Archive for the ‘City Politics’ Category

A little over a year ago, shortly after his election win, Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa was seen on every local Los Angeles television news outlet “aggressively” attacking the LA pot-hole problem by going out into the field and filling those roadway annoyances personally.  Smiling, and with sleeves rolled above the elbow in anticipation of the backbreaking blue-collar work in which he was about to partake, he posed for the media wearing a fashionable workman’s hardhat, and wielding a stout shovel that he deftly used to ever-so-gently pat a smattering of asphalt into a shallow depression on a not-so-busy San Fernando Valley street.  And the media was there to capture it all.

I always sort of knew Villaraigosa was a bit of an attention whore, but at that moment, I had no doubts.  Not that it really matters in the long run, nor is it much of a surprise (the man loves being on TV) but now, thanks to a leaked confidential memo, the entire city of Los Angeles can see what a prima donna our mayor truly is.

I just think it’s kind of funny.  Sometimes, the Los Angeles Times redeems itself.

Detail oriented

The Mayor Needs It — Now

Villaraigosa is no rock star, but he gets the treatment. OK, where are the breath strips?

By Duke Helfand, Times Staff Writer
July 26, 2006
No carbs. Just fish or chicken. And keep a takeout box handy in case he has to rush. Tea, please (green, with four packets of Splenda). Water (bottled, preferably room temperature.) And never leave his sight.

In the year since he became mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa has undergone a transformation from garden-variety public official to something approaching a rock star, drawing crowds wherever he goes.And attending to L.A.’s celebrity mayor — according to a confidential memo — is no small endeavor.

It’s up to a swarm of harried aides to keep the boss hydrated and happy, primped and pampered, ensuring that he has clean hands and fresh breath (he gobbles Listerine strips by the pack).

Villaraigosa is chauffeured around town by police in a black GMC Yukon.

Two personal assistants, assigned to him in alternating shifts, tend to his needs, shadowing him from morning to night and keeping him in view at all times should he need anything. His seven press aides field questions from reporters, arrange news conferences and keep him in the loop about breaking events.

These sorts of details are expected to remain private — part of the stagecraft that keeps the frenetic mayor gliding effortlessly and relaxed through the city.

But the two-page memo, “Staffing the Mayor,” offers a rare glimpse into the mania behind the man. The instructions — distributed to everyone who works for the mayor and obtained by The Times — portray a chief executive focused on detail and comfort, always appearing in control and on message.

“Your job is to remain at all times within the mayor’s line of sight,” the memo states. “You should constantly adjust your position so the mayor can see you and call you over if need be.”

Villaraigosa, of course, is not the only public figure who likes royal treatment.

Some date the current wave of celebrity pampering to a mischievous act by a hard-rock band.

The group Van Halen once placed a clause in its contract requiring bowls of M&M candy, with the brown ones plucked out. The Rolling Stones responded a year later by demanding candy bowls filled only with brown M&Ms. From there, the practice took hold — Britney Spears, for one, demanded full-length mirrors and Pop Tarts in her dressing room — and has eventually crept into politics as well.

Vice President Dick Cheney asks that his hotel room TVs be tuned to Fox News, while Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) crafted similarly picayune requests of hosts during his presidential campaign — right down to his preference for noncarbonated bottled water.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, already a Hollywood celebrity by the time he entered politics, demands that his staff keep rooms cold because he doesn’t like to sweat. And he often travels with a hair and makeup artist (he took one on a trade mission to China last year), a Hollywood speech coach and another personal aide who carries his papers and places important calls.

Villaraigosa comes to his position more modestly but has developed expensive tastes of his own. Once a labor organizer, he now enjoys a good meal and a pricey bottle of wine. On one recent occasion, he asked the chef of a downtown Los Angeles restaurant to prepare his foie gras specially for him, and he selected a $140 bottle of wine, pronouncing it a “good value.”

Villaraigosa’s staff deals with more mundane details: Newcomers receive step-by-step directions for assisting him before, during and after appearances.

Aides are instructed to carry Listerine breath strips, business cards, two pens, a Sharpie marker, a notepad, a small hand sanitizer, bottled water and an extra copy of briefing materials and speech cards.

Assistants also are reminded to greet the mayor at his car when he arrives at an event, giving him “a full breakdown of the situation,” and to arrange seating near an exit “so that he can leave discreetly if need be.” And they are directed to “have backup exits in case a new route is needed to avoid certain situations such as unruly crowd[s], aggressive constituents, protesters or media.”

Staff members must keep an eye on their own behavior as well, staying in constant eye contact with the mayor but not getting too close. “A 3-5 foot distance is usually good,” the memo states.

Aides need to stay alert at receptions and other crowded gatherings where the mayor is schmoozing. “While staffing the mayor your focus should be on him, not on networking or mingling with guests,” the memo states.

And what if the mayor is a no-show?

“Never under any circumstance should you answer why he is not coming if you do not know the answer,” the memo says.

Deputy Communications Director Joe Ramallo downplayed the significance of the instructions, calling them “suggested guidelines” that carried over from the mayor’s two years on the City Council.

“Give me a break,” Ramallo said. “This is a mayor who is more engaged and active around the city than any other in L.A.’s history. By the standards of most officeholders who have much larger staffs, he is not tightly choreographed. You’ve seen him in action.”

Villaraigosa’s exacting attention to detail can include impatience at those who foul him up. He grew visibly frustrated last week when a translation system failed to work adequately during a town hall meeting in South Los Angeles. “Fix it,” he barked.

He shoots annoyed looks at reporters who forget to turn off their pagers or cellphones during news conferences. “I’m a driver,” he said in an interview Tuesday, “but I’m fair.”

Aides get the message — but won’t comment unless their names are withheld, for obvious reasons. “Everything needs to be impeccable,” one said.

“It’s good to keep the boss happy,” another added.

Others outside the mayor’s office know that it’s smart to please Villaraigosa.

Giuliano’s Delicatessen & Bakery on the second floor of City Hall started carrying Listerine breath strips last year after a Villaraigosa aide asked if they were available.

Now a Villaraigosa staff member arrives once or twice a week to buy strips or to pick up a small Cobb salad the deli prepares — without olives or dressing — just for the mayor, manager Raul Medrano said. The breath strips have become so popular that sometimes the deli runs out.

Standing beneath a framed photograph of Villaraigosa and deli employees posing behind the counter, Medrano said, “We go through a case a week.”


