Confessions of a Long-time CRA Board Member: ‘Remember Solyndra’

Long-time Community Redevelopment Agency board member Madeline Janis admits she has felt “pressured to agree” to development subsidy proposals that did not provide adequate protections for the investment of public money.

janis.jpg


“In nine years on the Community Redevelopment Agency Board, Madeline Janis As someone who’s spent  nine years as a public official, as a member of the board of commissioners of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), I know a lot about bureaucracy,” Janis, founder and executive director of the progressive L.A. Alliance for the New Economy, writes on the Frying Pan blog that originated with her group and is dedicated to providing “a platform for those who share our belief that we can and must build an economy that works for all of us.”

“I have presided over the investment of billions of taxpayer dollars and creation of hundreds of economic development deals. I have seen my share of red tape. On some occasions, I have left a CRA meeting feeling badly for a particular developer who had to jump through so many hoops to get a good deal approved.

“But most of the time, I have left those meetings feeling pressured to agree to things that did not have enough black-and-white safeguards in place to protect the public interest.”

The context of her remarks is a post on the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the Northern California solar panel manufacturer that got half a billion dollars in federal loan guarantees from the Obama Administration.

“Why didn’t the officials take more precautions, do more research, put in place more safeguards? How could they have been so dumb and so wasteful of precious government dollars?

“But really, what the conservative Obama critics are saying is that the federal government and states such as California and Wisconsin that invested millions in the company should have had more bureaucratic red tape. Yes, that most hated of terms, “red tape” is something that could have actually prevented a huge loss of government dollars in an unwise investment.”

Janis, a senior fellow at the UCLA School of Public Affairs and leader of the effort to enact the “Living Wage Ordinance,” spends most of her effort criticizing conservatives like Congressman Paul Ryan but she ends by bringing the issue home to L.A. and the CRA’s endless expenditures of vast sums of public money in support of controversial developments that benefit wealthy private interests that have inordinate influence with City Hall politicians.


She ends her post by writing: “So the next time a developer or political leader complains to me about too much red tape, I’m going to take a red pen, write on my hand, and then hold it up for all to see: ‘Remember Solyndra!’ “


As the only CRA board member in years to aggressively question the proposals put together by a staff that has long been deeply politicized, often incompetent and committed by their political masters to downtown/Hollywood-centric policies that rob resources from everyone else, Janis has a right to speak out against the poorly examined and structured deals that do not “protect the public interest,’ or for that matter serve the public interest..

Like everyone else inside the City Hall “family” who tries to preserve their integrity while bringing their talents and beliefs to the task with a sense of public service, Janis faces the constant challenge of determining where is the line between being “pragmatic” and being part of the corruption.

It’s why somehow, some way, the monopoly on power at City Hall long held by narrow special interests must be broken up and shared with the neighborhoods in a way that creates a honest balance that allows the competing interests, values and needs of an enormously diverse city to be met.

The man or woman who “deserves” to be the next mayor of this city, who the city needs to be mayor, is the one who can make believers out of begrudgers, who can bridge the ideological gap, and bring to City Hall the skill, passion and commitment to fix what is broken by holding top managers to a high standard of achievement rather than obedience and transforming a failed system into one that revives L.A. materially and spiritually.

It takes people like Janis and her ideological opposites and those in between to find the common ground and start to nurture the city so it can start to grow again in healthy ways.

Questions Raised About Why Top Jewish Groups Backed Two-Latino Seat Plan for County

EDITOR’S NOTE: David Lehrer of Community Advocates Inc., who writes the Wide Angle column for the Jewish Journal’s website, has posted this article sharply criticizing key Jewish groups for supporting efforts to redraw Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors districts to create two Latino seats. He notes that the Latino population increased only 3.2 percent in the last decade and disputes the contention that “ethnic representation should prevail and trump all other concerns.

DANCE WITH WHO BRUNG YOU

By David A. Lehrer

That Zev Yaroslavsky is the most important local elected
Jewish official is beyond dispute. For over three decades he has been a voice
of reason and courage for, to and in the Jewish community.


That three significant Jewish agencies would lend support to an effort to
undermine Supervisor Yaroslavsky and his constituents is beyond comprehension.

