventually we’re all going to pass away anyway.”

“The misspoken comments I made really do not portray my true values or the love I have for this community,” she stated, “I really want to thank those who reached out to me and gave me the chance to apologize and clarify my comments.”  

She went on to say she was distracted when she made her “misstatements.”

“When I walked up to the podium there was already a disturbance, and there was someone taking pictures with their flash on, which really aggravated the headache I already had.” 

The grand daughters of Mary Rodriguez, who the senior center was named after,  then addressed the City Council and attendees. 

“You may not have had the opportunity to know her, but her love and passion for this community was immeasurable. My grandma, who lived in a tiny hut of an apartment and had ceramic molds tucked in every corner, suffered from lupus and was in pain every day. However she would get up every morning before sunrise just to pour the molds for the seniors to paint. She would often tell us how important the senior center was to her and to the community and that the center may be the only lifeline to some who had no one else. As children whose father was often incarcerated, we also thrived at the youth center dating back to the old Green Center on Bellflower Boulevard, we spent most of our days there taking classes and playing games. It gave us a respite from our often violent and chaotic home life, where we suffered on a daily basis.”

The two women went on to say that they were speaking to the City Council for three reasons: to remind the council who their grandmother was and what she meant to the community; to address the recent comments about the excessive spending on senior programs, and to brainstorm on how to continue funding and not cutting one program for another.

One suggestion was to combine some of the programs where seniors and youth could benefit from each other in culture and history. A buddy system was also offered for the Senior Excursion Program where the youth and seniors could travel together, “Our Nana’s thoughts on thriving senior citizens was if their lives were enriched it would have a trickledown effect to the your of the community. “

Former Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Ray Rodriguez approached the dais noting the City had purchased two trashcans for over $500 each for the teen center, spent over $1,000 dollars on a Catalina Island excursion, and blew through taxpayer dollars at the Contract Cities Convention in May.

He also alleged that Maravilla and Mayor pro tem Jesse Alvarado spent over $8,000, $2,600 per day, attending the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Conference in Miami.

The conference was held at the pricey InterContinental Hotel which has a room rate of $300 per night and is in close proximity to the party capital of Miami, South Beach. The conference was three days so the room charges alone were likely over $1,800.

“And you are complaining about senior budget,” said Rodriguez, “give me a break.”

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