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LA Mayor Backs Jim McDonnell for Sheriff, PTSD in High-Violence Neighborhoods, and “Paws for Life”

September 9th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

LA MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI TO ENDORSE JIM MCDONNELL FOR SHERIFF

Today, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti will officially endorse Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell for Sheriff of Los Angeles County. He will announce his support at 1:00p.m. on the 1st Street Steps of City Hall.

Here are some clips from the announcement:

Chief McDonnell and Mayor Garcetti have been long-time partners in reducing crime, increasing public safety in the region and advancing smarter approaches to policing, including investing in reducing crime by improving opportunities and protecting the most vulnerable, instituting strong management teams and practices, and focusing on results.

Mayor Garcetti believes Chief Jim McDonnell, based on his 29 years’ experience at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and four years as Chief of Police in Long Beach, has the experience, credibility and judgment to lead the LASD forward.

[SNIP]

Chief McDonnell is an outsider who will bring a fresh perspective to the Sheriff’s Department by rebuilding community trust and enhancing transparency within the Department. He supports the creation of a Citizens’ Oversight Commission and understands the importance of community-based policing, which he helped design and implement within the LAPD, and which Mayor Garcetti strongly supports.


THE UNDENIABLE COST OF PTSD ON KIDS AND FAMILIES IN INNER CITY NEIGHBORHOODS

Emerging research reveals that people living in high-violence neighborhoods experience rates of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) rivaling that of war veterans. Despite this, not much is being done to combat trauma in inner-city communities, particularly concerning its effects on children.

Lois Beckett’s story for ProPublica explains the real cost of PTSD on families and communities and why it is such an important issue. (The story was co-published with Essence magazine.) Here’s a clip:

Last October, Aireana and her boyfriend were driving through Oakland when a man on the street opened fire on their car. Her two children, ages 6 and 1, were in the backseat. Aireana, who asked to be identified only by her first name, remembers feeling something slam into her jaw and hearing a sound like a firecracker popping in her head. Her boyfriend hit the accelerator and swerved down the street. He and Aireana turned at the same moment to check on the kids. They were safe. Then her boyfriend looked at her and saw blood spurting from her neck. “Oh, my God,” he said, panicking, and crashed into a parked car.

In the shock after the crash, Aireana had only one coherent thought: I cannot die in front of my kids. They cannot see me die. She unbuckled her seat belt and pushed herself out of the car. As she stood, she felt dizzy and closed her eyes. But the thought of her children propelled her forward. They can’t see my body lying here dead. Still dazed, she walked away from the car. She could hear her daughter screaming behind her, “My mom’s dying!”

[SNIP]

A bullet had smashed through her front teeth, grazed her tongue and broken her jaw. In the emergency room, the surgeons repaired her tongue. Later, they wired her jaw shut so that it could heal. Aireana stayed in the hospital for more than a month. When she went home, her face was still puffy and swollen, and she had a hard time talking. Fragments of the bullet were still lodged in the side of her neck.

“You’re so lucky,” her friends kept telling her. “Why are you still so sad? You’re okay—you’re alive.” But Aireana couldn’t stop thinking about the shooting. She felt guilty, as if it were her fault that she had been hit. Why hadn’t she lifted her arm to block the bullet? Why hadn’t she ducked? The shooting played over and over in her dreams. Sometimes, reliving it, she remembered to duck, and then the bullet passed over her and hit one of her children. She’d wake up in a panic, soaked in sweat.

[SNIP]

The burden of post-traumatic stress on low-income communities of color gets very little attention. What public recognition it does receive is often sensationalized: A TV reporter apologized this spring after a segment on young people dealing with trauma in Oakland referred to PTSD as ” hood disease.”

“Someone in the community has to stand up and say, ‘Because of all the gun violence, we have a lot of traumatized people—and it’s not just the people who are being shot and shot at, it’s the people who are witnessing it, the vicarious trauma,’” says Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D., the commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services. With the support of Mayor Michael Nutter, Evans has pushed Philadelphia to treat trauma as a major public health issue and to develop a comprehensive approach to PTSD. Over the past eight years, city officials have worked with hospitals, community mental health clinics, pediatricians, schoolteachers and police officers to increase awareness of the disorder and make sure residents are connected with treatment professionals. “We have to stop telling our kids they just have to live with this,” Evans says.

This past July, Aireana helped her kids overcome their terror of the firework noises they thought were gunshots outside their apartment:

As her neighbors set off firecrackers in the street, she kept her kids at a distance. She pointed to the lights: “That one’s cool.” A purple explosion: “Oooh, nice.” Gradually, they walked closer. Later, she gave her kids sparklers and watched them run around making glowing scribbles in the dark. She had always loved fireworks. It was good to see her kids not being afraid and enjoying them, too.


DOGS AND INMATES RESCUE EACH OTHER

Karma Rescue, a non-profit that saves animals at high kill-shelters, partnered with CA State Prison LA County in Lancaster to launch an inmate-dog training program called “Paws for Life.” Karma saved five dogs at risk of being euthanized, and brought them to the Lancaster prison where 14 inmates spent 12 weeks training the dogs to boost their chance of finding permanent homes.

The program was a huge success for both inmates and the dogs who brought unconditional love and happiness into a place largely devoid of both. Four of the five dogs have been adopted since their graduation on August 9, and the program is set to begin again in September with 10 new dogs in need.

We’ve reported on programs of this kind before in LA County, but this is the first to be performed in a high-security prison with lifer inmates.

The Huffington Post’s Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald has more on the program (and John DuBois and Shaughn Crawford have taken some powerful photos of the dogs and their incarcerated friends). Here are some clips:

Fourteen inmates were then selected to train five shelter dogs who stayed at the prison this summer for a 12-week program. From the very beginning, the program struck a chord with everyone involved. Karma Rescue’s founder Rande Levine wrote, “Men who had not seen an animal in decades were openly emotional at the sight of the beautiful creatures before them. Just petting our dogs brought many to happy tears. It was a day I will never, ever forget.”

Several times a week, professional dog trainer Mark Tipton and several dedicated Karma Rescue volunteers drove out to the prison to instruct the inmates on how to train their assigned dogs for ‘Canine Good Citizen’ certification, a designation that increases the chance that a dog will be successfully adopted.

I attended the graduation of the first class of Paws for Life on August 9th, and what made it so powerful was the pervasive sense that absolutely everybody involved in the program — the volunteers, the prison warden and staff, the inmates, the dogs, and everyone in their vicinity — was transformed by it.

[SNIP]

For Captain Crystal Wood, having the Paws for Life program represents a “lifelong dream” of hers to have a dog program at the prison. She noticed a huge change in the inmates in a relatively short time after the dogs entered the prison.

“A lot of times in this setting it’s so depressing and you don’t show emotion…feelings and when you have a creature that gives you unconditional love and licks you and doesn’t care – you see men who’ve been in prison for 20 and 30 years break down and cry just for the compassion and the humanity. It’s just generally made the yard a calmer place,” Capt. Wood said.