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There is a horrible misconception in this country right now, based mostly on what people hear rather than on what they know, that illegal immigrants perform jobs that Americans won’t do (though of late, this has been altered by illegal immigrant activists to “jobs Americans are too qualified for” since the condescending catch-phrase “jobs Americans wont do” was failing miserably.) This is patently false, but it’s been regurgitated over and over so much that people simply accept it. (There was an incident recently in the post-Katrina south where African Americans looking for work at a specific job site were told to go home because “the Mexicans” were coming to work for less pay.)

For those of us living in border states, particularly southern California, keep in mind that Latino workers makes up only 5% the total workforce in the United States, and they don’t make up a majority of the workforce in any occupation in America–yes, not even car washing, gardening, or house cleaning.

Much of the problem lies with employers who hire illegals for a lower wage than actual American citizens are willing to take (well below minimum.) It’s about a fair wage. Pay American citizens a fair wage and they will do those jobs that so many are claiming only illegals will do because we, as American citizens, are too good to get our hands dirty. In fact, if there weren’t as many illegals doing “jobs Americans won’t do” then Americans would be able to fill those jobs, probably promoting a general increase in wages for many Americans altogether.

American citizens are doing jobs throughout the country that illegal immigrant activists say they won’t do. Americans are making livings and getting paid fair wages gardening, house cleaning, building homes, and working at McDonalds. Often views are skewed by where people live (border states) and what they see in the news.

Many legal immigrants (Latino and otherwise) find great offense to the idea of illegals getting any sort of benefits, let alone amnesty, by being in the country without having gone through the proper channels. Most immigrants have waited with great patience, going through those proper channels in order to become American citizens. The general disdain and disrespect pro-illegal immigration protestors and activists have towards the country that they are trying to win favor from is galling.

What needs to happen? Mexico needs to step up to the plate and provide for its citizens, and the United States needs to stop paying their bills without any help from Mexico. Mexico relies on the fact that its citizens emigrate to the US. It even took out full page ads in American newspapers supporting Bush’s guest worker program! It’s what keeps the rich wealthy, and the poor even poorer. The corruptness of the Mexican government is abhorrent, and if it were governed with any sense of responsibility (doubtful there will be any change even with the new leadership), the situation would probably be different, especially considering Mexico is rich in natural resources. What the illegal immigrant demonstrators and activists should do is use that same determination to protest their own government in Mexico to incite change instead of alienating the American audience it’s trying to win over.

Ultimately this is not a racist issue, at least for me (Since I’ve already done so in the past, I’m not even going to go into the stress illegals place on our health care and school systems–it’s no wonder emergency rooms in southern California are shutting down in record numbers.) This is about providing American citizens a fair shot and keeping our economy running smoothly. Simply, if you pay people more money, they put more money back into the economy. If you pay them less, they put less back in, which weakens the economy. Add to that, most illegal immigrants send much of the money they make back to their families in Mexico and you can see how much of problem this will ultimately become (and already is.)

Late last week in Hazleton, PA, an ordinance, originally proposed by Mayor Louis Barletta, was passed by the city council which would punish employers who hire illegal immigrants. Additionally, any landlord who knowingly rents to an illegal immigrant will be subject to stern measures and penalties.

Of course, not everyone is pleased with the passage of this ordinance.

Anna Arias, who with Natalia Gomez and Dr. Agapito Lopez formed the Hazleton Area Latino Taskforce to fight passage of the ordinance, called it discriminatory, bigoted and racist.

I find it amusing when individuals or groups pull the race card when situations like these arise. Hazleton is simply enforcing the law, with no perceivable or, I believe, inherent racism. It is people like Anna Arias and Natalia Gomez and Dr. Agapito Lopez who are the racists for making such a claim. They are pouring a spotlight on their own intrinsic racist tendencies by even making such an absurd claim in the first place.

Lopez said the Civil Rights Act requires all agencies that receive federal money to provide information to all of the constituents. One-third of the constituents that you are representing is Latino. And some of them do not know English and will never learn English.

I completely understand the concept of pride in country, in community, and who one is and where one comes from. But why will they never learn English? This is why–they are here illegally. If they had actually gone through the legal process of becoming a citizen of this country, they would have been required to learn a respectable amount of English in order to gain that citizenship. Stating that they will never learn English is a positive indication that those individuals are in this country illegally.

As Ive stated before, I believe it will be incumbent upon each state to deal with their own illegal immigration problems. The federal government is not going to help. Hazleton, PA has taken another strong step in the right direction.


Immigration act passes

Hazleton mayors controversial law OKd amid tension

By STEVE MOCARSKY smocarsky@leader.net


This is not about racism. Its about the law.

HAZLETON City council on Thursday adopted legislation that, if it passes expected judicial scrutiny, could have major implications for illegal immigrants nationwide.

By a 4-1 vote, council passed Mayor Louis Barlettas controversial Illegal Immigration Relief Act.

As council President Joe Yannuzzi announced the passage, most of the audience in council chambers broke into applause, and Barletta shook hands with city Solicitor Chris Slusser, who wrote most of the language.

Yannuzzi, Evelyn Graham, Tom Gabos and Jack Mundie voted in favor. Robert Nilles voted against.

Shortly after the meeting began, Barletta explained his reasons for proposing the ordinance, which will punish employers and landlords who employ or rent to illegal immigrants, and makes English the official language of the city. He said illegal immigrants are draining city resources to the detriment of residents with legal residency status.

We must draw the line, and we are drawing it tonight.

Barletta denied accusations of racism and said that suggesting he put the ordinance before council for political reasons is insulting to the families of local victims of violent crime committed by illegal immigrants.

During public comment, council heard several people speak for and against the ordinance.

Anna Arias, who with Natalia Gomez and Dr. Agapito Lopez formed the Hazleton Area Latino Taskforce to fight passage of the ordinance, called it discriminatory, bigoted and racist.

Lopez said the Civil Rights Act requires all agencies that receive federal money to provide information to all of the constituents. One-third of the constituents that you are representing is Latino. And some of them do not know English and will never learn English. So you have to provide city documents in Spanish for them because they are paying your taxes and they are attending to their businesses here, fixing up their homes.

Amilcar Arroyo, president and publisher of the local Hispanic newspaper El Mensajero, urged council to consider that the number of Latino businesses in the city increased from four in 2000 to almost 70 this year, and that approximately 2,200 Latino families here earn about $8 million in salary every month and spend most of the money in the city.

Hazleton resident Gene Cannon paraphrased Thomas Jefferson, saying the United States has an obligation to provide asylum to immigrants, but the first consideration in immigration is the welfare of the receiving nation, state or city.

This is not about racism. Its about the law and the welfare of our community. I for one am thankful that Mayor Barletta has had the courage to advance this ordinance and I call on council to pass it without delay.

