Friday, May 04, 2007

Teacher’s Union Surrenders LA Schools to Villaraigosa! Mayor’s Win Streak Continues!

Much ink has been spilled in the past few weeks about the Mayor's recent defeats. Below is my article in today's CITYWATCH which offers another point of view.

The View from Here

Teacher’s Union Surrenders LA Schools to Villaraigosa! Mayor’s Win Streak Continues!

By Brady Westwater

And, no – this is not a late April’s Fool Day story.

While the media has been busy crowing over the court’s overturning the Mayor’s ill-designed plan to take limited control over parts of the LAUSD (and other perceived losses), Villaraigosa has been equally busy ensuring his candidates win two more seats on the school board so they can take full control of the full school district.

And, according to a story in the Daily News (but not in the LA Times) - the teacher’s union – UTLA – has folded their cards, thrown in the towel and raised the white flag.

The union has recently (if unofficially) dropped its campaign to keep incumbent Jon Lauritzen (a charter school roadblock until becoming a born again charter believer in the last vote before the run-off election) in office once they pulled the half-million they had ear-marked for his run-off, essentially conceding the race to reformer, Tamar Galatzan.

This, along with the expected election of reformer Richard A. Vladovic in the District 7 run-off, will for the first time in years put the school board back in the hands of members accountable to the public, the parents and the students - and not the UTLA. And if you think the UTLA cares more about students (or teachers) than its own interests – remember this is the union the LA Times recently exposed as defrauding its members of potentially millions of dollars in retirement investment income by accepting payoffs of a few hundred dollars from investment firms in exchange for recommending those investment firms to their teacher members.

But now with Yolie Flores Aguilar already winning in District 5 to join present board member Monica Garcia in District 2, this will give the allies of the Mayor four of seven votes on the school board (and hopefully Aguilar has learned from her previous support of the disastrous anti-phonics ‘whole language’ and bi-lingual ‘reforms’ that did so much damage back in the 1990’s).

In addition, this majority should be expandable in the next election since the only seat the Mayor did not win – or contest – this time was that of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte who won primarily due to her strong support from the black community, and not the support of the teacher’s union.

So with this new majority ready to work with new Superintendent David L. Brewer who has already made it clear he feels almost nothing is presently working in the LAUSD – the Mayor should be able to declare victory in his battle to wrest control of the schools from the UTLA leaders and the entrenched LAUSD bureaucracy (with which the UTLA has warred) who have each stifled much needed reforms as they spend as much time battling over turf as they do in educating the students.

Other recent wins for the Mayor – and the City – are his new budget, the continuing decline in crime and the soon to be confirmed reappointment of Chief Bratton. Villaraigosa hasOther recent wins for the Mayor – and the City – are his new budget, the continuing decline managed to raise the number of cops on the streets to the highest in the city’s history while balancing a budget that reduces the structural deficit he inherited though a combination of cuts and increased (and usually deservedly so) user fees – but with no new taxes.

No inconsiderable achievement.

As for the loss of the Olympics – there is not much the Mayor could have done to save that bid with all the strikes against LA.

To begin with, with the current unpopularity of this country overseas, the idea of selecting one of the few cities to have had the Olympics twice – for a third Olympics – which no city has ever had (though London will in 2012) – and to do this when this county has also had the Olympics far more than any other country in the world at a time more and more counties are capable of hosting them – well, LA was not the most likely of choices to win on the international stage.

In addition, our team greatly underestimated the skills and cohesiveness of Chicago’s closely networked business and political communities which are capable of realizing far greater civic projects (cf. Millennium Park) than this city can even imagine. And this is a problem our city needs to admit exists before it can even try to find a way to solve it.

Getting back to the victories, though, there is one more huge one for the Mayor. Just when it seemed that the relationship between the Neighborhood Councils and the Mayor was about to be seriously damaged – he surprised everyone with two amazing choices to head DONE – Carol Baker Tharp and BongHwan Kim - and scored another victory.

Now there are of course, legitimate complaints that the Mayor has not yet made any serious progress in dealing with gangs, stopping traffic congestion, ending homelessness, solving global warming – or catching Reggie the Alligator – but that is all fair game for another article. (Brady Westwater is a professional writer and political activist. Westwater is a regular contributor to CityWatch).

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