Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Los Angeles School Teacher's Union Swindles Teachers To Line Their Own Pockets!


The third part of the excellent LA Times series on private pension plans concludes with an expose of how the union that is supposed to represent the interests of its members - endorses substandard pension plans in exchange for payments to the union.


Unions' Advice Is Failing Teachers

Labor groups have joined forces with investment firms to steer members into savings plans that often have high expenses and poor returns.

By Kathy M. Kristof Times Staff Writer April 25, 2006

Second-grade teacher Crystal Mendez was in the staff lunchroom at 42nd Street Elementary in the Crenshaw district when an investment broker introduced herself and started talking up a retirement plan. Mendez, fresh out of college, thought she could trust the woman because her company had been endorsed by the Los Angeles teachers union. Mendez agreed to put $400 a month into a retirement account. She assumed her money would be invested in stocks. Just 22, she figured she had plenty of time to ride out any dips in the market. She said the saleswoman told her: "Leave it to me."

Nearly two years later, when her boyfriend started bragging about the returns he was earning on his 401(k), Mendez took a closer look at her own account. "He was earning 15% a year and I was earning 3%," she recalled. "I thought, 'There's something wrong here.' "Mendez's money was languishing in a fixed-rate annuity, an investment ill-suited to someone in her early 20s.

Worse, she would have to pay a steep penalty to bail out. Public-school teachers across the country are in similar predicaments. And many have their unions to thank for it. Some of the nation's largest teachers unions have joined forces with investment companies to steer their members into retirement plans with high expenses that eat away at returns.

In what might seem an unlikely partnership, the unions endorse investment providers, even specific products, and the companies reciprocate with financial support. They sponsor union conferences, advertise in union publications or make direct payments to union treasuries.

But the real shock is that the union leader's are selling out their member's futures... for peanuts.

United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents 44,000 members in the Los Angeles Unified School District, doesn't receive direct payments for its endorsements. But firms that get its seal of approval can be counted on to advertise in the union newsletter and donate to union causes.

"It allows us to put the touch to them when we are raising money for any purpose," said UTLA spokesman Steven Blazak. "For the times that we come to them and say, 'Will you be a sponsor and kick in a few hundred bucks?,' it's nothing in the grand scheme of things - not compared to the money they are making."

So... it's nothing in the grand scheme of things that for a few bucks thrown into the union's coffers - the union's leaders recommend to their members savings plan with low returns and high expenses.

And if this is how the UTLA treats it own members - why do you think the Los Angeles School District run by a school board they financed and elected is such a disaster?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Free Gallery Row Art Walk Today! Plus LACMA/MUSE Benefit Tonight!!

All the galleries along Main and Spring along Gallery Row will be open today until 6 PM - for free - and then a benefit will be held in the old St. Vibiana's Cathedral on Main Street for the MUSE support group of LACMA starting at 6 PM. See first link for info on that:


LACMA Muse Artwalk

Open galleries:
MOCA (moca.org)
De Soto (gallerydesoto.com)
2nd St. Cigars & Gallery
MJ Higgins Fine Art (mjhiggins.com)
Pharmaka (pharmaka-art.org)
LACDA (lacda.com)
El Nopal Press (fauxpop.com/nopalpress)
Bert Green Art (bgfa.us)
Niche LA
Kristi Engle Gallery (kristienglegallery.com)
Art Murmur Gallery (artmurmur.com)
626 Gallery (626gallery.com)
Modern Art Downtown
Gallery 727 (gallery727losangeles.com)
The Hive Gallery (thehivegallery.com)
Infusion Gallery (infusiongallery.com)
Fine Arts Building
Museum of Neon Art (neonmona.org)
Downtown Art Gallery (downtownag.com)
Crewest Gallery (crewest.com)
Lilli Muller at the Continental Building
Create:Fixate (createfixate.com)
12:00pm to 6:00pm

Friday, April 21, 2006

Free Opera Tickets!!



The Lyric Opera Company of Los Angeles, the first of many resident performing arts companies on Broadway, and Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council would like to invite you to be our guest at the opera playing at theLos Angeles Theater at 615 S. Broadway - NOT on Spring Street - at one of six performances.

The first performance will be Friday April 21st.

See the above link for more details.

If you want tickets - e-mail me at bradywestwater@gmail.com and say how many tickets you want for which performance. I will confirm by e-mail.

Then, at the will call table, give your name and say you are getting tickets through DLANC and they will give you your tickets.

Validated parking is available at the Pershing Square garage for $4 -but you need to pay at the theater and get your parking ticket stamped at the theater to get this special price.

Lastly - the final performance on Sunday afternoon April 30th will beat the same time as the street festival on Broadway - so parking and traffic will be a nightmare - so come early or take public transportation on that date.

Validated parking will be honored at the Pershing Square garage on that date, but there is a chance the garage will be full on that afternoon.

Again, see below link for more details.


Brady Westwater


Friday, April 14, 2006

Architectural Shockers To Be Built In Downtown Los Angeles!