Bill Hines, mayor of Beaver Meadows, said he and his borough council support the ordinance. He hopes legislators in Harrisburg and Washington notice that Hazleton is stepping up to the plate.

John Homa, vice president of locally based Citizens Opposing Political Suppression, said his organization has qualms about parts of the ordinance for various reasons, and cautioned council to spend more time considering its adoption.

Abe Amoros, a former councilman from York, said he disagrees with the section of the ordinance that claims illegal immigration leads to higher crime rates, contributes to crowded schools and subjects hospitals to hardships.

The anti-immigrant sentiment is particularly disturbing. Singling out those individuals whose primary language is not English today is just as wrong as those signs that appeared in the 30s and 40s that said No Irish need apply, No Italians need apply,.. Amoros said.

Ed Makuta of McAdoo said he grew up in Hazleton and is saddened that he has to tell his daughter that he cant take her to the playgrounds where he spent his childhood because crimes are being committed there by illegal immigrants.

Councilman Nilles said he voted against the ordinance because he received legal opinions that say were on dangerous ground.

Nilles said there are federal programs that mandate housing for mixed families, some of whose members have legal residency status and some of whom do not.

He said the parts of the ordinance that would, in effect, deny housing to illegal immigrants conflict with federal regulations and policies and might be subject to legal challenge on pre-emptive grounds.

Nilles added that states and localities are pre-empted by federal law from making their own independent assessment as to whether an alien has committed an immigration violation, and (from) imposing penalties against such aliens along with persons who have provided them with assistance.

These are some of the legal questions that will need to be addressed, and hopefully not addressed in a court of law, where its going to cost us and you, the taxpayers, money. We need to address this before we get to that. We need to find out why we are in this position to begin with.

City officials can expect legal challenges to the ordinance, despite Solicitor Slussers assurances that it will pass judicial muster. Eleven attorneys sent the mayor a letter earlier this week promising legal action if the ordinance was passed.

After the meeting, Lopez said the attorneys have been in town collecting plaintiffs among the (Latino) people here, and they are ready to present their case, probably in as short as one week.

Currently listening:
38 Counts of Battery
By Pig Destroyer
Release date: By 01 January, 2001

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NOTE: Please excuse the excessive cursing and venom in the following editorial.

Mobile conversation
Look! It’s a stupid asshole on her cell phone.

You stupid motherfucker. Get off your damn cell phone if you’re driving your damn car (I’m not talking about you, Poopy .)

This is probably my biggest pet-peeve when it comes to drivers and driving in Los Angeles–morons with a cell phone in their hand, their fist to their ear, and one hand on the wheel all while speeding down busy freeways and surface streets so they can get to the nearest Starbucks as quickly as possible for their double-latte caffeine enema.

I ride a motorcycle, and the majority of the times I’ve almost been involved in a collission have been a result of assholes not paying attention to what they’re doing because they’re chit-chatting away on their little cellular tumor box. I truly believe cell phones are the major distracter while driving, and the leading cause of assholism in drivers.

People just don’t pay attention and they don’t care. It’s so very easy to run to the store and pick up a head-set for your phone. Why not do it? Oh, yeah! Because you’re an asshole. I forgot.

But forget about bad driving for a moment how about the fashion statement made by that headset or wireless Bluetooth earpiece?

“I’m not going to walk around 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with one of those things in my ear,” said Thaddeus Breaux, a project manager from Los Angeles. Breaux said his girlfriend uses a hands-free headset and he doesn’t exactly like the look.

Thaddeus Breaux, project manager from Los Angeles, you, my friend, are an asshole. You are also a stupid motherfucker. When you buy a bluetooth or a standard headset, they do not physically graft the device onto your ear. There is no painful surgery involved in order to attach the earpiece to your flesh. Miraculously, it works sort of like a pair of pants. You can actually put it on, and then remove it at your leisure. That’s amazing isn’t it, asshole?

James Banks, a Los Angeles attorney, also has problems with a ban, and thinks the safety concerns are overblown.

“I think it’s no more distracting than listening to the radio, no more distracting than changing CDs and all that navigational system junk,” he said.

James Banks, Los Angeles attorney, you sir, are an asshole. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one less distraction then? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if you’d just admit that you’re an asshole and go buy a headset? Come on, asshole. You’re an attorney. You probably rake in the dough. Go buy a headset you stupid motherfucker.

But Panzella wondered how much safer phones with headsets really are. “You have to still look down to dial the number. Using a cellphone is definitely a distraction,” she said as her own phone rang, as if on cue. Her friend was calling to explain she was stuck in Westside traffic and would be late for their lunch date.

Panzella, you stupid asshole. Did you know that bluetooth headsets allow you to simply say out loud the name of the person you want to speak with? It’s true. Then like magic, the number is dialed, and within moments you can be chatting with your stupid asshole friend in Westwood.

But perhaps you don’t have a fancy phone that features bluetooth technology. Then I would suggest upgrading your phone. If you don’t feel like going to that trouble, then go down to the fucking store and spend $10 on a standard headset. Sure, you still have to dial the number in while driving, and that is distracting, but at least you won’t be distracted by the cell phone shoved in your stupid fucking ear for the next 40 minutes. You’ll even be permitted to drive with both hands on the wheel. Wow!

And, on a side note, to all you single assholes zipping around in your stupid fucking SUV’s while yapping on your cell phones. Fuck you!

Patched in
Wow! Another stupid asshole on his cell phone. And he’s in an SUV! Kewl!

Limit Cellphones in Cars or Just Let Freedom Ring?

By Bob Pool and Lynn Doan, Times Staff Writers
July 14, 2006
He doesn’t own either a cellphone or a car. But Jim Love was taking a proposed restriction on phone use in cars personally Thursday.

“I’ve been hit twice by women talking on their phones on this very street,” the retired computer worker said as he watched traffic pass on busy Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. “The last one knocked me down. They just kept yakking and kept driving on.”

The debate over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s support for a ban on the use of hand-held cellular phones by motorists was the buzz at the Sherman Oaks Starbucks and beyond.

Two camps quickly emerged: those who already use hands-free devices and think it’s reckless not to, and regular cellphone users who vigorously defend their behavior as actually being safer than pulling a headset on and off.

Then there were those who thought it was a good idea as long as it applied to someone else.

“L.A.’s way too crazy and wild a place to be pulling people over for talking on their phones,” said Charles “C.J.” Jacobson of Sherman Oaks, a producer of TV commercials. “Maybe there should be a permit system. There’s a slew of professionals who need to use cellphones in cars. But soccer moms don’t need to be doing it.”

