The ultimate back room deal: LAUSD’s new $7 billion bond provides money for everyone but the kids and teachers

Waterless toilets and solar panels bought from friends
of Antonio … $1 billion for the incompetent internet technology division …
$1 billion for schools already built with previous bond money … $450 million to
get charter school operators to keep their mouths shut … umpteen millions for
new school kitchens to produce food kids won’t eat and to buy high-tech radios for campus police as if that will help them take back control of schools form gangs….

Buoyed by polls showing the public is as gullible as ever, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school board unanimously approved the fifth school bond issue in a decade — $7 billion to be paid back by taxpayers over 30 years.

While the mayor’s off partying in a faraway land, the seven board members and Superintendent David Brewer went off the Pacific Diining Car to celebrate their triumph.

And what a triumph it is. There’s something for everybody but not one cent for kids or teachers, not one cent that goes toward ending 30 years of dismal failure, not one cent that offers any hope of reducing the 50 percent dropout rate or raising the achievement level of students.

But think about who benefits from this feeding frenzy at the public trough.

Certainly, it’s tje army of bureaucrats who will get massive pay raises guaranteed. Certainly, it will be all the contractors who will provide the services and materials required to fulfill this massive shopping list. Certainly, it will be the unions since insists on paying the  highest cost for labor.

But most certainly, it will be the mayor and the rest of the political entourage who will decide who gets all that money, your money.

And how, you ask does any of this educate kids or motivate teachers to do a better job?

It doesn’t. That’s not the goal of LAUSD. It hasn’t been for decades. The district exists to serve itself — and the circle of insiders of L.A. corrupt political culture.

The mayor promised to take over the school system and carry out massive reforms. In fact, he failed  so completely at that he has control over just nine of 700 schools, barely 1 percent. Failure without accountability breeds contempt and that’s what this is about, contempt for the public that is so gullible they can be sold a fifth bond issue without any sign of significant progress in educating children.

This is a fraud. And if you look the other way and buy it, you deserve the bill you’ll get now and until 2044. You should live that long. You should live to see this produce a better educated generation of public school students than the last two generation. But don’t hold your breath, it isn’t going to happen.

It hasn’t happen with the $20 billion already invested in LAUSD through four previous bond issues and a state bond issue.

Has anyone even seen an accounting of where that money went and whether the public got what it paid for?

Junkies will say anything to get your money for their next fix. And that’s all this about: A system addicted to the public’s money and desperate for more.

Here’s the mayor’s press release on passage of the bond issue:

Continue reading The ultimate back room deal: LAUSD’s new $7 billion bond provides money for everyone but the kids and teachers

Antonio takes a dim view of L.A. Harbor’s sweetheart contracts with P.R. firm

Remember those $1.3 million in public relations contracts the L.A. Harbor Commission approved to promote clean air efforts at the port?

Well, with the prudence of King Solomon, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — released while he’s on his faraway hideaway vacation — found a way to split the baby.

He wrote (here’s the link to the letter portsletter.pdf) Harbor Commission President S. David Freeman that he believes “it is critical that the department take measures to develop internal staff capacity to direct and manage a more robust public communications effort. Consistent with this goal, I suggest you swiftly reconsider the public education and community outreach contracts” approved June 19.

At the same time, the mayor wrote: “The contractor’s work should be viewed as a temporary supplement with a scope of one year … should be project specific and prohibit services related to obtaining media coverage; and…should be limited to one firm.”

In other words, he decided to defuse the P.R. time bomb created by the commission’s approval of open-ended contracts with the Rogers Group and Hill & Knowlton.

The contracts were widely seen as a replication of the $3 million a year deal the Department of Water and Power cut with the Fleishman-Hillard that led to scandal, controversy and ultimately federal court convictions of three P.R. executives.

Approval of the contracts six weeks ago raised questions about what role would be played  by Steve Sugerman, the Fleishman-Hillard P.R. executive who got probation after changing his story and admitting he engaged in falsifying DWP billings.

A big question now is whether either P.R. firm is appropriate to handle a community relations effort rather than media manipulation.

