LA passes up funding for affordable housing + LA mandates earthquake retrofitting

LA will require buildings to undergo earthquake retrofitting starting in 2016.

LA will require buildings to undergo earthquake retrofitting starting in 2016.

LA Passing Up Tens of Millions For Infrastructure and Affordable Housing: Los Angeles is missing out on important revenue by not charging developer impact fees. These fees can fund a variety of things, including LAPD, libraries, parks and affordable housing construction. (LA Curbed)

Los Angeles Will Start Requiring Earthquake Retrofits For Apartment Buildings in February: Los Angeles will require buildings to undergo earthquake retrofitting starting in 2016, but the mandate leaves concrete structures a 25 year window to complete the project. (LA Curbed)

LAUSD fails arts education test + Safe Halloween activities in South LA

LAUSD has cut arts programs dramatically and is now looking to reinstate programs. Above, Crenshaw High School.

LAUSD has cut arts programs dramatically and is now looking to reinstate programs. Above, Crenshaw High School.

Only 35 L.A. public schools get an A in supporting the arts: Budget cuts in LAUSD have diminished arts programs for students, but now the district is looking for new ways to reincorporate the arts into schools. (LA Times)

Families provided with safe Halloween across South LA communities: 25 intersections across South LA offered families the chance to enjoy a safe Halloween night in communities better known for violence. (ABC7)

South LA could get Promise Zone funding in Obama’s 2015 budget plan

Obama | The White House

Obama discussed the 2015 budget at an elementary school in Washington D.C. | The White House

President Barack Obama released his 2015 budget proposal on Tuesday, revealing a plan to create 40 new “Promise Zones” nationwide — a major bump from last year’s designation of just five. As a low-income neighborhood, South Los Angeles stands to benefit, said Rep. Karen Bass.

“I’m thrilled by the resources he’s putting in,” she said. “In regards to South L.A., he’s calling for the establishment of 40 more Promise Zones, so that could really increase the possibility that an application from South L.A. would be successful.”

Last year, Obama passed over South L.A. in selecting neighborhoods eligible for funding that could improve education, housing and public safety. Instead, he picked L.A.’s Pico-Union, Westlake, Koreatown, East Hollywood and Hollywood neighborhoods. The move left some L.A. leaders and activists feeling that South L.A. had been neglected. [Read more…]

South LA residents are concerned about upcoming sequestration

By Katie Lyons

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News.

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The highly controversial sequestration has finally arrived and will go into effect starting tomorrow. Unless Congress passes a last-minute deal, $85 billion will be cut from the federal budget putting as many 750,000 federal jobs at risk.

South Los Angeles residents are worried about how the cuts will impact their lives. One resident in particular, Barry Brewer, is worried about crime. [Read more…]

OPINION: Funding early childhood education, funding California’s future

By John Deasy and Celia C. Ayala

There’s little doubt that California today is facing monumental challenges. High unemployment, a stubborn recession and a gargantuan budget deficit are staring us in the eyes.

It’s quite evident that tough decisions must be made to right the ship. Gov. Jerry Brown began that process when he recently released his state budget proposal. Overall, it was a good start with one glaring exception: his plan to shift $1 billion in state and local Prop. 10 funds to balance the books. Doing so, in our opinion, would be a monumental mistake that would hurt education and health services for children statewide.

When voters approved Proposition 10 in 1998 by imposing a new tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, they did so because they supported the establishment of the much needed early education and social service programs for children age 0-5.

Los Angeles County benefits in many ways through a variety of children’s health and early childhood programs funded by the First 5 LA Commission, which administers Prop. 10 funding locally. One of those programs has touched the lives of more than 40,000 four-year-olds, who have been able to receive a quality preschool education.

Brown has proposed shifting $1 billion from the reserve accounts of state and local First 5 commissions. The governor is also proposing shifting 50 percent of future state and local First 5 commission revenues to the state’s general fund for early childhood services. Should that succeed, thousands of children – especially those from underserved communities – will not receive a quality preschool education to better prepare them for kindergarten.

No matter where you stand in the political spectrum, you should be concerned because one fact is clear: the future of our state will largely depend on our children’s ability to compete in an unforgiving world economy, and early education plays an important role in helping children gain the critical thinking skills they need to succeed. The governor’s budget proposal would defeat that objective.

We could not agree more with Nobel-Prize winning economist and Professor James Heckman. In a letter to the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Reform, he calls for investing in high-quality early education or risk putting “our country’s future in peril by producing a deficit in human capital that will take generations to correct.”