While some fear that driving in California would change forever if state lawmakers prohibited drivers’ use of hand-held phones, the lessons of other states that have adopted similar rules might offer pause.

New York, with much fanfare, banned hand-held cell use three years ago. Though authorities issued more than 142,000 citations for illegal cellphone use the first year, a state survey found that half of all New York drivers thought it “was not likely at all” that they would be stopped.

And a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an independent auto safety research center funded by insurers, found that drivers obeyed the law the first year but went back to their old behavior by the second year.

“I’ll use my cellphone on speaker phone when cops are nearby,” Harry Beck, a New York City transportation analyst, admitted via cellphone from New York. “If they aren’t, I use it normally.”

New Jersey officials said they don’t even keep statistics on cellphone tickets because officers rarely issue citations.

Connecticut and the District of Columbia have also outlawed the use of hand-held cellphones while driving. And California is one of several states considering such a ban.

“My family lives in Pennsylvania, and they’re going to do that very soon back there too,” said Heather Panzella, an elementary school teacher from Huntington Beach who was waiting for a friend on a Westwood Boulevard corner at noon Thursday.

But Panzella wondered how much safer phones with headsets really are. “You have to still look down to dial the number. Using a cellphone is definitely a distraction,” she said as her own phone rang, as if on cue. Her friend was calling to explain she was stuck in Westside traffic and would be late for their lunch date.

“She was driving. She wouldn’t have been able to pull over to make a call. Just look at this traffic,” Panzella said.

Indeed, critics of the proposed ban argue that hands-free models aren’t much safer. Motorists must still dial the number and can still get distracted by calls while driving.

“A hand-held ban seems to send the message that hands-free is OK,” said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, adding that studies by the group found that cellphone use of any kind increases the likelihood of accidents. “You send the message that it is safe, which is not the case.”

James Banks, a Los Angeles attorney, also has problems with a ban, and thinks the safety concerns are overblown.

“I think it’s no more distracting than listening to the radio, no more distracting than changing CDs and all that navigational system junk,” he said.

L.A. resident Pam Tyler thinks the legislation is a step in the right direction, though her feelings are even more extreme. She programs her cellphone to automatically direct all calls to her voicemail. The message begins with: “I can’t take any calls right now because I’m probably driving ”

“I have huge, huge antipathy for people driving while on their cellphones,” she said. “They run red lights and they can’t stay in their own lanes.”

But forget about bad driving for a moment how about the fashion statement made by that headset or wireless Bluetooth earpiece?

“I’m not going to walk around 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with one of those things in my ear,” said Thaddeus Breaux, a project manager from Los Angeles. Breaux said his girlfriend uses a hands-free headset and he doesn’t exactly like the look.

Robert Nehmadi, owner of a Sherman Oaks cellphone store, says that newer wireless headsets are getting smaller and less noticeable.

“Like this one,” he said, pulling it from his ear. “I’d forgotten I was even wearing this.”

Nehmadi, of Woodland Hills, said he favors a law restricting the use of hand-held cellphones by motorists.

At a Jamba Juice shop, 21-year-old fashion model Erin Miller acknowledged that newer cellphone services, such as the text messaging she does with her “Sidekick” phone, can be distracting while at the wheel.

“But I need a phone when I’m driving to get directions,” she said. “And I usually only message ‘OK’ to answer a text message when I’m driving.”

Nearby, cellphone hit-and-run victim Love and his buddies continued their phone-ban debate outside the Starbucks on Ventura Boulevard near Van Nuys Boulevard. “The law’s a good idea, but it’s not enforceable,” Love said. “You’d have to have a cop for every car. It’s not going to work.”

A bill that was approved by the state Senate in May would make driving while using a hand-held cellphone an infraction punishable by a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent ones. Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of the idea is seen as a big boost as the state Assembly considers it next month, though it could still face a fight from the cellphone industry.

Cellphone user Bela Flasch, a retired airline worker, shook his head. He uses a hands-free earpiece when he is driving and predicted that a law with some teeth to it could persuade other motorists to do the same. “The fine they’re talking about is way too small,” he said. “Twenty dollars for the first offense? Make it $100.”

Tablemate Henry Dillon, a retired government worker, scoffed at that. “A hundred’s too high,” he said. “Arnold’s finally getting on the right track on something.”

Former produce dealer Pete Fettis suggested a compromise: a $50 fine for the first holding-the-phone-while-driving offense. “I scream at people to put their hands on the steering wheel when I see people making turns in big SUVs while holding a phone to their ear,” he said.

On Thursday, it seemed this was one cellphone conversation that wasn’t about to end.



Cellphone Q&A

What does the proposed California legislation actually ban?

It would ban the use of a hand-held cellphone while driving a motor vehicle except for during emergency situations. It would be legal to use hand-free cellphones while driving.


Is there a fine for violators?

Violators would be fined $20 for the first offense and $50 for every subsequent offense.


Why do proponents believe hand-held cellphones are unsafe for drivers?

They cite studies and statistics showing that drivers on cellphones are more likely to get into accidents than those not using them. They say cellphones distract drivers from the road. In 2005, the California Highway Patrol reported 1,098 auto accidents, including six fatalities, caused by drivers holding cellphones.


Do others disagree with the proposed ban?

Yes. Critics say a ban on hand-held cellphones gives the wrong impression that using a hands-free set while driving is safe. They say drivers using hands-free phones still must dial and are susceptible to distractions. The CHP last year reported 102 crashes caused by motorists talking through a headset or intercom.

Source: Times reports


Times staff writer Hemmy So contributed to this report.

Currently watching:
I Stand Alone
Release date: By 05 June, 2001

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This past Wednesday, the 5th of July, Congressional Republicans held public hearings on the east and west coasts concerning the illegal immigration problem this country is currently mired in. Most attendees felt the hearings were nothing more than a dog and pony show designed to generate political support towards election season. This is probably true.

Still, it’s always interesting to hear public officials spew forth their opinions, especially over such a politically divisive issue as illegal immigration.

Our very own Los Angeles County Sheriff, Lee Baca testified at the west coast meeting held in San Diego. If this man has done little to fight crime in the years he’s been sheriff, he certainly demonstrated his lack of will to deal with the illegals in LA county or to discourage employers who hire illegal aliens, despite the fact he readily admits that the Los Angeles area hosts more illegals than any other region in the United States.

At the house committee hearing, Baca made the outrageous claim that illegals provide a service to the country, and should they be deported, and those employers jailed, the economy would suffer greatly. Wow. I didn’t know Sheriff Lee Baca was an economist, but apparently he’s changed careers. He’s already kicking it off to a bad start if so.

