To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, April 11, 2013

School board elections can be neither fair nor racially inclusive without campaign financing limits 


April 11, 2103

A friend took me to task over a recent editorial about Tuesday’s runoff election between Tyron Hampton and Ruben Hueso for the new District 3 seat on the Pasadena Board of Education.

In that piece, I pointed out that both candidates, running for a position that is supposed to be nonpartisan, had political party affiliations that some were unaware of.

In the one case, Hampton, who in the primary raised only a few hundred dollars for a seat representing some of Pasadena’s poorest families, is African American and a Republican, apparently incomparable terms in the minds of many, and unworthy of their support.

In the other case, Hueso has raised more than $30,000 in a bid to represent this sub-district of the Pasadena Unified School District containing less than 30,000 people, much of that money coming from big-name Democrats, among them state Sen. Kevin DeLeon of Los Angeles, former Speaker the Assembly Fabio Nuñez of San Diego, and former Assemblyman, now state Sen. Ben Hueso, Ruben’s brother, also of San Diego. These three men alone have provided more than two-thirds of Hueso’s funding — all of it coming from his brother’s past campaign fund and two accounts already set up by the others for runs at other offices.

My friend, who is Latina and backs Hueso, questioned my fairness in drawing comparisons to the two candidates. “Race plays a lot in these races, whether we like it or not. You seem to believe the opposite,” she wrote.

For the record, I do not believe the opposite. Race — with apparently too little consideration of economic class — was the very basis for holding this election. Last May, voters, acting on the recommendation of a special task force, split PUSD into seven separate districts. The idea was to increase office-holding opportunities for minority candidates, who, theoretically, would not have to raise large sums to win a board seat.

That was the idea. Unfortunately, the reality is on March 5 three white incumbents, two of them extremely well-funded, easily won re-election, trouncing their minority opponents. And in this last remaining race between Hueso and Hampton, the candidate with the most money will likely win as well.

Am I being unfair in pointing out these things, and the fact that the plans of those who turned an at-large voting system into a supposedly more racially inclusive district-only system seem to have backfired?

I’m sorry for raining on anyone’s parade, but just look at what’s happened. The seven-member school board, which, after Tuesday, will have one Latino or no Latinos and two African Americans, will not have really changed that much at all. What’s more, that person will be representative of only one-seventh of the district while trying to deal with the six other members, all of them previously elected in the at-large system; a board that comes complete with its own cliques and group quirks in terms of deciding issues affecting all of PUSD, which has a 61 percent Latino student population, not just their new districts.

As for money winning elections, let’s turn to financial statements kept by the City Clerk’s Office. In the District 1 race between incumbent Kim Kenne and Dean Cooper, Kenne, who is white, took in 10 times the amount of money raised by Cooper, who is African American, collecting more than $21,000 in contributions. In District 5, incumbent Elizabeth Pomeroy received more than $14,000 in contributions, nearly five times the amount raised by her opponent, Stella Murga, who is Latina. The only race in which contributions were close was in largely white and affluent District 7, in which winning incumbent Scott Phelps, who is white, raked in more than $6,000 compared to the nearly $10,000 taken in by his opponent, Luis Ayala, who is Latino. Two other candidates in the District 3 race — an African-American woman and a Latino — did not raise enough to report. Hampton reported receiving $200, but later picked up $5,000 more, $3,000 of that amount coming from Kenne.

What Hueso’s and the other well-endowed campaigns have shown is money — much more than race — decides elections. Although voters in 2006 approved Measure B, which restricts contributions city officeholders can accept from people with business pending before the city, the measure includes no provisions on campaign contribution limits. Nor does it apply to school board elections. What these most recent elections tell us is that, without some type of limits on contributions, no PUSD election can ever be truly fair or inclusive.

So, who’s going to win Tuesday? Hampton’s only recently clued into the fact that he has to actually campaign to win, and you can’t campaign without money. If the money raised by both men is any indication, Hueso should be victorious. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, considering Hueso’s put two kids through the local public school system and spent more than two decades teaching in public school. We just wish he would have proven to be the exception to the rule that the candidate with the most money usually wins.
Tenants say Caltrans ignores vermin complaints and imposes late fees meant to ‘depopulate’ 710 Corridor 


By Andre Coleman, April 11, 2013

Bugging outAfter being criticized for plans to build a tunnel to connect the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways, as well as a failure to effectively manage more than 500 properties seized through eminent domain nearly five decades ago to make way for what back then was planned as an overland link of the two roads, Caltrans is once again under fire.

