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The Issue of “Not Rape”

December 22nd, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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Over at Racialicious, a lively site that describes itself
as “a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture,” there is an essay that is very much worth reading about the issue of what author Latoya Peterson describes as “Not Rape.”

(The essay is excerpted from a new anthology published this month called Yes Means Yes.)

Peterson writes about incidents that she and many of girls she grew up with experienced as teenagers when they were on the receiving end of actions that were not rape per se, yet were in most of the instances she mentions, clearly assault, and in all of the cases, traumatizing to the girls involved.

Yet, also in nearly every case the girls felt they were somehow to blame, so never told an adult.

Peterson thinks back on a particular “not rape” that happened to her—and its unusually calamitous aftermath. She wonders if things would have played out differently if only she had felt confident enough to report the boy who was the perpetrator.

Here’s a short clip from her story:

My friends and I confided in each other, swapping stories, sharing out pain, while keeping it all hidden from the adults in our lives. After all, who could we tell? This wasn’t rape – it didn’t fit the definitions. This was Not rape. We should have known better. We were the ones who would take the blame. We would be punished, and no one wanted that. So, these actions went on, aided by a cloak of silence.

For me, Not rape came in the form of a guy from around the neighborhood. I remember that they called him Puffy because he looked like the rapper Sean “Puffy” Combs. He was friends with a guy I was friends with, T. I was home alone on hot summer day when I heard a knock on the patio door. I peeked through the blinds and recognized Puffy, so I opened the door a few inches…..

You’ll find the rest here.

These issues are not easy to talk about, but Peterson’s story is a reminder that, if we haven’t already, we need to have frank discussions of this nature with our daughters.

It’s important.

I say this from personal experience.

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PS: Blogger Browne Molyneux who flagged Peterson’s essay for me points out that it calls creepily to mind the Orange County gang rape case that was back in the news last week at former OC Sheriff Mike Carona’s trial.

Posted in women's issues | 2 Comments »

OBAMA WATCH: Warren and the Inauguration, Part 2

December 19th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


Another worthwhile take on the Warren situation from John Aloysius Farrell
at US News and Word Report.

(Farrell is on my good list, for among other reasons, his column about McCain’s disingenuous Bear DNA nonsense during the presidential campaign.)

Here’s a big clip:

During the last campaign, Obama and the Democrats (who are marginally better on gay issues than Republicans) reached out to Evangelical voters, and to conservative Catholics, to try to close this division. Having Warren say a prayer at the Inauguration is a small symbolic nod to these religious conservatives. Hopefully, to defuse suspicion and hatred.

This is, ultimately, a political battle. Judges can interpret state constitutions. But legislatures, and initiatives like Proposition 8, can trump judges. In the end, we are going to have to persuade the vast voting public, a lot of whom are religious, to ratify an historic change in the civic institution of marriage.

I think we can do it. I believe Americans are good, fair-hearted people. The last election certainly says so. And, among young Americans, who are growing up in a different time than their parents and grandparents, gay rights has the broad support of Mom and Apple Pie. So, in the long run, we win.

My advice: better to lay off Warren, and channel your energy (and exploit the strong and deep support of the music and motion picture industries) to drown American in a campaign of evocative Internet advertisements, like the YouTube ads that united a generation behind Obama, and touched so many of their parents as well. And get your voters to the polls.

As a tactical matter, there is surely a place in campaigns for employing grievances to enflame one’s troops and to raise the level of participation and energy. It may also serve the cause, at this moment, to sting the Democrats and the incoming Obama administration, so you are not taken for granted.

But the practical question that gay political leaders must face—with more detailed data than I have—is whether it is wiser to use this incident to rally their base, or to continue to show middle America the moderation and reasonableness that has earned such political good will for LGBT Americans in recent years.

Warren’s willingness to extend his hand to liberals is noteworthy. And moderates and conservatives, in weighing a rapprochement, will be studying the liberal response. There is an opportunity here.

Yeah, I know it is tough. Why is it always the bruised minority that has to act nobly in America?

