Whistleblower hotline: (213) 785-6098

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Media Bias Ensures Election Of The Mediocre

"Going Head to Head" is the title of an article in the San Fernando Valley Sun about a debate between the candidates for the 20th District State Senate race. A picture accompanying the article shows candidates Alex Padilla and Cindy Montanez facing one another.

A more accurate title, however, would have been, "Going Head to Head to Head." You see, there weren't two candidates debating; there were three.

Rather than simply reporting what happened, however, the newspaper decided to trivialize the third candidate who participated in the debate. After all, why let voters decide for themselves how much weight to give to someone with something different to say?

Instead, here is the beginning and end of the coverage of the third candidate's comments: "Libertarian candidate and Pierce College professor Pamela Brown also participated." That's it. That's all readers got to find out about one-third of the participants in the debate.

As for the other two candidates, guess what the newspaper concluded? "20th District State Senate Race Forum Revealed More Similarities Than Differences Between Democratic Candidates Padilla and Montañez."

Well, of COURSE there are "more similarities than differences" between them, because they are the only kinds of candidates local papers cover. And -- surprise, surprise -- only a small fraction of the voters ever bothers to show up to vote on these indistinguishable clones.

Nor is this a case of some kook candidate who wears an aluminum foil hat to avoid unauthorized mind control. Pamela Brown is a college professor. She has a Ph. D. in economics, for goodness' sake. And all voters get to know about her is that she "also participated?!"

Reporters should report, not filter.

Open Thread for Wednesday

California Proposition 187 was a 1994 ballot initiative designed to deny illegal immigrants social services, health care, and public education. It was introduced by assemblyman Dick Mountjoy (Republican from Monrovia, California) as the Save Our State initiative. A number of other organizations were involved in bringing it to the voters. It passed with 59% of the vote, but was overturned by a federal court.

Proposition 187 included several additions to the law, falling into two categories.

* All law enforcement agents who suspect that a person who has been arrested is in violation of immigration laws must investigate the detainee's immigration status, and if they find evidence of illegality they must report it to the attorney general of California, and to the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Local governments are prohibited from doing anything to impair the fulfillment of this requirement. The attorney general must keep records on all such cases and make them available to any other government entity that wishes to inspect them.
* No one may receive public benefits until they have proven their legal right to reside in the country. If anyone applies for benefits and is suspected by government agents of being illegal, those agents must report in writing to the enforcement authorities. Emergency medical care is exempted as required by federal law but all other medical benefits have the same test as above. Primary and secondary education is explicitly included.

Governor Pete Wilson was a prominent supporter. Opponents included State Senator Art Torres, who referred to Prop. 187 as "the last gasp of white America in California." The proposition came before voters on the November 8, 1994 general election, where it received 59% of the vote. It became law the next day. While its prominent advocates were political conservatives, some liberals (such as Los Angeles-based radio talk-show host Tom Leykis) also favored it, on the grounds that making life more difficult for illegal immigrants might result in fewer of them entering the state, creating labor shortages which could drive up wages for the lowest-paid workers. Meanwhile, some prominent conservatives, like businessman and failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz, opposed the initiatve.

On October 15, between 70,000 and 250,000 people, primarily Latino, marched in downtown Los Angeles against the measure.

Its constitutionality was immediately challenged by several lawsuits. On November 11, 1994, federal judge Matthew Byrne issued a temporary restraining order against it, on grounds that it exceeded state authority in the federal realm of immigration. The case worked its way through the courts. The multiple cases were consolidated and brought before judge Mariana Pfaelzer. In 1998, newly elected Governor Gray Davis (who had opposed the proposition) had the case brought before mediation. Following this, he dropped the appeals process before the courts, effectively killing the law.

Some political analysts cite Wilson's embrace of Prop. 187 as a reason for the California Republican Party's failure to win-over Latino voters.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It Gets Worse For Rocky

More troubles mounting for Democratic Attorney General candidate Rocky Delagadillo. A story that was originally reported following his election as City Attorney is resurfacing at LAIndyMedia.org. The way it goes, is that under the LA City Charter, to be elected and serve as City Attorney, an individual must have served as an attorney for at least five consecutive years prior to election. And in California, in order to be legally serve as an attorney, one must be a member 0f the State Bar. However, Rockard's membership in the State Bar only began in the two years previous to his filing to run for City Attorney in 2001. Theoretically, due to his claiming to be a qualified attorney on his candidate filing, this puts Rocky in danger of being guilty of perjury. Though, no one believes that he will ever be charged.

If this and other allegations are true, it looks like Rocky may have a bit of difficulty in honestly detailing his past. Not a good thing for one who seeks to be the State's top law enforcement officer.

Mayor Sam's Hotsheet for Tuesday

The LA Weekly has endorsed Democrat Jonathan Levey for the 41st Assembly District. You may remember Levey's "race" testing various modes of transportation through the San Fernando Valley. Martini Republic's Joe Mailander had a chance to ride along.

Folk singer Joan Baez sang "We Shall Overcome'' and a minister lead a prayer circle today as dozens of people, including Daryl Hannah perched in a walnut tree, held a vigil to save the South Central Farm. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of people, have been preparing a "peaceful resistance'' to sheriff's deputies who could evict them form the 14-acre plot of land, wedged between warehouses. You may remember this is the farm Dennis Zine showed up at to do a Councilman's inspection, but late at night in a cop's uniform.

El Segundo.net has a cool article about the ghost neighborhoods around LAX. Many of them were condemned when jets arrived at the airport and the noise made life unlivable.

