So long LAUSD, we’ll hardly miss you — charters breaking up failing district one school at a time

Even as Los Angeles Unified keeps hiring more bureaucrats and fewer teachers
— and the disparity in their pay keeps widening — the massive school district
is disintegrating under an assault from the charter school movement.

On Wednesday, ICEF Public Schools, which
operates 13 charters with 3,000 students in South Los Angeles, will announce
it’s adding 22 new campuses in what it calls the “Education Corridor” – the
45-square-mile region bound by the 110, 105, 405 and 10 freeways.

It should more aptly be called the “Dropout Zone” with half the students
quitting school witihout a diploma. With Green Dot already running many schools
in the area and having taken over troubled Locke High School, the area will be getting free of LAUSD’s stifling bureaucracy, its can’t do culture and its 30-year
record of failure.

Mostly serving African-American students in one of the city’s poorest areas,
the Inner City Education Foundation boasts that all its graduates go to college,
two- or four-yea

Continue reading So long LAUSD, we’ll hardly miss you — charters breaking up failing district one school at a time

Antonio speaks loudly but carries little stick to L.A.’s anti-bailout members of Congress

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa displayed his usual political chutzpah
after the House rejected the $700 Wall Street bailout plan by
blustering for Congress to “put politics aside and get back to work for
the American people.”
It’s hard to beat Antonio for pure gall for demanding anyone else work harder.  After all, he’s the
mayor who works 11 percent of the time and showboats 89 percent of the

Turning Teddy Roosevelt’s famous dictumteddyr.jpg about speaking
softly and carrying a big stick on its head, the mayor issued a press
statement that was borderline hysterical.:

“The consequences of
doing nothing to fix it would be simply intolerable. The credit market
could collapse. Small businesses would struggle or fail to meet
payroll. Families would be shut out of the housing market, and would
have no ability to get a car loan or student loan for college. On the
City side, tax revenues would plummet and construction projects would
be delayed or canceled. Bonds would become more expensive and pension
contributions would go through the roof.”

The last sentence is
the one he really means. He gave 6 percent pay raises to thousands of
city workers, spent the city $400 million into the red, jacked up
rates, fees and taxes to the breaking point  and desperately needs even
more cash for massive construction projects to appease the special
interests who keep him alive politically.

Continue reading Antonio speaks loudly but carries little stick to L.A.’s anti-bailout members of Congress

Viral bankruptcy: Today it’s Congress, Tomorrow the nation…and all I can think about is me, me, me

My congressman Brad Sherman voted “no” on the bill to keep America from falling into another Great Depression.

I think he’s got the right idea so I’m going to vote “no” on Brad Sherman come election day in hopes it keeps me from falling into chronic depression. After all, he’s wiping out my 401k, jeopardizing my tiny pension and my chances to get a job as a WalMart greeter to keep my house out of foreclosure.

Of course, I don’t even know who his Republican20080930.gif challenger is or even if there is one since how I vote — or you vote — doesn’t matter in California. All our congressional districts like our local and state districts have been gerrymandered to make sure that voting is irrelevant. Democracy works better that way for special interests and both parties prefer it nice and clean in that regard without interference from those troublemakers referred to in the Constitution as We the People.

I’m sure Brad’s vote was a matter of conscience just as it was a few years ago when I editorialized in the Daily News about his stooging on the China trade bill for that small minority with big clout called organized labor and he called me up and denounced me as an M-F.

I was cool then. I’m not so cool about pushing the nation to the brink of the worst economic crisis in nearly 80 years. Everybody hates the idea of bailing out the scoundrels who caused this financial disaster and profited from doing it, but I got a question for Brad and the 227 others.

What’s your plan to save the economy, the nation? And what about me?

“We’re told not to worry because this $700 billion
is not going to cost anything,” Sherman told reporters in Washington,
D.C. “Wall Street gets its money now, and we get it back never.”

Say what? You calling the President of the United States and the men who would succeed him — including your own favorite Barack Obama — liars?

Continue reading Viral bankruptcy: Today it’s Congress, Tomorrow the nation…and all I can think about is me, me, me

UPDATE: MTA kills $4.2 million marketing campaign for Measure R tax hike

Acting in the face of growing controversy in political circles and from the community, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, acting as MTA board chairman, has decided to end the planned $4.2 million “informational” marketing campaign the agency launched with public funds for the Measure R half-cent sales tax hike.

