THE POLICE UNION Vs. THE LA PUBLIC LIBRARIES
I wish this was not grindingly predictable that the LAPD’s union, the LAPPL, would come out against Measure L, the item on the March 8 ballot that would set aside funding for the Los Angeles Public Library system.
In a statement put out Wednesday, union president Paul Weber made the usual dire predictions. Measure L will force cuts in police, fire and public safety, blah, blah, blah.
The LA Weekly detailed the deep and shameful cuts to the LA Public Library system last year in their excellent cover story by Patrick Range McDonald, City of Airheads, which showed that Los Angeles stood alone among big cities in failing to protect its libraries.
Many public library systems — the five biggies are Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles — have faced an ugly two years of recession-spawned budget cuts and trimmed hours. Yet political leaders who control the purse strings for the biggest cities fought and saved their libraries from severe harm.
The city that has not done that is Los Angeles.
Measure L was, in part, a response. Granted, it didn’t help the union’s attitude toward the ballot measure, that it was proposed by Councilman Bernard Parks who, one could plausibly argue, has never scene an opportunity to stick it to the Los Angeles Police Department he didn’t like.
As the LA Weekly points out in a Wednesday night blogpost, Measure L doesn’t raise new $$ but rather sets aside a certain portion of property tax dollars as sacrosanct for the city’s libraries. This kind of ballot box budgeting can be a dicey strategy in that it ties the hands of lawmakers to move all funds around as needed. But given the council’s unwillingness to protect LA’s library system, supporters feel it is necessary, in this instance, for the citizenry to step in.
As Councilman Park’s chief of staff (and son) Bernard Parks Jr. noted,” Public safety already accounts for 70 percent of the city’s general fund.” That 70 percent should be enough. Public safety is important. But it is also important to feed the minds of our children by protecting their libraries.
So to the LAPPL, please sit down. We got this one.
CRIMINALIZING CAMPUS PROTEST
I’ve been meaning to comment on the troubling decision of Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to bring criminal misdemeanor charges against 11 Muslim Student Union UC Irvine students who heckled and otherwise disrupted the on campus speech of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.
Salon Magazine has presented the issue well. Here’s a clip from their story.
The Orange County district attorney has brought highly unusual misdemeanor charges against 11 Muslim students for disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. at the University of California at Irvine last year, raising questions about the First Amendment and the criminalization of protest on campus.
The case has generated competing free speech claims, with both sides arguing they have the Constitution on their side. Supporters of the so-called Irvine 11, including progressive Jewish groups, have argued that the prosecution is politically motivated because of the explosive nature of the Israel-Palestine issue and because the students are Muslim.
Ambassador Michael Oren came to speak last February at U.C. Irvine, which has been the site of tensions over Israel-Palestine for several years. Members of the Muslim Student Union took turns interrupting the speech every few minutes, calling Oren, who is an Israeli Defense Forces veteran, “an accomplice to genocide” and a “mass murderer.” Each student briefly stood up, shouting a sentence or two, then walked to the aisle and was arrested by police and escorted out. After four interruptions, Oren took a 20-minute break, according to news reports at the time. He was then interrupted another six times before a group of protesters left the lecture hall. Oren then finished his speech.
In response to the incident, the U.C. Irvine administration revoked the charter of the Muslim Student Union for a year and disciplined the students involved. [Ed. note: Which should have been good enough.]
Now, after a year-long investigation that included issuing search warrants and convening a grand jury to interview witnesses, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has brought charges against 11 students for “conspiring and disrupting a lawful assembly.”
Let me repeat that: Rackauckas, in all seriousness, convened a grand jury and issued search warrants about a campus protest. Your tax dollars at work. How is this a bad precedent? Let me count the ways.
The Jewish Journal reports that a hundred UCI faculty members have called on the OC DA to drop the charges.
Photo by Jebb Harris, Orange County Register