Continue reading Antonio takes a dim view of L.A. Harbor’s sweetheart contracts with P.R. firm

NAKED CITY, a daily news report

Air quality regulators thwarted in effort to make air pollution worse in L.A. Basin

It’s good to know that the public interest is protected by public Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nakedcity.jpgagencies staffed by high-minded public servants. Unfortunately, it’s not true very often and clearly not in the case of the South Coast Air Quality board which was caught red-handed by Judge Ann I. Jones. She ruled that approval of 13 planned power plants was illegal because air quality regulators didn’t require environmental and health studies on the pollution they will generate. Even worse, the Times says that last week regulators  “lobbied by a host of former politicians, decided to sell
the (banked  air pollution) credits to energy companies for $420 million: about half the market
value.” Top air regulator Barry Wallerstein warns there will be blackouts as we keep building without enough power. And that’s the key: If public officials obeyed the law and stopped giving away the people’s money, we wouldn’t have overdevelopment that pollutes our air, exhausts our water resources, clogs our roads and ruins our neighborhoods.

MTA’s plan to cut a sweetheart deal to overdevelop Van Nuys thwarted by environmental hazard

The L.A. Weekly reports that the MTA board started playing its usual political games in considering approval of “a vast, ‘transit-oriented’ luxury-apartment complex sprinkled with 30,000 square feet of shopson an Orange Line busway parking lot. The community hates the project that has several political heavyweights jockeying to get the lucrative deal. But Steven Leigh Morris reports the real problem is toxic chemicals emitted from “Chevron USA’s Van Nuys Terminal — a gas-storage, -reprocessing and -redistribution plant less than 100 yards away.” So much for the value of human life when friends can make a buck.

Something you need to read and think about

This will probably get me in trouble with the New York Times because I’m reproducing this OpEd piece whole. It’s by a friend of mine, a cop I know well enough to say I respect a great deal. He’s George Gascon. He was No. 2 under Bill Bratton at the LAPD until he quit to become police chief in Mesa, Arizona — a booming middle class area east of Phoenix that in some ways is like a modern-day recreation of the San Fernando Valley or the San Gabriel Valley.
The reason you should read this in my point of view is that Chief Gascon tells what I believe is the truth: “Without a national immigration policy, a new culture of lawlessness will increasingly permeate our society.”

Please read what he has to say, as a cop who is dedicated to protecting and serving the community as well as he can, and knows why gangs have taken over so much of L.A.

The New York Times

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July 31, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor


The Laws Cops Can’t Enforce



Mesa, Ariz.

OUR next president faces a formidable task. He will be forced to
deal with two difficult wars, an economic downturn, higher energy
prices and a bankrupt federal immigration policy.

To some, immigration pales in comparison with the wars and the
economy. But for others, especially police departments in border states
like mine, it is all-consuming. The first priority of the next
president should be legislation that addresses the legitimate concerns
of both the people who believe our borders are out of control and those
who want equal protection for everyone living in this country.

Immigration issues are tearing apart communities. Demagoguery and
misinformation are shaping public opinion and in some cases public
policy. In the absence of a clear federal policy on immigration, states
and cities are enacting draconian and constitutionally questionable
laws.

This patchwork of conflicting local immigration laws is creating an
untenable situation for police officials who face demands to crack down
on immigrants — demands that contradict policing practices that have
led to significant declines in crime.

For police officials, refusing to carry out policies that may
violate the Constitution can be career-threatening. Both sides in the
immigration debate accuse police departments of misconduct in dealing
with immigrants. In this politically charged environment, some chiefs
are making decisions based on bad politics instead of sound policing.
In many cases, police officers are making illegal arrests with the
acquiescence and sometimes explicit approval of their superiors.

Here in Arizona, a wedge is being driven between the local police
and some immigrant groups. Some law enforcement agencies are wasting
limited resources in operations to appease the public’s thirst for
action against illegal immigration regardless of the legal or social
consequences.

America’s 500,000 police officers are sworn to enforce the law. But
we are increasingly unable to do so. Those who want to restrict
immigration criticize us for not arresting immigrants for entering the
country illegally. Yet others rightly wonder how we can do our job if
some residents are afraid to report crimes or otherwise cooperate with
the police for fear of deportation.

Without a national immigration policy, a new culture of lawlessness
will increasingly permeate our society. In cities, politicians will
pressure police departments to reduce immigration by using racial
profiling and harassment. At the same time, immigrants who fear that
the police will help deport them will rely less on their local officers
and instead give thugs control of their neighborhoods.

Many top law enforcement officials were part of the community
policing revolution of the 1980s and ’90s. We have a deep concern for
constitutional rights and social justice. We believe that effective
policing requires residents, regardless of immigration status, to trust
the police.

We are also students of the mistakes of our predecessors. Past
police practices helped lead to the civil unrest of the 1960s, which
tore our nation apart along racial and political lines. We do not want
to repeat those mistakes.

If we become a nation in which the local police are the default
enforcers of a failing federal immigration policy, the years of trust
that police departments have built up in immigrant communities will
vanish. Some minority groups may once again view police officers as
armed instruments of government oppression.

