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The WitnessLA November 2012 Elections Endorsements

November 2nd, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

With voting day looming on Tuesday,
a quickie rundown of our thoughts and recommendations.


30 – YES! Jerry Brown’s must-pass initiative is a desperately needed budget patch providing funds for California’s educational system—both K-12 and higher education—while also funneling fiscal aid to other crucial state programs.

Prop 30 looked like it would pass easily, mainly because most Californian’s understand that our schools and other essential programs are in need of $$$, and the governor has devised the least painful way to raise the necessary bucks.

Unfortunately, wealthy Californian Molly Munger muddied the water by floating a competative ballot proposition (Prop. 38) then, along with her brother, using tens of millions of her own money to blast voters with TV ads designed to shake confidence in 30, in the hope of getting voters to embrace 38. Now, while 38 looks unlikely to pass, it has managed to erode just enough of Prop. 30′s support to put it in serious jeopardy.

So here’s the deal: Not only should you vote for Prop 30, but you should threaten, cajole, emotionally blackmail everyone you know, are related to, or pass randomly on the street into voting for it. Otherwise, we’re in for some dark days in terms of public education. (Not to put too fine a point on the matter.)

31 – NO. A messy and badly conceived attempt to reform the way the state legislature behaves. Heaven knows some serious reform is needed, but this ain’t it. Prop 31 will cut money from schools and other vital programs and create a pile of bureaucracy. Read what the Courage Campaign has to say here.

Even CA’s conservative newspapers are fleeing from this badly written item.

32: NO WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE – If you loved Citizen’s United then you’re going to adore Prop 32. Listen, many of us are furious when certain unions (cough) CCPOA, prison guards (cough, cough) swing their weight around to ill effect. But this proposed law is a union-hating, Koch Brother’s special that pretends to rein in corporate campaign spending and special interests. Instead, it favors big corporate interests and hobbles everybody else.

For a humorous (and kinda scary) look at Prop 32 supporters read our own Matt Fleischer’s account of what he heard when he parachuted in behind the lines of Prop. 32 central—namely the Lincoln Club.

33: NO! – This creepy little piece of work is auto insurance bait and switch that is the baby of Mercury Insurance founder George Joseph, and does not have your and my best interests at heart. Run!

34: YES – Replaces the death penalty in California with life without the possibility of parole.

I’ll let Jeanne Woodford (the former head of the CDCR and former Warden of San Quentin who oversaw four executions), plus my friend Frankie Carrillo speak on the topic, as they each are uniquely qualified to do so.

35: NO – The sex trafficking and slavery initiative is extremely well meant but is a morass of unintended consequences. Yes, of course, we must do everything possible to take the predators it targets off the streets and put them behind bars. But this problematically-structured law, the project of former Facebook privacy officer, Chris Kelly (who would like to ride this law into the office of CA Attorney General), causes more problems than it solves—sadly.

The good news is that it opens the dialogue on this pressing issue, where victims remain tragically unprotected.

36: YES – Reforms 3-Strikes so that bad guys get put away, and the people who don’t need to be the guests of the state for the rest of their lives (on our tab) don’t. Even LA DA Steve Cooley & SF DA George Gascon like this prop that fixes the flaws in a well-intentioned but overbroad law.

37: YES– Requires that genetically engineered foods (GMOs) be labeled before being sold in California.. The LA Times is against it. We disagree.

The issue is not whether GMOs are good or harmful. Many likely are not, and may have great benefit. The point is that, as a consumer, I’d like the right to know what’s in my food and whether or not the items I buy contain GMOs. Wouldn’t you?

Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and some of the most famous chefs in America are in favor of GMO labeling.

So is the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

Monsanto, Dupont, Pepsico and Dow are not and have thrown upwards of 40 million to try to persuade you that their opinion is the righteous one.

For a lengthier and highly informed counter-opinion to that expressed by the LAT and some of the other CA papers that are urging a NO vote, read what NY Times food writer Mark Bittman has to say about Prop. 37—and the missinformation put out by its mega-buck-funded opposition.