The campaign for the $40 billion measure sparked widespread criticism with its website PR effort and a full-page ad in the Times that many felt crossed the line into outright promotion — an illegal use of the public’s money — and with a $1 million mailing of a 16-page color brochure to the nearly four million households in L.A. County.

The brochure itself, carefully gone over by lawyers, skirted the law but left out vital information about the timeline for the vast wish list of projects contained in Measure R and failed to acknowledge that many road and transit projects will never be completed since there are now real cost estimates and substantial funding from the state and federal governments are unlikely to come through given the financial climate.

The word on the street is that county Supervisor Gloria Molina has grown highly critical of the campaign in the face of the need for money to make safety improvements to prevent another Metrolink train disaster and was prepared to escalate her attacks.

Fear not, you will still face a blitzkrieg of TV ads and mailings from outside the MTA in a campaign financed by the usual special interests that will profit from Measure R: Contractors, consultants, unions and the various lobbyists, strategists and operatives who live so well off their “access” to the politicians.

One of 1,000 reasons neighborhoods deserve respect: Chatsworth

What galls me most of all about the utter contempt with which L.A.’s political and civic elite treats the neighborhoods and the people of the city is that we miss the opportunity to mobilize our human resources for the greater good of everyone.

Sooner or later, they have to be made to understand that this is our L.A.; it belongs to the people and we can make it the kind of city that it ought to be — not the kind of city that tramples on the interests, values and needs of the people and slavishly serves the special interests without regard to the common good.

Here’s just one of th 1,000 proofs of what I say, today’s email from the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council which shows the kind of good works that communities are doing all over L.A.:

Having Trouble Dealing With Metrolink Trauma?
Chatsworth Support Group Can Help You Cope

Please share your thoughts with other first-responders, volunteers

Whether you were a first-responder, a
volunteer, or a neighbor living in the Chatsworth community, join this
group for conversation and
grief/trauma education. This support meeting is planned to help you
cope with thoughts and feelings about the Metrolink train tragedy.

When: Saturday, Oct. 11
Time: 10 a.m. – Noon
Where: St. Stephen Presbyterian Church community room, 20121 Devonshire St., at the corner of Winnetka Avenue
RSVP and Questions:
Refreshments will be

The program will be facilitated
by Our House Grief Support Center, Randi Wolfson, LMFT, Adult
Program Coordinator, in cooperation with the Chatsworth Neighborhood
Council’s Outreach Committee.
This meeting is designed for adults
18 years of age and over.

For those needing further
counseling or therapeutic services, please contact: San Fernando Valley Mental Health Center at 10605 Balboa Blvd., Suite 100 Granada Hills, (818) 832-2400 or  West Valley Mental Health Center at 7621 Canoga Ave. Canoga Park, (818) 598-6900.

The 24-hour crisis hotline is (800) 854-7771.

Neighborhood Councils, resident associations, service clubs, religious institions and community groups of every type, race and philosophical point of view contribute to the health and well-being of our L.A. every day.

What does it say about the City Hall’s political culture that not one single elected official will stand with the people and denounce a system sees the public as nothing but a cash cow to provide sweetheart contracts and handsome paydays to unions, contractors, developers, lobbyists and consultants?

Fewer teachers, more bureaucrats — That’s the LAUSD solution to our failing public schools

Hard as this may be to believe, given all the lip service paid to fixing our failing schools, LAUSD’s “bureaucracy ballooned by nearly 20 percent from
2001 to 2007. Over the same period, 500 teaching positions were cut and
enrollment dropped by 6 percent.”

Got that? $20 billion invested in new school buildings and millions more to pay the salaries of a bloated bureaucracy and there’s fewer teachers than six years ago to educate 650,000 children who still are almost as likely to drop out as get a diploma, whose test scores still remain abysmally low.

That’s from Sunday’s Daily News in a story by Beth Barrett, her final story at the paper after more than 20 years of exposing theCA_DN.jpg sins and crimes of L.A.’s political and civic leadership.

It’s accompanied by a searchable database that provides the name, salary and job of every LAUSD employee. What it shows is that the average salary of the district’s 4,000 administrators. managers and other nonschool-based employees is $95,000 — more than administrators are paid elsewhere. The average teacher salary: $63,000 — less than teachers are paid elsewhere.

What teachers have been saying for decades is now a demonstrable fact: Classrooms have been robbed of resources to pay six-figure salaries to bureaucrats whose main function in life is to stifle the creativity and energy of the people who hold the future of our children, of our city, in their hands — the teachers.