It’s just the way things are. Until we change them. And we will. We are.

The Courage Campaign suggests a debate on same sex marriage between Warren and the Reverend Eric Lee, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles—time and location to be determined.

How about it Reverand Warren?

Posted in Civil Liberties, LGBT, Obama | 9 Comments »

Obama Watch: Rick Warren and the Politics of Inclusion & Exclusion

December 19th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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Does Rick Warren’s homophobia mean Barack Obama
should not have tapped him to give the invocation at the inauguration?

During the day, yesterday, the announcement about Warren drew comment from every direction, including from Obama himself.

The LA Times has an editorial on the topic, which was, I’m sorry to say, not one of its best, and mostly missed the point.

The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan went through his own narrative arc during thie course of the afternoon. Here’s Sullivan, several posts into the day, after the announcement was made.

Civil rights are not about left and right; they are about right and wrong. And the hurt that this choice has caused is not a function of an alienated base, it seems to me, so much as salt on the wound of Proposition 8. I understand why Obama did this. I just wonder if he understands how deeply hurtful it is to be asked to pray with someone who has compared my marriage with the sexual abuse of children, incest and polygamy. Yes, I am, in Warren’s eyes, the equivalent of a pedophile, as is my husband. This comparison is what Warren calls his commitment to “model civility. Some civility.

Several hours later, he wrote this:

My own view at the end of this deeply upsetting day is that we should all take a deep breath. That doesn’t mean forgetting this; or denying the untruths and prejudices of Rick Warren. It means focusing on getting Obama to support the substantive work of equality; and making the case ourselves.

Personally, I’m very ardently in favor of the reach-across-the-barriers concept—at least in the abstract. It is time we start healing the terrible and scarring divides in this country that the last administration used for political gain. And if Rick Warren thinks that my immortal soul is damned to hell for all eternity, what of it? He does a great deal of good, as well.

But he is also for restricting the rights of my friends and fellow citizens if they happen to be gay. And he said so in odious terms when he actively stumped for Prop 8.

So what to do?

For some further clarification, I turned to my very smart friend and former student, blogger Zach Sire, to see what he had to say.

Here’s a clip from his post (but the rest is worth reading, including his clip from—and reply to—Wonkette):

Your Barry inviting “Dr. Rick” is not a slap in the face to gays as much as it is a disingenuous olive branch to evangelicals. And they’re falling for it! You see, Obama is all about trying to please everyone with gestures and concessions. Until he actually starts enacting policies and putting forth his specific agenda, none of us should be freaking out. So, chill.

And remember, the other religious person on the bill on inauguration day (who is in fact overseeing the benediction) is Rev. Joe Lowery. Lowery founded the SCLC with Martin Luther King and, hold on to your hats, is a supporter of same sex marriage. You don’t see the religious right freaking out about this, do you? (Maybe you do, but I haven’t seen anything about it as of yet.)

So yeah. Relax. Warren is, as everyone knows, a tool. We should be proud of Obama for using him as well as he is. If this endears another couple hundred thousand evangelicals to Obama, and thus helps him out in 2012, then that’s fine by me.

Frankly, this whole issue would be a lot easier if Prop 8 had been defeated, and Californians could go back marrying the people they love, and Rick Warren could invoke to his heart’s content.

But that isn’t how it is.

Posted in Civil Liberties, families, LGBT | 8 Comments »

Obama, Hilda Solis…and Maybe Gloria Romero? We hope?

December 19th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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What a terrific choice Brack obama made selecting California Congresswoman Hida Solis,
for labor secretary!

Herold Meyerson has a good column on Solis in this morning’s LA Times.

And here’s the La Opinion editorial on the Solis pick.

Then, without even taking two breaths, State Senator Gloria Romero announced she will “very agressively” seek to replace Solis in the latter’s vacated congressional seat.

Now THAT is a good idea!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Sandra’s Burning Mothers

December 18th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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How do you make a change in a school district?
(Other than blowing up the district headquarters on Beaudry street some night, which would be wrong, likely not all that effective, and would also land one in federal prison.)