Only this time, critics are the tenants of some of those homes, which are now rental properties, who claim the state transportation agency is being hostile toward renters who complain about such things as insect infestation and being charged late fees, even when those payments are made on time.

Today, with the overland connection plan all but dead, and the tunnel project far from approved, one legislator has introduced a bill to get Caltrans out of the real estate business altogether by declaring the so-called 710 Corridor properties surplus. Senate Bill 416, authored by Sen. Carol Liu, D-Glendale, would allow the agency to sell the properties at fair market value.

In August, an independent audit took Caltrans to task for its shoddy management of the properties, and recommended that they be taken over and sold by a joint power authority formed between the cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena and Los Angeles.
There is just one problem: The Roberti Bill.

Authored in the 1980s by former Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti, the bill gives people living in homes for two or more years, and are low- to moderate-income, the chance to buy the property below market value, but for no less than what Caltrans paid for it. And if a person has lived in a Caltrans home for five or more years and their household income does not exceed 150 percent of the county’s median income, they would be offered the house “at an affordable price.” Former owners who are still living there would get a chance to buy at fair market value, but if they are living there and happen to also be low-income, they too could qualify for an affordable rate.
With the value of those homes now totaling more than $500 million, it’s easy to see why Caltrans would want longtime tenants to get out now.

“Caltrans is going to tenants and telling them they have accumulated a number of late rental fees,” said Joe Cano, a resident of El Sereno and an organizer with the group No on 710, who also said Caltrans refuses to provide proof that rents are being paid late. Caltrans also has ignored complaints about the decrepit conditions of some of the aging properties, some of which are run down and infested with bugs and rats.

“Let’s face it,” Cano said, “if you don’t know about this and all of a sudden they come at you with $500 in late fees, the people being charged late fees can’t handle it and the eviction process starts.”
In a letter Cano provided to the Weekly, a tenant said that Caltrans does not always properly record the date on which rents are received then refuses to provide proof when late fees are imposed, Cano said.

“Whether your rent is considered late or on-time is not based on a Post Office postmark, but instead on a timestamp, as received by Caltrans’ cashier office in Sacramento,” said tenant Roberto Flores. “If the clerk is absent or overburdened, we are out of luck. If your check is stamped after the 10th [of each month], it is late. Every time we are late, we are charged a $50 fee. The policy leaves it completely up to Caltrans to decide when they received it. When asked to verify that it was stamped late, Caltrans again refuses to provide evidence. … The whole process is based on Caltrans practicing good faith, respect for their honor, being professional and efficient. These are all attributes in which we all know Caltrans is challenged and rarely practices. It seems to many that Caltrans is continuing and perhaps even increasing a campaign of harassment as one of many ploys to depopulate the corridor.”

Cano recently shot a video of one home in El Sereno in which bugs and rats can be seen crawling on the floor and kitchen cabinets. He posted the video on YouTube.

“Caltrans would come out and spray and then accuse her of living dirty,” Cano said of the tenant, who he did not name. “She repeatedly requested fumigation and relocation. About 80 percent of her body was covered with bug bites.”

Officials with Caltrans did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Caltrans seized hundreds of properties in Pasadena, South Pasadena and the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles through eminent domain in order to connect the freeways. But three years ago, the overland route was pretty much shelved, due to lack of federal funding. At the time, regional transit officials conceived a 4.5-mile-long tunnel to run underneath South Pasadena and Pasadena as part of a longer route connecting the two freeways.

Last summer, Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) came under attack after residents living in West Pasadena learned of plans to connect the two freeways by building the tunnel underneath Avenue 64, which runs through the San Rafael neighborhood of Pasadena. An alternative plan would turn two-lane Avenue 64 into a six-lane highway from where the 710 ends at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the Ventura (134) Freeway.

Last week, LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who is also president of the Metro Board of Directors, told residents during a Pasadena City Council meeting that the proposal to build the tunnel would remain on the table until all studies were completed, despite calls by District 6 City Councilman Steve Madison and several residents to forget about the tunnel option.

In August, the Bureau of State Audits found that between July 2007 and December 2011, Caltrans — which did not verify the eligibility of tenants to be charged below-market rate rents — collected $12.8 million in rent but lost $22 million due to underpayment by ineligible tenants. During most of that period, Caltrans reportedly paid out another $22.5 million for questionable repairs, the audit found.

