'The only way'

'The only way'

Former El Centro head surprised but undaunted by mayor’s critical comments

By André Coleman , Kevin Uhrich 05/30/2013

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Randy Ertll said he was taken aback by comments made by Mayor Bill Bogaard regarding his decision to leave El Centro de Accion Social after serving eight year’s as the nonprofit agency’s executive director.

While a number of local community leaders praised Ertll for his work, Bogaard, who typically does not publicly criticize local activists, lit into Ertll, who in recent years has found himself at the forefront of a number of major issues involving police misconduct, immigration and homelessness.

“El Centro has played an important role over the years in supporting and schooling Latino youngsters in our community, and that area of El Centro activity appears to have diminished the last couple of years,” Bogaard said.

“Randy has been occupied with other activities, such as books that he has written,” Bogaard is quoted saying in a story that appeared in the Tuesday edition of the Pasadena Star-News. “It’s possible that his professional interests have evolved from the core programs at El Centro and that he is going on to pursue so to speak the next phase of his career.”

Bogaard stood by those comments on Wednesday morning. “Randy seems to be pursuing a new direction in his career as an author and a speaker. This is an opportunity for El Centro to take a fresh look at its mission and confirm its commitment to providing recreational and educational opportunities to Latino youngsters,” the mayor said.

Ertll, who once served as a spokesman for the Pasadena Unified School District and has written two books, one on growing up in El Salvador and the other on the life of a community activist, did not respond directly to Bogaard’s criticism. He instead defended what he sees as his role as an activist working for a nonprofit.

“I would say that I raised over $3 million in eight years, and that money has helped thousands of students,” said Ertll, who most recently criticized the council for cutting $25,000 in community block grant funding from El Centro. “We are in the trenches, on the frontlines of helping kids. I would say we have had a transformative influence on people’s lives.”

In a letter to the agency board of directors, Ertll, who recently won the Harry Sheldon Memorial Award presented by the city’s Human Relations Commission for humanitarian service, called his work at El Centro a “labor of love.”

“I am very proud of how we improved our community members’ lives,” he wrote. “It is now time for the next new director to come on board with his/her fresh ideas and inspiration to share with all.”

Ertll said he doesn’t have another job lined up, but is awaiting the release of his second book, “The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7,” due out in September.

“The role of a nonprofit is to advocate,” Ertll said. His advice for the person who will take his position: “Do not be afraid to speak up and point out the inequities in Pasadena,” he said. “That is the only way we are going to make progress.”

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Kudos to Randy for holistically addressing the needs and concerns of the population that El Centro serves. Providing educational and recreational opportunities is only a component in addressing greater policy issues in the community such as homelessness, police misconduct, and immigration. Feel good solutions are not true solutions to chronic problems.

posted by Klee on 5/31/13 @ 10:05 a.m.

It is disappointing to read Mayor Bogaard’s remarks. The success of El Centro is evident and certainly due to Mr. Ertll’s efforts. Mr. Ertll’s dedication and passion for improving the lives of Latino youth in Pasadena, and the rest of the United States, is unwavering. He was worked tirelessly in Pasadena and I am certain that his drive to address issues of inequality and social justice will dictate his future endeavors. I am convinced that he will make a positive impact on a larger scale and will continue to work toward improving the condition of Latino youth in all neighborhoods, not just Pasadena. I wish Mr. Ertll the best of luck as he continues his calling as a youth advocate through written works and public engagements.

posted by lrchacon6 on 5/31/13 @ 12:49 p.m.

I am disappointed at mayor Bogaard's criticism of Randy Jurado Ertll. I wonder if the mayor knows the amount of personal sacrifice a community activist like Randy made to direct a low budget community organization like El Centro of Accion Social , did the mayor knew the long hours of work and the endless weekends of commitment Randy spend during his 8 years tenure. Instead of questioning Randy decision to leave, why the mayor dint work with El Centro board to secure better funding for the educational programs He claims decreased during the last two years. One common issue among community activist is the burn out due to the excessive workload and low salary. If something the mayor should learn is how to keep good citizens like Randy working in Pasadena. He should support with money and actions organization like El Centro. The new Executive Director will find a small and low budget organization doing more with less money in better shape thanks to Randy leadership. The next Executive Director will find the same economical challenges. It is time the mayor and Pasadena city council pay more attention to the poor and low income people from Pasadena, they should increase the city funding instead of cutting it.

Ricardo Moreno
Pasadena Presbyterian Church

posted by RicardoMoreno on 5/31/13 @ 03:47 p.m.

It is a demonstration of poor leadership skills on behalf of the mayor of Pasadena to criticize one of its best, brightest, and ultimately - most committed. Randy has a long-standing career in TRUE public service, and especially in this era of economic turmoil which often slides into more social instability, he has used the Centro's capabilities to positively affect, impact, and struggle for the Pasadena community. 8 years is as long as TWO presidential terms, and we should look forward to Randy's next phase of leadership which has not had the glorification or "fat cat" lobbyists of D.C. or Sacramento. We all deserve to have access to the history he has so sensitively documented in his writings. SHAME ON THE MAYOR OF PASADENA. HE SHOULD RETRACT HIS THOUGHTLESS STATEMENTS AND GIVE RANDY A MEDAL FROM THE CITY OF PASADENA!!!

posted by lisamramos on 6/02/13 @ 12:35 p.m.

El Centro has been around since 1968. It has broken the heart of just about everyone who ever worked there. It is a thankless and impossible job. Congratulations to Randy for surviving 8 years of it. Best wishes for your future.

posted by Vivavilla on 6/02/13 @ 07:57 p.m.

Boy is this city ripe for new leadership on the council. It's going to be hard for an incumbent to win the next election. If they're not ineffective they're apathetic. That's not good for this progressive town.

posted by yesnojanein on 6/03/13 @ 12:04 p.m.

I can't comment on Randy's efficacy at El Centro; however, I do think that publicly funded groups that cater to specific ethnicities further ethnic divisions instead of unity.

Too often we view society through race based lenses, which perpetuates the problem.

posted by True Freedom on 6/04/13 @ 12:20 p.m.

I find Mayor Bogaard's comments to be very disappointing and unbecoming as well. I have personally witnessed the great impact of Randy Ertll's work in Pasadena. We should be thanking him and his team for their efforts and asking, "What else needs to be done? How can we all partner together in the days ahead?" rather than questioning motives of this talented, committed leader.

Pastor Renee Roederer
Pasadena Presbyterian Church

posted by reneeroederer on 6/23/13 @ 08:48 p.m.
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