Mark Tipton, the trainer for the inmates, was beaming and proud of his students: “I had high hopes and they met them. When I first came I had one of the officers tell me, ‘I’ve never seen any of these guys smile and I’ve been here 14, 15 years and now they’re coming out smiling like Cheshire cats.’ They have smiles on their faces — happy, happy – and it gives them purpose.”

And here’s what some of the inmate participants had to say about the program:

DeAngelo: “The dogs have taught me how to be patient and how to continue to love no matter what’s going on around you and to you, just continue to learn how to love. No matter what’s going on with the dog, he responds the same way … he loves you, and that’s what I got out of that. Our trainer, Mark, he taught us patience, how to be gentle, how to love. He was very patient with us.”

John M.: “This program has saved my life. It’s pretty simple. I have been in prison for twenty plus years…The Paws for Life program came along with Karma and all of a sudden I can love again. I can feel love. I can experience emotions that I have been holding down for twenty plus years…I sleep better at night, I’m more able to speak with people, I’m a little bit more literate. All of this comes from having a dog.”

Oliver: “It gave me another chance at unconditional love. It’s changed the entire yard, there is a lot of peace with the C.O.s (Correctional Officers) and other inmates. It brought everybody closer.”

Posted in Jim McDonnell, Los Angeles Mayor, prison, PTSD | 2 Comments »

Funding for Relatives Caring for Kids, Bill to Keep Kids Exiting Detention Enrolled in School, LA Metro May Boost Oversight of LASD Contract, and a Non-profit Prison Idea

September 8th, 2014 by Taylor Walker

WILL LA COUNTY ACCEPT MUCH-NEEDED STATE FUNDING FOR KINSHIP CAREGIVERS?

In June, Gov. Jerry Brown allocated $30 million from the state budget for giving relative caregivers the same CalWORKS financial support as non-relative foster parents.

Counties have until October 1 to opt-in to receive the crucial funding. The LA County Department of Children and Family Services says it is considering whether to opt-in, but will make its decision by the deadline.

Giving equal funding to kinship caregivers was one of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection’s top recommendations for reforming a troubled DCFS.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Jeremy Loudenback has more on the issue and why it is so important. Here are some clips:

With the highest number of foster children in the state, Los Angeles County could see as much as $25 million in state funds go to family caregivers, according to advocates with the California Step Up coalition. They say the county’s participation in the Relative Caregiver Funding Option Program would lead to greater placement stability, better outcomes for foster children and significant cost savings to the county by avoiding more expensive placement alternatives such as group homes.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer from where we sit,” said Laura Streimer, the legal director at the Alliance for Children’s Rights. “Why not roll the dice and use it now? The majority of the $30 million allocation state budget would come to L.A. County because we have the most children who qualify for it. Why wouldn’t you take that?”

The county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is weighing whether or not to opt in. According to a statement emailed to The Chronicle of Social Change by DCFS Public Affairs Director Armand Montiel, Los Angeles County will “resolve the issue” by October 1.

“The Department supports equity for relative caregivers and is preparing a recommendation for our Board regarding this program,” Montiel wrote in an email. “At this point, the State has not finalized the methodology it will use to determine each county’s base caseload and funding level. Understanding the State’s methodology for determining the base caseload and funding is essential in making accurate projections regarding the potential county costs of this program for the first year and for outlying years.”

The clock is ticking.

[SNIP]

Despite recent research that shows that living situations with family members translate to better educational outcomes for foster youth than congregate-care placements like group homes, most relative caregivers receive a paucity of funding that lags behind the support given to unrelated caregivers.

Because of arcane eligibility rules based on the poverty standard from 1996, more than half of all foster children living with relatives do not qualify for federal foster care benefits. For relative caregivers who aren’t eligible for federal money, this means that the only support California offers them are CalWORKs benefits. This ends up being less than half the amount of money non-relative caregivers typically get from the foster care system.

The yawning gap in funding and support has hit family caregivers particularly hard, according to advocates. The scant funding and support provided to family caregivers is seldom enough to care for children who often have specialized care needs that result from experiencing trauma or abuse.

California is “forcing families—primarily low income, single women, and a disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos—into deep poverty to keep their families together,” Kinship in Action Director Joseph Devall wrote in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change. Kinship in Action supports the rights of family caregivers in South Los Angeles.

The LA Times’ editorial board is also urging the county to opt-in to boosting funding for relatives caring for kids that would otherwise be placed with strangers or sent to group homes. Here’s how it opens:

Thousands of California children who have suffered abuse or abandonment are sent to live with strangers in foster homes. That often happens even if there are extended family members ready and willing to take them in, despite California laws requiring placement with relatives when possible, and even in the face of countless studies that show the kids do better in the long run after stays with relatives rather than strangers.

So why do we keep doing it? Because so many of those relatives, retired or with their budgets maxed out raising their own kids, need a bit of financial assistance to be able to take in their nieces and nephews, siblings or grandchildren — and because under a complicated and outdated set of state, federal and local laws and rules, they can get only a tiny fraction of the funding that non-related foster parents get. Worse yet, there is a shortage of foster parents, so the children often end up being sent to group homes, which are the most expensive option and produce the least desirable outcomes. Government foolishly requires itself to pay more to get worse results.


BILL TO REQUIRE THAT KIDS LEAVING DETENTION CENTERS ARE PROMPTLY RE-ENROLLED IN SCHOOL

Over 42,000 kids attend school in California juvenile detention facilities on average each year, yet only 20% of those re-entering their communities re-enroll in public schools within the first 30 days of their release.

Experts say these kids fall through the cracks due to broken communication between the government agencies responsible for these kids.

An important bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, AB 2276, would address this issue by ensuring kids exiting detention facilities will be immediately enrolled in school.

New America Media’s Michael Lozano has more on the bill authored by Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra. Here’s a clip:

In high school, Tanisha Denard struggled to get herself to class on time. Her walks from home to John C. Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles were long, the buses were crowded and when there was space, Denard rarely had the fare. “I got passed by the bus a lot and I didn’t have money,” she recalls.

The truancy tickets piled up – Los Angeles municipal code allows schools to issue citations of up to $250 to tardy and absent students – and so Denard, now 20, whose family was unable to cover the cost, paid her debt by serving time at a county juvenile hall. When she was released, school officials informed her that reenrolling at her old public high school wasn’t an option — she would need to begin the much lengthier process of finding a new school and getting herself enrolled.

Although Denard was eventually able to navigate her way into another school, she is by far the exception. The story of young people leaving the juvenile justice system with no clear academic transition plan is a familiar one to youth advocates, despite existing laws that are meant to avoid such scenarios.