Yet last week, in the middle of the fight over redrawing the county’s
supervisorial districts for the next decade, three major Jewish organizations
(American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, and Jewish Federation of
Greater Los Angeles) unquestioningly bought the MALDEF/Gloria Molina/ACLU line
of argument that the Latino community was insufficiently represented in
electoral politics, business and media. The three organizations and their
Latino colleagues issued a joint statement that they had came to a
“consensus” that the logic of ethnic representation should prevail
and trump all other concerns that normally effect the decisions on where to
draw district lines (e.g. population balance, contiguity of cities, varying
communities of interest, etc.).

Yesterday’s vote of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors fortunately
rejected the push by Supervisor Molina and her allies to create a second
majority Latino district ostensibly to comply with the Federal Voting Rights
Act. The rationale for the Molina plan was that the failure to endorse it would
“limit the rights of Latino voters.” The days’ long debate was held
with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over the Board if it didn’t acquiesce to
the proposed gerrymander and with occasional assertions of racism hurled at
those who dissented from the Molina position.

It has been a contentious debate with the contiguity and strength of the Third
Supervisorial district (presently represented by Zev Yaroslavsky) in some
jeopardy. The Molina plan would have stretched the new Third from Sylmar to
Huntington Park (presently the Third is most of north central LA) with much of
the Jewish community divided between three districts. Additionally, it would
have added to the isolation of the Asian-Pacific Islander community (a seldom
discussed side effect).

An often ignored fact is that the Latino percentage of the county’s population
has only increased by 3.2% over the past decade and the plan that was adopted
on Tuesday was essentially what MALDEF had requested and the court had ordered
in 1990.

Apparently, at the conclusion of a day-long retreat last week, Latino and
Jewish “leaders” issued a five point statement–four of the
statements are the kind of milquetoast that is the usual fare at gatherings of
this type (oppose anti-Semitism and anti-Latino sentiment, stand together to
face and prevent vitriolic rhetoric, etc.)–only the one on “fair
representation” of Latinos has ramifications in the real world.

It is a measure of the paucity of Jewish institutional leadership in LA that
these three major organizations would, either unwittingly or purposefully, sign
on to a statement that undercuts the single most prominent local political
leader in the Jewish community at a time when he was in a nasty confrontation
to preserve the demographic and geographic integrity of the district in which a
plurality, if not the vast majority, of LA’s Jewish population resides. 
Their sin is compounded by their endorsing a worldview that is anathema to the
Jewish community’s interests–that proportional ethnic and racial
representation is the measure of fairness.

(READ FULL ARTICLE)

YOU CAN READ SUPERVISOR YAROSLAVSKY’S TAKE ON THE VOTE TUESDAY HERE.

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The Census, Redistricting and Public DIscontent

If you think something big isn’t bubbling up in a groundswell of public discontent, you are just not paying attention.

Under the headline today “As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around the Globe,” the New York Times examines the phenomena of hundreds of thousands of “disillusioned Indians” cheering a rural activist on a hunger strike, how Israel is facing the “largest street demonstrations in its history,” how “enraged young people” in Spain and Greece have taken to the streets.

“Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over. They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.” 
“Economics have been the driving force, with growing income inequality, high unemployment and recession-driven cuts in social spending breeding widespread malaise. Alienation runs especially deep ini Europe, with boycotts and strikes that, in London and Athens, erupted into violence.”
 