First of all, no one is proposing that employers who knowingly hire illegals be incarcerated for that infraction. Fine them heavily, and expunge their workforce of the illegal workers. Do that to enough shady employers and I guarantee countless more will spook to the point of firing their undesirable staff.

Second, no one is saying that we will need to locate and deport all illegal aliens. Again, much like the first point, find and deport enough of them, and many more will become terrified, voluntarily smuggling themselves back across the border (I know not all illegal aliens are Mexicans. Many are from various countries who have simply overstayed their visas. Most however are from Central and South America, and particularly Mexico for the obvious reason of border proximity.)

Selective deportation is a proven tactic. It’s been done many times, and it’s worked. Many illegals do become frightened and leave the country, if only temporarily.

This of course brings up the need for more dependable border security. We need stronger borders. We need to enforce our borders. We need to maintain a border vigil electronically and physically because right now our southern border is so porous as to allow a convoy of MX missiles to cross with nary a pair of eyes in hundreds of miles to even take notice. While I am clearly exaggerating, don’t think something to this effect couldn’t happen on a smaller scale with devastating results. There are countless human traffickers who will smuggle anyone across the Mexican border as long as they get paid to do it. Not only will they transport people, but anything, any item one has the desire to move into the U.S.

Apparently New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg has forgotten 9/11 and/or he doesn’t care, as is apparent from defeatist statements concerning the tide of illegal immigration he made at the east coast hearings held in Philadelphia, PA (story below.) This is especially timely today considering the FBI made public a plot to blow up the Holland tunnel in New York.

Bloomberg’s comments were similar to those made by Baca in San Diego–economic doom and gloom. If anything, the recent “Day Without an Immigrant” demonstrated the only communities that were significantly harmed by that boycott were high Latino populated regions and businesses. Other economic damage was negligible if even noticeable–Los Angeles was not shut down, and the country is still here. The idea that our nation would be damaged and thrown into economic turmoil is preposterous. All a “Day Without an Immigrant” accomplished was to confirmed that the country would still function normally without illegal labor. But then again, I’m not an economist like Sheriff Baca.

I am all for the House enforcement bill. I am wholly against the Senate “Path to Citizenship” bill (Amnesty by any other name.) Border enforcement must come first for many reasons before we can even think to consider granting citizenship to a swath of people have no concerns for even minimal assimilation, who willingly break our laws on a daily basis, who put stress on school systems that were struggling to begin with, and who chip away at our health care system while offering nothing in return but cheap labor to unscrupulous employers who have no desire to pay a fair wage to American citizens, no matter their ethnicity.

Lawmakers hear Americans’ voices on immigration

SAN DIEGO Congressional Republicans heard lively testimony Wednesday from mayors, sheriffs and ordinary citizens in two public hearings held on both coasts to discuss illegal immigration.

The hearings in San Diego and Philadelphia marked the opening of a summer season that will take proponents of competing immigration proposals in Congress across the country. The aim is to demonstrate public support for their plans.

The House bill focuses on enforcing the border and cracking down on companies that hire illegal immigrants.

The House version does not include the proposal of the Senate bill to create a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 12 million people living here illegally.

In Washington, President Bush appeared at a donut shop in Virginia owned by an Iranian immigrant to reaffirm his call for a bill that allows some of those here illegally to qualify eventually for citizenship. Although he called for more border security, Bush said, “We’re not going to be able to deport people who’ve been here working hard and raising their families.”

On the West Coast, much of the talk was about how hard it is to handle the stream of Mexican citizens coming across the border.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the subcommittee on international terrorism, said that if Congress approved the House-passed bill, it would establish “operational control of our border.”

“It is elementary: To defend ourselves, we must secure our borders,” Royce said.

Law enforcement officials testified that a large number of criminals were slipping across the border.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said 27f the inmates in his jails are illegal immigrants. Rick Flores, sheriff of Webb County, Texas, says his department duels with drug cartels and smuggling operations across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

“We need your help,” he said. “The Mexico government is in on the narco-smuggling.”

Darryl Griffen, chief of the San Diego sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, said he needs not just more officers but better technology to stop illegal entrants.

He said electronic monitoring equipment that assists officers covers 9 miles of the 60 miles of border for which he is responsible.

“They’re turning our country into their country,” said Dan Colandria, 34, of Vista, Calif.

Colandria said he is a member of the Minutemen, a volunteer group that patrols the border with Mexico and calls authorities when people are spotted trying to sneak across.

“It’s just not right,” he said.

Democrats mocked the Republicans for holding hearings they said would not lead to solutions.

“These hearings are not designed to legislate they are designed to whip up public opinion,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, urged lawmakers to find a way to let illegal immigrants remain in the country. He told the panel in Philadelphia that New York City is home to more than 3 million immigrants and a half-million of them came here illegally.

“Although they broke the law by illegally crossing our borders … our city’s economy would be a shell of itself had they not, and it would collapse if they were deported,” he said. “The same holds true for the nation.”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and representatives of Pennsylvania’s dairy, landscaping and hospitality industries testified in favor of giving illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship.

Louis Barletta, the Republican mayor of Hazleton, a northeast Pennsylvania town of 22,000 people, said his city has been “terrorized” by illegal immigrant drug dealers and murderers.

He said he is pushing an ordinance that will impose tough penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

“I have had enough,” Barletta said. “This ordinance is intended to make Hazleton one of the most difficult places in the United States for illegal immigrants.”

Kiely reported from Philadelphia

Bloomberg: U.S. can’t stem immigration tide

NYC, Hazleton mayors disagree at hearing here

geringd@phillynews.com 215-854-5961

IF THE government expects beefed-up border patrols to stop undocumented workers from pouring into this country, “you might as well sit on the beach and tell the tide not to come in,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration-reform hearings here yesterday.

Testifying at the National Constitution Center, Bloomberg called the nation’s immigration laws “fundamentally broken” because “employers are required… not to do anything more than eyeball” a worker’s documents, knowing that bogus Social Security cards and “fake green cards are a dime a dozen.”

Instead of “winking at businesses that hired illegal immigrants,” Bloomberg said, the government should require all workers to carry “biometric” Social Security cards that use DNA or fingerprint ID – and require employers to check the cards against a national database.

Bloomberg and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson agreed that it is not the job of city cops to enforce federal immigration laws.

Johnson told Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who chaired the hearing, that Philadelphia police will help any immigrant crime victim without first asking that person to “show me your green card.”

The commissioner said that enforcing federal immigration laws would destroy the positive relationship between police and the immigrant community that is vital to gathering intelligence for his department’s primary mission – fighting crime.