“They’re supposed to be coordinating – there are laws that talk about coordination and communication – but that’s not happening the way it needs to happen,” says Laura Faer, Education Rights Director with Public Counsel, a pro-bono law firm.

What makes AB 2276 different from current laws, says Faer, is the requirement that juvenile probation and county education departments work together to form transition policies in collaboration with local education agencies. In addition, the bill would create a statewide stakeholder group headed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Board of State Community Corrections that would study best practices and be required to report back to the state legislature.

Faer has seen plenty of past instances where court school records are not transferred from probation officials to the county office of education immediately upon a child’s release, which in turn creates a negative outcome for the student.

“A student shows up at the school and the school says, ‘you don’t have any of your documents, so you can’t come.’ Or worse, even if they are allowed to go to school, [the schools] don’t know anything about them,” says Faer. “A child [may have] already taken algebra when they were in the hall or in the camp, then they’re put in the exact same classes. Then they get disaffected and they drop out, because they keep getting shuffled and doing the same things over and over again. So that handoff, that transition, is really critical.”


LA METRO WORKS TOWARD ROBUST OVERSIGHT AFTER AUDIT REVEALED LASD MISSED POLICING GOALS

In July, an audit found that the LA County Sheriff’s Department had fallen short of Metro policing goals for reducing crime. The audit came as Metro was considering renewing a three-year contract with the LASD.

Part of the problem, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti says, is a failure to administer adequate oversight.

The mayor (who is also chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority) has proposed a motion to hire several Metro staff to keep track of contract goals, and to have the department’s inspector general audit the LASD-Metro contract every two years.

The LA Times’ Laura J. Nelson has the story. Here’s a clip:

In a motion proposed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the chairman of the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, board members asked for several new Metro staff members who would keep tabs on key contract benchmarks, including fare evasion, system safety and response times. The board also asked Metro’s inspector general, the internal agency watchdog, to audit the transit police contract every two years.

The audit, written by an outside firm and commissioned by Metro officials, also faulted the transit agency itself for weak oversight of the contract.

“We didn’t hit some of the most basic things that are part of the contract,” Garcetti said during a meeting at Metro’s downtown headquarters. “We have failed on the oversight.”

The push comes as officials weigh awarding a three-year security contract expected to cost about $400 million. The transit police agreement with the Sheriff’s Department expires Dec. 31.

Sheriff’s Department officials said they agree with the majority of the findings and are working to correct the issues raised in the audit.


TRANSFORMING A PRIVATE PRISON INTO A NON-PROFIT FACILITY

Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE), a 20,000-member activist group, has proposed that a privately run D.C. jail be transformed into a non-profit-run jail focused on rehabilitating rather than warehousing inmates.

The jail is currently operated by the controversial private prison group, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), but its contract will end in 2017.

The Huffington Post’s Saki Knafo has more on the unique idea. Here’s a clip:

Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, or CURE, a prison reform group comprised mainly of former inmates, wants to convert a private jail in D.C. into what they say would be the first nonprofit lockup in the country, if not the world. At this point, the idea is just that — an idea. The group, which claims some 20,000 members throughout the country, convened its first meeting about the proposal on Friday at D.C.’s Harrington Hotel, but has yet to figure out any of the logistics of what they admit would be a complicated, even quixotic effort.

Charlie Sullivan, the executive director of CURE, acknowledged that the idea might make him sound like a knight “chasing after one of those windmills.” Still, he argues that his idealism may be exactly what is needed.

“What both the private and government-run prisons are doing is just holding people,” said Sullivan. “They’re playing defense; we need to play offense. We need to give people an opportunity to change their lives.”

The group has set its sights on the Correctional Treatment Facility, one of the city’s two jails. For nearly two decades, the facility has been run by the Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit, private prison company based in Nashville, Tennessee. Over the last few years, criticisms of such companies have grown louder, with advocates for inmates saying that private prisons are incentivized to lobby for harsh laws that keep beds filled while skimping on rehabilitation services, training programs for corrections officers, and anything else that could cut into their profit margins.

Posted in DCFS, Education, Foster Care, jail, juvenile justice, LASD, Los Angeles Mayor | 1 Comment »

The Trouble with Turning Deportees into Criminals….an Upsetting Foster Care Probe….and Election Extras

May 23rd, 2013 by Taylor Walker

BIG ISSUES WITH ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

A new report from Human Rights Watch examines the consequences of prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry and reentry into the U.S. (a misdemeanor and felony respectively, and the most prosecuted federal crimes).

Here’s a clip from the HRW press release:

The 82-page report, “Turning Migrants Into Criminals: The Harmful Impact of US Border Prosecutions,” documents the negative impact of illegal entry and reentry prosecutions, which have increased 1,400 and 300 percent, respectively, over the past 10 years and now outnumber prosecutions for all other federal crimes. Over 80,000 people were convicted of these crimes in 2012, many in rapid-fire mass prosecutions that violate due process rights. Many are separated from their US families, and a large number end up in costly and overcrowded federal prisons, some for months or years.

“The US government is turning migrants into criminals by prosecuting many who could just be deported,” said Grace Meng, US researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Many of these migrants aren’t threats to public safety, but people trying to be with their families.”

The Senate immigration reform bill, proposed by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” calls for an additional US$250 million for increased prosecutions of these cases in Tucson, Arizona, and increasing the maximum penalties for many categories of people charged with illegal entry and reentry. The US government should instead end unnecessary prosecutions for illegal entry or reentry.

The report is based on a thorough analysis of US government data and interviews with more than 180 people, including migrants and their families, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.


LA TIMES ASKS IF THE LA COUNTY SUPERVISORS ARE TOO SLOW TO PULL THE PLUG ON A TROUBLED FOSTER CARE PROVIDER

LA Times’ Garrett Therolf has the story. Here’s how it opens:

Los Angeles County Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Gloria Molina were unable to win majority support for their push to sever all ties to a foster care contractor with a history of substantiated child abuse and financial malfeasance.

Under the supervisors’ proposal, the county board had been scheduled to take a public vote Tuesday on the county’s relationship with Teens Happy Homes, a contractor that has received up to $3.6 million per year and cared for more than 1,100 foster children in recent years.

But Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas moved the item to a closed-door session where the proposal died, at least temporarily. A spokeswoman for Ridley-Thomas declined to say why he removed the item from the public schedule.

In closed session, the item was referred back to the offices of its sponsors who are free to bring back the proposal at a subsequent meeting.

Molina was on vacation Tuesday and not due to return until May 30. Antonovich’s spokesman said his office will be discussing the matter with Molina’s aides to decide how to proceed….

EDITOR’S NOTE: In several investigative stories on the LA County Foster Care provider known as Teens Happy Homes, which is responsible for the care and well being of hundreds of the county’s foster children, LA Times reporter Garrett Therolf paints a picture of an agency rife with financial malfeasance and perhaps a lot worse.