A wink and a nod will no longer suffice as an immigration policy.
Effective border control is a critical step. But so is ensuring that
otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants have the same protections
as everyone else in a modern, free society.

Presidential candidates need to specify the measures on immigration
they would present to Congress after Inauguration Day. No doubt, the
advisers to John McCain and Barack Obama are counseling them to be
vague. That’s the wrong advice.

America’s police officers deserve thoughtful federal leadership so
that we can continue doing our best to provide our country with the
security that defines a civilized society.



My funny life in a three-minute video

Here’s the video they played of my life at the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley’s “Valley of the Stars Gala” on July 26. It was made by Randy Witt and captures the full irony and humor, I hope, of my search for meaning and happiness.

And get some uplift from the video about actress Sally Field, the real star of the Valley of the Stars Gala

NAKED CITY, a daily news report

Nothing but old (local) news in the incredibly shrinking (local) newspapers
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City Hall’s ban on new fast-food restaurants will mean denizens of the downtown district will have to make do with the few thousand outlets already there. Problem solved.

The Times remains preoccupied with the Century City stabbing murder of Pamela Fayed. Watch out if someone gets killed in Beverly Hills — the last 700 reporters and editors will be all over the story.

Kevin Roderick
, the Zell-obsessed media maven and ex-Timesman, admits he was duped by the Craig’s List ad for laid-off journalists willing to work for free for the supposedly well-financed greatest newspaper ever that supposedly would launch in L.A. soon. That said. Roderick has links to the show he did on the Times this week and the one Warren Olney did on KCRW and there’s no doubt the top pro of public radio got whipped on this one.

Forgive my obvious bias but the one bright spot was KABC morning talk show host Doug McIntyre’s afterthoughts in a Daily News Oped piece on the Saving L.A. Project’s Bastille Day rally at City Hall. “The real villain is apathy,” McIntyre wrote, and he’s hoping that some sparks from the rally will ignite the people and we’ll actually do something “like crushing gangs, electing
public servants who actually serve the public, stop treating taxpayers
as marks to be rolled, create schools that produce citizens of this
country, and stop allowing corporations to dictate the character of our
neighborhoods.”

Are you better off after eight years of these people? Is L.A. better off?

garcetti2.jpgalarcon.jpg
d_zine.jpgIf the power structure of Los Angeles had not foisted Measure R on gullible voters, these six City Council members — Zine, Alarcon, Garcetti, Weiss, Perry and Hahn — would be termed out of office and we would be having a real election next March.

Instead, we face a rigged election
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The same powerful, self-serving interests that have been running the city badly for too long preserved their control of City Hall by spending millions to sell as ethics reform extending  from two to three terms the limits on council service. They will spend whatever it takes to keep these political hacks in office and to bamboozle you into paying higher taxes for worse public services.

Against all odds, David Hernandez and other opponents of Measure R have kept alive a legal challenge and are scheduled for an appeals court hearing in August that could find it unconstitutional. This would open the possibility of restoring a measure of democracy to L.A. by throwing open the March elections to all challengers.

I support what Hernandez is doing and am speaking tonight at a fund-raiser for the legal challenge (information about the event is on my calendar and information about how to contribute after the jump).

Win or lose in court, those who care about democracy and good government need to mount a political campaign that will challenge these wannabe third-termers, which five of them are. The sixth, Jack Weiss, far and away the least popular in his own district, hopes to ride the coattails of the mayor into the City Attorney’s Office — a prospect that many people find frightening given his lackluster record.

These people know how to charm and song-and-dance many activists within their own communities, to hold out hope for them of some progress on their narrow agenda.

But their collective efforts in leading the city are disastrous. Taxes, fees and rates of every type have soared in the last eight years. Poverty has risen dramatically. Gangs still terrorize many neighborhoods and City Hall lacks the will to get tough even with illegal immigrant criminals. Desperate for cash to feed the sweetheart contracts they approved with unions and contractors, city leaders will do anything for money and that’s why the L.A. is being overdeveloped without the roads, public transit, parks, water or other needed infrastructure.

For the lack of any other alternative, I floated the idea of the Saving L.A. Project (SLAP) as an umbrella coalition of community groups of all types. Activists from all over the city have joined in and are trying to turn the idea into an organization that can challenge City Hall, fight for local issues, develop a citywide agenda and back candidates for city offices who will turn L.A. around.