“They want to run people out and sell at market value,” said Flores. “Sometimes people get a written notice when they are late. One time I got a phone call and one time I got a letter. They add it to the next month’s rent, and if you can’t pay it the next month, they add an additional $50, so it just keeps building up. I have been in a situation in which I was told I was late and I forced them to admit they had waited a couple of days before they stamped the rent.”

According to Liu’s bill, Caltrans could sell the homes at face value without making any repairs, as was previously required by the Roberti Bill. However, SB416 would give tenants in good standing the first right of refusal to purchase their homes at fair-market value.

“We need to get Caltrans out of the rental housing business and sell off these properties,” said Liu, who sits on the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. “Real estate management is not part of the department’s mission.”
Buy American? Not for Transit Boardmembers


April 9, 2013

The slogan “Made In America” seems to have been lost on the majority of members of the Long Beach Transit Board when they voted recently to pick a Chinese-based firm over an American-based company to build its zero-emission, all-electric buses. (See story, Long Beach Transit Sides With BYD Motors For Future Buses.)

It was another step backwards for U.S. technology, which has taken some hard hits from Chinese firms over the years.

This isn’t about which country can manufacture clothing and dust-catching items the cheapest. This is different.

This vote allows a Chinese firm a foothold in the new and potentially lucrative green bus industry. And they’re going to do it using our U.S. dollars – some 12 million of them! That just gnaws at you, doesn’t it? It’s like you got hit by the pitch and, as you’re heading to first base, the umpire slugs you in the stomach.

It is difficult to watch the video of the March 25, hours-long transit board meeting, especially when four of the five boardmembers voting to open the door for a Chinese company do not say a peep, do not explain their vote, do not acknowledge (or at least challenge) the arguments made for the American company. Heck, the board chair doesn’t even know the most elementary of Roberts Rules – that you vote on a substitute motion before the main motion. It certainly makes one pause.

Dave Roseman is right when he recommends that the board vote to re-bid the request for proposals. Roseman, a City of Long Beach employee, is a non-voting member of the board who serves as a consultant. He admits during the meeting that he has some problems with both bids – BYD Motors, the winner, and Proterra, the loser – and recommends that the board should take the next 30 days to figure out exactly what type of bus it wants, be specific (such as weight restrictions, length of bus), then go out to bid again. It appears to be a very sensible approach.

We recognize the bidder, BYD Motors, is an American subsidiary of its corporate giant, BYD in China. But it’s not like most of the other American subsidiaries of overseas corporations, which planted their roots first by investing in facilities, then went out to compete. BYD Motors does not have a plant in the U.S. (and admits it will not build one unless it gets contracts), has not built one bus in the U.S., has not been safety-certified by the U.S. government. Oh, and by the way, a BYD executive tells the transit board that the company “lost $200 million U.S. dollars; makes our financial report look very bad.” Her words.

As Boardmember Lori Ann Farrell says before the vote, “We’re chasing ghosts.” Farrell and Boardmember Maricela de Rivera, who says she uses the bus regularly, vote no on the BYD selection.

Proterra, based in South Carolina, passed U.S. safety testing more than a year ago, has manufacturing facilities in place, and its buses are currently operating in several U.S. cities with orders being filled monthly. Financially, “The team of managers who back Proterra have over $4 billion in assets” and the buses “are underwritten by a U.S. commercial bank,” a spokesman for the company explains to the board during the meeting.

The Proterra team has earned an opportunity to prove itself to the bus riders of Long Beach. Five people, who supposedly represent the best interests of the people of this city, took that opportunity away.

Long Beach Transit is a nonprofit corporation formed in 1963. Its board is usually immune from public scrutiny, primarily because those of us in the media don’t pay attention. And this issue would have slid by without notice if the Business Journal hadn’t gotten whiff of it and broken the story on March 8. While the transit staff has done a very good job over the years, and always seems to be ahead of the curve on transit issues and equipment, it’s not perfect and its recommendations should not be rubber-stamped. The board of directors must provide oversight and challenge staff to ensure that the best decisions are made.

The Long Beach City Council has no oversight of the Long Beach Transit Board, nor is there an appeals process in place. The city council does, however, make the appointments to the transit board.

When companies bid on city contracts, there is a preference given to Long Beach firms. Long Beach Transit should do the same for American companies.