Sandra Tsing Loh thinks that mothers are the answer—at least a big part of it. If enough Los Angeles mothers get sufficiently pissed off and turn sufficiently activist, change is gonna come, damnit.

It has to.

To make her point—and to encourage the LA moms-with-school-age-children to rise up and get cracking—she talks about the issue on her KPCC radio segments. She’s written a book about the topic. Followed by a one woman show. She also organizes mom rallies, mom lobbying treks to Sacramento, and she helps at her kids’ school.

Now Sandra has written a new play about the issue called The Burning Momologues, which debuted this past Sunday night in a packed house full of mostly women at the Coronet Theater


It’s sort of like the Vagina Monologues, she said
at the beginning of the show. “Except that we’re talking about what happens when you actually USE your vagina.”

The show was indeed structured much like Eve Ensler’s popular play, with various actors reading …well….monologues all thematically related to the perilous job of mothering (or fathering), and the mayhem that can occur when moms and their kids collide with the sorry world that is Los Angeles public education.

Reading the parts of the burning moms (and a couple of dads), there were such actors as my beautiful and talented pal, Wendie Malick, John C. Reilly (a man of impressively unruly hair and excellently deadpan delivery), and the very funny, Margo Gomez.

The Burning Momologues turned out to be a very funny, very smart show that, if all goes well, Sandra intends to tweak and take to other cities to be performed by local actors (a la The Vagina Monologes), as well as repeating it in LA.

(I will let you know when there are firm dates.)

Before the show began, newly-crowned California poet laureate Carol Muske Dukes sang (rather than recited) an ode to the burning moms, which she had composed for the occasion to the tune of “Frank Mills” from the musical Hair, a show that Dukes confessed she performed in many decades ago in Paris. At least she understudied for one of the parts, but she assured those of us in the audience that she definitely got to take off her clothes on stage in front of Paris audiences, once upon a time.

(Judging by the clapping and whooping, the moms in the audience, myself included, found this news of past theatrical clothes-doffing to be extremely cheering.)

“The Burning Moms,” said Sandra, “are a guerrilla squad of L.A. public school mothers outraged by both continual California education budget cuts (the eighth largest global economy, California is 48th out of 50 states in per-pupil public school funding) and, on the other hand, the sheer bureaucratic waste of the LAUSD ($79 million this year alone has been budgeted for ‘consultants’). Meanwhile, it’s California’s children who are being squeezed — the only group that has no lobby. Most days it feels like only the Burning Moms’ burnt snickerdoodles are keeping our children in PE, art, music, etc.”

Sandra further expanded on her theme in an LA Times Op Ed on Tuesday of this week, just before Ray Cortines was appointed to replace the departing David Brewer as LAUSD superintendant. She suggested that the better choice for LAUSD Sup might be a Pit Bull PTA mom:

PTA moms are the very opposite of the $500,000-golden-parachute bureaucrats Brewer has come to represent. PTA moms draw no salary. We work nights, weekends, holidays. We bring our kids’ schools new resources every day — whatever we can load into our minivans. (Binders, colored pencils, toilet paper, snacks, basketball hoops and musical instruments are but some of the items I’ve seen moms deliver.)

[SNIP]

My L.A. public school mom friend — and Oprah Angel Award winner – Rebecca Constantino is the founder of Access Books, a 10-year-old non-profit that brings 10,000 new and almost new books to each of the many needy LAUSD elementaries requesting them. Thanks to a web of volunteers and private donations, the books come absolutely free.

The only obstacle? LAUSD Central Library Services. It has capped Access Books donations to a maximum of 300 books a school (some with more than 1,000 students) because of an LAUSD cataloging cost of $18 a book!

Call me hormonal (what I actually call myself is a “Burning Mom”), but I believe the district’s director of Instructional Media Services should be fired — today! That would save taxpayers $119,724.84 a year, according to an L.A. Daily news website that allows you to check the salary of any LAUSD employee.

[SNIP]

And then there’s the union problem. Even a chipper, resourceful PTA mom will have her hands full dealing with A.J. Duffy’s teachers union. Consider this sad tale.