You also might want to read this also from the NY Times, by Michael Pollan (one of the gurus of the food movement, and author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, among other food-related books)

Oh, yeah, and if you don’t believe those guys, you might want to see what Bill Moyers has to say on the topic.

38: NO/YES.or WHATEVER. This prop, which has set itself up as the alternative to Jerry Brown’s Prop 30, is a scheme to raise some taxes in order to fund the state’s ailing public school system. The prop, as mentioned above, has been almost exclusively funded by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger. Munger is the co-head of the Advancement Project, along with the excellent Connie Rice, and we really, really like Munger for that, and for her many other accomplishments as a lawyer and an advocate. However, we are extremely vexed at her I-know-better-than-all-of-them-Sac’to-fools-do attitude in this instance, which could mean that neither prop passes, and that California schools suffer terribly as a result.

Karin Klien, the editorial board writer for education lays the matter out perfectly:

Proposition 30 is a superior measure on several fronts. It would avoid trigger cuts that would cause immediate and drastic harm to schools, which would probably be forced to cut the school year by up to three weeks, as well as $250 million in cuts to the University of California and an equal amount to the California State University system.

Beyond that, one aspect of Proposition 30 that has been little noticed is that it also provides money for community colleges; right now, more than 200,000 students at those colleges cannot find a seat in a single class, let alone enough courses or the courses they need to graduate. There’s little point to rescuing only K-12 schools when the graduates would have nowhere to go.

Polls suggest that Prop 38 doesn’t have a chance. And, yet, Munger’s ads and those of her conservative brother, wrongly claiming, as Klien writes, “…’politicians’ would get their hands on money intended for schools..” are still running. The non-passage of 30, once a sure thing until the Mungers threw tens of millions at the issue, is now hanging by a thread.

So vote for 38, don’t vote for it. Just make sure you vote for Prop. 30.

39: YES – Would remove a tax break that mainly benefits multistate companies based outside of California, a tax loophole that has actually encouraged these companies to take their jobs out of state. As KCET points out, Prop 39 would level the playing field by making multistate companies play by the same rules as companies that employ Californians, and would produce an extra $1 billion for the state coffers.

That’s the short version. If you want more, KCET has the details.

40: YES - Basically re-approves California’s newly redrawn state Senate districts. Every major newspaper in the state, whether conservative leaning or liberal leaning, urges a YES vote. A few disgruntled politicians urge otherwise, but most of them have quietly gone away.


In terms of candidates, we favor Janice Hahn, Howard Berman, Julie Brownley, Henry Waxman, if you’re in an area where they are on the ballot.


We firmly recommend Jackie Lacey.

Look: Alan Jackson is a skilled prosecutor, but he does not appear to have the temperament or the experience to manage the District Attorney’s office effectively. During the campaign, he has consistently tailored his message to the crowd, rather than giving us a clear idea of what his policies would be, if elected.

Lacey is more conservative than we would like, but she’s a listener, and has already appeared to grow in the course of the campaign. In short, she’s up to the job now and we believe would become stronger and better, while in office.

For more, read the very smart LA Times endorsement that I’m guessing was written by our pal Rob Greene.


(But you probably knew that.)

In any case, whatever and whomever you vote for: PLEASE VOTE

Posted in CCPOA, Civil Liberties, crime and punishment, CTA, District Attorney, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), elections, Innocence, Presidential race, Propositions, Springsteen, unions | 8 Comments »

Teachers’ Union Attacks Lynwood Parent Group— Parents Fight Back

January 5th, 2012 by Celeste Fremon

This week there was yet another instance of a teachers union using disinformation and fear tactics
to try to intimidate parents who want to have an effect on their kids’ school.

See, it’s this sort of thing, by the way, that causes liberals, who are generally very pro union (and who are always pro teacher), to start feeling mighty grumpy toward California’s teachers unions—both the statewide union, CTA (California Teachers Association), and its branches, and such local unions as UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles)—all of which appear to have become so power-drunk by their decades-long vice grip on CA’s education policy that they actively want to assassinate any other person or group that has the nerve to want also to sit at the decision-making table (and sip a teensy bit of the wine of power too).

(By the way, I mean the word “assassinate” mostly in the metaphorical sense. Operative word: mostly.)