It hasn’t happened here yet but the Occupy Wall Street protests are spreadiing to LA, Chicago and elsewhere.
And it’s a sign of how emotions are heating when, for the second time in three weeks, nearly a thousand people showed up to give the LA County Board of Supervisors an earful about the most abstract and nearly incomprehensible of all issues: Redistricting.
A flood of new Census number, arcane elements of the Voting Rights Law, the ego and power games of politicians all added up to a frenzy of activity that ended with a back room deal to preserve the status quo of supervisors’ district and punt the issue to the courts to decide whether those for whom the system seems to be working (mostly whites and Asians, based on the one-minute of testimony allowed the public) and those who feel they are being denied a choice at the ballot box (almost entirely Latinos) — as if very many of us feel we get much of a choice given the role of special interests and their money.
The fight over county districts will soon be overshadowed by the LA’s redistricting process, which is under way in the hands of a committee appointed by our elected officials for the sole purpose of protecting their own personal and political interests.
The claims for more power from Latinos, for more seats with overwhelming Latino majorities, will be strong and supported by the numbers
After the 1990 Census, Daily News reporters Beth Barrett and David Parrish produced an important story headlined “Nuevo Los Angeles” showing how Latinos had become the dominant group in South LA, pushing to African-American population out.
The numbers now are even more dramatic today in South LA and the San Fernando Valley especially.
Councilman BIll Rosendahl’s Chief of Staff Mike Bonin has culled details from the Census and city documents showing:
  • There are seven majority Latino districts: 
    CD7/Alarcon (79.51%); CD9/Perry (79.47%); CD1/Reyes (72.71%);
    CD6/Cardenas (71.02%); CD14/Huizar (70.97%); CD15/Vacant (62.23%);
    CD13/Garcetti (57.58%).
  • Two other districts are nearly 50% Latino:  CD8/Parks (49.14%); and CD10/Wesson (48.41%).
  • Jan Perry’s district has a slightly larger percentage of Latinos than Ed Reyes, Tony Cardenas, or Jose Huizar.
  • Latino
    population grew in most districts, but dipped slightly in
    CD1/Reyes; CD13/Garcetti; CD14/Huizar; as well as CD2/Krekorian and
    CD4/LaBonge.
  • There are only three majority white districts – CD5/Koretz (72.09%); CD11/Rosendahl (58.71%); CD2/Krekorian (52.63%).
It’s true the population numbers don’t reflect actual voter registration numbers or voter turnout numbers but they certainly are significant and certainly will be the basis of arguing that seven or eight districts should be drawn to provide overwhelming Latino majorities.
There can’t be any doubt that the numbers and his ambition to be mayor prompted Council President Eric Garcetti to back plans for a second Latino county supervisor seat.
Inflaming racial tensions and dividing people along racial and ethnic lines have been used to keep people from getting together in LA for decades but there is more than a little evidence that such distinctions are become less important all the time.
Herb Wesson represents a district that is less than 25 percent black.and a white Jewish man, Mitch Englander, was recently elected to the Council from a Northwest Valley district that is nearly 20 percent Asian and whites have fallen from 54 to 44 percent of the population in the last decade.
The world is changing. The question is will any of those who choose to step forward and run for public office be able to rise above the din of divisiveness and offer a vision for how we all get along better than we have in a long time.
It is the economy, stupid, that really matters. It isn’t getting any better. It is going to take real leaders to guide us through the troubled waters of our discontent in the next few years or we will see people marching in the streets and demanding reforms.
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Garcetti Takes Sides in County Redistricting Fight

Abandoning his posture as a consensus-building LA City Council President, Eric Garcetti appeared Tuesday before the County Board of Supervisors and strongly endorsed redistricting plans proposed by Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas that would create a second predominantly Latino seat, likely changing the board’s politics for years to come.

Garcetti, along with Councilman Ed Reyes, left their own meeting to testify for one minute each before the supervisors.
The Council President and wannabe mayor said he supported either plan for a second Latino seat, despite widespread complaints from constituents of Zev Yaroslavsky on the Westside, Calabasas and most of all the San Fernanado Valley, which would be carved into three different supervisorial districts.
Made a point about his Latino and Jewish heritage in arguing it was only “fair” for Latinos to control two of the five supervisors’ seats. 
How his position will play among Jewish voters on the Westside and Valley remains to be seen but his decision appears to reflect his calculation that he can’t compete for those votes against Yaroslavsky while the Latino vote is up for grabs with state Sen. Alex Padilla deciding not to run for mayor.
To be approved, the redistricting plan must get four votes or it goes to the other county elected officials to decide: Sheriff Lee Baca, District Attorney Steve Cooley and Assessor John Noguez.

CBS2 Accuses City Hall of Funneling $1 Million Grant for the Poor to Farmers Field Architect

Like taxpayer money that goes to the Community Redevelopment Agency and winds up in the hands of wealthy developers, federal community development block grants (CDBG) given to the city often are funneled away from programs to help the poor as they are intended.

CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein dug up a story broadcast last night about how a $1 million CDBG block grant went to Gensler, the architectural firm that is designing AEG’s Farmers FIeld, to help pay for remodeling its corporate offices for its move from Santa Monica to downtown LA.

Goldstein confronted Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa about the appropriateness of taking money away from the poorest people in the city and breaking his promise that no public money would go towards the stadium project.

“Actually, it’s not. It’s public money going to job creation going to provide more revenues,” Villaraigosa said. “It’s part of an effort to revitalize the city and it’s an effort that I stand by.”

Of course, it’s all about creating jobs — the current excuse used by the job-killing mayor and City Council to continue their policy or redistributing the wealth from the poor to the rich.

Gov. Jerry Brown is going along with the farce and is set to sign SB 292 freeing AEG from key elements of state environmental laws at an invitation-only event this morning at the LA Convention Center.

Here’s the CBS report:


LOS
ANGELES (CBS) —
 Jeff Dietrich serves a thousand meals a day at his soup
kitchen on skid row. He sees the poor and needy firsthand.

But
he does not see why a $1 million of taxpayer money, that could go to help the
people on skid row, is ending up in the hands of one of the world’s largest
architectural firms. The money is slated to go to the firm that designed
Farmers Field, the new, privately-financed football stadium.

“When
you drive around here and see all the people on the streets pushing shopping
carts, when you see them lying on the streets, when you see them homeless, you
have to ask yourself how can you use money for that type of activity,” Dietrich
said.

But
we found that is just what the mayor is proposing.

After
promises of no public money going to the stadium project, he has OK’d $1
million of federal community development block grant money, earmarked to help
the poor and needy, to go to the Gensler Architectural Firm.

They
are moving from Santa Monica to a building dubbed the “jewel box” in Downtown
L.A. The money is for rehabbing the building to turn it into a trendy office
complex for 250 employees.

“People
are really mad,” said Becky Dennison of the L.A. Community Action Network — a group devoted to protecting the rights
of the homeless.

“I
think it’s pure politics and driven by the stadium project,” she said.

Through
the Legal Aid Foundation, they filed a complaint with HUD, which administers
the money, alleging mismanagement of the community block grant funds.

“I
think we’ve said from the beginning we didn’t oppose the stadium project, but
we didn’t want public money and we didn’t want backroom deals. And that’s what
we see.”

HUD
responded saying Gensler is eligible for the money, as long as they create just
29 new jobs. At least 51 percent have to be held by low or moderate income
workers, who have no more than a high school education.

It
sounds easy enough, but even people within the city questioned it. In e-mails
obtained by Legal Aid, one person involved 
with
granting the money said, “This project could meet a national objective, public
benefit, etc. But I imagine this will not.”

Mark
Lewis and his wife, Beth Mueller, tried to get some of the same public funds
that went to Gensler. Through the Central City Community Outreach, a church on
skid row, they proposed more than two-dozen programs to help the needy. All
were turned down.

“There
are better ways to spend a million dollars and provide a lot more jobs,” Lewis
said.

Despite
some of the questions and despite the fact that Gensler still has not said what
jobs would be created and how, the City Council approved the mayor’s proposal.
The company and the city are still working on the final agreement before the
money changes hands.

(READ FULL STORY)

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Time to hold them responsible: My Sunday Column for LA Times Community Newspapers

The trial of six Italian seismologists and a government official for
manslaughter due to their failure to provide warnings of a devastating
earthquake after a series of smaller ones has sent a tremor throughout the
world’s scientific and political communities.

For all the condemnation being heaped on the Italian prosecutors, they might be
on to something in holding the scientists and government officials accountable
for “negligence and imprudence” for telling the public they had nothing to
fear. who have failed, lied and misled us throughout
the recession are still playing games instead of doing the hard work of finding
real solutions.


Maybe the Italians got it right and it’s time hold some economists and
government officials here accountable and put them on trial for their
failure to provide warnings about the recession that started in October
2007, their ineffectiveness in dealing with economic collapse and their
raising of false hopes that recovery was just around the corner.