City of LA Meetings for Tuesday

8:30AM - Housing, Community, and Economic Development Committee, Meeting Canceled
10:00AM - Los Angeles City Council
2:00PM - Planning & Land Use Management Committee Meeting
2:00PM - Information Technology and General Services Committee Meeting, Canceled

County of LA Meetings for Tuesday

1:00 PM - Board of Supervisors Meeting

Brevity: The Essence Of Wit

"Doesn't the mayor of Los Angeles have enough on his plate fighting crime, smog and traffic?" asked Sen. Jeff Denham (R-Salinas), an Education Committee member. "And now he wants to take on the schools?"

[From Tuesday's L.A. Times.]

Open Thread for Tuesday

John Raymond Garamendi (born January 24, 1945) is a U.S. politician and a member of the Democratic Party. He has been the California State Insurance Commissioner since 2003, having previously been the first occupant of that office from 1991 to 1995. He was the U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior from 1995 to 1998. He is currently running for Lieutenant Governor .

Born in Mokelumne Hill, California, Garamendi received a Bachelor's degree in business from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.

Garamendi won election to the California State Assembly in 1974 and to the State Senate in 1976. Garamendi ran unsuccessfully in the 1982 Democratic gubernatorial primary, but in 1990 was successful in his campaign to become California's first Commissioner of Insurance.

Instead of seeking re-election to the Insurance Commissioner's office in 1994, Garamendi ran for Governor of California but lost the Democratic primary by 15% to State Treasurer Kathleen Brown, who in turn lost the general election by 15% to incumbent Republican Governor Pete Wilson.

Shortly thereafter, President Bill Clinton appointed Garamendi to serve as Deputy Secretary of the Interior, the second-highest post in the U.S. Department of the Interior.

After four years in the private sector, Garamendi won election to a second term as Insurance Commissioner by less than 5%. Seven months into his term as Insurance Commissioner, on August 7, 2003, Garamendi announced his candidacy for Governor in the gubernatorial recall election but dropped out two days later in favor of Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante.

Halfway through his term as Insurance Commissioner, on July 16, 2004, Garamendi announced his candidacy for the 2006 race to replace the term-limited Bustamante as Lieutenant Governor. Bustamante is running to replace Garamendi as Insurance Commissioner. Former Vice President Al Gore has endorsed Garamendi for Lt. Governor in his only 2006 election endorsement.

Garamendi is married and has six children. His wife, Patti, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress in 1992 against Republican Representative Richard Pombo.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sentence, Schmentence - Memorial Day Open Thread

Whatever you think you learned about the criminal justice system in school was wrong.

Sentencing is NOT determined by a judge. Rather, the Sheriff, having caught the criminals in the first place, gets to decide how long to keep them in jail.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the "Sheriff's Department has routinely forced women, prostitutes arrested in Compton and certain gang members to serve more time than others convicted of identical crimes."

How much more time? The paper reports, "people convicted of prostitution in areas served by the sheriff's Compton and Century stations are required to serve 100% of their sentences, while those convicted of prostitution in the rest of the county serve 10%."

Blog away, but take a minute to remember those whom you're supposed to remember today.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Open Thread for The Weekend

Mexican President Vicente Fox met with Cardinal Roger Mahony Friday in advance of a planned visit with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to discuss tourism and trade -- but not immigration.

An issue related to immigration -- border security -- came up during Fox's meeting with Mahony at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. `He said this is not just an issue for the United States,'' Mahony told reporters. ``It is an issue for us, because along the border there is a tremendous amount of crime. There are criminals going across. There are drug traffickers. There are a lot of problems, so he himself is very concerned about a secure border.''

Villaraigosa said he would not raise the issue of illegal immigration with Fox because it is outside his control.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Pseudologia Fantastica: A Brief 21st Century History of Résumé Fraud

May 2006: Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo refuses to take responsibility for padding his résumé with false claims that he played professional football and received All-American academic honors at Harvard. An exposé in the Los Angeles Times revealed that Delgadillo never played pro ball or received All American honors. Delgadillo's additional claim that he received a football scholarship to Harvard was refuted by university authorities.

Feb 2006: RadioShack CEO David Edmondson steps down after it is discovered that he did not receive two educational degrees which he listed on his résumé.

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown is jettisoned by the Bush Administration in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Shortly afterward, serious questions are raised about the integrity of his résumé. Among other things, Brown purported to have been the director of a nursing home that had no record of his employment. He also claimed to have been a distinguished professor at a college where he was only a student

University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Ward Churchill resigns as chair of the ethnic studies department after his longstanding claims of Native American ancestry prove bogus. Churchill also falsely claimed to have served in an elite U.S. Army unit in Vietnam.

U.S. Olympic Committee President Sandra Baldwin resigns after admitting she had never received a doctorate in American Literature – an achievement she listed on her résumé.

Fox News military affairs commentator Lt. Colonel Joseph Cafasso is unmasked as a phony who invented an exciting military résumé "in order to make friends, find work, and . . . find acceptance among people who walk the fringes of Washington's power corridors." In reality, Private First Class Cafasso never saw combat.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick Couwenberg is removed from the bench for falsely claiming to have fought in Vietnam and worked for the CIA. He also told an attorneys group that he attended college on the GI Bill and had a shrapnel wound in his groin. Couwenberg blamed the lies on a mental condition called "pseudologia fantastica.''

Notre Dame football coach George O'Leary resigns after five days on the job, when a background check revealed he didn't have a degree in education from NYU and had never played college football. O'Leary claimed to have earned three letters as a football standout in New Hampshire. In reality, he never even played a game.