In Los Angeles County, it is sad that preschool education is already out of reach for about half of four-year-olds, mainly due to the lack of availability. That should concern all of us, because research has shown children who attend a high-quality preschool education enjoy greater academic achievement, are more likely to graduate from high school and college and are less likely to be involved in crime.

And according to a report from the RAND Corporation, African American and Latino students have lower levels of proficiency in several academic measures than white and Asian students. Preschool appears to be a promising solution to narrow such achievement gaps.

As such, it is imperative for Brown and the legislature to not take any action that would hurt early education efforts. This is especially important if we want to level the playing field for children who come from disadvantaged homes. Studies show at least half of the educational achievement gap between poor children and their more advantaged peers is evident in kindergarten, because many of them do not attend preschool.

That is crucial because children who start behind in kindergarten often remain behind throughout their entire school experience, which inhibits learning. This is one contributing factor to the fact that about 35 percent of Los Angeles students don’t graduate from high school.

We urge Brown and legislators to support efforts to even the playing field – not the opposite – and to provide a strong foundation for children by not threatening funds that support early childhood education. After all, today’s preschoolers are our country’s future leaders and taxpayers.

Simply put, we cannot afford to balance the budget on the backs of our young children. We urge Gov. Brown and the Legislature to not reduce Proposition 10 funding. Doing so would have lasting consequences that threaten not only our children’s future, but that of our state.

John Deasy is the incoming Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school system in the nation. Celia C. Ayala is the CEO of Los Angeles Universal Preschool, which funds high-quality preschool programs across Los Angeles County.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Los Angeles Police Department officers work civilian jobs

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Los Angeles’ citywide hiring freeze is causing staffing problems in the police department. The Los Angeles Police Department cannot hire enough non-officers for support jobs. Instead, officers are being taken off the streets to do jobs formerly held by civilians, including everything from typing reports to maintaining vehicles.

Since police officers earn higher salaries than civilians, this ends up costing the city more. It would seem like an obvious solution to stop the freeze and hire more non-officers. But in city politics, nothing is that simple.
As council president Eric Garcetti explains, unfreezing those jobs means hiring fewer police officers.

“If you’re saying one is cheaper than the other, you have to get rid of the ones that are more expensive,” Garcetti said. “So that means reducing the overall police department force in order to hire those civilians.”

Cutting police officers goes against one of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s top priorities, maintaining Los Angeles’ police force at 9,963 members. But council member Tony Cardenas questions whether the focus on that number was hurting the department.

“To just claim a particular number of sworn officers is one thing,” Cardenas said. “And perhaps for the campaign trail, that’s something appropriate. But when it comes to budgeting, we’re going to be lying to the public by saying we have 10,000 officers, but the public doesn’t have 10,000 officers on the streets of Los Angeles.”

Rosendahl agrees.

“The reality is, we have to deal with the sacred number of 9,963,” Rosendahl said. “If it’s so sacred, why are we putting full-time able-bodied officers into civilian jobs? So let’s deal with reality where the rubber is now hitting the road.”

For council members, that could mean unpopular steps like voting against new police officers.

“The key is, whether you have the will to do it, and we’ve ignored it each and every time it comes up,” said council member Bernard Parks. “Every time there’s a class to be hired, we hire it and we go blindly through and we keep cutting civilians and you’re going to have the full level of sworn personnel, but not enough civilian support to cause them to be effective.”

The council voted unanimously to refer the issue to the public safety and budget committees.

Redrawing the lines: The controversy behind Proposition 27


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The American Association of Retired Persons, American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters are among the chorus coming out against Proposition 27.

In 2008, voters decided to take the power to draw voting districts away from politicians and put them in the hands of an independent 14-member commission. Passage of Proposition 27 would overturn that decision and give redistricting responsibilities back to legislators.

Clarissa Woo of the ACLU believes letting legislators make the call is not good governance.

“Allowing lawmakers to draw their own district lines is a conflict of interest that is hard to resist abusing,” Woo said.

Janis Hirohama of the League of Women Voters echoed that complaint.

“We had politicians carving up communities and neighborhoods to suit their own interests,” Hirohama said.

Many proponents of Proposition 27 are calling the new citizen commission an expensive add-on during a state budget crisis. Environmental groups, including the California League of Conservation Voters, are supporting it for entirely different reasons.

Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste said creating districts with secure seats for incumbents is crucial in passing environmental legislation.