It may not be manslaughter, but a lot of people sure have been hurt and a lot of people are still in pain.

L.A.’s
Economic Roundtable, headed by economist Daniel Flaming, issued a
report last week that shows just how much worse the recession’s toll is
in Los Angeles County and California than the rest of the nation, and
who has felt the greatest impact.

Here are some of the key findings:

Workers with B.A. degrees are much harder hit by the recession in Los Angeles County than in the rest of the U.S.

The unemployment rate in L.A. is 80% higher than in the rest of the U.S.


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Billionaires’ Bragging Rights, Boosters’ Benefits and the Brutal Battle for Big-time Football

While AEG was busy gutting the heart of California’s environmental protection law with the help of business, labor and environmentalists, competitor Ed Roski’s NFL football team was rounding up support from the Boards of Supervisors of.neighboring Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties as well as officials of many cities east and south of downtown LA.

They made their point at a press conference Wednesday at Diamond Bar City Hall with windows looking out on the graded and shovel-ready 600-acre site for stadium Roski’s Majestic Realty wants to build in the City of Industry. Their effort got quick backing from the San Bernardino Sun.

The officials, and former NFL players at the event, sound a lot like promoters and backers of AEG’s plans\ — 20,000 jobs, more tourism to boost the economy, the joy of football — with some differences, namely that millions more people will be able to reach the stadium in a real amount of time, seats will be cheaper and they will be able to tailgate all day long.

“Los
Angeles County and all our residents will benefit tremendously from
Majestic Realty’s proposal because it is the only plan on the table that
presents zero risk to taxpayers or the general fund,” said Los Angeles
County Supervisor Don Knabe. “This plan will create nearly 19,000
desperately needed jobs and serve as a direct revenue stream for Los
Angeles. When the Super Bowl and other events take place it will be our
hotels, our restaurants and our stores that will be full of tourists.”

 

“The
National Football League is too big and its return is too important to
limit the benefits to only 14 acres,” added Chairman of the Riverside
County Board of Supervisors Bob Buster. “Majestic has a plan on the
table that will create jobs and generate growth in a way that spreads
benefits to the millions of people who live in the four corner region.
Since the NFL departed the population has shifted east. We are one of
the fastest growing regions, and we should be the next home of the NFL.”

 

“This
proposal which includes a new state-of-the-art stadium and a retail
campus will make a tremendous impact on our regional economy,” said San
Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

The stakes are high in terms of who gets the jobs, which communities get most of the economic benefits and which billionaire gets the bragging rights.

AEG’s lobbyist team of Armbruster, Goldsmith & Delvac — recipients of nearly all of the $1 million AEG has spent in the last year to influence City Hall in LA — have been doing a lot of bragging in their own right after spending a month in Sacramento drafting and selling the legislation fast-tracking AEG’s stadium through the environmental review process and opening the door to other massive projects to minimize the amount of review they face from the public and the courts.

An email blast from the firm boasts that they drafted the legislation, brought together legislators of both parties and key environmental groups “for the first time in decades” to initiate “major California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) reform aimed at
avoiding unnecessary delay while keeping legitimate CEQA review intact.”


The bills — AB 292 solely for AEG and AB 900 expanding the weakening of CEQA to other major projects — are awaiting the governor’s signature of veto. They bypass the Superior Court if EIR approvals are challenged and give the Court of Appeal. just six months to revolve what are inherently complicated cases based on thousands of pages of detailed documents.


“We prepared the draft legislation at each step, and worked for months
with leading environmental groups, legislators, unions and the business
community to craft legislation that would meet each group’s requirements,” the lobbyists said in their email. 


“To
help make this bill a reality, one of our partners spent the last solid month
in Sacramento on the drafting and advocacy, while other partners provided
detailed support on important legal and technical issues from Los Angeles. All
of this hard work paid off ..”


They humbly credit these legislators for their fine cooperation: Speaker John Perez, Sen. Alex Padilla, Assemblymen Michael Feuer, Bob Blumenfield and Wesley Chesbro and Sens. Alex Padilla, Fran
Pavley, Joe Simitian and Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg. 


You might remember their names come election season, particularly City Attorney wannabe Feuer and West Valley Councilman wannabe Blumenfield.