Lotus Development Corp. CEO Jeffrey Papows resigns after he's caught fudging his biographical details. Papows claimed to have PhD from Pepperdine (he has a Master's), claimed to hold a black belt in Tae Kwon Do (he was a red belt) and claimed to be an orphan (his parents live in New England).


The End for Rocky?

Click the play button in the middle of the screen to watch the video.

Open Thread for Friday

Jackie Speier is a Democratic member of the California State Senate representing San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. As a congressional staff person for Congressman Leo Ryan, she was part of the November 18, 1978, fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Reverend Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple followers in Jonestown. While the investigative team was boarding the plane to leave, they were fired at by Jones' followers. Five people died, including Ryan. Speier was shot five times but survived. That same day many of the remaining members of Jim Jones' cult committed mass suicide.

Speier's political career began with an unsuccessful run to fill the vacancy left by Congressman Ryan after his murder in Jonestown. Speier was first elected in 1980 as a San Mateo County Supervisor. After two terms there, she won her bid to the California State Assembly by several hundred votes. Speier relinquished her seat in the State Assembly when her husband was killed in an automobile accident. She worked two jobs in the private sector, to support her two children and in 1998, she returned to public service, elected as a California State Senator.

Born in San Francisco, Speier earned a B.A. from the University of California, Davis and a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1976. Speier will be termed out of the California State Senate in 2006, and she is running for the office of Lieutenant Governor.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Campus MEChA trashes local college newspaper

By Jennifer Solis

The Mexican cultural organization at a local community college did not like the coverage of one of its events by the campus newspaper. So a few of its members went around and gathered up half of the 5,000 circulation from news racks, torn them in half, and dumped them in trash bags at the newspaper’s office, in front of some staffers.

The Pasadena College Courier had covered the MEChA high school conference on campus with a photograph and informative caption, but the group, in a note accompanying the bags of newspapers, stated that “It has disheartened us to see no full length article,” and “was our hope to see recognition of our hard work in the campus newspaper.”

The campus police department is investigating the incident as an act of vandalism, but has not announced any arrests. The college administration has also been silent, until the investigation is completed.

In an unsigned editorial in today’s edition, the paper complained that “censoring newspapers is never the answer” and asked, “When did newspaper coverage become a fundamental right?” With over 40 clubs on campus, “at least some of MEChA’s activities have received positive coverage in each of the last three issues. Apparently that wasn’t enough.”

The journalism department was alerted to the theft of the newspapers about two hours after the racks had been filled. Distribution manager Kris Calnon passed an empty newsstand next to the men’s gym, which had held 300 copies. “I gave it three bundles,” he said. “It usually takes a day and a half to empty.” A reporter and photographer immediately went out to document the empty racks.

Shortly after 2 pm, five students entered the journalism office with garbage bags. One of the female students handed a staffer a hand-written note (pictured), saying “This is for the Courier staff – it will explain everything.” The short message concluded, “As students of PCC, we can not accept this issue of the Campus Courier.” It was signed, “MEChA.”

This incident pales in comparison to the problems occurring at Mission Community College in Sylmar, where the campus is under great tension over the issue of undocumented students and who will control the student government. The state of California provides generous financial aid to low income and minority students, regardless of their legal status.

Open Thread For Thursday

The L.A. City Council voted, again, to have the City Attorney seek judicial review of the Ninth Circuit ruling that invalidated the City's law against living on sidewalks. However, Councilmen Jose Huizar, Jack Weiss and Bill Rosendahl voted against the move. (Thanks, fellahs. How about we park 'em on the sidewalk in front of YOUR house?)

Some teenagers found a way to get the mayor to let them drive around with him in his City SUV all day: promise to bring a camcorder.

Half a million dollars or so is missing from the City's share of the parking lot at Hollywood and Highland.

Joan Baez is camping in a tree on a lot downtown that trespassers are using for farming.

So, all in all, just another typical day in L.A.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

High School Exit Exam Reinstated For Now

The California Supreme Court has vacated the Superior Court injunction that prevented the State from enforcing the high school exit exam requirement. So for now, no diploma unless you pass the test.

The underlying case, however, will proceed.

Rocky May Have Lied About His Past

Last Saturday, the Los Angeles Times ran a story revealing that Mr. Delgadillo has made numerous false resume claims in his campaigns. He claimed to have been an academic All-American, to have received a football scholarship from Harvard and to have played professional football in both Canada and the United States. All of these claims have been proven false by the Los Angeles Times.

Since the publishing of this article, the Delgadillo campaign has indignantly asserted that “he [Rockard Delgadillo] has never claimed to have played a down of football for either Hamilton or New York.” (Delgadillo for Attorney General Press Release, May 20, 2006)

Yet in an essay written by Mr. Rockard Delgadillo and posted at http://latino.si.edu/YoungAmericanos/page%205_rocky%20delgadillo.htm, (according to http://web.archive.org in 2003) he personally made the claim, “After graduating from Harvard with honors and spending a short time playing professional football in New York and Canada, I returned to my high school as a coach and teacher while waiting to start law school at Columbia University.”.

And even today, on the Delgadillo for Attorney General website (http://rocky2006.com/content/view/2/10), Delgadillo claims to have played “a brief stint as a professional football player…”

Ace Smith, consultant for the Brown campaign said: “Mr. Delgadillo needs to take responsibility for these falsehoods and apologize for his actions. He should start by deleting the false statements about his non-existent pro-football career off his Rocky2006.com website.”


Open Thread for Wednesday

Rocky Delgadillo is the current City Attorney of Los Angeles, California.