Both Johnson and Bloomberg testified that city police departments are legally mandated to spend their budgets on public safety, not on immigration investigations, but Hazleton Mayor Louis Barletta strongly disagreed.

Barletta recently attracted national attention by championing an “illegal-immigration-relief” ordinance, effective July 13, that will effectively shut down for five years any Hazleton business caught hiring “illegal aliens” and any landlord caught renting or leasing to them.

The ordinance states “that illegal immigration leads to higher crime rates, contributes to overcrowded classrooms and failing schools, subjects our hospitals to fiscal hardship and legal residents to substandard quality of care, and destroys our neighborhoods and diminishes our overall quality of life.”

Barletta did not offer any statistical evidence to support those claims yesterday.

He told the Daily News that he did not know how many “illegal aliens” lived or worked or went to school or committed crimes in Hazleton.

Barletta repeatedly cited three recent crimes in Hazleton – a murder, a playground shooting and a crack-cocaine operation – that involved illegal immigrants.

He said that those crimes had tied up the 31 police officers who serve 31,000 residents and that “every minute spent on policing illegal immigrants is a minute not spent on serving legal residents.”

But he could not say how many Hazleton crimes had been committed by “illegal immigrants” and how many by legal residents.

He said that his small-town budget was “buckling under the strain of illegal immigrants” but that he did not know how many undocumented workers contributed to the city’s budget by paying taxes.

Bloomberg, on the other hand, said that 75 percent of New York City’s 500,000 undocumented workers paid their taxes and that the city’s tax base and its economy would be “decimated” without their contributions.

Bloomberg said that instead of talking about deporting the nation’s estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants – who have violated civil, not criminal, laws – as felons, the country should give them the chance to earn permanent residency and remain united with their families here.

Ricardo Diaz, of the Day Without an Immigrant Coalition, led a small group of protesters who demonstrated peacefully outside the National Constitution Center.

The protest was small, he said, because the hearings were a “dog-and-pony show,” rather than a congressional debate, and were not worth asking immigrants to miss a day of work for – “What was I going to do with 10,000 people here?” he asked.

“That’s not dialogue,” Diaz said of the divide between the big-city and small-city mayors. “It’s time for [anti-immigration congressmen] to put their Goliath against our David, and let’s do it.

“Let’s make a stab at a reasoned compromise and pass legislation. These hearings will not get us to a solution, and that’s sad.”

Local Hearings Provide Point, Counter-Point, in Congressional Immigration Debate
Published: 7/6/2006 12:51:46 AM

The first in a series of congressional hearings on immigration reform was held Wednesday at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station, where a number of officials weighed in on the divisive issue.

The packed hearing is one of several organized nationwide by Republican congressional leaders, who pledged to hold such sessions before negotiating a compromise immigration bill with the Senate.

The Senate plan would beef up border enforcement, offer a path to legalization to millions of undocumented migrants and create a guest worker program, while the House plan focuses on border and interior enforcement.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, who chairs the House subcommittee, said the Border Patrol’s budget has increased 64 percent since 2000, but the federal government needs to do a better job securing the border.

“More needs to be done since there is chaos in many (Border Patrol) sectors and the border is still very porous,” Royce said.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, apologized to Border Patrol officials who were called as witnesses at the hearing, saying they were part of a “huge cover-up” in Washington, D.C., because the borders have gone unprotected.

Filner said no Republicans have consulted him on border issues, even though his district runs along the border from San Diego to Yuma, Ariz.

Nine Republican and six Democratic Congressional representatives attended the hearing.

Darryl Griffen, chief of the San Diego Border Patrol sector, testified that his agents have apprehended about 108,000 illegal immigrants this year.

He said the recent deployment of California National Guard troops will “very much so” help in patrolling the U.S. and Mexico border.

Griffen said his biggest needs are remote video surveillance equipment and technology that can detect border tunnels.

Corrupt agents are also a problem.

U.S. Border Patrol agents suspected of smuggling drugs and humans into the United States were in hiding today after they apparently were tipped off about the probe, it was reported.

Brothers Fidel and Raul Villarreal, who quit their Border Patrol jobs abruptly last month when they found out they were being investigated for aiding smugglers, may have fled to Mexico.

A little more than a month ago, two customs officers at San Diego border crossings were charged with waving cars loaded with illegal immigrants in exchange for cash.

In January, Oscar Antonio Ortiz, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who got a job as a Border Patrol agent, pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle people into the United States.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca told the panel that 26 percent of his jail population is composed of illegal immigrants.

Housing illegal immigrants in Los Angeles County jails costs about $80 million per year, he said. Last year, the county was reimbursed $11 million by the federal government, he said.

“That means radio calls, patrol cars on the street, are cut back,” the sheriff said. “The situation is severe in Los Angeles County. We have more illegal immigrants in Los Angeles County than anywhere else in the country.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Republican, reeled off a list of taxpayer-borne costs associated with illegal immigration.

“Our health care delivery system has become the HMO for the world,” he said.

He said one of every 15 people in California was in the country illegally and suggested that the U.S. set up medical clinics in Mexico to stem the northward flow.

About 50 people against the House’s proposal for immigration reform protested at the entrance to the meeting site.

Pastor Art Cribbs, with the Christian Fellowship United Church of San Diego, called the meeting a “sham,” contending that not all the sides were heard.

“We will not be silenced,” he said. “We will not be ignored. We will not be counted out. We are here as the uninvited.”

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Release date: By 11 July, 2006

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I’d heard about this event last week, but it managed to cause such a small blip on my radar that I intended to simply let it pass without a second thought.  Well, I’m bored.

Apparently last weekend here in Los Angeles, a small group of like-minded individuals gathered together in the convention hall at the Sheraton Hotel under the perceived auspices and their undying confidence in the straw-grasping that is 9/11 conspiracy theory.  I say apparently because I can’t even find a simple news story on the web concerning this small meeting of small minds.

They called it the “American Scholars Symposium.”  Ahem.  I wonder if they intentionally left out any verbiage relating to 9/11, and particularly conspiracy theories, in order to avoid the inevitable bad press that would generate as a result of their two-day symposium.  Most likely.

Anyway, here’s their website.

Their list of speakers is fairly dubious.  Most notable is the high school flunky, Dylan Avery.  Dylan crafted a passably produced, if obviously ridiculous, film called “Loose Change” that focused on the actual airline attacks during the morning of 9/11.  Dylan also performed double-duty as the narrator, and damn, he has an annoying voice.

Here’s a kid who failed to graduate with his high school class in 2001, and yet he’s managed to ignite the conspiratorially weak-minded with what many consider a brilliant essay on what officially happened on 9/11.  Personally, I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it–this situation, and his film.