Two years ago, the school my children attend was lucky enough to receive a VH1 “Save the Music” gift of 36 string instruments, the only requirement being once-a-week musical instruction. Not only could our Title I school not come up with $10,000 a year for an LAUSD teacher, there weren’t any available. Fortunately, a professional musician parent was thrilled to step in to volunteer. However, according to union rules, we could not call that person a “teacher” or “instructor” and technically could not bring the person into the classroom — we’d potentially be denying a teacher a job.

If you haven’t seen the pattern yet, ask yourself this: Whose needs are held hostage in every case? That’s right — the children’s….

(Read the rest, as there’s lots more, all distressingly true.)

Go Burning Moms! Go Sandra!

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(NOTE: The above photo is courtesy of my new iPhone, which is the snazziest of all possible gadgets, but probably not what you ideally want when taking snapshots in low light from a distance. HOWEVER….since my fabulous son—AKA the person who made me a mom—just surprised me with this amazing and addictive item for my birthday last weekend [seriously, the apps alone are the coolest things ever], I could not resist using it. So sue me.)

Posted in American voices, LAUSD, writers and writing | 3 Comments »

Obama Watch: Rehabilitating the Department of the Interior

December 17th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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A secretary of the interior who actually likes nature….?
What a novel idea! We hope that’s who we’re about to get.

With his choice of Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as interior secretary, Barack Obama has named a moderate. Yet, conservationists think—or at least many of them hope—that, with Obama’s environmental leanings shaping the agenda, Salazar will oversee a big shift n the Department of the Interior.

Salazar, as the New York Times puts it, will inherit a department “riddled with incompetence and corruption, captive to industries it is supposed to regulate and far more interested in exploiting public resources than conserving them. ”

(I wrote about Bush’s outgoing interior secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, and his antipathy toward the Endanged Species Act here and here.)

Here’re are some clips from this morning’s NY Times editorial on the mess made by Kempthorne and his predecessors that Salazar will soon have to clean up.

No cabinet post is as critical to the integrity of the nation’s parks, its open spaces and its animal species. Mr. Obama, and his environmental adviser in chief, Carol Browner, must be prepared to offer Mr. Salazar full support, especially in fending off the ranchers and the oil, gas, mining and other special interests who have always found the Interior Department to be a soft target, never more so than in the Bush administration.

Mr. Salazar’s most urgent task will be to remove the influence of politics and ideology from decisions that are best left to science.

Just as Mr. Salazar’s name was surfacing for the job, Earl Devaney, currently the department’s inspector general, reported to Congress that on 15 separate occasions the department’s political appointees had weakened protections for endangered species against the advice of the agency’s scientists, whose work they either ignored or distorted.

This sort of meddling has become standard operating procedure. Julie MacDonald, a former deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, resigned last year after an earlier report found that she had run roughshod over agency scientists and violated federal rules by giving internal documents to industry lobbyists.

It will be a nice for a change that those charged with protecting our precious natural resources will not be the ones actively assaulting them.

Posted in bears and alligators, environment | 7 Comments »

The Chick/Delgadillo Fight: Part….4…5….7? (I don’t remember anymore)

December 17th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon


The fight continues.


First let me apologize mightily for not researching this part of the issue
more rigorously myself. I’m smack in the middle of figuring out final grades for my USC and UC Irvine journalism classes, and those tasks hold the high card with my time for the next couple of days.

So instead of any pithy opinions from me, we have a new volley from the participants, or rather from their spokespersons.

Yesterday I posted an email from Laura Chick’s communications director, Rob Wilcox who was replying to comments made last week by Rocky Delgadillo’s communications director, Nick Velasquez, about how many times Chick had or had not audited Delgadillo in the past.

Later yesterday, Velasquez came back with a rebuttal, which is posted below:

Enough with the straw man fallacies, Mr. Wilcox.

Let’s stick to the facts.

Over the past 7.5 years, the Office of the City Attorney has been subjected to 33 fiscal audits by the City Controller. That’s right, 33.