What’s iinteresting is it appears that Armbruster, Goldsmith & Delvac were acting in Sacramento as lawyers since there appears to be no reports to this point of AEG hiring them as legislative lobbyists or the firm reporting it was paid for lobbying.

The firm does confirm what Feuer and others have been whispering — the legislators intend to further “reform” CEQA to speed developments in the name of creating jobs as long as there is any kind of fictional narrative about how “green” the project is. Since the heroes they lobbyists credit for undermining CEQA — something long-sought by business — are all Democrats, you can see how hard it is to tell the difference between them and Republicans.

“The work-and opportunities for greater reform with AB 900-will continue
into the next year’s legislative session with a follow up bill,” the email blast said.


In other words, just say “green” and there will be a green light. 

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Antonio Villaraigosa, Political Superstar — Obama’s Secret Re-Election Weapon?

It’s
finally clear: All the world is a stage for a ham like Antonio Villaraigosa –
it’s just that the stage of Los Angeles isn’t big enough anymore, the role of
mayor of the nation’s second largest city just isn’t worthy of his talents
anymore.

He
isn’t the failure as mayor as so many have concluded. He checked out because he
was bored with such a two-bit part in a town out in the desert somewhere far
from the real action.

So
he’s stepped onto the larger stage of political theater, lecturing the governor
and legislators in a Sacramento speech a few weeks ago about how to fix the
state’s budget problems by gutting Proposition 13 and eliminating taxes for
corporations.

Just
two weeks ago, he escalated his campaign for undisclosed future offices by submitting a
letter to Congress and delivering a rousing speech (
Transportation9-6-11.pdf) about he has transformed Los
Angeles.

LA
is a model for of how America can move forward and put people to work, how in
just six short years he has built a great transportation system, how he has brought
intelligent planning to create livable sustainable neighborhoods using
renewable energy and reformed a badly broken school system.

Noting
how last month he “called for fixing California’s busted budget and tax
systems,” he chastised Congress for having “dithered enough over deficits and
debts” and urged the President to “take the money that was used to build
democracy in Iraq and now use it to build the bridges, the schools, the rail
lines we need here at home.”

“We
cannot keep living on the investments our parents and grandparents made. If we
want to get people working again … If we want to secure a better future for
the next generation … We must reject the politics of cut and cap. And embrace
the politics of create and collaborate. “

The
nation “will look to Los Angeles and Southern California”
for inspiration from what he has achieved, he said. 

“In
our new subways, rail-lines, roadways and
busways, they will see one of the largest, most innovative infrastructure
projects of the new century. America will
look to Los Angeles and see a new type of leader. They will see a region that
leads in transit ridership, not gridlock ... And that leads in sustainability, not smog.

“We
have accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time. But let us pledge
to do more.”

Two
days after this remarkable, incredible really, speech, he was in Washington to
lobby for transportation funding to deliver on his promises.

Then,
he sat with the First Lady up front at a joint session of Congress as President
Obama eloquently laid out his plan to put America back to work.

As
president of the 165-member US Conference of Mayors, he
warned Congress that two million jobs were “on the line” at a time of “historic
unemployment across the country” so they should act immediately to extend the
federal transportation law and provide funding (
ConferenceMayors.rtf).

“There is no more time to waste. We need Congress to act now.
The clock is ticking and if an extension is not signed by the President before
September 30, the entire program will be suspended and threaten the loss of 1.8
million jobs. That is an additional blow that our workers
, our
economy, and our crumbling infrastructure cannot bear. “

He was back in Washington Monday when the President offered his
“Buffett Rule” soak-the-rich tax hike and deficit reduction.

He also spoke as a leading school reform leader to the
right-wing American Enterprise Institute where he was honored with the 2011 “
Champion for Charters” award
from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Promoting
the event AEI said he “earned a reputation
as a hard-charging and outspoken
champion of school improvement … shut down failing schools, created new
opportunities for alternative school providers, and navigated around
complicated union contracts … Join us for a conversation on what Villaraigosa
has learned from his efforts in Los Angeles, what it takes for mayors to impact
public education, and how policymakers and reformers can help drive urban
school improvement.”