On their front page, in large text near the middle they boldly state concerning the convention “Two Days of Truth Facing the Facts.”  Um… yeah.  Don’t facts equal truth?  Is not truth a summation of facts, or more accurately a conformity to facts?  How can truth face facts if the outcome has already been ordained?  I know I’m nitpicking, but if this banal slogan is representative of what they’re trying to accomplish, then perhaps the American Scholars Symposium needs to look towards professionals, such as an actual PR company, to promote their causes and events.

If anything, this convention, and those like it, prove the old adage that birds of a feather flock together, and so will pigs and swine.  These people don’t care about truth, or what they would consider dissenting viewpoints.  They think they’re right.  But the burden of proof is on them.  This is not an argument about determinism and free-will.  This isn’t akin to an atheist demanding evidence for the existence of God.  I am not required to prove anything.  9/11 Conspiracy theorists must be the ones to present compelling evidence in order to overturn what is regularly accepted through eyewitness accounts, scientific evidence, and common sense.  These people would rather raise absurd questions.  And raise them over and over and over.  That’s all they do.  They’re entire belief system is contingent upon a never ending stream of “what ifs.”

If we’re lucky though, perhaps this will be their only convention in LA.  Of course, there are a lot of quacks and morons out there willing to latch onto anything that can give them some sort of community, wrapping themselves in insipid conspiracie theories, while simultaneously trivializing those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

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By Cretin
Release date: By 18 April, 2006

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While I’m not a fan of our Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, I don’t really blame him for taking drastic measures in order to fix the city’s failure that is the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), despite the fact that his plan is based on New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s flawed school takeover. At least Villaraigosa is trying to do something.

If one needs proof that LA public schools, and California education standards in general, require some major rehabilitation tactics, then one only needs look at student failure rate on the California State Exit Exam (CASEE.)

42,000 students failed the standardized test. Even the few students who had enough initiative to repeatedly take the test still could not pass either the math portion, or the English portion, or both.

Is the CASEE too difficult? Certainly not. You know why? Because it tests at an 8th grade level. I don’t want to get into the politics of the exam here, especially considering I already tread this ground back when the exit exam had been foolishly deemed unconstitutional by a moron of a judge (thankfully, that decision was then overturned and graduating seniors in California were required to pass the CASEE in order to receive a diploma.) But there’s something absolutely rotten with California schools if a student can make it through all four years of high school, maintain an A- grade average, and still fail the exit exam to the point of not graduating.

Morgan Saunders, 18, who maintained an A-minus average during her four years at Oakland’s Dewey High School… finished high school without a diploma. She passed the English section of the exit exam on her first try but failed the math portion four times, stumped by the geometry.

Awww… but she had an A- average. She’s obviously a good student, right? I say, no. Is it her fault? Probably not. Whose fault is it? I’m going to step out on a limb here [sarcasm] and say the reason Morgan couldn’t pass the CASEE, and ultimately couldn’t graduate, is because the California school system sucks so fucking hard. Her teachers let her coast through high school believing she was an exceptional student. When it came time to truly test that assessment Morgan was tossed to the wolves, confused and abandoned by those who were taxed with her success.

Now The Los Angeles Community College District and other community colleges around the state are opening their arms, ready to embrace to the failures of the California public school system. Failed the CASEE? Didn’t graduate? Who cares. Just hand over enough money and you too can get a first class… er, 2nd class… um… 3rd rate. Hmmm…. anyway… You too can get edumacated at any of a multitude of California community colleges.

Gee. That sounds like a swell idea–offering an education to those who couldn’t pass the state exit exam. But wouldn’t those students who just proved to the California public school system they couldn’t compete at an 8th grade level, simply be doing the same thing in a community college?

“Hrumph! Of course not! Our instructors are of a higher caliber at Shittown Community College. Those students who failed the CASEE will receive at least a 3rd rate education.”

But wouldn’t those teachers still have to lower their education tactics and standards in order to instruct students who can’t pass 8th grade level math and English? In essence, they would have to dumb down the course work in order to raise students to a level of minimum acceptability for college-level studies, cramming four years of high school into two years of community college, while still maintaining an obligation to guide those students towards a path that will lead to a four-year college, or god-forbid, an honest-to-god university.

Sounds like a daunting task, especially when there are students like this…

Idalia Albarran, an 18-year-old from Santa Ana, also is looking to her local community college for help.

Albarran, who immigrated to Orange County from the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2002, passed all of her courses over the last four years at Century High School and maintained a B average.

But when her school held its commencement this month, she received a certificate of completion but no diploma because she failed the English portion of the exit exam five times.

Albarran, who relies mainly on Spanish in conversation, said in Spanish that she was “really sad” about falling short on the exam. “I had done so much work and it didn’t pay off,” she said.

Yet Albarran, who hopes one day to become a dentist, said she was thrilled to learn that she could enter a program at Santa Ana College tailored to students who failed the exit exam.

Hmmm. She wants to be a dentist but she can’t pass an 8th grade English test. Riiiiight. Of course, this brings up another issue–becoming an American citizen is many parts assimilation. If you can’t take the time to learn the language, how can you hope to pass an exam designed test that fundamental concept? Simply, you can’t.

Exit Exam Not the End for High School Seniors

By Stuart Silverstein and Seema Mehta, Times Staff Writers
June 25, 2006

High school seniors who failed California’s new exit exam are being welcomed into two-year colleges for another shot at a diploma.
Community colleges have long offered a second chance to students with lofty ambitions but lousy high school grades. Now many two-year colleges are trying to attract a new group seeking a fresh start: seniors leaving high school this month without diplomas because they couldn’t pass California’s new exit exam.

The Los Angeles Community College District, the state’s largest, and others around California are welcoming many of the nearly 42,000 high school seniors tripped up by the exit exam.
By one estimate, 15,000 to 20,000 of those students will enroll in basic skills courses or other classes at the colleges.

Some state officials and education analysts question whether those efforts eventually could divert resources from other needed programs at two-year colleges and become a permanent crutch for failing high schools.

Concerns also have been raised that, in a few cases, community colleges are providing students a loophole letting them earn high school diplomas without passing the California High School Exit Examination. (Among educators, it’s known as the CAHSEE, pronounced “KAY-see.”)

For the most part, however, educators along with many students and their parents are embracing the initiatives aimed at the 9.6% of this past year’s high school seniors who have fallen short on the exit exam.

The supporters point out that one of the longtime missions for the colleges has been to serve students lacking high school diplomas and needing basic skills instruction.