Here, for example, is a clip from Therolf’s April 29 story:

The routine audit of Teens in 2003 faced problems from the beginning. Shortly before auditors arrived, a sewage backup destroyed many financial records. The remaining documents painted a picture of financial chaos.

There were canceled checks showing the agency repeatedly bought cigarettes and beer with foster care money — in one instance, 30 cases’ worth. There was $46,000 in unpaid federal payroll taxes. The agency’s bookkeeper wrote $13,000 in checks to herself. “The agency was unable to explain the nature of these expenditures,” auditors wrote.

The bookkeeper, fearing criminal prosecution, wrote to county auditors, saying Robinson had ordered two workers to “come up with receipts” to help keep staff “out of jail.”

He was not going to get caught up in falsifying any documents.”
— Teens Happy Homes bookkeeper, in a letter.

The plan fell apart when one manager refused. “He was not going to get caught up in falsifying any documents,” the bookkeeper wrote in her letter, which was obtained by The Times.

After the 2003 audit, Therolf reports, the Supes expanded the Teens Happy Homes contract rather than canceling it.

Now in the light of further allegations surfaced by the Times, people like Judge Michael Nash, the presiding judge of L.A. County’s Juvenile Court (and WLA’s hero for opening the courts to reporters) and Leslie Starr Heimov, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, have called for the county to yank its contractual support and transition the good foster families under its umbrella to other agencies.

So why hasn’t that happened? Two sources close to the Supes offices plus DCFS spokesman, Armand Montiel, told WLA that there is a set process for determining whether or not a contract requires severing, and that the process is…well…in process.

“We have the ability to remove a child or children from a location if we think that child is in danger,” added Montiel, “and we won’t hesitate to do so.”

In the meantime, with regard to Teens Happy Homes, the “process” has to be completed, explained one of our sources. “If we don’t do something like this properly, we can wind up with a lawsuit.”

Okay. We get that. But when it comes to the well being of children, a little more communication from the board would help.

C.F.


GARCETTI ON SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES

We thought you’d be interested in this interview with Eric Garcetti by Youth Justice Coalition in which he discusses some of the issues that matter most to WitnessLA like juvenile justice, gun violence, and education reform.

[YJC]: Los Angeles locks up more youth than any other city in the world. Given that this is in part due to policing, but also due to court and Probation systems outside your direct control, what would you do to improve the justice system for youth from arrest through detention and incarceration?

Eric Garcetti: I would make sure that the reforms I have proposed for our job training system specifically include initiatives to train and employ formerly incarcerated individuals. Unfortunately, AB109 provides little to no resources for community-­‐based solutions. As Mayor, I will use my office and partner with the Council to develop and advocate for the implementation of legislative actions that reduce the recidivism rate and improve public safety and social justice. I want to stop the prison system’s revolving door to get people on the right path, to reduce crime and to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers. Prison is more expensive than prevention, job training and counseling.

[YJC]: Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, local law enforcement have increased their presence at schools and Senator Boxer is calling for the National Guard and armed police at schools across the nation. Do you agree with these policies to address school-­based violence? What are your school safety strategies?

Eric Garcetti: Gun violence takes the lives of more than 30,000 nationwide each year. It is time to act. I am proud to have led on the issue of reducing gun violence for years. I helped pass and write laws here in L.A. to get illegal guns off the streets, to ban the open carrying of guns, and to get rid of large caliber weapons and ammunition. I also created At the Park After Dark (now Summer Night Lights), which provides a safe place to go until midnight for hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles youth during the summer months. As Mayor, I am going to continue to take this fight nationally in order to keep our schools safe and keep guns off our streets.


ELECTED OFFICIALS OPINE ON ELECTION RESULTS

For more worthwhile after-election reading, LA Mag’s Shayna Rose Arnold has LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Council President Herb Wesson, and City Councilwoman (and primary mayoral candidate) Jan Perry’s thoughts on Tuesday’s election results.

Posted in DCFS, Human rights, immigration, LA County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Mayor | No Comments »

Election Night Memories & Morning Must Reads

May 22nd, 2013 by Taylor Walker


FIRST OF ALL: CONGRATULATIONS TO ERIC, MIKE AND RON!!!

(AND TO WENDY, WE SEND OUR WARMTH AND RESPECT FOR A BATTLE HARD FOUGHT.)


NOW…..SOME SNAPSHOTS OF ELECTION NIGHT FEVER

While waiting for elections results on Tuesday night that seemed to take forever, LA journalists found lots of ways to amuse themselves:

For instance, the folks over at Zócalo posted two Q&A sessions with Garcetti and Greuel that asked all the right questions. We highly recommend reading them both in their entirety, but here are a few notable exchanges—first from the Garcetti interview:

Q: Obama said he has only two colors of suits, gray and blue, in order to eliminate choices. What suit colors do you have?
A:Oh my gosh. I’ve got blue suits, I have gray suits, I have black suits. And I believe I have, like, a brown suit. Twice as many choices but half as many suits.

Q: What animal fills you with terror?
A:I think it’s the chupacabra. I don’t know if it’s out there, but if it is, that frightens the heck out of me.

…and then, from the Greuel interview:

Q: What weapon would you choose if a zombie apocalypse came to L.A.?
A:I have no idea! [An aide says she doesn’t have to answer the question.] I think if a zombie apocalypse came to L.A., I’d probably run. That’d be my weapon. I’m not sure there’d be anything I could do to defend myself.

Q: When did you last laugh?
A: Just now. When you asked about the apocalypse.


Among the most entertaining election commentaries of the evening, not surprisingly, were from Twitter. Here are some of our favorites:

‏Gene Maddaus (LA Weekly) @GeneMaddaus
Well I’d say this mayor’s race is about complete. IBEW boss Brian D’Arcy just gave me the middle finger from his 2nd floor office window.

‏Gene Maddaus (LA Weekly) @GeneMaddaus
D’Arcy’s staff said they were calling the cops 20 minutes ago. Where are they?

Gene Maddaus (LA Weekly) @GeneMaddaus
Well I did my best. Here’s video of me shouting a question at Brian D’Arcy’s rolled-up car window as he drives away.

Frank Stoltze (KPPC) ‏@StoltzeFrankly
@ericgarcetti supporters gather outside the Hollywood Palladium for his election night party. #lamayor pic.twitter.com/MdcpLC1DDO

Frank Stoltze (KPPC) ‏@StoltzeFrankly
@ericgarcetti father Gil feeling optimistic at the Hollywood Palladium. #LAMayor. pic.twitter.com/Fy23jp7d4d

Steve Lopez (LA Times) @LATstevelopez
Vote-counting systems that are more efficient: pigeons fly votes downtown, Mr. Ed scratches hoof once for Greuel, twice for Garcetti

Steve Lopez (LA Times) @LATstevelopez
can anyone take a picture of the vote-counting abacus city clerk uses?