Orange County Toll Roads PDF

Orange County Toll Roads: Serious Concerns Should Lead To Significant Review By State And Local Officials (29p. PDF : "Based on our review, the operations of these toll roads presently appear to be unsustainable and likely have been unworkable from their inception. The original financial plans for the 241 and 73 toll roads were based on overly optimistic growth assumptions and did not leave a financial cushion for TCA to operate under reduced utilization or economic downturns. Subsequent decisions by TCA board members and managers have made matters worse.")
Pacific Research Institute

Most Hilarious Tweets from L.A. Council District 13 Candidate John Choi's 'Parody' Twitter Account


By Patrick Range McDonald, April 11, 2013

 Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 11.01.27 PM.jpg


At least someone's having fun with this year's L.A. municipal elections, even though it's at the expense of City Council District 13 candidate John Choi.

Choi moved into CD 13 in 2012 and has the major backing of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor boss and political kingmaker Maria Elena Durazo and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He's facing former Eric Garcetti aide and longtime Glassell Park resident Mitch O'Farrell. Some community activists in Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park are steamed about Choi's candidacy, charging that he's a carpetbagger with little knowledge of CD 13 and a political pawn for City Hall special interests.

In late March, someone set up a fake Twitter account -- the "original parody account," in fact -- and keeps tweeting hilarious stuff that Choi opponents probably love but Choi supporters most probably hate. Choi himself probably isn't too happy about it. Here are some highlights, in no particular order.

1. "#EchoPark has a street called "Glendale Blvd." Does that make sense? If elected, I'll name an actual avenue after Echo Park!"

2. "Hey everybody! I'm newer on Twitter than I am in #cd13! That must make me a veteran in the community!"

3. "Did you read last week's @LAWeekly article about me? They called me a Man of Mystery. Like Austin Powers! #yeahbaby."

4. "Today in #silverlake I was trying to get this hipster to vote for me. Turns out he was actually a homeless guy. Oops, my bad. #cd13."

5. "What's your favorite part of #cd13? Mine is the beach."

6. "Did you know that #Silverlake was named so due to the abnormally high silver & mercury content in the lake? #tthemoreyouknow #cd13 #facts."

7. "Phew! What a long, hard day of campaigning! J/K I just stayed at home...all my labor minions did all the work! #cd13."

8. "Organized labor is influential in the City of Los Angeles. If elected, I will make sure they are omnipotent. #integrity #dedication."

9. "Today is Sunday. On this day, I would like to give all praises to my Almighty Lord and Savior: Maria Elena Durazo. #amen #testify."

10. "Mitch O'Farrell might have lived & worked in #CD13 for a long time, but I've been kissing ass all 33 years of my life. #morequalified #LAgov."

For more, go to John Choi CD13 at Twitter. Choi's political consultant Mike Shimpock told L.A. Weekly he has nothing to say about the "parody" account.

Choi and O'Farrell will face each other in the May 22 runoff.

Los Angeles Traffic Sucks The Worst (Again)


By Dennis Romero, April 5, 2013


 freeway traffic tom tom.JPG

From the Department of Tell Us Something We Don't Already Know we bring you Tom Tom's latest "congestion index" data.

This particular breaking news involves the GPS company's round-up of North American cities with the absolute worst traffic at the end of 2012. And you know who the wiener is:

Yep. Los Angeles. Your hometown.

After looking at traffic in 59 American cities Tom Tom found that the king of all that is jammed features 33 percent longer car trips in the best of times and 77 percent longer journeys during rush hour.

L.A. nearly made the top 5 worst global cities for traffic, too, coming in sixth behind Moscow, Istanbul, Warsaw, Marseille, France and Palermo, Italy, the Tom Tom folks told the Weekly.

If you have a 30 minute daily commute to work L.A. traffic will take 90 hours a year away from your life, Tom Tom says.

A rep told us:
Tuesdays and Thursdays are the worst days to hit the roads in LA, as they have the longest congestion delays. The heaviest traffic day of the year fell on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 when the Space Shuttle Endeavor landed in Los Angeles.
And the worst cities in North America for traffic (with average increase in journey times) are:
1. Los Angeles (33%) 2. Vancouver (32%)
3. Honolulu (30%)
4. San Francisco (29%)
5. Seattle (26%)
6. Toronto (25%)
7. San Jose (25%)
8. Washington (25%)
9. New Orleans (25%)
10. Montreal (25%)
Enjoy your trip.

China pollution may hold silver lining for California

 With Chinese leaders talking openly about cleaning up the air, Gov. Jerry Brown sees his visit as a chance to parlay the state's know-how into business deals.


 By Anthony York, April 10, 2013


 Jerry Brown

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks before signing a memorandum of understanding with Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Chao on Wednesday.

As Gov. Jerry Brown tours some of China's economic hubs this week, he is breathing the kind of heavy, soiled air that blanketed Los Angeles decades ago.