We staged a rally on Bastille Day at City Hall and we’re holding an organizing Town Hall meeting Saturday in Glassell Park. Don’t accept failure. Don’t hide behind apathy and defeatism. Stand up and be counted. Get involved in your neighborhood council, residents group, service clubs, schools or wherever you can make a difference. Join SLAP and fight back.

Continue reading Are you better off after eight years of these people? Is L.A. better off?

EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA!!!! See it for yourself … Strong Earthquake hits L.A. but $300 million City Hall restoration saves City Council

SHAKEN BUT UNDETERRED COUNCIL APPROVES MASSIVE TRASH FEE HIKE

Here’s the video of what happened when the quake hit

Even by the standards of the do-nothing LA. City Council with all its blustering and self-congratulations and burlesque theater, Tuesday’s session was pretty amusing.

It started late in a nearly empty chamber with a few sad souls lamenting as usual the big shots’ lack of respect for the little people and then turned comic as the house the taxpayers rebuilt for $300 million rolled on its $100 million quake-proof rollers. Finally, it descended into farce as the council voted to squeeze tens of millions of dollars out of the citizenry to conceal their incompetence.

And in the end, it was tragedy. All that money to protect themselves and then a lecture from the bantamweight City Controller on how their wicked ways had endangered the lives of four million people.

The vote was 11-1 to jack up trash fees for homeowners to $36 a month with even the so-called conservative Chatsworth Councilman Greig Smith insulting his constituents intelligence by claiming they lived off the poor for 50 years, stealing the money out of their pockets with free garbage pickup.

Only Dennis Ziine was confident enough to cast an easy lone no vote, offering obscure logic on why he wasn’t going along with everyone else even though the city — having squandered the biggest increase in revenue in its history — can’t pay its bills without breaking the social contract dating back to Sam Yorty.

Then, God spoke and shattered the indefatigable self-assurance he earned as a traffic cop.

“There goes the earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake. We got an earthquake. Still happening. The building is rolling…You’re all safe in here so don’t leave the building…”

It seemed fitting that not too much later, after the vote, Controller Laura Chick rolled in to the Council Chamber to make an urgent report on her latest audit finding that the mayor, council and bureaucrats have failed miserably as managers and keepers of the public trust in the most important of all their functions, emergency preparedness.

Think about it next time you fall into the sway of these people: They spent your money to protect themselves with the most advanced technology in the world and left all of you to fend for yourselves when quakes, brushfires, mudslides or other calamities hit as they so often do.

GOD WILL GET THEM: STRONG EARTHQUAKE JARS L.A. AS COUNCIL VOTES ON OUTRAGEOUS HIKE IN TRASH FEE

Qauake hit at 11:45 a.m. and reported to measure about 5.8 on the Richter Scale, which is quite strong but probably not deadly. It lasted about 30 seconds with strong rolls that intensified and was centered in the Chino Hills, 29 miles east of L.A. City Hall.

Council members made a few jokes and continued to talk nonsense. Tom LaBonge finally suggested they discuss evacuation plans to save their lives in case there’s another temblor.

NAKED CITY, a daily news report

READER BEWARE: You may get nauseous as the following items run together in your mind and cause an episode of vertigo

A proposal to increase trash
fees by 30 percent, which Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says is necessary
to balance the city’s budget, will go before the Los Angeles City
Council today.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials are
considering asking voters to approve a $7 billion bond measure in
November, more than twice as big as previously discussed and nearly
half of it set aside for unspecified future projects.
nakedcity.jpg

While still opposing pressure to get tough on illegal immigrant gang members, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday proposed
hiring six contractors at $500,000 each to manage gang-prevention programs in the city’s
hardest-hit areas – a move designed to reinvent L.A.’s gang strategy,
but one sure to upset nonprofits that had relied on city contracts for
years.

The California legislature took time out from the state budget crisis
to pass a bill giving California pet owners the right to set up a
legally enforceable trust to care for dogs, cats, horses or other animal 

The City Council is scheduled to consider a moratorium today on new fast food restaurants in South Los Angeles.The proposal by Councilwoman Jan Perry would cover a
32-square-mile area, for one year, with two possible six-month
extensions.

Home prices in Los Angeles continued their historic decline in May,
falling 24.5% from year-earlier levels, according to the widely watched
Case-Shiller index of home values.

The joint city-county board overseeing the much-delayed, $3-billion
Grand Avenue project established financial penalties Monday that the
developer must pay — $250,000 a month — if ground isn’t broken by February. That works out to one-thousandth of one percent of the cost of the project a year.

L.A. County claims state’s dirtiest beaches for 5 years straight.