Steve Lopez (LA Times) ‏@LATstevelopez
i’m watching kcal 9. the bear stealing garbage is very efficient. can we get him to count votes in the l.a. city election?

Alice Walton (KPPC) ‏@TheCityMaven
The @Wendy_Greuel DJ is now playing the Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back” … which I think means @Villaraigosa has taken over the playlist.

David Zahniser (LA Times) ‏@DavidZahniser
MT @TheCityMaven reports that the @Wendy_Greuel party just put on Journey



AND IN OTHER NEWS…THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SEIZES FOX NEWS REPORTER’S PHONE RECORDS

While LA was in the throes of election obsession, there was a new development in the matter of the DOJ spying on journalists. It is a still unfolding tale that WLA finds chilling.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza has the story. Here are some clips:

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that, as part of the investigation of [an alleged leak by a former State Department contractor named Stephen Jin-Woo Kim], Obama’s Department of Justice seized e-mails from [Fox News' reporter James Rosen's] personal Gmail account. In the search warrant for that request, the government described Rosen as “an aider, and abettor, and / or co-conspirator” in violating the Espionage Act, noting that the crime can be punished by ten years in prison. Rosen was not indicted in the case, but the suggestion in a government document that a reporter could be guilty of espionage for engaging in routine reporting is unprecedented and has alarmed many journalists and civil libertarians.

The document uncovered today suggests the government seized “call detail” records from Rosen’s work and cell phones, which would show whom he called, who called him, how long they spoke, and the times of the calls. The document suggests that the government was seeking only the subscriber records for the two White House numbers targeted, information that a government source said would include the name of the official who used the specific line.

[BIG SNIP]

Rosen declined to comment on the case. Asked if the phone numbers of any reporters had been targeted in the Kim investigation, a spokesperson for Fox News said they were not familiar with the new information regarding Fox’s phone records and directed The New Yorker to a statement released yesterday by Michael Clemente, the executive vice-president for News at the cable channel: “We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”


A SACRAMENTO GROUP FINDS A NEW WAY TO CONFRONT “ZERO TOLERANCE”

In her excellent blog, ACEs Too High, journalist/child advocate, Jane Stevens brings to our attention an innovative community play titled ZERO that dramatizes the affects of zero tolerance policies in schools. Stevens takes in-depth look at the process of creating ZERO (which was put on by the Black Parallel School Board and funded by the California Endowment), and the surprising effect it has had on viewers—many of them state lawmakers and their staffs.

Here’s a clip (but go read the whole thing):

The first time they performed the play, it was for legislators and their staff members in the State Capitol. “I thought only 20 people would show up,” said Pinkston. “The room was packed — 70 people watched.” And the buzz began.

“I know that a lot of the people were taken aback,” said Bradley. “People don’t realize how bad it can get. It was touching to me because people seemed to really care about the situation, because that gave us hope for change.”

In August 2012, by the time they presented the play at the Guild Theater, so many people had heard about the play that tickets were sold out.

“The play shows how the teachers and administrators are under constant pressure to perform,” said Pinkston. “They’re under siege. They’re forced to get rid of the kids they don’t want to teach. Parents don’t have a lot of time and attention to work with kids, because they’re working two or three jobs. So, the community has to take some ownership about what’s going on.”

At the end, the students, teachers, parents and community members in the audience were gripped with sadness and frustration at the heavy odds against James, the main character. “This whole experience has been humanizing,” said White. “The play’s a microcosm that what actually happens in schools.”

Half of the 200 people in the audience filled out comment cards. More than half felt the play had challenged or changed their opinion. Some of the comments:

*We must come up with a different way to deal with discipline in school. Suspension is the not the answer.”

*I plan to push harder to start this conversation within my school community and advocate for a shift toward supporting each other and developing strengths-based schools.”

*I am willing to challenge the rate of suspensions at my school.”

*I will support legislation to fund schools & change school discipline to provide restorative practices & social-emotional learning for school community.”

*I am a middle school teacher (34 years)…. I have “James” in my classes. James deserves every bit of help; however, standing in front of the class looking out, I see 34 other students waiting for me to do something with disruptive students. The school do not have the personnel to work “deeply” with James. I talk to parents after school for hours, but during class, I have to educate the non-James.”

Posted in Foster Care, LA County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Mayor, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | 1 Comment »

Elections….Zev Yaroslavsky on Mentally Ill Inmates…..Merrick Bobb, the LASD & Gangs….and More

May 21st, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


ELECTIONS: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE VOTE


MAYOR:

WLA hasn’t made an endorsement in the mayor’s race, and we’re not going to do it now.

We know and like both Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti and can make a strong case for either candidate, both of whom we believe will also grow on the job. We have respected friends and colleagues who are maniacally in favor of one over the other—some choosing Eric, others lining up behind Wendy.

We know the LA Times has endorsed Garcetti. But we hope you’ll take the time to make up your own mind—which ever way you finally lean.

If you’re still trying to decide, LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus “Five Key Differences..” rundown on how the two diverge provides some helpful food for thought.


CITY CONTROLLER

We favor Ron Galperin over Dennis Zine.

We think Zine’s a good guy, personally, and we like that he occasionally rides his Harley to Sturgis for the big bike rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

But we think Galperin has the right skill set and temperament to be a very good, pro-active controller—which is, after all, the point.


CITY ATTORNEY

Mike Feuer not Carmen Trutanichplease!

Feuer is smart, has the chops, and will be good.

Trutanich, while not without talent, is vengeful, mendacious, power-hungry and seems bizarrely unclear on the law when selective dis-clarity happens to serve his personal purposes, all of which we see as….you know… problematic.


PROPOSITIONS C, D, E, & F

These are the propositions that propose different schemes for regulating the sales of medical marijuana, which is long overdue.

Here’s the short form: YES ON D……NO on the rest.

For the long form, read what the LA Times says or the LA Weekly.

Among other things, D has the best shot at passing, and if the voters don’t pass one of these puppies, the City Council may try to shut down all the dispensaries, which is a very bad idea.


AND IN NON-ELECTIONS RELATED NEWS….

ZEV YAROSLAVSKY INTRODUCES A MOTION FOR JAIL RENOVATION TO BETTER HOUSE MENTALLY ILL INMATES

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky will introduce a motion as an “alternative concept for the replacement of Men’s Central Jail,” which would replace one of MCJ’s towers with a facility designed to house mentally ill inmates.

Evidently Zev was fed up with the various billion dollar jail building proposals that the sheriff keeps pushing, so came up with a different angle with the idea of jump starting a fresh conversation about the jails facility issue.

Here’s a clip:

Instead of demolishing all of MCJ and constructing a replacement facility for the general inmate population, a better approach could be to demolish one tower of MCJ and replace it with a medical/mental health/substance abuse Integrated Inmate Treatment Center designed to serve inmates with mental illness, co-occurring substance abuse and specified medical conditions. Initial studies show that by consolidating all relevant inmates in this Center, sufficient beds would be opened up elsewhere in the system to house the County’s remaining inmates. The proposed Integrated Inmate Treatment Center would be designed to meet the needs of this inmate population and could result in better and more humane outcomes for these prisoners as well as a more cost-effective solution to the problem of housing the general jail population.