The soot and smog that are byproducts of this country's industrial progress are choking its people and threatening its economy. Chinese leaders are talking openly about the need to clean up the air, and to learn how from California.

So Brown and a large delegation of business and political leaders have come to lend a hand, as well as to leverage China's need into business deals.

Brown made his agenda clear not long after he arrived in Beijing, a city so gridlocked in traffic that parts of his schedule are being upended to account for the time he spends trapped in it.

"We're from California," the governor said, addressing the dozens of delegates at a lavish dinner Tuesday in a restaurant that 400 years ago served as a palace for a Qing Dynasty prince. "We're not interested in politics. We're interested in business."

On Wednesday, he held a private meeting with Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian. They signed a nonbinding agreement "to enhance cooperation on reducing air pollution," the first such accord between China's government and a U.S. state and one of several Brown is scheduled to secure while here.

Under the pact, California will help China set up institutions to regulate air quality, similar to those the state has established, and the two nations will engage in research projects "of mutual interest."

Later in the day, the governor addressed about 250 businesspeople, mostly Americans, in a ballroom at the Peninsula Hotel, where the shops sell Louis Vuitton and Chanel. The first question concerned pollution.

"The fact of the matter is, that can be cleaned up," Brown said. Compared with the days when Los Angeles was dense with smog, "the air is well over 90% cleaner… with millions of more cars on the road," he said.

The Chinese have expressed eagerness to adopt more clean technologies and use them to enlarge that part of their economy. The nation is ranked by the accounting firm Ernst and Young as the world's most attractive market for renewable energy projects.

And California, which bet heavily on the development of clean technologies, wants to export them as widely as possible. The embrace of California know-how by the world's most populous country — and recent convert to green energy — can help bolster the state's reputation as an international environmental trailblazer.

As Brown talks about environmental protection with officials in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, he is expected to find receptive audiences for the California prescription: regulations that foster cleaner-burning power plants and factories, requirements for more energy from renewable sources and an emphasis on conservation.

"Everybody's got to do the maximum. China is key," Brown told reporters recently. "They're crucial to even our plans."

China is more open to help from California than from elsewhere, experts say.

"California is perceived in China as a leader in cleaning up the environment without any ulterior motive," said Yunshi Wang, director of the China Center for Energy and Transportation at UC Davis. "If these requests or demands come from Washington or Brussels, there's some attitude in China that it's some kind of effort to slow them down economically."

China is responsible for burning nearly half of the world's coal and producing nearly a quarter of the carbon dioxide, a gas scientists say is a leading cause of global climate change. Those emissions have grown as the nation's economy has boomed over the last decade and more people have pushed into the teeming cities from rural areas.

That movement and the country's growing prosperity have made China the largest car market in the world. But much of the clean-air technology in new cars is counteracted by China's dirty fuel. Brown had remarked on his arrival that the masses of bicyclists he saw here in the 1980s seemed to have been replaced with drivers.

"It looks like any city in Europe or the United States," he said. "There's been a radical transformation."

Even on days with relatively good air quality, like the ones cold winds brought to Beijing this week, many residents wear surgical masks when they go out. Growing citizen anger, evident in violent protests over the last year, has spurred the government — unwilling to impose strict environmental regulations in the past — to action.

"Air pollution has moved to the top of the policy agenda here," said Barbara Finamore, who is based in Hong Kong as Asia director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In the Los Angeles Basin in 1980, smog levels for eight-hour periods violated the federal standard 98 times. In 2012, that happened just once, according to figures from the California Air Resources Board, chief enforcer of the state's environmental laws.

By contrast, smog is getting worse in Beijing, a city of more than 20 million people. This year, the U.S. Embassy here, which has begun posting pollution levels on its Twitter feed, reported an air-quality rating of 755 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's index. Anything above 300 is considered hazardous.

Similar problems beset other cities. The air in Chongqing and Guangzhou, a southern city of more than 12 million people that Brown will visit this week, is sometimes worse than Beijing's, according to official Chinese news reports.

Brown has acknowledged the limits of the compacts he's signing. But he mused before leaving Sacramento last week that they could help lay the groundwork for more significant accords between Washington and Beijing.

"There's tensions between the United States and China," Brown said. "California is not in that geopolitical domain, and I think we can be a good bridge to keep open a very friendly and positive relationship."

Among the things California will do is provide guidance for Chinese provinces trying to develop a pollution-credit market to reduce harmful emissions. California's system, the second largest in the world, limits the volume of air pollutants that may be released in the state each year but allows high polluters, such as some power plants and factories, to buy permits to emit more than their share.