“(The bureaucracy) grows whether it’s fat or
lean times,” said United Teachers Los Angeles union leader A.J. Duffy. “It’s iindicative of an upper echelon, of a leadership cadre that doesn’t want to use its authority to clean house.”

Get rid of 1,000 of the bureaucrats and $95 million plus a third more for benefits is freed up for  classroom resources and to reward thousands of the best teachers with the salaries befitting the value of their contribution. Get rid of 2,000 and you might actually have a district that starts to work.

After 30 years of decline and failure, somebody should have figured out what the problem was and done something about it.

For all those years, we’ve heard repeatedly that it’s the children’s fault because there’s too many that come from poor or immigrant families. And it turns out the biggest problem is too many bureaucrats and leadership that is too feeble to face the truth.

They point fingers at everybody else but the truth is the city’s leadership lacks the political will to do anything about the LAUSD’s most glaring problem or any of L.A.’s other glaring problems for that matter.

And when you see what LAUSD’s board members and bureaucrats have to say in Barrett’s story you can see that the mentality exposed by then Inspector General Don Mullinax years ago — Deny, Defend, Deflect — remain at the core of the culture of failure within the district.

What does it take to get real reform?

Breakup of the district was squelched. Dick Riordan’s takeover of the school board got shanghaied. Charter schools have faced resistance every inch of the way. One superintendent after another has proven unable to act decisively. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school czar plan amounts to indirect control of less than a dozen schools and the insertion of Ray Cortines into LAUSD’s No. 2 job, a role that has created more confusion than clarity of purpose.

Maybe Duffy and the teachers union is right that a strike’s needed. But it’s going to take a strike by parents, students and the teachers backed by the community as a whole to change the culture of LAUSD once and for all and put the district’s resources to work where it counts: In the classroom.

Frankly, they can take this $7 billion bond issue on the November ballot and shove it. Let’s see them dismantle this system first before they stick their hands in our pockets again.

Like a dream come true: Solving L.A. traffic and transit problems for $25 a year each

Even before the governor signed legislation allowing the MTA to put its $40 billion tax hike on the November ballot, mailboxes at homes all over Los Angeles County — all 3.87 million of them – were filled with beautiful and colorful 16-page brochures explaining what your money will buy.

It reads like a transportation miracle: Eased congrestion, freeway and street and rail and bus expansions, more synchronized lights and pothole repairs, safer roads for drivers and cyclists and pedestrians, safer and cleaner transit and — unbelievably — existing fares will be maintained “especially for seniors and the disabled.”

Best of all, your taxes will “enable people and freight to move freely in L.A. County.”

Now that is quite an education we got for our money but I’m skeptical. These are carefully scripted claims that could be fulfilled with one extra pothole, one extra synchronized light and so on right through the wish list.

It all depends what actual plans get developed and implemented, how much costs run out of control as they always do and most of all which projects go first. So the likelihood is there won’t be money left 20 years from now to complete everything especially with the top two projects being the costliest of all: The “subway-nearly-to-the–sea” or more precisely Westwood and the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica.

Out of all the information contained in the education and “information purposes only” brochure, there seems to be one serious omission: No timeline.

Understand, this is about educating voters — advocating they actually vote for the wish list. That’s because the MTA is forbidden by law from using public money to advocating support for the half-cent sales tax. It can only inform the public about what the plans are for their money but there’s no law that says they have to give complete information.

Crimes of commission, no. Crimes of omission, yes. MTA officials say they were scrupulous on that point and a dozen lawyers carefully went over every word, every element of the brochure. Sorry, I forgot to ask how they billed for their work.

But I did get what the 3.87 million brochures cost to print: $486,360 at at about 12. 5 cents. And to mail at 13.7 each or $528.297 each. A total of $1,014,657 in public money — nearly a quarter of the total budget authorized by the MTA in July for its “information purposes only” education campaign.

The $4 million or so in public money for education is undoubtedly a drop in the bucket compared to what contractors, consultants, unions and other special interests will cough up to actually convince the public that their $40 billion will really, truly, honestly produce a traffic and transit system that works in 30 years.

You can trust them on that, I’m sure. Just because billions and billions have been poured into transportation projects for the last 30 years and congestion keeps getting worse is no reason to question the MTA this. Remember that old stock market rule: Past performance is no indicator of future performance.

I’m not a bad lawyer mayself and I’ve gone through the brochure and I could defend everything in it as educational, not advocacy. I’m also not a bad journalist and I get a certain delight in showing that it does make promises that are meaningless, vague or questionable since nothing is actually costed out.

