May 17 2012 Issue

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

SPECIAL REPORT: Latino Parents With Autistic Children Face Major Hurdles

May 17, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

Josefina Nieves is nervous. Her son Nestor is graduating from high school this semester and will soon be leaving for college. Nestor was diagnosed with autism at age two and half.

For Spanish-speakers, accessing information and resources is difficult and making time for therapies can be a challenge, yet Nieves, a single mother, is managing to raise not only one son diagnosed with autism, but two. Her teenage son Daniel also has the disability.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Mayores Obstáculos para los Padres Hispanos con Niños Autistas

Beside her can-do attitude, however, Nieves speaks English as well as Spanish and is computer and Internet literate—all abilities that give her an advantage accessing resources that can help improve her sons’ opportunities, and quality of life.

She also has the advantage of being an employee of Lincoln Heights’ based Fiesta Educativa, a non-profit group that educates parents about their rights, resources and about the disability.

When Nestor was diagnosed back in the mid 1990’s, the doctor told Nieves to lower her expectations: he would never talk, never get a job or get married.

“Who do you think you are to tell me that my son’s life would amount to nothing?” Nieves says she would like to ask that doctor now.

But Nieves’ “advantages” are not the norm.

Too few parents attend Fiesta Educativa meeting, held in Spanish, like this one in City Terrace in February. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Understanding what a diagnosis of autism means is difficult no matter who you are, but if you happen to be Latino, only speak Spanish, are illiterate or have little formal education, or not Internet savvy, the difficulties are significantly greater.

Highland Park resident Ana Brizuela’s son is a senior at Franklin High School and has autism. She says her son receives services for his disability through the school district, but not through the Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center that locally offers services to people with a wide range of developmental disabilities. That’s the  same center she claims misdiagnosed her son years ago with Attention Deficit Disorder, when the autism spectrum disability was not as well known.

“When my son was little I knocked on a lot of doors and I didn’t get any help,” she tearfully said in Spanish during a parent workshop in February hosted by Fiesta Educativa.
Brizuela is worried there is no safety net for her son as he enters adulthood.

Latinos and Autism
Autism, a term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders, is being called a pandemic by some public health officials.

According to new figures by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in 88 children have been diagnosed with the disability. The prevalence rate is up from 1 in 110 in 2006, and 1 in 150 in 2002.

One in 54 boys has been diagnosed with autism, that’s four times higher than girls with only 1 in 252 girls receiving the diagnosis, according to the CDC.

At the same time, Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the US population. From 2000 to 2010, the Hispanic population in California grew by 27.8 percent, according to the 2010 Census. More than 4 million Hispanics live in Los Angeles County alone, according to the 2010 census data.

But the CDC’s latest prevalence study does not include data from California.

“Autism is an epidemic. We never thought that autism would be as high as we are currently seeing, so it is an epidemic,” Dr. Carolina Peña-Ricardo of Children’s Hospital said in Spanish during a recent parent conference at the Mexican Consulate where Nieves also spoke.

Dr. Carolina Peña-Ricardo of Children’s Hospital addressed a small crowd of parents at a conference on Autism held at the Mexican Consulate last month. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has calculated a 70 percent increase in autism cases in the state from 2002 to 2007, and the number of Latino children with autism is increasing at a similar rate of white children, according to Dr. Peña-Ricardo.

In 2001, the CDC reported that Latinos report less concerns of developmental delays to their pediatricians, Peña-Ricardo said. She believes that could be one the factors lowing their numbers, but noted there are no studies that show this as a fact.

The spectrum disorder, which varies from child to child in severity, causes significant social, communication and behavioral challenges and in less severe cases those issues can be alleviated with intervention. Early intervention, by age three, is considered critical.

But knowing if you need to seek help is not easy.

Autism Speaks, But Does It Speak Spanish?

While organizations like Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) and Autism Speaks provide some information in Spanish, the information is not readily available in the community.

“A lot of the pamphlets we have are in English and we try to get as many as we can in Spanish but it’s [just] not there. It’s not there,” said Angelica Herrera, a parent coordinator at Fiesta Educativa.

The Eastern Los Angles Regional Center (ELARC), one of 21 private non-profit organizations under contract with the California Developmental Services (DDS) to coordinates services to people with developmental disabilities, serves the East Los Angeles and surrounding cities.

Sixty-nine percent of ELARC’s 9,000 clients are of Hispanic descent, and 2,000 have autism, according to ELARC Executive Director Gloria M. Wong.

A quarter of the autistic clients, of all ages, come from monolingual Spanish-speaking homes, Wong said.

ELARC and the Los Angeles Unified School District are the main sources of services for local children, but resources, funding, at both institutions are strained.

Centro Estrella Family Resource Center, run by non-profit Alma Family Services in unincorporated East Los Angeles, outreaches to parents using word-of-mouth and to community organizations through established relationships.

“It’s a lot harder when you’re a monoligual Spanish-speaking family and both parents work and don’t know what resources, or when they get the resources, or how much to ask for,” said Lourdes Caracoza, the center’s director of program operations. The center offers socialization programs and numerous other services considered key to helping children with autism thrive,

While autism greatly affects the Latino community, Fiesta Educativa’s Executive Director Irene Martinez says families are not getting all the information available.

“Partly it has to do with language, most of the information out is in English, most of the conferences, most of the trainings,” she said.

Lack of familiarity with institutions and how to navigate them, as well as immigration status also creates barriers for immigrant families.

“Sometimes they are afraid, it’s an element. For the most part the children are born here but the parents are not so they are afraid they are going to get into some legal difficulties so that holds them back from getting the services they have a right to, by law. So it’s a reality. We are trying to break down those barriers but situations like this make people more uncomfortable to come in and get more information,” Martinez said.