This week, Brown will sign agreements to share information with leaders in the southern province of Guangdong, who are working on a carbon-trading market. The governor, accompanied by advisors who can offer expertise, is expected to invite Chinese officials to California this year to learn from state regulators and scientists.

Among those here who see business opportunities in China's environmental needs is Mike Hart, president and CEO of Sierra Energy, which specializes in converting trash into energy. His firm is working on a deal with a Chinese company to build a plant that will convert 500 tons of trash a day into electricity to power about 20,000 Chinese homes. Hart estimated the deal is worth about $80 million.

Also on the trip is Margaret Wong, CEO of the Sacramento-based McWong Environmental
Technology, which specializes in wastewater treatment.

Wong already does extensive business in China, including numerous projects with Baosteel, the government-run steel producer that is third-largest in the world. And she has signed a $100-million deal to build and operate a water treatment facility at a chemical plant in Anhui province.

Chicago Puts Pedestrians First in Transportation Planning


By Emily Badger, April 11, 2013


Chicago Puts Pedestrians First in Transportation Planning Tucked inside the new Complete Streets Design Guidelines that the city of Chicago is about to debut, pasted onto page 12, is a reproduction of a Chicago Tribune news blurb from May 6, of 1913 with this irresistible headline: “SPEEDER WANTS ALL STREET: Motorist Complains to Judge Because Pedestrian Gets in Way.”

Pedestrian advocates exactly a century later will be happy to know that our 19-year-old anti-hero, Harold Bracken (son of a saloonkeeper!), was fined by the court $200 for knocking over a pedestrian on Michigan Avenue with his speeding car. An equally awesome detail: Our injured pedestrian got up, jumped into a passing car, caught up with Bracken and had him arrested. In doling out the fine, a municipal judge declared, "The Streets of Chicago belong to the city, not to automobilists."

This is, in short, the guiding philosophy for how Chicago’s
Department of Transportation is now planning to look at all of its projects. A local judge may have expressed the sentiment a century ago. But in reality, in the Second City – as in just about every American metro – autos have long dominated city streets and how we think about who uses them, why they exist and what defines them as successful.
This summer, though, Chicago is planning to roll out a small-sounding but seismic policy shift: From now on, in the design guidelines for every effort from major streetscape projects to minor roadside electrical work, transportation work must defer to a new “default modal hierarchy.” The pedestrian comes first.

"My feeling is that we have to swing the pendulum in the other direction," says Gabe Klein, commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Transportation. "The fact is that the transit user is also a pedestrian, a cyclist is also a pedestrian, an auto user is also a pedestrian. You may not chose to do the other modes every day, but every day you’re a pedestrian."

Lest modern-day Harold Bracken sympathizers jump to any wild conclusions, this does not mean that Chicago has declared the pedestrian the victor in the "war on the car." The reality here is much more arcane, embedded in the checklists and procedures that agency departments and outside contractors will have to follow, as of July 1, in planning to repave roads or rework intersections. Real change, however, takes place in the bureaucratic details.

"We’re not talking about necessarily closing roads down, making them just for pedestrians," says Janet Attarian, the department’s complete streets project director. "It’s about really understanding how you layer safety and placemaking and supporting economic development into this process of designing your roadway."

For the past decade or so, forward-thinking cities have hired pedestrian or bicycle "coordinators" to advocate for amenities like bike lanes and better crosswalks. But the resulting strategy can be scattershot; if a given project manager happens to know the ped guy, maybe he’ll be wrangled for input. The big idea now is to integrate the perspective of all modes of transportation into everything the department does.

That means that road crews heading out to resurface a street might consider ahead of time striping new bike lanes. Electrical engineers optimizing streetlights for car traffic will also think about crosswalk times. And construction teams rebuilding an entire boulevard may have to pause to consider pedestrian islands in the roadway, or bike parking on the sidewalk.

In all of these changes, the new complete streets guidelines set up in-depth data collection and analysis, revealing the complexity of shared streets that we more commonly think of as the sole province of cars. Here, for instance is a set of pedestrian and bike "crash maps" from the guidelines:

And this is a sample "volume diagram" of traffic at a set of intersections tracking the flow over time through an area of pedestrians (in blue), bikes (green), transit (purple) and vehicles (yellow):

All projects won’t be required to produce precisely that type of schematic. But it gives a sense for how planning for pedestrians requires better understanding them.