And if you really believe that “people and freight will move freely in L.A. County” in 30 years, you’re a dreamer or gullible. They are saying where in L.A. County this will occur and they certainly aren’t saying it will happen in all or most or anywhere in particular.

I affirm to you the language in the brochure is as perfectly “educational” as lawyers could make it without actually promising anything that could make officials accountability for how they spend your money.

NAKED CITY, a daily news report

Who the hell do you people think you are questioning the mayor of Los Angeles…this isn’t some small town out in the desert somewhere

An interesting study by UCLA Law Professor Gary Blasi casts doubt about whether the mayor’s highly-touted plan to blanket skid row with cops was worth it in terms of crime reduction.

“Importantly, our study shows there was no
statistically significant effect on serious, violent crime in Skid Row,
with the exception of a
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nakedcity.jpg very small effect as to the crime of robbery,”
Biasi tell the Daily News.

What he found was that the 50 extra cops pulled off patrol from all around the city has resulted in roughly 50 less robberies — one per cop — and that crime in other categories was down to the same degree it is everywhere in the city He also suggests that more people actually living in homes downtown and “walking on the streets…serves to deter crime” among the homeless.

Fair enough but that kind of talk gets under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s skin and doesn’t help him in his one-issue quest for a coronation instead of an election in March.

“The Blasi report plays games with the numbers
in order to achieve a desired outcome and totally ignores the real
progress made on the streets,” Szabo said. “A 60 percent drop in
homicides might not be ‘significant’ to some in the academic world, but
it’s a life-and-death issue for the residents of Skid Row.

“The mayor makes no apologies whatsoever for slashing violent crime in a neighborhood which had been neglected for decades.”

Speaking of getting under people’s skin…I don’t know why former Mayor Jim Hahn gets so angry whenever I say something

So there I was downtown at City Hall Thursday morning participating in a panel on charter reform, part of the L.A. Chamber of Commerce’s L.A. Access program that attracted about 500 people.

George Kieffer, the attorney and former Chamber head who somehow got charter reform through a political thicket a decade ago, moderated the discussion with UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, SEIU leader Julie Butcher, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Neighborhood Empowerment GM BongHwan Kim, Hahn and myself.

The others had a generally positive take on charter reform while acknowledging some problems depending on their point of view. Not being able to control myself as usual, I called it “a disaster” but said it was worth the price because it sparked a grassroots democracy movement for the first time in L.A. history.

Suddenly, the man sitting next to me, Hahn, exploded. I don’t know why I seem to get under his skin. Perhaps, it was the occasional criticisms I offered in the Daily News of his lackluster leadership as mayor and the fact it had something to do with his achieving the impossible — losing a re-election bid.

Here’s how Dave Zahniser in the Times saw it: 

“Always more of a politician than Hahn, Kaye worked the populist themes
that he had embraced for years, describing city government as
systemically corrupt…’The city has never had democratic institutions in its whole history. It’s been ruled by narrow elites from Day One.’

“That was too much for Hahn, who rolled his eyes and audibly groaned. ‘We haven’t had democratic institutions in the city of Los Angeles?’ he
asked, incredulous.

“After staying quiet a few more minutes, Hahn spoke up: ‘I think I’m
a living example of how democracy works. I was denied a second term. If we didn’t have democracy, I probably wouldn’t be on this

I could have made a crack about how having a father named Kenny Hahn who was L.A.’s most popular and well-connected politician for 40 years helped but I’m too much of a gentleman.

An hour later I was at the Justice Armand Arabian public service awards banquet where I was being honored along with such truly deserving people as Gerald Turpanjian, Jayne Shapiro, Greg Baker, Greig Smith, Tommy Lasorda and Daryl Gates.

Now, if there’s anyone in L.A. public life who has reason to be unforgiving of my wicked ways, it’s the former police chief. My attacks on his chief-for-life status and the excesses of the old LAPD started back in the early 80s at the Herald-Examiner and kept up to the day he was forced from office.

But time can heal all wounds and we shook hands and chatted a while as if we were old friends.

URGENT UPDATE: Appeals Court upholds Prop. R as legal

There’s only one way to go now: Ask the Supreme Court to hold an emergency session to rule before the November candidates deadline on whether the fundamental constitutional protection against deceit in state legislation and ballot initiatives applies to the City of Los Angeles.