Initial reviews of this idea show great promise. Studies show that recidivism on
the part of mentally ill/dually-diagnosed inmates can be substantially reduced through intensive treatment programs.

The ACLU responded to Yaroslavsky’s proposal with some suggestions of their own (detailed in their letter here: Yaroslavsky Mental Health Motion). But mostly, as So Cal ACLU Legal Director Peter Eliasberg put it, “…we appreciate the fact that the supervisor has started the conversation.”

We do too.


MERRICK BOBB’S NEWEST REPORT ON THE LASD LOOKS AT THE SHERIFF’S GANG ENFORCEMENT STRATEGY

On Monday, Special Council Merrick Bob introduced his bi-annual report on the Sheriff’s Department. This particular report focuses on gang enforcement since, although crime in general is down, gang violence still remains a pressing problem affecting LA’s communities.

You can find the report here: 32nd Semiannual Report 5-20-13.

We’ll likely return to discuss this report further in the next few days,

But, for now, suffice it to say that we appreciated the report’s analysis of what effective, targeted gang suppression looks like, versus ineffective gang surpression—which only serves to alienate the community, wrongly criminalize some gang members, and, in excess, can actually cause crime to rise. This smart outline will, we hope, be viewed by the department as valuable feedback as they hone their gang policing methods.

Where we differ a bit from Bobb’s report is that we’re not at all that sure about the notion that, in addition to smart, targeted, strategic—and community-respecting—surpression (policing), that the LASD should also be engaged in gang prevention and intervention.

The report is, of course, dead on when it points out that, historically, we’ve learned that gang surpression alone, doesn’t lower gang crime. Every study tells us that we need the prevention/intervention/reentry pieces for violence reduction and community health.

With this in mind, certainly it’s essential for law enforcement to be cooperative with those agencies that provide prevention, intervention and reentry programs, et al —places like Homeboy Industries, Communities in Schools, Homies Unidos, and Aquil Basheer’s BUILD Youth Empowerment Academy, and others. However, it’s not the job of the cops to offer those services themselves.

We’d rather see the County instead carve out some money to help the intervention/reentry folks, since they are the people actually doing—and equipped to do—that work.

All this is a longer discussion. But that’s the short form..

Posted in Board of Supervisors, Gangs, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LASD, Los Angeles County, Los Angeles Mayor | No Comments »

The Collateral Cost of CA’s Big Cuts to Mental-Health, LASD and Civilian Oversight…and More

May 6th, 2013 by Taylor Walker


EDITOR’S NOTE:
After a few months hiatus, Taylor Walker is back posting at WLA. And we’re delighted to have her!

(Matt Fleischer is working on some new WLA stories so you’ll be seeing him back here shortly, as well.)



THE AFFECT OF CA’S HUGE MENTAL HEALTH CUTS ON INCARCERATION

Amid all the kerfuffle last week over the interview with You-Know-Who, we missed a few important stories, most notable among them was a Mother Jones feature on cutting mental-health funding across the US, and the collateral affect on crime and incarceration. California was ranked among the highest budget-cutters with an alarming 21% cut over the last three years. The unintended consequences of those cuts that Mother Jones outlines should cause every policy maker to take note.

Here are some of the highlights:

California ($3,612.8 million in 2009 to $2,848 million in 2012, -21.2 percent): Inmates with severe mental illness often wait three to six months for a state psychiatric hospital bed. In 2007, 19 percent of state prisoners were mentally ill. By 2012, 25 percent were.

[SNIP]

For every $2,000 to $3,000 per year spent on treating the mentally ill, $50,000 is saved on incarceration costs.

Prisoners with mental illness cost the nation an average of nearly $9 billion a year.

In 1955, there was one psychiatric bed for every 300 Americans. In 2010, there was one psychiatric bed for every 7,100 Americans—the same ratio as in 1850.


LASD PERMANENT CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT PANEL

In 1992, the Kolts Commission recommended that a civilian oversight panel be established for the LA Sheriff’s Dept. In an Op-ed for the LA Times, civil rights attorney R. Samuel Paz points out that two decades—and a few more recommendations—later, there is still no permanent civilian oversight. The LAPD has the police commission; the LASD has nothing equivalent.

Here are some clips from Paz’s essay.

The Kolts Commission then, just as the jails commission now, rejected the sheriff’s argument that civilian oversight was unnecessary because, as an elected official, he was accountable to the public. The commission noted: “Indeed, we know of no major metropolitan police department in the United States which is not subject to some civilian oversight — except the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”

[SNIP]

The jails commission found the present oversight systems ineffective and inadequate. L.A. County Special Counsel Merrick Bobb’s frequent reports on systemic problems and the necessary reforms to fix them were ignored by the sheriff and lacked any enforcement mechanism or follow-up capability. The oversight by the Office of Independent Review, which was created in 2001 to monitor use-of-force and misconduct investigations, was found to be ineffective, ignored or changed by management. It also has been hampered by Sheriff’s Department officials withholding key documents on use of force in jails, in violation of the understanding that the Office of Independent Review was to have “unfettered access” to records. The ombudsman, which the jails commission described as the “clearinghouse for public complaints,” was found to be woefully inadequate in identifying patterns in complaints by civilians.


MILLION DOLLAR DETAINEE

The Pentagon spends an astronomical $900,000 on each Guantanamo detainee per year. Eek and egad! Surely this money can be put to better use elsewhere?

Reuters has the story. Here’s a clip:

The Pentagon estimates it spends about $150 million each year to operate the prison and military court system at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, which was set up 11 years ago to house foreign terrorism suspects. With 166 inmates currently in custody, that amounts to an annual cost of $903,614 per prisoner.

By comparison, super-maximum security prisons in the United States spend about $60,000 to $70,000 at most to house their inmates, analysts say. And the average cost across all federal prisons is about $30,000, they say.


LAPD INTERNAL AFFAIRS CHANGE-UP

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck is reassigning three deputy chiefs, including the head of Internal Affairs, Deputy Chief Mark Perez, to bring in “fresh perspective” to that bureau. It is not yet clear what the tweaking means regarding the department’s discipline policy, but we’ll keep an eye on it.

LA Times’ Joel Rubin has the story. Here are some clips:

Perez’s departure from the Professional Standards Bureau, which investigates officers accused of misconduct, is certain to raise some eyebrows within the department. Appointed to the post in 2006 by Beck’s predecessor, William J. Bratton, Perez moved the department away from its traditional approach to disciplining officers that was centered on giving officers incrementally harsher punishments for repeat offenses.

