John Deasy announced as new LAUSD superintendent

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this week that John Deasy will assume the role of LAUSD superintendent in the spring after serving as deputy superintendent.

“John Deasy is the right person for this job and the Los Angeles Unified School District is lucky to have him,” said the Mayor. “John understands the unique challenges facing the LAUSD and has already benefitted from on-the-job training as Deputy Superintendent.”

What do you think of Deasy’s appointment? Let us know in the comments below.

LAUSD teacher David Lyell responded to Howard Blume’s article in the LA Times today, noting that Deasy’s background has yet to come into full view:

What Howard Blume’s article didn’t mention is that prior to coming to University of Louisville, Deasy, while chief of the Santa Monica school district, awarded Robert Felner’s research company, the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, a $375,000 grant care of the Santa Monica School District. Rather than defend that dissertation, as one would expect of a learned Ph.D candidate, Deasy offered to give it back. He did so because his conscience was telling him that he did not earn that degree.

Blume also failed to mention that Deasy reportedly lied on his resume about having worked as a Faculty Member in the doctoral program of the Educational Leadership and Social Dept. of Loyola Marymount University. LMU reportedly has no employment records for him.


Lyell added:

What the public needs to understand is that teachers would like to see responsible, conscientious leadership from the LAUSD School Board, and it is the board, and not teachers, that is responsible for determining district policy. Teachers would like to see district leaders who are interested in collaborative policies, rather than embracing a punitive top-down management style that favors turning schools over to corporate interests who see children as dollar signs.


For a love of music, movies, and Michael

imageFor 15-year-old Justin Horton, music is more than just a pastime: it’s a way of dealing with hardship.

“It’s almost like when I sing a song that I know and like it will help get the pain out of me,” said Horton.

His sad experiences, or the “heavy stuff,” as Horton calls it, include the death of his uncle when he was four years old and the missing presence of his father. Horton’s dad has been in and out of jail, leaving Horton’s mother to raise two children alone.

“All my life my mom has always been there and my father hasn’t,” said Horton. “So I’m more close to my mom than I am with my dad. My mom knows how to care for me and cheers me up when I’m feeling sad.”

Horton loves to sing along to his favorites, especially Michael Jackson, when he’s feeling down. But he also loves watching movies with his mom.

Listen to Justin talk about singing his troubles away and being a movie buff:

In fact, it was a movie that inspired Horton to become a fan of Michael Jackson. He was introduced to the superstar through “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” a movie his mother suggested.

Horton is a big fan of the Jackson 5 and loves singing along to songs like “Who’s Lovin’ You.” But “You Are Not Alone” remains Horton’s favorite Jackson song.

“My uncle died when I was four so every time I hear that song I always remember that even though my uncle is dead, he will always be with me and that I’m never alone,” said Horton.

Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 came as a big shock.

“My heart was beating fast,” said Horton. “I know that he was a good entertainer and a good father, so I was just thinking what is his family going to do and how are his children going to get taken care of? Everybody was upset so I felt upset too.”

Listen to Justin sing, and discuss his love for Michael Jackson:

Reward offered for information on Christmas Day killing

A reward of $50,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case of a woman who was fatally shot in South L.A. on Christmas Day.

Kashmier James, who was driving with her 3-year-old daughter in the car, stopped in the 1700 block of West 85th Street to visit a friend and was shot multiple times by someone who got out of a blue Chevrolet Tahoe.

“There is no reason why my daughter Kashmier should not be here today, getting her daughter ready for school or praying with her daughter at night,’’ said James’ mother, Kim Evans, to the city council. “My granddaughter should not have to grow up without her mother. My granddaughter should not have had to see her mother gunned down in cold blood by heartless criminals that are out killing people over a color and a name for the street that they have not worked for, lived on, owned. These senseless killings have to stop.’‘

The city council approved a reward amount of $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of James’ killer. The council also approved $50,000 rewards in two other killings that occurred over the holiday period, including that of 14-year-old Taburi Watson who was killed Dec. 29 while riding his bicycle. The killing of Watson in the 8700 block of South St. Andrews Place is what Detectives believe to be retaliation for James’ shooting death.

“I hope that these rewards will encourage witnesses to come forward and help police in their investigations,’’ said Councilman Bernard Parks. “The public’s cooperation sends a loud and clear message that this community is united against violence, and those that perpetrate these heinous crimes will be brought to justice.’‘
The third victim, 49-year-old Jesus Vasquez, was shot in the head and found dead in his driveway outside his home in the 4300 block of Arlington Avenue at around 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 30. According to reports, Vasquez’ wife heard the shots, but detectives have been unable to find anyone who saw the shooter.