* Teacher/ Coach, Los Angeles Unified School District
* Attorney, O'Melveny & Myers LLP
* Director of Business Development, Rebuild LA
* Deputy Mayor of Economic Development, Office of Mayor Richard Riordan
* Elected City Attorney of Los Angeles 2001
* Re-elected City Attorney of Los Angeles 2005

Born July 15, 1960, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo is a native of Northeast Los Angeles. With his election as City Attorney in 2001, he became the first half-Latino to win citywide office in more than 100 years. Running unopposed, he was re-elected in March 2005 to a second four-year term.

He is running against former Governor and current Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown in the 2006 race for the Democratic nomination for state attorney general of California.

Delgadillo had claimed to have received a football scholarship to Harvard and played professional football. After an investigation by newspapers he corrected the record.

(Source: Wikipedia)


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Welcoming a Fox to the barn

By Jennifer Solis

Mexican President Vicente Fox will make the final stop of his victory lap through the western United States Thursday in California, hoping to influence support for Senate approval of amnesty for a tenth of Mexico’s citizens now residing north of its frontier.

His tour also attempts to shore up credibility for his embattled National Action Party, which is in a tight race with the leftist Democratic Revolution Party for the July 2nd presidential election, in which Fox cannot run as an incumbent. Migration is the loudest, unspoken issue of the campaign. More than 40,000 Mexicans living in the U.S. are registered to vote in Mexico.

During Fox’s almost six years in office, his government has encouraged millions of its poorest citizens to cross its northern border, by printing handbooks of helpful hints for avoiding “La Migra,” and cooperating military officials to expedite the “coyotes” in transporting their human cargo. The $20-billion a year that that these people send back to Mexico makes immigration the most important segment of the country’s economy.

President Fox says his visit is to encourage investment, and to show his total support for the defense of human rights. Reporters who have tried to question him on this tour are told that there will be no comments, beyond the scripted speeches he will give to very selected audiences in Utah, Washington and California. This policy does not sit well with American journalists.

They want to know why his country is pushing hard for legalizing immigrants here in the U.S., while maintaining one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world. Don’t ask! Fox has also cancelled previously scheduled meetings with editorial boards.

The last thing that Fox wants to discuss is the failure of his “reform” party to clean up the mess in his own backyard, which is a primary cause of the mass exodus – one of the largest in human history. Corruption is institutionalized in Mexican society, especially at the local level. Public servants are expected to supplement their low wages with whatever “mordida” (the bite) they can extract from the citizens for government services, including health and police protection.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers of California have had to pay out more than $12-billion a year to provide social services, including education, for those who have escaped from Mexico’s dysfunctional system. Fox will address Thursday a joint meeting of the state legislature, where he expects a generous reception, considering the number of Hispanic surnames on the roster of lawmakers.

But early this week, at least one senator announced he would boycott the speech, and more are sure to follow – a protest against Mexican policies which have caused great economic harm to California. When Fox started his tour in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, his audience had to be requested to stand up and applaud when he arrived for his first local address to church and business leaders.

Like most politicians, President Fox’s opinions are shaped mainly by what he reads and sees in the mainstream American media. He has been encouraged by the mass rallies and marches of the past few weeks, and emotional appeals for amnesty from leading lawmakers. But underlying this rosy view is a deep resentment by the great majority of Americans, who would rather talk about high fences, National Guard presence on the border and sanctions for employers who hire illegal immigrants.

Our best suggestion for Senor Presidente, when he leaves Los Angeles Friday, is to fly over Mexico to its southern border, and try to cross as an unrecognized, undocumented immigrant. Perhaps he will wake up to the reality of sovereignty, which is the trend, not only here in America, but in the rest of the industrialized world.

Notorious L-A-W

Remember that lawsuit against the LAPD by the family of Notorious BIG? Remember how the judge declared a mistrial and imposed $1.1 million in sanctions against the City for failing to disclose to the plaintiffs' lawyers an alleged jailhouse confession?

Well, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, on Tuesday, May 23, 2006, one defense lawyer disclosed to the judge a private investigator's report indicating knowledge -- back in 2002 -- of the alleged jailhouse confession. In other words, the report indicates that the plaintiffs' attorneys knew about the alleged confession BEFORE the trial, and BEFORE the City disclosed the alleged confession.

Judges HATE when that happens. According to the paper, the judge said she was "outraged" and told a defense attorney, "I believe you have absolutely deceived this court into believing that you knew nothing about this." That's never a good sign for an attorney....

How Much Do You Tip A Teacher?

The union representing the LAUSD's 48,000 teachers is asking for a 14% raise for its members, please.

How many dollars is that? Anyone? Anyone?

Who Has Time For Code Enforcement?

Why waste tax dollars enforcing the City's laws when there's something much, much more important for the City Attorney to do, namely, give awards to "seniors"? Former pro-football player -- er, not "player," per se, but "team member" -- "Rocky" Delgadillo has issued a press release seeking nominees for recognition as outstanding seniors. There's even an official entry form.


Lieutenant Governor In Action

"Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has signed an agreement to establish a public-private partnership to promote trade between California and Mongolia," reports the Sacramento Business Journal.

I like Mongolian beef as much as the next guy, but what the heck is going on? See if this gives you a clue:

"Two California firms will receive assistance from the Business Forum as they conduct a feasibility study and develop a contract with the Mongolian government to build a hospital in Ulaanbaatar and equip it with state-of-the-art technology."

Mmmm hmmmm.... Whenver "firms" get "assistance," I smell "welfare for the rich." How much "assistance" did YOUR firm get from the government this year?

Whom should we elect as California's next Lieutenant Governor? Does it matter? Will he or she manage to sign a deal with Madagascar?