The court likely would refuse to hear the question of whether the public was deceived by slipping a third term for City Council members into a so-called ethics reform measure that targeted those evil-doing lobbyists. Of course, lobbyists are the symbol — not the source — of City Hall’s corruption.

That dishonor belongs to politicians who beg special interests for campaign money and then do their bidding — and give unlimited access to the lobbyists, lawyers and PR flacks who get rich representing them. All Prop. R did was save lobbyists from writing personal checks to the politicians anymore.

If the court did hear the appeal  and extended the constitutional ban on such multiple issue measures, we would have wide open elections for the council in March.

If, in the end, it upheld the city’s right to such a license to deceive, two can play that game.

What would stop community activists from putting together an initiative that cut council salaries in half, limited the number of take-home cars for political staff, required complete disclosure of campaign contributions and interests in real time, mandated a fixed percentage of city money to police and fire, moved city elections to general election days and so on.

Call it the Clean L.A. Plan or CLAP. Think about it.

Here’s what the State Court of Appeals ruled today:

“Appellants point to nowhere in the California Constitution, or elsewhere in state

law, expressly imposing a single subject restriction on ballot measures sponsored by the

governing body of a charter city such as Los Angeles.

The Constitution must be interpreted by the language in which it is written, since

“‘courts are no more at liberty to add provisions to what is therein declared in definite

language than they are to disregard any of its express provisions.'” (Delaney v. Superior

Court (1990)

50 Cal.3d 785, 799.) We conclude the single subject rule does not apply to

a city council sponsored ballot measure such as Measure R.”

The full opinion is at:


Whodunit Chapter Seven: Who’s killing my neighborhood?

The wheels of justice turn slowly and awkwardly at best and that’s little consolation to the victims of lawless behavior.

It all seemed so simple those many months ago when when my neighbors found out the foreclosed home nearby was being converted into a three-unit tenement — three kitchens, four baths, more than a dozen rooms in all — in 2,000 square feet.

Last month, the city charged the ownersThumbnail image for 18853haynes.jpg of the property at 19953 Haynes St. in Woodland Hills with four misdemeanor crimes — illegal use of land, illegal occupancy, construction without a permit and failure to comply — and gave them six weeks to appear in court.

Wednesday was their day in court. They didn’t show up, Their lawyer didn’t call. Warrants were issued for their arrest.

So tonight nothing has changed. There are still five or six cars in the driveway, the neighbors are still upset at seeing the modest stake in paradise being trashed by ineffective city policies and Kashi the dog  still is chained in front of the house and has my dog Bruno so scared he looks the other way when we walk by.

I learned in recent months that this kind of thing is going on all over the city and not enough is being done about it. Most of the time neighbors have to get together and make a big stink to get action.

While City Hall is saving us from second-hand smoke in the parks and taking money for the visual blight of 24-hour-a-day monster flashing electronic billboards, neighborhoods all over the city are being turned into slums.

I went to court in Van Nuys today to see how the system works when these defendants — Nady Madhavi who bought the house in January and flipped it in May and something called Fidelity Investments LLC of Bellflower, the third owner in six months — were due to enter their pleas.

I watched prostitues and druggies and abusers of animals and wives went before Magistrate Rebecca Omens one after another, most of them needing two or three months to pay fines and costs of $200 or so.

And I watched Deputy City Attorney Donald Cocek, with two Building and Safety officials standing by, deal with one case after another and patiently take time to talk to people accused of violating Building and Safety laws and regulations.

His goal was to get the problem fixed, to get people to comply with the rules, get permits and fix up their properties to code. There was a man who needed a Thai interpreter, one who needed a Korean interpreter, a third who needed a Spanish interpreter.

These were people who didn’t understand the rules, who weren’t turning single family homes into tenements, who weren’t destroying the quality of life in their neighborhoods for profit. Cocek has a 100 percent compliance record in these cases.

My case was different and he was surprised no one showed up for it. But he’s just the guy who handles the case in court, the guy who asks the judge to issue the arrest warrants. The Building and Safety guys just enforce the code.

Nobody, as far as this sleuth has been able to determine, actually investigates the relationships between the the three different owners this year of the house at 19953 Haynes Street. Nobody looks for the patterns, the larger abuses. And nobody can do anything about it as the clock keeps ticking and the rent keeps flowing in at the rate of about $5,000 a month.

The wheels of justice move slowly and the neighborhood’s resentment over this nuisance keeps growing and City Hall keeps fiddling around while the city burns.