President Obama stopped short of officially acknowledging the Armenian Genocide during his recent trip to Turkey, telling the press corps Monday that he did not want to “preempt any possible arrangements or announcements that might be made in the near future.”

As a presidential candidate, Obama made it clear that the death of roughly 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915 was genocide, “not an ‘allegation,’ a ‘personal opinion’ or a ‘point of view,’” as he wrote in a 2006 letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

On Monday, Obama told reporters at a joint press conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul that he had not changed his views, but was encouraged by “a series of negotiations, a process in place between Armenia and Turkey to resolve a whole host of long-standing issues, including this one.”

Turkey has so far refused to acknowledge the genocide, despite findings to the contrary from scores of historical scholars and human rights leaders the world over. The European Parliament, 20 national governments and 42 state governments have already passed resolutions recognizing the genocide.

Past attempts in Congress to pass a similar resolution have stalled repeatedly amid political pressure to avoid harming relations with a key NATO ally, but given Obama’s popularity abroad, supporters of the genocide resolution have held out hope that this time will be different.

Rep. Adam Schiff, who reintroduced a bipartisan resolution in March calling on the U.S. to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, said he was disappointed that Obama did not take a firmer position on the matter, but hoped that he prepared Gul in private for an official statement later this month, when Armenians commemorate the mass killings.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to get him to make a statement for April 24,” Schiff said.

He warned against the Obama administration buying into Turkey’s “old, failed concept” of a historical commission to mediate the issue.

Gul pushed for the commission Monday, arguing that while his country was “ready to face the realities,” the matter of genocide should not be left to “the politicians and legal experts.”

“It is not a parliamentarian, a politician, who can make a decision on this without knowing the circumstances to the situation,” Gul told reporters.

It is that position that has angered Armenians, who say the issue of genocide has long been settled, so advocating for a historical commission “is just a delay tactic by the Turkish government,” said Zanku Armenian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee Glendale chapter.

“President Obama missed an opportunity to speak truthfully about the Armenian Genocide when he was in Turkey and help them face their past,” he said. “However, we believe President Obama is a man of his word, and hope that he will stick by his past words, as he said he would in Turkey, when it comes to April 24 in a White House statement.”

If he doesn’t, Schiff said, it could be a potential “game-changer” for his genocide resolution, which is approaching 100 co-sponsors in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2007 was set to bring the resolution up for a full vote before 24 of its 235 backers withdrew support following then-President George W. Bush’s opposition. With support for the resolution weakened, Schiff and his co-sponsors requested that it be tabled until political conditions improved.

Similar resolutions failed to even get that far after passing the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2000 and 2005, and supporters did not want to risk a no vote.

“It will be heavily influenced by what [Obama] does,” Schiff said.

Burbank Dems to host Liu and Krekorian

Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, together with state Sen. Carol Liu, are scheduled to field questions at an event in Burbank on the upcoming slate of statewide ballot measures that lawmakers put forth as part of a hard-fought plan to bridge a $42-billion deficit.

Several of the six proposed propositions on the May 19 ballot would pump nearly $6 billion into the state’s 2009-10 budget, but even if that money were approved, officials have already forecast an additional $8 billion gap as a result of declining sales and property tax revenues.

If the ballot measures fail, that gap could grow to roughly $14 billion, they warn. If Proposition 1A fails, the deficit could grow by an additional $16 billion, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s office.

That, in turn, could spell deeper cuts in transportation, education, health care and other public services.

Nearly all of the ballot measures have trailed heavily in recent polls.

Krekorian and Liu, whose districts include Glendale and Burbank, are scheduled to field questions on the propositions and discuss their ramifications at an outdoor cookout hosted by the Burbank Democratic Club starting at 6:30 p.m. April 17.

The “backyard event” takes place at 131 S. Reese Place and is open to the public. Donations are encouraged.

For more information about the event, visit www.burbankdemocraticclub.com or call (818) 288-2649.

Legislators push for truck ban on Angeles Crest

State Sen. Carol Liu and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino are developing legislation in response to a crash involving a semi-truck on Angeles Crest Highway last week that left two dead and 12 injured.

Truck driver Marcos Costa, of Maine, failed to brake when traveling down a steep decline from the Foothill Mountains toward a La Cañada shopping area, hitting the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffee House and killing Palmdale residents Angel Posca, 58, and his 12-year-old daughter, Angelina Posca, police said.

Caltrans has instituted a 90-day ban on trucks with five axles or more along the route. Details of the legislation are still unclear, but the bill would aim to prevent similar accidents in the future, Liu said.

Liu plans to drive on the Angeles Crest Highway route from the Antelope Valley to La Cañada over the weekend to personally assess what measures could be taken to stop large trucks from taking the road, she said.

Committee OKs bill for renewable-energy quotas

A legislative committee approved a bill last week aimed at increasing quotas for renewable energy in California, moving the proposal to another Sacramento body for review before it can be passed to the Legislature for a vote.

The bill was written by Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian and would require utilities to provide a third of their energy from renewable resources by 2020.

It would also set targets for renewable energy production at 20% by next year and 25% by 2015.

The proposal was approved by the Assembly’s Utility and Commerce Committee, by a vote of 8 to 5, and will move on to the Committee on Natural Resources for consideration before lawmakers can vote on putting the plan into law.

The proposal would help create “green jobs” and encourage progress in energy technology development, Krekorian said in a statement.

“The benefits of increasing our use of renewable energy are clear and undeniable,” he said. “Increasing our stock of renewable energy sources is vital to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will slow the rise of global warming.”

Krekorian sponsors film competition at the Alex

More than 100 students worked to produce a total of 88 short films that were submitted to a competition sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Krekorian.

About a quarter of the films will be selected and screened May 15 in the Alex Theatre, where the second annual film festival among students in the state’s 43rd Assembly District will take place.

The festival was an effort to increase student interest in film production and to give them an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of a broad community audience.

— Jason Wells and Zain Shauk

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