Anyone with information regarding the three murders are urged to call police at (213) 485-1383.

Los Angeles boasts lowest homicide rate in 40 years

imageThe LAPD reported a total of 297 homicides in the city this year, making it the quietest year for murder since 1967.

“I am proud to announce that last year the City suffered fewer murders than at any point since 1967,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during press conference. “This is not just a year-end statistic; it is perhaps the most powerful statement on the state of our city and our Police Department.”

More than 40 years have passed since the total number of homicides in the city equaled less than 300.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck hailed the men and women of the police force for their part in homicide reduction, but added: “There are more lives that can be saved. Working together with our communities, the LAPD will be committed to doing just that in 2011.”

The drop in homicides represents a five percent decrease since 2009, and a 22 percent decrease since 2008. Murder rates have continued to fall in the past few years, declining by one third since 2007. With fewer than 300 murders in 2010, the city has experienced a 75 percent drop in homicides since 1992, when murders peaked to 1,092.


Homicides have been decreasing throughout the county, with a total of 596 murders in 2010. The year previous, 2009, saw 739 homicides in L.A. In 2008, there were 879 murders and in 2007 there were 939. Factoring in population, 2010 represents the lowest homicide rate per capita since 1964. In 1992, the most recent peak of violent crime in Los Angeles, there were 3.09 homicides per 10,000 people. In 2010, there were 0.74 homicides per 10,000 people.

“Even during tough economic times, we have kept our sights on a more hopeful, promising and safer future and the statistics once again shed light on a much brighter outcome for our City,” said Villaraigosa. “Our unwavering commitment to public safety has yielded tangible results and has saved lives.”


The LAPD Valley Bureau saw the greatest reduction in homicides, with an 11.76 percent drop since 2009. The Central Bureau, however, reported an increase from 93 to 95 killings in the area from 2009 to 2010.

Although the year ended well statistically, a slew of murders around the Christmas period included four killings on Christmas Eve and five murders on Christmas Day. Both 2007 and 2009 had fewer murders on Christmas Day, with 10 murders on Christmas Day in 2008.

Statistics and graph from LAPD Online.

Holiday bargains at the Fashion District

The buzzing market that sprawls from Los Angeles Street to San Pedro Street between 9th and 12th Streets is home to some of the best bargains in Los Angeles, especially if you know how to haggle. Be prepared to do a lot of walking, and don’t forget to re-fuel with a bacon-wrapped hot dog for $3.

Santee Alley and the Fashion District are open during the week until sundown. Parking is available for $5 at various locations. On the weekend, prices for parking and goods tend to inflate, so for the cheapest deals, shop Monday to Friday.

Here are some of the everyday deals that are easy to find on every street corner:

imagePack of 7 men’s undershirts: $10

Simple, but useful. And at $1.40 per shirt, this bargain beats even the cheapest stores. Ross Dress for Less is currently selling undershirts at 6 for $19.99.

imagePack of 24 pairs of socks: $10

Socks may not be the most exciting of stocking stuffers, but the holidays are the time to replenish your supply. This deal works out to around 40 cents per pair. Take a walk around and you may even find 27 pairs for $10.

imageMix and match jewelry: 6 pieces for $5

The vast array of beads, rings, necklaces and headbands is one of the Fashion District’s biggest pulls. A couple of places offer 6 items for $5, while most sell their goods at $1 each. Jewelry and accessories are perfect stocking stuffers for girls and women alike.

imageToys: from $5 to $15

Find dolls, video games, backpacks, action figures and clothing for the little ones, for a fraction of the regular retail price.

imageBling rings: $1

Another great stocking stuffer for girls, these rings come in all shapes and colors, from “bling” to hippy chic. Most of the rings have adjustable bands too, so you’ll get the right size every time.

Found some bargains you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below:

A creative sketch of South Los Angeles

Eric Brightwell, a blogger for Amoeba Music, sketched a creative map of the neighborhoods of South L.A., which we think is pretty cool. Check it out:



The fight for Fresh & Easy in South Los Angeles goes to City Hall

South L.A. residents may agree that more fresh food grocery stores are needed in the area, but some are concerned that a proposed Fresh & Easy on Crenshaw Boulevard and 52nd Street is defying the rules.

Winnifred Jackson, President of Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment (HOPE), says the proposed Fresh & Easy is flagrantly ignoring the requirements of the Crenshaw Corridor Specific Plan. The plan came into effect in November 2004 as a way of ensuring “a balance of commercial land uses,” and cohesion between residential and commercial space. In an open letter to City Watch, Jackson explained the resistance to the proposed Fresh & Easy:

“Fresh & Easy has refused to comply with the pedestrian oriented design standards of our Crenshaw Corridor Specific Plan, as they would be required to do in any Westside community,” wrote Jackson.
“Instead of respecting our Crenshaw community’s Specific Plan and treating us like equals, Fresh & Easy has sought to divide our community, mischaracterize HOPE’s position, and make residents fear standing by our community’s basic planning standards.”