The majority of these audits fall under the Controller’s Internal Control Certification Program (ICCP) — a comprehensive audit of various components of our Office’s financial operations.

The ICCP provides Departments/Offices that successfully pass the audit with more flexibility and independence in the way they do business.

The ICCP is not a one time deal. The Controller reviews and scores the Departments’/Offices’ fiscal operations several times each year in follow-up audits.

If a Department does not pass, fiscal certification is taken away and more restrictive financial controls are put in place.

Prior to 2001, the Office of the City Attorney had failed its ICCP audits and had not achieved fiscal certification.

In 2002, under a new administration, the Office of the City Attorney became certified (passing the ICCP audit) and has maintained such certification since, passing every one of the many ICCP audits conducted in subsequent years.

The Controller’s Office has conducted the ICCP reviews/audits more than two dozen times over the last 7.5 years in the City Attorney’s Office alone. All data released by the Controller’s auditing staff is available upon request.

In addition to these ICCP audits, a petty cash audit, Dispute Resolution Program audit and Bank Account audit have been conducted as well, bringing the total number of audits to 33 over the past 7.5 years. 33 audits.

Nick Velasquez
Director of Communications
Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office

Alright, gentlemen (and Madam Controller), I humbly recommend that, before we take this line of discussion any further, perhaps everyone could take a minute in the office and do, say, 100 stomach crunches and four or five sets of pushups.

Admittedly, it won’t solve the To Audit or Not to Audit question, but at least it will promote upper body strength, muscle tone and cardiovascular health, all worthy goals to which to aspire as we bushwhack through this holiday season on our way to the brave new year.

Posted in City Government, LA City Council, LA city government | No Comments »

The Controller v. The City Attorney: Dueling Facts?

December 16th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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Last week I again reported on the large and ongoing legal spat between
LA City Controller Laura Chick and LA City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo over whether or not it is legal for Ms. Chick to do performance audits of city programs, most specifically, an audit of the workers’ compensation methods being used in Delgadillo’s office.

Now the fight is also continuing through their surrogates.

to wit: after my post, the City Attorney’s director of communications, Nick Velasquez, wrote me with some corrections , which I put up here. (Note: You must scroll to the bottom.)

Velasquez wrote, among other things, the following:

With regard to oversight of this office, the Controller has conducted more than 20 financial audits of this office over the past 8 years, and we have passed each one with flying colors. Any suggestion that there is no oversight of this office or accounting of its spending is totally false. It is an effort to confuse the issue and the voters.

The Charter allows the Controller to conduct financial audits of other elected officials. The Charter does not, however, allow the Controller to conduct performance audits of other elected officials – which would allow one elected official to evaluate the performance of another elected official. The Charter reform commission correctly saw that evaluation as the job of the voters. They also recognized the potential for political mischief-making by a politician charged with evaluating the performance of other politicians.

More recently, I received a note from Laura Chick’s director of communications, Rob Wilcox, in which he took issue with what Mr. Velasquez had written. Here is the main part of the note:

I must respond to Nick Velasquez ‘s unfounded comments on behalf of the City Attorney’s Office and set the record straight..

The Controller’s Office has not performed 20 fiscal audits of the City Attorney in the last eight years, it has conducted only two. They are as follows:

*** ICCP Follow-up Audit
*** Financial Audit – Report on Dispute Resolution Program

These reports are posted on the Controller’s website with all the over 150 audits released by Controller Chick at www.lacity.org/ctr .

Each and every one of those audits is impeccable and have stood the test of time bringing important improvements, efficiencies and savings to the City of Los Angeles.

It is unfortunate that the City Attorney’s Office feels it necessary to impugn Controller Chick’s integrity and character by personal attacks. The public deserves more than this kind of mud-slinging.

The City Controller is the independently elected Taxpayer Watchdog, and though Mr. Delgadillo would like this watchdog muzzled, she will continue her fight for transparency and accountability wherever that may take her.

Clearly both men cannot be right. So perhaps some neutral party would like to clarify?