AEI’s report on the mayor’s appearance, written by Bridget
Johnson,
a former staffer at the Daily News and frequent Op-ed contributor,
picked up on the mayor’s criticism of teacher unions.

“I
probably terrorize them more than people on the right,” Villaraigosa said after
noting that the union hadn’t budged a bit on reform initiatives during his six
years in office. “I’m unabashedly pro-union but I’m pro-kid.

“I
am not anti-union but I do take umbrage with some of the issues they’ve gotten
behind … they’re too focused on rights and not responsibilities. We need union
contracts that provide us flexibility to innovate.”

Villaraigosa
said the tenure system is “broken” and seniority should not be the deciding
factor in teacher assignments, salary, and the like. “Nobody has a job for
life.”

 Villaraigosa said more Democrats need to
challenge the powerful unions while Republicans should acknowledge that money
is part of the answer.

“Our
schools are badly broken. Our schools are starved for dollars and cents; our
policies are starved for common sense,” the mayor said.

He
proudly touted that the LAUSD has more charter schools than any other district
in the country and the “vast majority” of them are high performing. He didn’t
mention that the charters he controls directly are underperforming LAUSD
schools and most other charters.

It
is a busy few days for the mayor with meetings with national teacher union
leaders, members of Congress and the Obama Administration, pushing for transportation
and job creation programs.

For Antonio, politics always has been more theater than substance. So what is he auditioning for by playing the part of a leader of substance and vision on the state and national scene? 

Does he think Sen. Feinstein will retire and he can take his rewritten narrative of time as mayor and win the Senate seat? Does he harbor hopes that Obama in a second term will make him Transportation or Education Secretary, maybe even reach out to him a possible Vice President candidate to replace Joe Biden and help bring home the growing Latino vote?

Wouldn’t that be something?

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California’s Bully Speaker John Perez and His Disrespect for the Law, the Press and the Public

As every child knows, it takes one to know one.

A case in point is John Perez, the first openly gay Speaker of the California, an ardent and righteous advocate for educational programs and laws to protect the rights of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community, particularly LGBT students who might be the targets of bullying and harassment because they don’t always behave like the majority of kids around them.

perez1.jpg

Yet, Perez does not apply the same humanistic and decent standards to adults, especially those who dare to disagree or challenge him. He has earned a reputation as a bully, threatening and intimidating anyone who gets in his way politically, even members of his own party who from time to time to behave differently that he would like.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, the La Canada-Flintridge Democrat is a prime example. After Portantinto cast the lone Assembly vote against the Democrats phony budget — $400 million short on revenue in July alone and soon to hit trigger points that will punish the poor more than anyone — Perez falsely claimed his colleague Portantino overspent his staff budget. He gave him until November to kowtow and kiss his ring of power or furlough his entire staff for 40 days over the holidays.

Portantino immediately went public with his budget and demanded to see all records of legislative spending under the California Public Records Act — an action that quickly prompted the state’s two most prestigious papers, Sacramento Bee and LA Times, to file similar demands and follow up with lawsuits when the bully Speaker told them to shove it.

Like most bullies, Perez is a coward hiding his weakness with meanness. He conceded the principle and issued budget and financial documents for legislative spending that were soon exposed as phony as his claims to political correctness and a true liberal’s respect for the diversity of society.

Now Perez has answered the lawsuit in court with a document that is so fallacious it could easily be construed to be perjurious — except he didn’t sign it, and the head of the Assembly Rules Committee Nancy Skinner didn’t sign it. The lawyer representing them did so secure in the knowledge that even if threatened with disbarment for lying to the court, he can claim the people who write the laws and control the people who enforce the laws were the liars. He was merely the liars lawyer.

“This lawsuit is both unfounded and unnecessary,” says the Assembly’s bully Speaker’s introduction to the newspapers’ lawsuit filed last week (Assembly-CPRA-response.rtf). 

“It is
unfounded because the documents petitioners seek – to the extent they exist –
are protected from disclosure as preliminary drafts and/or correspondence. It is unnecessary because the Legislature has
already supplied the information
that petitioners claim they need in order to report on the money allocated for
individual Assembly members.”

What utter contempt to the press and the public!