“When Democrats are in a district that is considered politically safe, they tend to vote and support environmental policies,” Murray said. “When Democrats are in a competitive district, they tend to not support environmental policies as well.”

And while Murray concedes he understands the good governance argument from groups like the ACLU, he said that having every district be competitive is not good for public policy, especially environmental policy.

But opponents see the independent commission as more diverse than the legislature and less likely to break up communities.

“Right now, it’s polling really close,” Woo said.

Both sides are hoping people will pay more attention to a proposition that is tended to be overlooked.

Proposition 22 chooses local projects over statewide programs


By: Chris Foy

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Read the audio script:

If Proposition 22 passes, tax revenue decisions would be in the hands of city and county officials. Right now, the state government can choose where fuel and property tax revenue goes. This revenue usually supports schools and other social services in the form of state-issued bonds. But Proposition 22 would stop the state from using tax revenues to pay for bonds. Because of fiscal problems, many local budgets are in the red.

Proposition 22 would fund new and exiting highways, roads, transit systems and redevelopment projects with money from the general fund, instead of gasoline tax revenue. Supporters say transportation and other incomplete projects would finally be guaranteed funding. Mountain View Councilman Mike Kasperzak is one of the local officials who supports Proposition 22. In an online video advertisement, he said he does not want local tax dollars leaving his community.

Kasperzak: Why should the state be able to come and steal our money to balance their budget? I can’t go to my neighbor’s house and rob his piggy bank to pay my bills. It’s the same thing.

Proposition 22 would take an estimated $1 billion from the general fund to pay toward transportation debt and redevelopment projects. That is out of nearly $6 billion a year from fuel tax revenue alone. The legislative analyst’s office breakdown on Proposition 22 says by putting the burden on general fund, the state will have less money in turn to spend on everything else.

Opponents of Proposition 22 say this means over $400 million would be drained from public schools each year if the initiative passes. Elaine Manley of the Cupertino-Sunnyvale League of Women Voters said in a video analysis that prop 22 would increase pressure on the general fund.

Manley: The proponents, cities and local public safety officials want local government budgets to be under less strain and feel that transportation issues have taken a back seat for too long. The opponents, teachers and statewide public safety officials feel the general fund is in such a crisis that this loss of flexibility will have dire results for those social services funded from the general fund, and that redevelopment agencies should not be favored over those social services.

Proposition 22 brings up an argument over California’s only pot of money. The debate is over what is more important: state programs or local projects.

Speaker of the Assembly announces temporary childcare for the working poor

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Speaker of the Assembly John A. Perez showed up at downtown Los Angeles Tuesday with, for many, a very welcome announcement. Despite Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger having used his line-item veto to cut all daycare for children of the working poor, the Assembly had managed to find the funds to keep such programs going.

But there was a catch. The $6 million the Assembly was able to squeeze out of its operating budget, by reducing expenses down to 15 percent, will only last through the holiday season.

One parent spoke movingly of her worries about finding daycare for her child. In tears as she tried to catch her breath, she said she was no longer on welfare, and she was grateful to be able to work. She blessed the CalWORKS program for having made it possible.

Holly Mitchell is the Democratic nominee for the state Assembly in the 47th District. She is also president of the Crystal Stairs Foundation, a major provider of childcare and early childhood intervention. She had to notify 6,600 parents that their children would no longer be subsidized.

Perez’s announcement was welcome news.

“It’s had a major impact on us,” Mitchell said. She also noted that, even if further finding does not come, at least she will be able to give her family a better heads-up. In the past, she had less than two weeks notice.

Thousands of children, and thousands of providers, have respite from the worry, but only until after the holidays.

Superintendent proposes budget plan for Los Angeles Unified School District

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Megan Rilley is chief financial officer for the superintendent’s office. She says these federal funds have saved jobs.

Rilley: One-time funding doesn’t solve the problems, especially if we have declining enrollment where our student population is coming down, and if our expenditures are still increasing. So, we have to really address those problems, which are more fundamental, systemic issues, rather than relying on every year, some new funding to come out of Washington D.C.

Next year, they are trying to save $142 million. The remedy will require furloughs and further salary reductions, but it will save 3,300 jobs, and it will also decrease the number of school days.

Rilley: I think for the 2011, 2012 school years, I think there will be job reductions. I don’t think that can be avoided. What we’re trying to do is minimize as much as possible the impact on the programs to the students and then to the employees that would potentially be effected.

The superintendent’s office has until July 2011 to find the best solutions for the school district.