And, in theory, better accommodating pedestrians could be good for everyone.

"There are misconceptions out there that when you put in a bike lane, you’re taking a traffic lane away from the car, or that when you put a curb extension out there, you’re effecting parking," Klein says. In some cases, he admits, this will be true. But in other cases, whole roadways will be better rationalized for everyone, as a new bike lane creates the opportunity to re-time traffic lights, or as pedestrians islands finally enable the city to correct those traffic lanes that don’t properly align through an intersection.

"What we’re saying is this is a complex environment that we live in in a city," Klein says, "and the national and state standards that we’ve been using for a long time aren’t necessarily complex enough to meet the needs of our constituents."

This new 150-page document is about breaking down that complexity for all the people in city government who will be charged with touching city streets and public spaces. But it’s also intended for consultants and contractors who want to work with Chicago going forward. "It indoctrinates them," Klein says, "to how we want to look at our city."
The United Teachers of Pasadena Versus the PUSD Board of Education


April 11, 2013

(Mod: A month or so back the United Teachers of Pasadena passed out a flyer detailing their grievances with the Pasadena Unified School District and its Board of Education. Decreased funding from the state plus declining enrollment have played a significant role in budget woes, and the UTP took their fight to the streets. What follows is the text of that flyer.)

PUSD Budget: Million$ of Dollars and No Sense

United Teachers of Pasadena wants to unite our vices to inform the public and the school board that there are many solutions to the current budget problems that should be examined, rather than automatic Cuts in the Classroom.

It will take all of us working together to make that happen!

Talk to your teachers, neighbors, and friends about what is happening in PUSD and urge them to tell the school board to end the saga of fiscal mismanagement "not on the backs of your child or their teachers."

Here's the message for the school board:

Enough is enough! It is time for the school board members to direct the District to:

- Cut Administrative and District Office staff
- Initiate a hiring freeze for all departments and positions
- Require a spending freeze district wide
- Prioritize the budget to reflect classrooms as the primary concern

* Say NO to class size increases - they're already bursting at the seams
* Say NO to an increase in counselor ratios from 400:1 to 650:1
* Say NO to laying off teachers, nurses, counselors, & librarians
* Say NO to reducing the number of school days (furloughs)
* Say NO to teachers making less pay and paying more in health insurance
* Say NO to eliminating Elementary Music and Arts Programs

The School District would like to balance their budget on the backs of the students and teachers when they should be making the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. Did you know that in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, when teachers took furlough days and paid more in health insurance, the school board chose to hire more administrators for the central office and in 2012-2013, gave a 2% salary increase to some of the highest paid management that don't even work at the school sites?

(In response to this and some of the other charges being leveled at the Board of Education by the teacher's union, Superintendent of Schools Jon Gundry released the following statement regarding the PUSD's parlous finances, and explains why he feels that many of the UTP's statements are inaccurate.)

As we face another year of budget uncertainty, I’d like to take this opportunity to update you about the District’s financial situation.

As you may know, the State of California requires school districts to submit their budgets for the coming school year before anyone knows how much revenue each district will receive from the state.  School districts are also required by law to submit a balanced budget for the current school year as well as for the next two years out.  In addition to showing a balanced budget, districts are also required to have a 3% reserve, which is about $5.4 million for PUSD.

In order to ensure that the district remains solvent, it is necessary for us to be conservative when estimating our revenues and to be realistic when estimating our expenditures for the coming school year.  In other words, we have to plan for the worst case scenario in order to ensure that we are not at risk of financial insolvency.

Some significant considerations when determining the budget for the coming school year include:

·         The State has reduced the amount of money it sends to public schools over the last several years.  California is almost dead last among the 50 states in its per-pupil spending on education.

·         Although the passage of Proposition 30 prevented further cuts to education funding, it did not add any new revenue for schools.  It did, however, help the Governor balance the State budget, which may allow the State to send more money to schools in the future.  That may mean increased funding for the 2013-14 school year, but we will not know until after we have submitted our budget to the State, so we have to plan for no additional money coming from Sacramento.

·         The Federal sequestration has resulted in automatic cuts to federal funding for education programs.  For PUSD, this translates into an estimated $1 million reduction in federal Title funds for 2013-14.  Since there is no indication that the sequestration is going to end, we have to assume that the reduced rate of federal funding is permanent.

·         Since our Federal and State funding are tied to our average daily attendance (ADA), declining enrollment means declining revenue.  When we build the budget, we have to estimate our enrollment and ADA for 2013-14 in order to estimate our revenue.  Next year’s budget is built in part on the assumption that enrollment will continue to decline.  If enrollment does not decline, we will receive additional revenue that will allow us to reinstate programs and positions.