Not a word of truth in those word.

It took Stanford University students a matter of days to show that the “facts: Perez released about Assembly spending for staff and its self-indulgences were total lies not borne out by the “real facts.” (Stanford-Analysis-Summary.pdf)(Stanford-AssemblySalariesRprt_Aug29.pdf)

“The sum of all spending in the reported budgets is $16,882,750.96,
which breaks down into $10,240,466.25 reported for staffer’s salaries and
$6,642,284.71 reported for Members’ offices’ operating expenses.  The sum of all Assembly Member Office
staffers’ salaries is $34,038,564,” wrote student researcher Evan Storms  “That
means there is a $17,155,813.04 difference between all spending reported in the budgets, and actual spending on
staffers’ salaries-and a $23,798,097.75 between the reported budgeted spending
on staffers’ salaries and actual spending on staffers’ salaries. ?

What the bully John Perez feels is unnecessary to report, to explain, to account for, is $17 million — twice what he public has claimed the Assembly spends.

That is $17 million that could be used to help local school district’s pay for the unfunded state mandate that approved in the recent session’s waning hours that “prohibit discrimination,
harassment, i
ntimidation, and bullying
based on actual or perceived 
characteristics …The bill also would require the prrocess for receiving and
investigating complaints to include 
complaints of discrimination,
harassment, intimidation, and bullying b
ased on actual or perceived
characteristics, as specified, and to
include a requirement that
school personnel who witness such acts 
take immediate steps to
intervene when safe to do so, a timeline to 
investigate and resolve
complaints, and an appeal process … “

A year ago, Perez, cousin of the well-know heterosexual Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, participated in the “It Gets Better” initiative and made a video tjat gave a glimpse into his psyche when he described what was like to grow up gay.

“No,” Perez said,
when asked if he was bullied when he was younger. “I could always kick
anybody’s ass who tried to do that.”

“You hear some of
the most horrific stuff coming from people who don’t know you’re gay. Sometimes
it’s malicious, sometimes it’s naïve. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had
to come out. T
he
reality is, coming out is a never-ending process.”

The greater reality is we are all struggling to come out and become all that we are. It isn’t easy for anyone — yet “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as we define is our unalienable right as Americans.

That applies to everyone as well as those in the LGBT community and others who have faced greater hardships than most in the past. The perpetuation of bullying by John Perez doesn’t move forward the struggle for true freedom for anyone.

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Standing up for what we believe in — My Sunday Column for Glendale-Burbank-Pasadena Papers

For people who came of age in the Roaring ’20s or the Great Depression
that followed, this is déjà vu all over again, a moment in history that
must make them feel like they have taken a step back in time.

The disparity in wealth today is as great as it was back then — and it’s growing rapidly.

Just as it was in the 1920s, the richest 20% of Americans own 85% of the
wealth. The bottom 40% has a net worth of zero. In most cases, they owe
more than they own, which makes them worth less than zero, when it
comes to wealth.

Don’t begrudge the rich getting so much richer.
It’s House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s good fortune, we assume, that
her husband’s smart investments in real estate and football surged in
the last year, increasing her net worth by 62% to $35.2 million, showing
growing disparity in wealth isn’t just along party lines, at least.

New
U.S. Census figures show that for the third year in a row, the poverty
rate jumped nationally, reaching 15.3%, with 2.6 million more people
joining the 43.6 million already living below the poverty line on a
family income of less than $22,113.

In California, it is worse — a lot worse.

The
poverty rate jumped a full point to 16%, leaving 6 million people with
poverty level incomes and one in five Californians without health
insurance, and one in eight without a job.

Burbank’s poverty rate
is roughly half the state average, but Glendale and Pasadena are on par
with the state. Los Angeles, in a class with Rust Belt cities like
Detroit for unemployment, has a poverty rate a third higher, at more
than 20%.

You can be as indifferent as you want to the poor — and
a lot of people don’t seem to care if they live or die — but you need
to worry how they fill up emergency rooms and increase demand on public
services of all types, and about the impact of the instability that
comes from chronic unemployment and deepening poverty.

Most of all, you need to worry about yourself, if you fit anywhere into the middle class.

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