Shoulda Boughta Mac

Why was the LAPD unable to free itself from the yoke of the consent decree? Blame it on software. At least, that's the explanation given to the Police Commission and the City Council's Public Safety Committee.

"Like all computer systems, it is taking two to three times as long as we expected and more money to implement," said computer consultant Gerald Chalef, of the "TEAMS II" software that is supposed to help the department identify problematic officers.

They might want to try a Mac and Filemaker Pro database software. Then again, buying software off-the-shelf doesn't really let you justify hiring consultants year after year. . . .

How Green Card Is My Valley?

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a second day-laborer site in the Valley. The site will be next to the Home Depot at 21218 Roscoe Boulevard, where laborers already gather, even without a taxpayer-financed facility.

Open Thread for Tuesday

Mayor Sam has been out of town but never fear, I'll be blogging away soon dum dums. In the meantime, what's up in your world?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Black Market In Junk Food

You may know there is a ban on the sale of "junk food" in our schools. You may not know that there is a "black market" for the sale of that junk food. Enterprising students, in the proud tradition of Prohibition, purchase the contraband off campus; re-package it; and re-sell it to classmates for a profit. Presumably Cheeto's would be too risky due to the tell-tale orange fingers. I haven't heard of any student getting caught, but if he did, he would presumably try to raise the "Twinkie Defense."

Another Day, Another Song: "Murder By Numbers"

One hundred fifty four people were murdered in the City of L.A. between January 1 and April 15, 2006.

That's three murders a day. [CORRECTION: That's three murders every two days.]

The odds of winning the California Super Lotto are 1 in 18 million.

The odds of being murdered in L.A. on any given day are 1 in 2.6 million.

Pick One

A. Who will the Democratic candidate be?

B. Who will the governor be?

C. What effects will the the winner have on California?

Sing It: "I'm Bad. I'm Nation-Wide."

The answer is, "$200,000."
The question is, "How many tax dollars are budgeted for Mayor Villaraigosa's travel this year?

This expenditure -- which exceeds Hahn's budget by a factor of 10 -- is supposedly justified by the access Villaraigosa gets to other elected officials. Is anyone aware, however, of any actual benefit to our city?

Oh, and this is your open thread. As Mayor Sam would say if he weren't temporarily unavailable, "Blog away, dum dum's."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Nightmare on Hollywood Boulevard

You know those people on Hollywood Boulevard who dress up like Batman or Wonder Woman, and pose for pictures with tourists? One of them, dressed like Freddy Krueger, allegedly stabbed a guy with those creepy Lee press-on nails. I'm waiting for someone to dress up like Dick Cheney, and walk around with a shotgun. Now THAT would be scary.

Will Prop 13 Be 86'd?

Is Proposition 13 sacrosanct, or are its days numbered? Here's a thought-provoking letter I received on the subject. Gazing deeply into your crystal ball, please answer the question at the end for me.

"Dear Walter,

"I was listening to KABC790 TalkRadio, your favorite station and mine and I heard something scary. Because of the tremendous illegal population in the County of Los Angeles and throughout California AND the increased value of the single family homeowners' houses, there is danger that Proposition 13 will be attacked and eventually destroyed. The illegals with their illegal children are heavy users of the public support system, from public general hospitals to LA Unified School District to WIC and General Relief. The current tax system is limited. With houses, even a simple 3-bedroom house with two bath in the Wilshire area, going for over $1,000,000, local governments are licking their chops, waiting to pounce on Proposition 13."

"What scares me is that the balance of renters vs. homeowners is off the scale. There are many more renters now than homeowners. And usually these renters are essentially the no-brainers that vote "yes" for each and every bond measures from SAC. And as you know, with each and every approved bond measures, the property tax is increased. So, if local governments want their big payday, all they got to do is line up support from the school teachers' union and the illegal immigrants' right groups to seek out and destroy Proposition 13. And since there are much more renters than homeowners. I can see it coming. Yet, the apartment owners are restricted from raising rent due to rent control."

"What is your opinion regarding the danger of Proposition 13 being destroyed in the very near future?"

Blog away, Brain Trust.

Fox Fiesta Friday

Mexico's President, Vicente Fox, is coming to L.A. this Friday. He will meet with Mayor Villaraigosa " and then visit with members of the Mexican community," the Daily Breeze reports. (I guess that means Villaraigosa will fly into town from wherever he is, too.)

There was a movie originally entitled "Dark Angel," but re-titled "I Come In Peace." This space alien lands, and goes around saying "I come in peace" while wreaking havoc. (Class, can you explain the difference between "wreak" and "wreck"?) I never saw the movie, but the commercial was quire memorable. Dolph Lungren was in the movie. Maybe it's time for a re-make?


"Two years after the Los Angeles Police Department loosened its 'zero tolerance' drug policy as it struggled to boost its ranks, city officials say they've hired six officers who have used hard drugs such as cocaine," the L.A. Daily News reports today. Hey, we elected a president who had had a substance abuse problem, and that's turned out great, hasn't it?

Sunday Is "Inmates Run The Asylum" Day

Wait, that doesn't sound as nice as "open thread." Anyway, please feel free to use this entry to talk about anything you like, and to suggests subjects you'd like to see covered more.

Study Says Mayoral Control Of Schools Works

Talk about "Ask and ye shall receive!" Just yesterday, yours truly suggested we base educational change on empirical evidence, rather than just changing for the sake of change.

And what happens today? A study by researchers at Harvard and Brown indicates cities that give mayors control of their schools get better results than those who don't.

The L.A. Daily News reports, "It concludes that those districts showed greater improvement than traditionally run school systems because of greater accountability and higher public confidence in the education system."