·          The cost of employee salary and benefits continues to rise in a time of declining revenue.

In 2011-12, the maximum annual cost of health and welfare benefits for a PUSD teacher approached $19,000.  This was the highest of any school district in LA County and was among the highest when figured as a percentage of a teacher’s salary.  We spend $19.6 million annually on health and welfare benefits, which is about 11% of the total budget. With no cap on benefits, this cost will continue to rise as the cost of health insurance rises.

There have been emotional statements made at recent Board meetings about raises for administrators, but this is a mischaracterization of what occurred.  The only additional compensation received by any administrator occurred as a result of standardizing the rate of compensation for an earned doctorate.  PUSD pays an additional 5% for an earned doctorate.  The 5 employees who were receiving 3% for an earned doctorate were given an additional 2%.  This was done simply to give them the same benefit enjoyed by all others in the district with an earned doctorate.

A fact that has not been mentioned is that the Teamsters and APSA have agreed to furlough days for 2013-14 which will result in a reduction in compensation for all Teamsters and administrators.  UTP and CSEA have not agreed to furlough days.

The only raises in salary in 2013-14 will be a result of step and column increases.  The step increases are automatic increases in salary based on years of experience.  The column increases are available to UTP members only and are granted for continuing education.  The added cost of step and column increases for 2013-14 is estimated at $1 million.

When you put all of this together, it means that we need to reduce our budget by at least $8.5 million in 2013-14 in order to balance the budget.  This is a very difficult number to reach after the cuts that have been made over the last several years.  There is a possibility that revenues could exceed our expectations, but we cannot count on that in the budget planning process.  The best case scenario for PUSD would be passage of the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).  This budget proposal would designate more funding for districts that serve high numbers of low income students and English learners and would bring PUSD about $4 million in additional funding in 2013-14.  Whether the Governor’s budget proposal passes or not will not be known until after our budget has been submitted; therefore, we have to assume that there will be no additional funding as a result of the passage of LCFF.

In its most recent bulletin, UTP has proposed that we balance the budget through cuts to administration and district office staff and by freezing all hiring and all spending.  They propose that these measures will balance the budget and at the same time:

o   Preserve class size reduction;
o   Leave counselor ratios at 400:1;
o   Avoid all layoffs of teachers, nurses, counselors, and librarians;
o   Require no furlough days;
o   Require no increase in the employee contribution for health insurance; and
o   Preserve elementary music and arts programs.

In response, I’d like to say that there is very little hiring and discretionary spending going on right now, so there is not a lot of savings to be had there.  A complete hiring and spending freeze would be impractical since we are still running a school district that has expenses and some turnover in staff.  By the same token, it is not possible to cut administration enough to balance the budget.  If fully implemented, for example, the administrative cuts proposed by UTP total to about $500,000, which is only about 5% of what we need to find in reductions.  A few points I’d like to be sure you are aware of are:

o       Many of the positions we are eliminating are a result of the expiration of grants and our projected decline in enrollment.  This includes almost all of the reduced teacher, counselor, and nurse positions.

o      There is no proposal to eliminate elementary music and arts programs.

o      Some significant administrative reductions have been made for 2013-14, including the elimination of two of the five Chief positions.

o        In the midst of budget reductions, we believe it is essential that we preserve our signature programs which include College & Career Pathways/Linked  Learning; Dual Language Immersion; and International Baccalaureate.  We are also committed to opening the Washington Middle School STEAM magnet.  These signature programs draw students into our district.  These programs not only increase revenue, but they help us to continue to move forward in our implementation of 21st Century learning, even during a difficult financial time.

I know that I have not addressed all of your concerns and answered all of your questions, but I hope this gives you a somewhat better understanding of the challenges we all face in making it over the hump in 2013-14.  The good news is that the budget outlook at the state level is improving, so we expect to see an increase in revenue coming to schools very soon.  Barring a large decline in enrollment or some new, unforeseen budget crisis, we should see a steadily improving financial situation over the next several years.  This will allow us, at the very least, to restore programs, improve professional development opportunities, provide technology for classrooms, and reduce class size across the district.

The worst of the financial crisis is nearly over, so in the meantime I ask you to please join me in lobbying your legislators to support the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula and in doing all we can to increase enrollment and student attendance.  These are revenue generating measures that will help us preserve jobs and offer the best education possible for the students of PUSD.