The most recent instance of attack-trained union behavior is occurring in Lynwood, where a group of local elementary school parents have organized as a “parents union” under the banner of the Parents Revolution, which is the group that was instrumental in getting passed the Parent Trigger law.

The Parent Trigger Law is the statute that gives parents the right to “trigger” reforms in schools that are chronically failing to meet minimum state improvement standards (chronic meaning for 4 years or more). In other words, these are the California schools that, year after year, for whatever reasons, give the kids in their care a substandard education. According to the law, when a school screws up to that degree, if at least half of the school’s parents sign a petition, the local school district must adopt one of a handful of reforms: 1. shut down school and let the students enroll in a higher-performing campus nearby; 2. convert the school to an independent charter, 3. fire half the teaching staff and replace the administration; 4. extend school hours and revise the curriculum under a federally recommended turnaround plan; or 5. adopt an “alternative governance” model, which is an option that has a lot of leeway.

In other words, the parent trigger law for the first time gives parents real power to advocate for change in behalf of their sons and daughters—power that previously was held only by the district and the unions, which for the past several decades have seemed more interested in maintaining their respective power bases—-than thinking about what might actually benefit…..you know….kids.

Wow! Bummer! Parents having a place at the bargaining table too! We certainly don’t want THAT!

As it turns out, other states DO want it, and the Trigger law has been spreading, as this Sept. 2011 MSNBC story outlines.

The fact that the dreaded parent-leaning statute might be catching on outside California caused the antipathy toward the Trigger Law to reach such a fever pitch that, this past summer, the American Federation of Teachers put out a power point presentation of how to undermine the law in California and in any other state where it might crop up. The document—which is a must read—openly talks about how the union’s goals are helped by the “Absence of…parents from the table.” (The Orange County Register has more on that shameless move.)

Since the Parent Revolution had its genesis during the rise of the LA charter school powerhouse, Green Dot, the unions have painted such parent groups as clueless dupes of charter school advocates, who cannot make their own decisions and are generally easily influenced idiots who certainly don’t know what their kids need.

The Lynwood union branch of CTA has reportedly used many of FTA’s tactics when they put out flyers and, more recently a newsletter to to try to squash any moves by frustrated Lynwood parents who are tired of sending their children to a school that doesn’t adequately educate them.

The LA Weekly has done a great job of reporting on this issue—both the Lynwood battle that has heated up this week, and an earlier battle over a Compton school, that blew up a year ago.

Here’s a clip from the Weekly’s Simone Wilson’s story on the press conference held Wednesday by Lynwood parents, who are pushing back against union pressure:

Education reformers in California have called Lynwood “ground zero for parent empowerment throughout the entire state.” For whatever reason, parents in the southeast L.A. County town have banded together with an extra sense of urgency, demanding a basic level of respect and competence from their kids’ teachers and administrators that should certainly, by now, be the standard statewide.

But even demands as basic as theirs have now, it seems, been twisted by the local teachers union into some kind of attack on public education as a whole.

Sigh. Fixing this state’s crap school system would sure be a lot easier if we could quit politicking and start discussing the needs of our children like civil human beings.

Uh, yeah. What she said.


The Dallas Observer has the story of Rickey Dale Wyatt who was freed on Wednesday after serving 31 years on a rape that Innocence Project head, Barry Scheck says Wyatt did not commit. (The LA Times also reports.)

It seems that although the actual rape victim described a man much larger and taller than Wyatt, and also clean shaven, unlike the then-bearded Wyatt, prosecutors withheld the evidence that likely would have cleared the man.

Although Wyatt’s sentence has been vacated, he has not been declared innocent. He must next appear at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals where Scheck says he is confident that Wyatt will be cleared.

It is important to note that Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins has been instrumental in a string of such dramatic releases in Texas because, rather than fighting defense attorneys at every step, Watkins and his office has opened Dallas County Conviction Integrity Unit, which has in many instances opened up files to the Innocence Project and others.


Oh, just listen. It’s a good story, even if Bratton has an ego the size of Wyoming.

Posted in Charter Schools, CTA, Education, How Appealing, Innocence | 5 Comments »