“These students have always been coming to us,” said Marshall “Mark” Drummond, the state community colleges chancellor, noting that admitting students without high school diplomas is nothing new for California’s community colleges.

“We have to be sure that kids know that failing the CAHSEE is not the end of their future,” he said.

Students such as Morgan Saunders, 18, who maintained an A-minus average during her four years at Oakland’s Dewey High School, are taking that message to heart. She hopes to earn a university degree and launch a web design business.

But Saunders finished high school without a diploma. She passed the English section of the exit exam on her first try but failed the math portion four times, stumped by the geometry.

“I was very angry,” she said. Noting her high GPA, Saunders said, “For a test to say I didn’t make it, that’s wrong.”

Still, she said she was relieved to find out that she could enroll at Laney College, a two-year school in Oakland.

Saunders will participate in a partnership between Oakland public schools and community colleges. Students who enroll in an afternoon exit exam prep class can also take a morning course for college credit, free of charge. The students can continue in community college even if they don’t pass their next exit exam.

“We thought it might be practically and psychologically a really good way to help motivate kids who might be feeling kind of depressed or frustrated because they hadn’t graduated, and might just be inclined to drop out or hang their heads,” said Brian McKibben, an Oakland school district administrator.

Idalia Albarran, an 18-year-old from Santa Ana, also is looking to her local community college for help.

Albarran, who immigrated to Orange County from the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2002, passed all of her courses over the last four years at Century High School and maintained a B average.

But when her school held its commencement this month, she received a certificate of completion but no diploma because she failed the English portion of the exit exam five times.

Albarran, who relies mainly on Spanish in conversation, said in Spanish that she was “really sad” about falling short on the exam. “I had done so much work and it didn’t pay off,” she said.

Yet Albarran, who hopes one day to become a dentist, said she was thrilled to learn that she could enter a program at Santa Ana College tailored to students who failed the exit exam.

Without a second chance, she said, “I would have to work and I wouldn’t have a career.”

The Schwarzenegger administration has proposed, and legislators have supported, including $10 million in the new state budget for community college programs that serve students who fail the exit exam.

Separately, state Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) has introduced legislation that would permit students who have not passed the exit exam to receive Cal Grant funds for college-related expenses.

Among the beneficiaries of the proposed spending would be students in Los Angeles’ community college district.

All nine of the system’s campuses will offer “Bridge to College,” a new summer program beginning in July, for an estimated 1,200 students overall, including an estimated 150 to 250 who failed the exit exam. (A flier for the program declares, “No CAHSEE? No Problem!” )

In addition, three of the district’s schools the City College, Trade Tech and Southwest campuses will have a related “Learn and Earn” program providing part-time campus jobs for students who failed the exam and want to continue their studies.

The Schwarzenegger administration, though generally supporting community colleges’ efforts for students who failed the exit exam, objects to one practice.

A few community colleges around the state have already offered adult high school programs and awarded diplomas to students who complete them. The Schwarzenegger administration is now pushing, so far unsuccessfully, to prevent those colleges from awarding diplomas to students who failed the exit exam.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Schwarzenegger administration, called that practice “a loophole that lets you get past or get through the requirements that the majority of other high school students in California have to meet.” The standards enforced by the exit exam, he said, are intended to help students and “prepare them for their next step in life.”

Yet officials at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, one of the two-year schools offering high school diplomas without requiring the exit exam, reject the loophole characterization.

Madelyn Arballo, the school’s director of basic skills, said its high school program imposes reading, writing and math requirements that match or exceed the exit exam standards. “We know that it’s just as rigorous and just as tough as getting a diploma” at a regular high school, she said.

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Jou Hou
By Discordance Axis
Release date: By 27 January, 2004

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I love the first line of this LA Times piece.

Nearly 50 farmers and their supporters watched Wednesday as construction workers ate lunch on what was left of the South Central Urban Farm.

It's too sad to be funny, but it's a little too funny to be entirely sad.

Again, Horowitz is in the right and the protestors and the farmers and squatters are in the wrong. Despite this simple fact that even a two and a half year old child could comprehend (I have no way to back that up), many of those involved are still determined to wrest the land back from legal owner Ralph Horowitz via the courts in a hearing that begins on July 12th–a sort of reconquista in the middle of Los Angeles.

One might as well jump off of a building and and scream out, "I'm Superman!" because that makes more sense than the protestors meritless lawsuit.

Protests Subside at L.A. Urban Farm Site


By Lynn Doan, Times Staff Writer
June 15, 2006
A day after activists and growers were forcibly removed or arrested, many keep up hope that the owner will accept a deal for the 14-acre plot.
Nearly 50 farmers and their supporters watched Wednesday as construction workers ate lunch on what was left of the South Central Urban Farm.

After Tuesday's eviction, in which Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies forceably removed 17 protesters from the farm and police arrested 27, demonstrations subsided. About 20 protesters, many of whom had been living on the farm, slept in their cars and on nearby sidewalks Tuesday night.

"It looked kind of like skid row," said Antonio Amercon, 19, who slept in his car, leaving the area just once for a shower Wednesday morning.

Despite a $16-million offer from the Trust for Public Land and the Annenberg Foundation, landowner Ralph Horowitz has said that he would not sell the 14-acre plot to the farmers, partly because of anti-Semitic remarks allegedly made about him by people linked to their cause.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who tried to negotiate the deal, encouraged the displaced farmers to relocate to a garden at 111th Street and Avalon Boulevard, where many of the original South Central farmers have migrated.

But the remaining farmers, who've grown produce at the farm at 41st and Alameda streets since 1992, said they're holding out hope that Horowitz will change his mind.

"We're still hopeful that the mayor can step in and close this deal, even if it's with hurt feelings," said environmental activist John Quigley, who along with actress Daryl Hannah was plucked from a walnut tree on the farm during the eviction.

Quigley denied that anyone connected to the farmers' campaign had vilified Horowitz.

"We don't condone that kind of thing, and we're very sorry that Mr. Horowitz was subject to any comments like that," he said.

Lawyers for the farmers will appear in court next month in an effort to overturn the resale of the land to Horowitz, saying it was kept a "secret deal" between him and the city.

The city seized the land from Horowitz through eminent domain in 1986 for a proposed trash incinerator, but activists defeated the project and the land was turned into garden plots for low-income families. Horowitz sued to get the land back 17 years later and won, paying $5 million to reacquire it.

Horowitz did not return telephone calls seeking a comment Wednesday, but has said of the farmers: "If they want to stand on the corner for the next five years, chanting slogans like they did in front of my house, they're welcome to. But it hasn't worked."

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Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook Gift Set : Dungeons & Dragons Gift Set (D&D Gift Set)
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