In any case, with rare exceptions more transparency is always better.

Posted in LA City Council, LA city government | 4 Comments »

SUNDAY & MONDAY MUST READS (AND A MUST SEE)

December 15th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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THIS MORNING AND THE WEEKEND PRODUCED a pile of Must Reads.
Here are 5 from the list:

1. FRANK RICH TALKS ABOUT BLOGOJEVICH, ACCOUNTABITY AND POLITICAL MORALITY

Yeah, Rod Blagojevich is creepily amusing, writes Rich, but this scandal, while loathsome and deserving of a trip to the slammer, is nothing….comparitively speaking, to a few of the games we’ve seen in the past 8 years.

Here are some clips.

What went down in the Land of Lincoln is just the reductio ad absurdum of an American era where both entitlement and corruption have been the calling cards of power. Blagojevich’s alleged crimes pale next to the larger scandals of Washington and Wall Street. Yet those who promoted and condoned the twin national catastrophes of reckless war in Iraq and reckless gambling in our markets have largely escaped the accountability that now seems to await the Chicago punk nabbed by the United States attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald.

[SNIP]

Bush had arrived in Washington vowing to inaugurate a new, post-Clinton era of “personal responsibility” in which “people are accountable for their actions.” Eight years later he holds himself accountable for nothing. In his recent exit interview with Charles Gibson, he presented himself as a passive witness to disastrous events, the Forrest Gump of his own White House. He wishes “the intelligence had been different” about W.M.D. in Iraq — as if his administration hadn’t hyped and manipulated that intelligence. As for the economic meltdown, he had this to say: “I’m sorry it’s happening, of course.”

2. TIM RUTTEN CALLS FOR A RESCUE OF HOMEBOY INDUSTRIES

On Saturday, Tim Rutten used his column to call, in very strong terms (and using hard numbers), for the wealthy in Los Angeles to step in to rescue Homeboy Industries.

Here are some clips:

Homeboy is one of this too-often-heedless city’s unambiguous municipal treasures — and it’s in trouble. We need to do something about that, and we need to do it now. The problem is simple: The economic catastrophe rolling across our country has dramatically pushed up demand for the kind of help only Homeboy provides. Despite the numbers of young men and women the community employs, and despite the others it has placed with private employers, its lobby is crowded with new applicants every morning. At the same time, the government and the private sources of funding on which Homeboy relies for most of its budget are cutting back as a consequence of the same downturn.

[BIG SNIP]

Here’s the point: We all need to step up and assist Homeboy Industries because it’s the right thing to do, and those who have more to give need to do it now. The rest of us can make contributions by going to the website — www.homeboy-industries.org– or by sending checks to 130 W. Bruno St., Los Angeles, 90012.

As Boyle said this week, “We’re located in the heart of the city, but we represent this city’s heart — a belief that everybody deserves a second chance and a faith that redemption is always possible.”

These are hard times for everybody, but what price can a city put on its heart?

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3. THE COACH IN THE HOOD

The final story on last night’s 60 Minutes profiled USC football coach, Pete Carroll. The segment talked about a lot more than Carroll’s success with Trojan football. The show also showed the coach’s committment to trying to help/stimulateinspire former gang members and gang wanna-be’s to turn their live’s around with his organization, A Better LA.

Carroll was a close friend of gang intervention leader, Bo Taylor, who died last summer, and whom he credits with inspiring him to start reaching out, and ultimately to put his own money into opening A Better LA.

It’s a nice segment and worth watching.

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4. D.C. CHARTERS LEADING REGULAR PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT

As in LA and other American cities, Washington DC charter schools are looking more successful than conventional public schools, according to this morning’s Washington Post.

Students in the District’s charter schools have opened a solid academic lead over those in its traditional public schools, adding momentum to a movement that is recasting public education in the city.

Students in the District’s charter schools have opened a solid academic lead over those in its traditional public schools, adding momentum to a movement that is recasting public education in the city.