On Wednesday morning City Hall will host a hearing to address the proposed Fresh & Easy on Crenshaw Boulevard and 52nd Street, following an appeal against the development plans submitted by HOPE.

City Council Hearing on Fresh & Easy’s Proposal for a Neighborhood Market in South LA
Wednesday, December 8th 2010, 10:00 AM
Council Chambers City Hall Room #340
200 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles 90012

Residents who support the Fresh & Easy proposal as it stands can join the Community Health Councils counter-appeal. A bus service will be offered from CHC headquarters to City Hall and Back on Wednesday morning. RSVP to Tanishia Wright with Community Health Councils at tanishia[at] or 323.295.9372 x225.

Foreclosure crisis still looms large in South Los Angeles

imageWhen Operation Hope started its mortgage crisis hotline in 2008, counselors logged more than 7,000 calls within the first 24 hours.

“Last year alone we received 49,000 calls for assistance,” said Jason Yancey, Director of Hope Coalition America at Operation Hope. “Our numbers are increasing. People still need help. It’s not going anywhere any time soon.”

Listen to the interview with Jason Yancey here.

The subprime mortgage crisis affected some communities more than others, says Yancey. As a former loan officer, Yancey says he witnessed first hand that predatory lending practices were trending along racial lines.

“I would see a disproportionate amount of African Americans and Latinos being given higher interest rates and being charged higher fees for the same type of loans their Caucasian or Asian counterparts were getting,” said Yancey.

In October 2010, one in every 316 housing units in Los Angeles received a foreclosure filing, according to data from Realty Trac Inc. In South Los Angeles, the number of foreclosures was double the average for the county, with one in every 105 houses being foreclosed upon in the Florence neighborhood.

New foreclosures in Los Angeles by zip code in October 2010:

“Those communities have a history of being under-served,” said Yancey. “There isn’t the option for a lot of financial literacy. There aren’t a lot of businesses serving those areas. So, unfortunately, people living in those communities don’t have a lot of options to get a home loan or to go to a corner bank to open a checking account. It’s a lot of check cashing places instead of banks in those communities. I would like to see a lot more businesses go to offer their services within these under-served communities that have been neglected.”

The mortgage crisis hotline offers “guidance and assistance” to homeowners facing foreclosure. Counselors explain legal documents and jargon, and step in on behalf of the homeowner to negotiate loan modifications with banks.

“It helps to have an advocate in anything you do in life,” said Yancey. “But specifically for this —someone with a real estate background who does this 8 hours a day and [has] relationships directly within the lenders that they’re calling.”

Listen to Jason Yancey:

To curb predatory lending, the need for more financial literacy is imperative, according to Yancey, especially in schools.

“There isn’t a lot of financial literacy that’s taught,” said Yancey. “The banks definitely played a huge part because it was foreseeable, this crisis. But the homeowner isn’t completely free. You should educate yourself.”

Without more support and outreach for under-served communities, Yancey says the number of foreclosures in Los Angeles will continue to swell.

“I would love to see it go away as soon as possible, but I don’t think it’s going to go away any time within the next three years,” said Yancey. “And that’s optimistic.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user respres.

Free MTA trips for Los Angeles students

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a new policy today that would allow students in Los Angeles County to ride MTA transit for free during the day.

“Schools throughout Los Angeles County are struggling with severe budget challenges, and cutting field trip transportation means less opportunity for students to take advantage of museums, programs, and events outside of school buildings,” Mayor Villaraigosa said, as quoted in a press release. “This is especially true for low income students whose families do not have the resources for alternative transportation.”

According to a press release from the Mayor’s office, the MTA “will not suffer an increase in operating costs because service is already running.” No revenue would be lost because “students would not otherwise be riding transit during school hours without this policy.”

Funding transportation for school field trips has been a constant impediment, say some L.A. teachers, especially during budget cuts.

“Our students are missing out on educational experiences because we have no funds to bus them on field trips. Access to Metro rail and buses will open a world of opportunities for learning beyond the classroom,” said Santee teacher Trebor Jacquez, as quoted in the press release.

According to Villaraigosa, MTA buses and trains have unused capacity during school hours, making free transit for students a “win-win” policy for the MTA.

The proposal will be put to the MTA Board at its meeting on Dec. 9, with plans to implement the system by the end of January 2011.