Sounds like a good reason to support the mayor's takeover plan to me. Obviously, we'll want to read the study and learn more about the researchers themselves, but the preponderance of the evidence just shifted to mayor's side of this debate.

After all, if we don't base policy on objective, empirical study, we can't reasonably expect good results.

In an attempt to rebut the study, LAUSD Board Member David Tokofsky said: "When you hit rock bottom like Cleveland, Chicago, New York and other cities, you ought to be willing to try mayoral control, governor control, or even turning your schools over to the French government. But L.A. doesn't fit the prerequisites that justify that."

Yikes! Is he saying let's wait for things to get worse before we try something that researchers say works in other cities?!

Anyway, I, for one, am now leaning in favor of the mayor's takeover plan. And I've got to give him credit for pushing to make it happen.

How about you? Do you favor or oppose mayoral takeover? In answering, remember that he won't be the mayor forever. So even if you're not wild about him, what do you think about mayoral control of the schools in general?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Reasoned School Reform

Those arguing in favor of transferring LAUSD control to the mayor, or splitting the district up, may instead want to consider the empirical evidence from an approach used in Kansas City schools. The high school graduation rate was 48% before they adopted the approach, and 81% afterwards. They call it "learning communities," and the LAUSD is already implementing it here under the name "small learning centers." As explained in an L.A. Times article today, the program divides the students in a given school into several "small groups" (e.g., 325); focuses the study within each group on a given theme (e.g., business, health careers), and gets parents involved. Doesn't it seem more credible that changes like that will work better than putting the mayor in control?

Saturday Scrum

Issue 1: Glory Days / Rockygate

How can you tell if a lawyer is lying? His lips move. Rocky Delgadillo, the City Attorney running for Attorney General has told people over the years that, in the words of the L.A. Times, "he made it out of his Eastside neighborhood by winning a football scholarship to Harvard University, where he was an Academic All-American before going on to become a professional football player." Turns out that what he meant to say all these years was, again in the words of the L.A. Times, "he never played in a pro football game and . . . his Harvard financial aid was not an athletic scholarship . . . ."

Issue 2: How Do You Say "Hypocrite" In Spanglish?

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says speaking English in the United States is “common sense" and Congress should worry about "real” problems. This is the same man, you may recall, who responded to the President's State of the Union Address, on behalf of the Democratic Party, in Spanish.

Issue 3: Someone Wasn't Paying Attention In Corporations Class

In an effort to explain why he should control the LAUSD, Villaraigosa told NBC Channel 4's reporters, " Part of why we have a lack of accountability is we have seven school board members that are running the district instead of a superintendent running the district. If you went to a business, the board of directors do not run the company. The CEO and president runs the business."

Actually, Mr. Mayor, California Corporations Code Section 300 states, "the business and affairs of the corporation shall be managed and all corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the direction of the board." Plus, if his proposal goes through, how many people will be looking over the new superintendent's shoulder? Let's see: the Mayor himself; 15 City Council Members; and the mayors of what, 26 other cities?

Also, last time I checked, there actually is a Superintendent. His name is Romer. Does that ring a bell, Mr. Mayor?

Issue 4: Don't Like Montanez or Padilla? Vote Brown.

Someone recently asked me whether to vote for Montanez or Padilla -- and no, it wasn't my imaginary friend, Mr. Krendelfarb. I could only recount someone else's great quip from the mayoral general election: it's like chosing between Lyle and Eric Menendez. It turns out, there actually is an alternative candidate for whom you can vote: Pam Brown, a economics professor at Pierce College. Alas, I don't think she has any website. And some of you might be scared by the L-word: she's a Libertarian. But you do have an alternative, and if I lived in the relevant district, I would vote for her.

Issue 5: The Civics Portion of the High School Exit Exam

Remember the injunction requiring high schools to give diplomas to kids who fail the exit exam -- thereby slapping in the face all the students who worked their bottoms off to pass? Well, to their credit, lawyers for the California Department of Education pulled a clever manuver, bypassing the Court of Appeal and instead filing an appeal directly with the Supreme Court, which has decided to retain jurisdiction. So don't be surprised if, sometime next week, the Superior Court injunction is vacated.


Friday, May 19, 2006

City to Spend $25 Million For NFL

The Community Redevelopment Agency has committed $25 million of your money for "infrastructure proejcts around the Coliseum, the Daily News reports. Pat Lynch, general manager of the Coliseum Commission, stated, "In terms of the overall project, this is not a great deal of money, but it shows the city's commitment to wanting to improve Exposition Park."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The National Language

The Senate has passed a bill to declare that English is the "national language." The bill, however, would have the same legal effect as declaring SPAM to be the national canned meat, daisies to be the national flower, or purple to be the national color, which is to say, "none." As the L.A. Times explained: "The GOP-backed amendment, which passed 63 to 34, would allow the government to continue to offer publications and services -- such as bilingual ballots -- in languages other than English." In a related story, French was declared "the language of love."

The U.S. Senate is not willing to pass separate bills on sealing the border and amnestizing people already here illegally. Rather, Senators want to tie the unpopular amnesty bill -- oh, pardon me, I meant "pathway to citizenship" bill -- to the popular "seal the border" bill.

Are there any loyal Republicans out there care to defend your party on this? You have control of both houses of Congress, and the Presidency, and this is the best you can do?!