Instead, Perez put in place a system that, as he frequently said, emphasized “strategy over penalty.”

[SNIP]

In a brief interview, Beck said he is not looking for McCarthy to dismantle the current discipline system. Except in extreme instances in which he wants the officers fired, Beck said, “I still believe in using methods that reform behavior instead of punish it.”


REGISTER! VOTE!

By the way, today, May 6th, is the cut-off to register to vote in the Los Angeles mayoral runoff on May 21st. Go register! Quick! You can fill out the online application here.

Posted in Charlie Beck, elections, LAPD, Los Angeles Mayor, Sheriff Lee Baca | 6 Comments »

Baca Speaks to Editorial Board of LA News Group……LA Experts Assess Villaraigosa’s Public Safety Report Card…SCOTUS Hears Gay Marriage Next Week

March 22nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon



BACA TALKS TO EDITORIAL BOARD OF LA NEWS GROUP AND GETS IMPROVED REVIEWS

The LA News Group includes such newspapers as the LA Daily News, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Long Beach Press-Telegram and so on. Earlier this month, the group published a withering critique of Baca, all but calling for his ouster in 2014 when he is up for election.

But after a meeting with Baca this week, while not by any means offering the sheriff any reelection endorsements, the LA News Group’s editorial board was, at least, somewhat less determined to show him the door.

Here’s a clip from the editorial:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca mentioned two personal goals this week: Winning re-election next year and living to 100. In recent months the latter had seemed more likely than the former.
The dedicated runner’s physical fitness wasn’t in doubt, but his fitness for office was. After revelations about the unwarranted use of violence by sheriff’s deputies, Baca initially passed the blame to subordinates. A citizen’s commission probing jail violence cited a “failure of leadership. ”

By last fall, the question had become whether Baca, 70, should resign before scandal or voters forced him out.

But the Lee Baca who visited the Los Angeles News Group editorial board this week, to outline responses to the problems in the Sheriff’s Department, appeared as fully committed and as creative as ever in his approach to his huge job. It is still not clear that Baca deserves a fifth term, any more than it was clear before that he doesn’t. But it is clear that Baca will not be easily brushed aside in 2014.

The question now is whether Baca’s wide-ranging responses to the scandals makes up for his inability to prevent them.

The editorial also mentions that, in answer to questions about the exit of Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Baca said he managed to “finess” Tanaka into leaving.

Here’s the clip:

…More-impressive responses are Baca’s admissions that much of the ACLU’s criticism is correct, and his actions to get to the systemic roots of issues instead of merely blaming underlings.

One was Baca’s move to “finesse” Undersheriff Paul Tanaka into announcing his retirement – and then to essentially eliminate the position. Baca thinks this removes a barrier to communication between him and assistant sheriffs.

The insistence on using the word “finesse” to describe his ouster of Tanaka is classic Baca….

In other words, the retirement announcement was not about the undersheriff’s sudden urge to play more golf, after all.

For LASD watchers, it’s essential to read the whole editorial.


ASSESSING OUTGOING MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA’S PUBLIC SAFETY REPORT CARD

KPCC’s Frank Stolze talks to a list of LA experts about how Mayor Antonio Villagraigosa should be rated as a public safety mayor.

The reviews are generally good, but qualified with the admonition that Antonio was also the beneficiary of some very good luck.

Villaraigosa’s largest stroke of good fortune was his inheritance of Bill Bratton as LAPD’s chief after James Hahn arguably lost the mayoral election to Antonio because he fired Bernard Parks, “a beloved figure in the black community. Hahn lost his once bedrock support among African-Americans.”

(It should be noted that Parks had come to be roundly loathed by the rank and file, who felt that, as chief, he punished them for small infractions while letting his friends do what they pleased. He also alienated the press, members of the DA’s office, and most of city hall for his obstructive handling of the Rampart investigation.)

But while Villaraigosa may not get credit for bringing Bratton to LA, Stoltze reports he does get credit for working very well with him.

Here’s a clip:

In a sense, Villaraigosa lucked out.

“I think he was the beneficiary of the very tough decision that Jim Hahn made,” said UCLA Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology Jorja Leap, who studies crime in L.A. “I don’t think Jim Hahn is given enough credit.”

Villaraigosa embraced Bratton, who receives a lot of credit for turning the LAPD around and delivering the dramatic drops in crime by introducing new technology and cooperating more with federal agencies. The mayor also deserves praise for working with the chief to repair long-frayed police-community relations, said Alex Alonso, who monitors gangs and policing on his StreetGangs.com website.

“Chief Bratton and Villaraigosa showed up at churches, showed up at community meetings,” Alonso said. “That’s definitely a plus. Going to the ghettto.”

Villaraigosa also is praised, reports Stoltze, for embracing non-law-enforcement-centric strategies for crime reduction.

While she’d like to see more funding for the GRYD program (it receives about $25 million annually), Kayle Shilling of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater L.A. said she’s glad Villaraigosa embraced the gang strategy along with more police — even if it was four years into his administration.

“There are a lot of different approaches in Los Angeles and I think it just takes folks a little while to get up to speed,” Shilling said. “I think he’s landed in a good place.”

Villaraigosa can hardly take sole credit for the historic crime drop that began before he took office. Community groups — some led by former gang members — are more involved than ever in reducing violence.

“You have a lot of other things going on outside of City Hall and outside of government,” said Alonso of StreetGangs.com. “You have nonprofit organizations, you have a lot of gang intervention workers. The mindset is changing within South L.A.”

But with Villaraigosa’s help, the mindset on how to tackle crime has changed at City Hall, too.

Read and listen to the rest of Frank Stoltze’s report here.


AND JUST A REMINDER….NEXT WEEK THE U.S. SUPREME COURT WILL HEAR THE TWO GAY MARRIAGE CASES

We’ll be linking to what we see to be the best of the commentary. So buckle-up and hang on.

Here, for example, is an explanatory story from Michael Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers.

And here’s an interesting blog post by Amy Davidson in the New Yorker about the non-Prop 8 case, that of Edie Windsor. As she writes, Davidson helpfully links to some of the best essays on the two cases.

Posted in Antonio Villaraigosa, Bill Bratton, Charlie Beck, LA County Jail, LAPD, LASD, Los Angeles Mayor, Sheriff Lee Baca | 16 Comments »

ELECTIONS: National Eyes on LA’s School Board Races…The Howls About Outsider Money…How to Choose a Mayor….PLUS Some Non-Election News

March 5th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon


NATIONALLY, ALL EYES ARE ON LAUSD’S SCHOOL BOARD RACES

It’s big enough news that even the NY Times was driven to report on LA’s school board contests.

Here’s a clip from the NY Times’ Jennifer Medina’s story:

On Tuesday, voters in Los Angeles will go to the polls for a mayoral primary. But much of the attention will also be on the three races for the school board, a battle that involves the mayor, the teachers’ union and a host of advocates from across the country — including New York City’s billionaire mayor — who have poured millions of dollars into the races.