[SNIP]

District children in both systems still fall short of national averages on standardized tests. But students in charter schools have been more successful at closing the gap. According to a Washington Post analysis of recent national test results for economically disadvantaged students, D.C. middle-school charters scored 19 points higher than the regular public schools in reading and 20 points higher in math.

On the city’s standardized tests, the passing rate for charter middle schools was 13 percent higher on average.

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5. ONE MURDER, TWO MOTHERS GRIEVE

In the LA Times this morning, Al Martinez writes about what happens for a mother when her child kills someone.
For parents living in high crime communities, the news that there has been a fatal shooting causes residents to pray that the dead won’t be anyone they know. Many also pray that the shooter won’t be someone they know.

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Posted in Charter Schools, crime and punishment, Education, Gangs | 7 Comments »

Will California’s Gang Intervention Programs Be Slashed?

December 12th, 2008 by Celeste Fremon

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I have just learned to my dismay that there is a very good chance
that Governor Schwarzenegger’s primary gang violence reduction initiative may be scrapped before the month is out.

The possible cuts that are suggested by the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, are laid out in this 28-page report. As you will note, the gov’s gang program is on page 28 of the LAO’s list of chopping block recommendations.

This has LA’s gang prevention/intervention world in a state of upset, and calls and emails are going out from many quarters as I write.

Here’s the full story: As the economy continues to crash and burn,
grant money available to nonprofits that provide gang intervention and prevention services has tightened to the point of strangulation meaning that even such longtime and successful gang intervention programs like Homeboy Industries are struggling to pay bills. (As I wrote yesterday) To make matters far worse, those served by such programs are in increasingly precarious circumstances due to the same worsening economy, so the need for those programs is much greater than usual.

Given all this, it was incredibly comforting to hear that, on a conference call a few weeks ago, a representative of Governor Schwarzenegger’s office said that, even with all the budget hacking taking place, the one thing that would definitely not be touched by those legislative slashers was the governor’s California Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Program (CalGRIP). (Details here.) The program, which was announced in May 2007, was just too important, assured the gov’s spokesperson. So not to worry. It is safe, safe, safe.

Fast forward to this week and, well, about those “too important” and “safe” thingies? Nevermind.

In a state senate budget committee hearing scheduled for this morning, CalGRIP is going to be discussed for termination (or death, or assassination. Pick your word of choice.)

Yesterday, I spoke to Crystal Taylor who is one of the people at the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office most expert about these issues. Taylor said she gave CalGRIP about a 50-50 chance of being killed. Maybe more.

And if it is killed, what would happen to the grants promised for this coming January to cities like LA, and to programs like Homeboy? Will recipients like these at least get the grants that have been previously agreed upon?

Uh, no. They won’t, said Taylor, who agreed this was a deeply unpleasant scenario. “See the legislature has already picked all the low hanging fruit,” she said. So the LAO had no choice but to recommend anything else that conceivably might be picked.

Bottom line, Cal GRIP will be discussed today, and there will be a cut or don’t cut vote before Christmas. But, for the moment anyway, things are not looking good.

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ONE MORE THING: As we all know, Mayor Villaraigosa announced his own gang violence reduction strategy last spring, most of which has yet to be rolled out. One part of his strategy that did get rolled out right away, however, at least in part, is called the GRP (Gang Reduction Program. Can’t somebody come up with the more interesting set of acronyms? Please? Pretty please?).

One part of that GRP that has been up and running is a juvenile reentry program that helps kids to transition successfully into non-gang lives when they get out of County probation camps. The plan is to prevent young men and women from getting stuck in the revolving door that, at present, claims nearly 70 percent of the juveniles we lock up. The available research is pretty definitive about the need for these kinds of strategies to get kids off the repeating cycle.

Thus far, the program looks like it is indeed effective. (Although it is too soon to quantitatively evaluate.)

Only one problem: the city hasn’t paid its GRP providers, like Homeboy, in three months. This is $29,000 per month–times three, or nearly $90 grand—that the programs have been fronting for the city. And no one seems to know when and if that money will ever be paid.

It’s going to be a long year.

Posted in City Government, Gangs, State government, State politics | 9 Comments »

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