As for Bush's and Hillary Rodham's claims that American workers are just too lazy and fussy to work hard, the L.A. Times reported that a company called Diversified Landscape Management, in Riverside, is supposedly eager to hire guys to shovel dirt at $34 an hour, but can't find Americans to do the work. Assuming a 40-hour work-week, and a 52-week year, that's $70,720. Does this story smell funny to anyone else, or just me? Anyway, this is supposedly proof that illegal immigration is necessary to keep the economy running smoothly.

The DWP apparently had to pay one illegal alien over $100,000 a year to get him to work for the company. Immigration authorities arrested eight allegedly illegal aliens while they were working for the company. They were from Mexico, El Salvador, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Nigeria.

[Note for those too young to recognize the pictures above, one was from a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live about a million years ago, called "News for the Hard of Hearing." Another was from a Woody Allen movie called "Bananas" -- he actually used to be funny -- in which he became the dictator of a banana republic and had an English-to-English translator.]

In Defense Of The LAUSD

Winston Churchill observed, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

His words come to mind because various groups have various plans to reorganize the LAUSD. One plan would put the mayor in charge. Just what the mayor would do differently, he has not said. Another plan would split the district into smaller, autonomous districts.

But have we gotten ahead of ourselves? Is there any objective evidence, from any school system anywhere in the world, to indicate that either of these changes would yield significantly better results here in Los Angeles?

Admittedly, current graduation rates and test scores are underwhelming. And that might indeed indicate mismanagement.

But before we jump to that conclusion, shouldn't we try to find whether anyone has actually produced better results under the same circumstances? Those circumstances include: i) a massive influx of students; ii) in a short period of time; iii) who do not speak English; and iv) who are supposed to be taught math, science, history and other subjects in English.

Breaking the LAUSD into several separate districts might provide a "laboratory of democracy," such that one or more of the new systems stumble upon a better way to teach children. However, LAUSD's charter schools already allow for experimentation. Dissolving the LAUSD, moreover, would sacrifice economies of scale: five payroll departments can be more costly than one; five districts have less bargaining power with textbook publishers than one; etc.

Under the circumstances, the LAUSD, like democracy, may be the worst form of education except all others that have been tried. Let's think this one through before we make any major changes, shall we?

Meet Scott Svonkin

Scott Svonkin.
Does this name sound familiar?
It should.
From the California Credit Union Page:
"Mr. Svonkin was elected to the CCU Board of Directors in 2003. Mr. Svonkin is President of Svonkin Consulting, Chairman of the L.A. County Insurance Commission, Vice-President of B’nai B’rith, and member of the California Respiratory Care Board. Mr. Svonkin served as Chief of Staff for a member of the California Legislature. Mr. Svonkin worked in the office of the Mayor, City of Los Angeles representing the Mayor at community events and special projects. Mr. Svonkin has also served as the liaison to the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission. He coordinated the saving of a historical monument, the Edward Strong residence. He served as Vice-President of the Jewish Federation Council Valley Alliance and Chair of the Community Relations Committee. Mr. Svonkin received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from California State University, Northridge."

Scott Svonkin has also been mentioned on Mayor Sam a few times as well.

Which brings me to my question of the day.

Why is Scott Svonkin going door to door in Sunland-Tujunga trying to get
people to support a Home Depot in our town?
I only ask this because Scotts past would seem to indicate that he believes
in community empowerment, and has been an advocate for social justice, has fought for handgun control,and served as chief of staff to Assemblyman Paul Koretz ( D-West Hollywood).

Combine this with the fact that his employer in this venture is none other than Kerman Maddox of KCAL 9 and Dakota Communications, and I find myself just scratching my head in bewilderment.

The brief bio I posted above is from a few years ago, so I don't really know what he is up to these days, except that he is in our town, going door to door, insisting that people send in a form letter to Councilmember Wendy Greuel demanding that Home Depot be allowed to open.

What circumstances can transform a guy ,with all these accomplishments, to simply becoming a door to door shill for Home Depot?

I await the wisdom of the Brain Trust!

for more:

Open Thread for Thursday

Audra Strickland was elected to serve in the State Assembly, representing the 37th Assembly District. Before her election, Audra Strickland taught junior high school students American history and Language Arts. But, anyone who has worked with Audra knows she has a deep passion for public policy.

As a member of the Assembly, Audra Strickland’s legislative priorities include measures to address the state’s economy, the retention of jobs and tax relief for California’s families and pubic safety. Major legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Strickland includes tax relief for homeowners, limiting states ability to increase college tuition on students, and strengthening punishments for sexual predators. Working with the Animal Protection Institute, Assemblywoman Strickland has successfully authored and passed a bill to reform California’s exotic animal regulations, following recent high-profile incidents of animal neglect and abuse.

In her first year in office, Assemblywoman Strickland was appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly to serve on the Little Hoover Commission, the state’s premiere oversight agency. As a member of the prestigious Little Hoover Commission, Assemblywoman Strickland will review major state government restructuring, including the Governor’s Reorganization Plan.

While earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, Strickland served as president of the Ronald Reagan Republican Club at the University of California, Irvine. She has previously worked for several state legislators including former Speaker of the Assembly, Curt Pringle.

Assemblywoman Strickland resides in Moorpark with her husband, former Assemblyman Tony Strickland and their daughter Ruby Ruth. Audra is also involved with a variety of local organizations and causes, from a cancer awareness effort to a battered women’s support organization.

(Source: Official Website)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Case For Scotland Yard

Police in Adelanto, California, arrested David Bowers, age 34, for theft of a front yard, including grass, bushes and sprinklers. He allegedly stole the yard from a home under construction, and used the sod, plants and pipes at his own home. What in the heck was he thinking? And would this crime be even theoretically possible in any place other than California?