The outcome of the political fight for the school board seats will have a profound impact on the direction of the nation’s second-largest school district. But the clash has also become a sort of test case for those who want to overhaul public education, weakening the power of the teachers’ union, pushing for more charter schools and changing the way teachers are hired and fired.

After years of pressing to take power away from local school boards, some advocates have directed their money and attention directly to school boards in the hope that they will support their causes, as unions have done in the past.

Last month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City donated $1 million to a coalition formed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles to help elect candidates who will support the current superintendent and the policy changes he has promoted. Students First, a national advocacy organization created by Michelle A. Rhee, the former schools chancellor in Washington, donated $250,000 to the same cause.

(As we mentioned last Friday, we generally support the reform candidates—especially Kate Anderson.)


TWO LAUSD BOARD MEMBERS TALK ABOUT THE INSIDERS V. OUTSIDERS DONATIONS FALLACY

In an Op Ed for the Daily News, LAUSD board members Marlene Canter and Yolie Flores about the controversy over the out-of-state money coming in for the school board race.

Canter and Flores make the point that, for years, UTLA—LA’s teachers’ union--poured big buk into school board races, where the union stood to gain specific to gain by having “their” people on the board . Now, they write, the playing field has been leveled (or even tilted the opposite direction) by school reform groups and the unions are crying foul.:

Here’s a clip from their Op Ed:

Recently, there has been much talk regarding the “outside groups” who are trying to influence the LAUSD school board elections. But, as former board members with a total of 12 combined years of service, we know first hand the pressures facing LAUSD board members and candidates for the board. Both of us fought for significant changes at LAUSD, and we felt firsthand the strength of the powerful forces that are out to preserve the status quo.

When people with no vested, personal interest in the outcome try to help elect reform-minded candidates, they are branded as “outsiders” who are trying to “buy elections.” This is perplexing. These individuals have a longstanding interest in closing the opportunity gap for poor kids and kids of color, and improving educational achievement for all students.

Personally, they stand to gain exactly nothing if the candidates they are supporting get elected. They’re willing to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to improving education, and their participation is critical for leveling the playing field and keeping these school board races competitive. Yet, when “insiders” who do have a vested, personal interest in the outcome contribute significant funding, this is somehow seen as more acceptable…


JIM NEWTON LISTS WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN VOTING FOR MAYOR

Book author, and LA Times’ roving columnist, Jim Newton, is a very smart cookie, and he’s written an interesting column about the field of candidates running for mayor that flies in the face of what has become conventional wisdom—namely that the front five—or front three, really, Wendy Greuel, Erick Garcetti, and Jan Perry—are basically tepid, light-middle weights who have inspired the public to doze off.

It’s a stronger field than conventional wisdom would have you believe, Newton writes.

Here are some clips from Newton’s story:

This is a stronger field than people tend to think. All five of the leading candidates are smart and committed. Three already hold public office and have accomplished some important things while serving; the other two bring new ideas and insights. And they all seem to be driven by the opportunity to lead rather than by the prospect of skimming or doling out jobs and contracts to friends.

Still, as usual, the minutiae of the campaign has tended to swallow up big ideas, leaving instead a pile of cliches that obscure more than they illuminate.

[SNIP]

One reason the campaign has been so banal is that the leading contenders aren’t really all that far apart on the issues. So how should you make up your mind? Here are some suggestions for what qualities to look for in a mayor.

And then he lists qualities of courage, judgement and tenacity, creativity and personality—with examples of just exactly what he’s talking about.

A good read, and a good list of ideas to help you decide, if you haven’t already.


EDITOR’S NOTE:

NEON TOMMY WILL HAVE LIVELY ELECTIONS COVERAGE ALL DAY!

Annenberg’s Neon Tommy will be bringing their own smart and energetic brand of coverage to Tuesday’s races all through the day. So, consider keeping NeonTommy open from morning on as we all wait for returns.



AND IN OTHER NEWS…..

THE NEWTON TRAGEDY BRINGS ON A SWING BACK TO ZERO TOLERANCE & STRING OF SILLY AND SAD SUSPENSIONS

Education News rounds up a spate of the new and sadly foolish suspensions.

Here’s a clip:

On Jan. 10, five-year-old Madison Guarna unwittingly committed a “terroristic threat” while waiting in line for the afternoon school bus.

During a discussion of butterflies, ladybugs and “kitty cats,” the kindergartner told her friends she was going to shoot them and herself with her Hello Kitty bubble gun, which was not in the girl’s possession at the time.

[SNIP]

Since the Newtown tragedy, at least 15 students have been suspended from school – or threatened with suspension – for dubious reasons.

Just last week, a seven-year-old Baltimore student was given a two-day suspension for “biting his breakfast pastry into a shape that his teacher thought looked like a gun,” reports The Daily Mail.

Six of those suspensions were given to elementary students who made “gun gestures” with their fingers.

A Pennsylvania fifth-grader was “threatened with arrest after she mistakenly brought a ‘paper gun’ to school,” reports PrisonPlanet.com.

[SNIP]

A 10-year-old Virginia boy was taken into police custody and fingerprinted after he showed “a toy gun with an orange tip” to a friend. He was charged with “brandishing a weapon,” and now he has “a juvenile record and a probation officer,” reports the Washington Post.

And in Colorado, seven-year-old Alex Evans was reportedly suspended from school for “throwing” an imaginary grenade into an imaginary box, which resulted in an imaginary explosion.

The Sandy Hook shootings may be the reason for school leaders’ heightened sensitivity to all things gun-related, but it’s the “zero tolerance” policies put in place by local school boards that often require administrators to hand down these absurd discipline decisions.


HOWEVER SOME NEW SCHOOL SAFETY MEASURES BEING INTRODUCED IN SACRAMENTO ARE STRANGELY…..SENSIBLE.

In the face of the vexing news about outbreaks of zero tolerance craziness, there is some good news. Michael Gardiner at the San Diego Union reports that school safety measures that, post-Newtown being introduced in Sacramento. Here’s a clip:

California lawmakers have introduced nearly two dozen school safety measures that have been largely overshadowed by the more divisive debate on gun control.

The emerging campus security bills involve: inside door locks, panic alarms, mental health services, school safety plans and funding for other prevention programs.

A similar story has unfolded in Washington where Congress remains in conflict over regulating assault weapons, background checks and the size of ammunition magazines. But there is movement on other proposals to secure schools.

“The bottom line is it’s got to get done and it’s got to get done right,” said Marc Egan, who tracks federal school safety issues for the National Education Association.

The general consensus on both coasts is it will take a comprehensive approach to prevent a repeat of the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. just days before Christmas….

Posted in Charter Schools, children and adolescents, Education, elections, Los Angeles Mayor, School to Prison Pipeline, Zero Tolerance and School Discipline | No Comments »