It takes a lot to shock my poor dopamine-deprived brain into blogger action these days - but tonight - after returning from a blogger/journalist /panel/party hosted by LA Times Editorial writer (three words I never thought would be appearing before his name) - Matt Welch at the LA Press Club - and including Kevin Roderick - a post by Kevin at LAOBSERVED linking to my good buddy Eric Richardson over at blogdowntown - just put me into full dopamine overload.



Two posts on the skyscraperpage forums point to website for Robertson Partners, where they talk about plans to build two residential / mixed-use towers Downtown -- one 50 stories (The Olympic) and the other 60 (The City House). Nothing listed for location, but this email reply one poster received strongly suggests South Park:

We have two buildings that will be announced in the Los Angeles Times sometime around April 23, in just the next few weeks. The City House is 60 stories and the Olympic is 50 stories. The buildings are funded and will be built. The construction will start in about a year. The sales office is being set up at the corner of Flower and Olympic. The sales office, which will have everything about the buildings, will be ready in January or February of 2007.

What neither blogger mentions, though, is that both of the buildings shown on the 'architect's' site - are semi-blown 1920's beaux-arts styled buildings with smallish windows cut into the the (presumably faux) stone walls. In other words, you will only be seeing about the half of the view you will be paying for.

And even though the two high rise buildings shown on the architect's site are subdued to the point of being boring, the interiors and the single family homes shown on the site are seriously scary examples Dallas/Houston 1980's nouveau-riche at its most gauche.

Hopefully, in the morning, this will all turn out to be just a bad dream - just like in the TV series Dallas.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Devils Are In The Details - New York Times Web Headline!

Devils 3, Rnagers 2

It's Super Sumo Sunday In Downtown Today!

There's still tickets left at the convention center box office for today's USA Sumo championships. Shove off time is 12:30 and the doors open at 11:30 - so hurry if you want to attend. This is the third time the championships have been in downtown and the second time they have been at the Los Angeles Convention Center.


** Sixty (60) champion sumo wrestlers from all over the world!** former World Sumo Champion, Koichi Kato (Japan)** current World Sumo Champion, Torsten Scheibler (Germany)** two-time World Sumo Champion, Sukhbat Agvaansamdan (Mongolia)** former professional sumo wrestler Wayne Vierra (Hawaii)** sumo teams from seven (7) countries** US sumo athletes from twelve (12) states** Special Guest -- YOKOZUNA (Grand Champion) MUSASHIMARU** Sumo referees and officials from Japan** Japanese dance and taiko drumming!** Enjoy Sushi, Sake & Beer while you watch!** Sumo Souvenirs and Japanese artwork.

Get tickets at the door on Sunday, April 9th. Doors open at 11:30 AM.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Michael Sonnenschein Goes Belly Up At FishbowlLA!


Well, maybe not exactly belly up - but the great fish scooper from the sky has reached down and scooped Michael from the FishbowlLA - and the little castle will never be the same:


Today marks the end of my tenure as FishbowlLA editor. Thanks to everyone who read, emailed, and pointed out fair-use violations.

A few final messages/questions for the Los Angeles media community: 1) Why doesn't someone open a media-hangout-type restaurant across from 5700 Wilshire? You could make millions of dollars even if the food was awful. 2) Will someone please write an article about the weird subculture of non-Korean goth kids who dwell in the 24-hour computer game arcades in Koreatown? 3) Everyone please stop picking on Nikki Finke. Seriously.

In closing I'd like to say this: the people I blogged about were celebrities, surrounded by rumor and fanfare; the places I sat with them, movie lots and monuments. No doubt all of this is not true remembrance but the ruinous work of nostalgia, which obliterates the past, and no doubt, as usual, I have exaggerated everything.

I can be reached at msonnenschein AT gmail DOT com.

Friday, April 07, 2006

When You Review A Book About A Man - It'd Be Nice If You Could Get His Name Right...


A couple days ago, the review of THE LAST SEASON - the story of a Park Ranger who disappeared in the Sierra Nevadas in the 1990's - was put up on the NYT website - and got the name of the ranger... wrong... several times.

I then e-mailed both the book editor and the corrections section about the error Wednesday night - but... it's still wrong.

UPDATE - It's now Sunday New York time - and it's still uncorrected. Just sent e-mail to Janet Maslin.

Monday, April 03, 2006

New York Times Tries To Teach Us How To Pronounce - Conceptual - And Blows The Concept!


April 2, 2006

The Talk


Conceptual / (kn sep chon) / adj. / of conception or ideas. ' The operative word behind much new design, "conceptual" describes a window that looks like a sculpture, a tile pattern that looks like a painting, or a sculpture that is a cast of the inside of a house, and signals the ever-blurrier line between art and design.

Obviously... (kn sep chon) is the correct pronunciation of conception - and NOT conceptual....

UPDATE - It is now April 9th in New York - and they still have not corrected this.