University of California at Enron

Every tax dollar spent on education should count, right? If L.A. and California want to compete in the global economy, we need an educated work force.

Alas, the Sacramento Bee reports that "Millions of dollars in perks, padded housing allowances and payouts were awarded to UC executives, often in violation of policies and without seeking approval from regents, at a time of rising student fees."

How did UC President Robert Dynes explain the expenditures to the university's governing body, the Board of Regents, at a meeting Wednesday? "I didn't pay enough attention."

That's it?! You didn't pay attention?!

If that's what passes for an explanation or an excuse at our universities, well, you can continue to expect the person who answers your "tech support" calls to have an Indian or Phillippino accent.

Oh, and did I mention the amount of money that supposedly failed to catch the president's attention? According to a state audit, "extra compensation accounted for $334 million." Repeat: he gave away an extra $334 million of your money, your education money, without approval from the regents, while raising college tuition for students struggling to improve their gray matter.

I've heard of "valedictorian," but what's the Latin term for the smartest guy in prison?

Mr. Villaraigosa Goes To Washington . . . Again

The L.A. Times reports that, in the year since Villaraigosa was elected, he has travelled to Washington "more than half a dozen times, ostensibly to lobby for local issues . . . ." Villaraigosa has likewise made frequent trips to Sacramento during the same period, supposedly for the same purpose.

Don't we already pay tax dollars for other people to do that? What are they called again? Oh yeah! Congressmen, Senators and Assemblymen. Are they not already "lobbying" on behalf of their constituents? Or is the idea that he is so wildly charismatic, so completely convincing, that he's going to get better results than the army of politicians already deployed in Washington D.C. and Sacramento on our behalf?

First McKinney, Now Hahn?

Remember that Congresswoman who allegedly slugged a guard at the U.S. Capitol? Her name is Cynthia McKinney. Now we have our own L.A. version:

A security guard claims L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn struck and injured him during a demonstration by hotel workers at the Airport Hilton. The guard filed a battery report with police, claiming Hahn hit him in the chest and elbowed him.

WWF Smackdown is negotiating for rights to the surveillance video.

Open Thread for Wednesday

Martha M. Escutia (born January 16, 1957), is a California State Senator of the 30th Assembly District. Her district serves the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, South El Monte, South Gate, Whittier, and Vernon.

She was first elected in 1992, to represent the largely Latino 50th Assembly Disttrict.

Currently, Senator Escutia serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications (EU&C) and was recently elected the first woman Chair of the 27 member strong California Legislative Latino Caucus.

As a Senator, Martha Escutia has held key leadership positions including: Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee as a freshman senator, the first Latina Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first woman Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee and Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

Throughout her career, Senator Escutia has championed universal health care for children and is recognized as the creator of Healthy Families. Seeking to protect California’s children from unhealthy levels of air contaminants, she established the first-ever Children’s Environmental Health Protection Act.

A staunch supporter of school reform and equality, she has been instrumental in reducing class sizes in California, making Advanced Placement classes accessible for all California students and working tirelessly to ensure that struggling students have access to high-quality remedial education programs. As a well-known advocate in the fight against childhood obesity, Senator Escutia authored legislation known as SB 19, later signed into law, which limited the availability of junk food for children on school campuses.

Placing consumer advocacy at the forefront of her agenda, Senator Escutia was also successful in passing legislation to implement the first low-cost auto insurance program for low-income residents in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties.

The California Labor Federation AFL-CIO named her “Legislator of the Year” for her advocacy on behalf of working men and women. Her outstanding work on environmental issues has brought recognition from the California League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has commemorated her “Commitment to the People of Los Angeles County.” She was also awarded the “Good Housekeeping Award for Women in Government” for her work on the Children’s Environmental Health Protections. In 1999, the California School Boards Association gave her it's "Legislator of the Year Award" for her efforts on behalf of schoolchildren and K-12 education.

In November of 2005, The Corona New Primary Center in Bell, California was dedicated The Martha Escutia Primary Center in honor of the California Senate Representative.

Senator Escutia is an honors graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in Public Administration, and received her law degree form Georgetown University. She holds certificates in Advanced International Legal Studies of Trade and Tariffs from the World Court at The Hague, Netherlands, and in Foreign Investment from the National Autonomous University in Mexico City.

A native of East Los Angeles, Senator Escutia is married and the mother of two young sons, Andres and Diego.

(Source: Wikipedia)

City Council Ups Trash Fees

The City Council voted UNANIMOUSLY to hike trash fees homeowners pay. As noted previously by yours truly, the City's revenues have increased $700 million per year since last year. Property taxes alone are throwing off an extra $587 million more than last year.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


"A San Clemente man who allegedly licked the feet of five boys while pretending to offer them roles in commercials will be arraigned Friday on lewd conduct charges," NBC Channel 4 reports. "He told the boys he needed to inspect their feet," and once the socks came off, he allegedly "sniffed them and licked them."

I've heard of "finger lickin' good," but criminey! I'm not sure there's really a political angle to this story. It just creeped me out, so I had to share. Forgive me.

You're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat

The Palm Beach Post reports that "Worried callers overwhelmed the state's nuisance alligator hot line Monday as the national media seized on the news that three women had likely met their deaths in the reptiles' jaws in less than a week."

One reason people are worried is that a four-day search resulted in the capture of the nine-and-a-half-foot-long alligator that killed Yovy Suarez Jimenez, 28, a student. The alligator's stomach contained a racoon, a turtle shell, a garbage bag, and both of Jimenez's arms.

Meanwhile, back in L.A., the seven-foot-long alligator called "Reggie" has eluded authorities at Lake Machado.