Nationwide there aren’t many resources for people of color regarding autism and even less for monolingual Spanish speakers, says Gloria Perez-Walker, parent advocate and host of the radio show “Special Ed For Busy Parents.”

“Even though autism is exploding in the US, the fact is the voices and access for services for Latinos is very minimal. I get clients who are told there ‘are no services’ for their child, or they are pushed into segregated settings for their child with autism, which limits their future ability to live independently, forget about actual employment,” Perez-Walker told EGP.

Angelica Herrera is a parent coordinator at Fiesta Educativa and works directly with parents like Brizuela, but says attendance at their monthly parent meetings is dismal. Herrera says she’s happy when five parents show up, but too often no one attends.

“Getting the word out has been a challenge,” Herrera told EGP.

And for many Latino parents, acknowledging that their child might have autism in the first place can be an overwhelming and confusing undertaking, better left in the dark.

Read Part 2—Major Hurtles for Latino Parents With Autistic Children; The Risk of Doing Nothing

Read Part 3—Know Your Rights to Better Advocate for Your Autistic Child

This story was produced in collaboration with the USC Annenberg/California Endowment Journalism Fellowships program.

El Sereno Residents Review SR-710 Plans

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Metro held the first in a series of open houses in El Sereno on Monday to gather public input on some of the alternatives under consideration to relieve traffic congestion in the region, including possible routes to close the gap between State Route 710 and the 210 Foothill Freeway.

Comments collected at the meeting will be used in the SR-710 Study, which includes an alternative analyses, conceptual and preliminary engineering, technical assessments, project report preparation and environmental studies to address the congestion within the study area of the western San Gabriel Valley and East/Northeast Los Angeles, according to Metro.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOLMuestran Rutas Posibles para Cerrar la Brecha del SR-710

The turnout was small for Monday’s meeting held at the El Sereno Senior Center — at one point Metro representatives appeared to out number stakeholders — despite the fact that El Sereno residents have long opposed closing the freeway gap between the two freeways if the extension runs through their Los Angeles neighborhood. In the past, they have argued that such an extension, no matter if it’s built above or below ground, threatens their quality of life.

The northbound 710 freeway currently ends on Valley Boulevard, where El Sereno, Alhambra and Monterey Park meet.

Large boards with maps of the area and possible traffic reducing routes were displayed around the perimeter of the senior center. At each location, Metro representatives stood ready to answer questions.

The information was presented bilingually with Spanish translations on the right half of the boards. The information, however, was not available in printout form or on the Internet. Metro plans to upload the information online in a couple of days, Metro spokeswoman Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap told EGP.

Long-time Alhambra residents Carla Pemberton, Virginia Orenos and Rozanne Child said they were interested in a fair and equitable solution with the least impact on the environment, but they didn’t agree on what concept that might be. (EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Twelve alternative concepts to relieve traffic congestion were shown, including a “no build” freeway option and other projects still listed in the Regional Transportation Plan. Those options include alternate bus, light rail and freeway routes, highway and street artery concepts, non-infrastructure improvements and hybrid combinations of the other plans.

Stakeholders seemed to gravitate to two boards in particular, those showing alternative freeway concepts.

All of the freeway alternative concepts will connect the terminus of I-710, north of the I-10, one board stated. “Freeway alternatives are all on dedicated right-of-way with limited access and interchanges. Freeways have the highest speeds and design standards of any roadway. The alignment can be a tunnel, depressed, at-grade, elevated or any combination,” the board indicated.

Cesar Fernandez of East Los Angeles said he was concerned about the LRT-4 Bus Rapid Transit Alternative Concept. He posted a comment indicating he was interested in hosting an open house in East Los Angeles to discuss the LRT-4 alternative.

Businesses along Third Street in East LA have not yet recovered from the construction of the Edward Roybal Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension, and another light rail route could further hinder economic development, he said.

The LRT-4 concept proposes a partially subterranean light rail line that would travel from the East LA Civic Center Gold Line station to the Fillmore station, go north on Mednick at street level and it could stop at Cal State LA, the board indicated. The rail is a tunnel on the north end; the concept also includes two bus routes.

El Sereno activist Tom Williams said he was not satisfied with the meeting’s format or that information was not available in advance of the meeting.

He called the meeting a “farce,” and said it would not lead to a “locally preferred alternative.” Williams told EGP he prefers a multi-modal low-build project as decided in an injunction a decade ago.

He said Metro representatives were deflecting criticism by saying the routes are all just concepts.

Long-time Alhambra residents Carla Pemberton, Virginia Orenos and Rozanne Child said they were interested in a fair and equitable solution with the least impact on the environment, but they didn’t agree on what concept that might be.

Pemberton said Alhambra has paid its dues and she would prefer a route go through Valley Boulevard and Huntington Drive in El Sereno. That idea bothers Child, who said the community with least financial resources would be hit the hardest. “Then build it through San Marino,” Pemberton responded.

Orenos said she would like to see a bridge over the railroad tracks on Mission Road in order to alleviate traffic on Huntington and Fremont.

“The problem is no one wants it in their backyard, but everybody wants to use it,” Orenos said.

The friends did agree however, that everyone should share the burden if they want to benefit from the traffic relief.

Comments detailing why someone was for or against a particular proposal were posted on each of Metro’s information boards.

“I am against any highway build—too destructive, too polluting,” one comment indicated, while another said, “Build the tunnel already!”

The next meeting is today, Thursday, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Eagle Rock Elementary School, located at 2057 Fair Park Avenue, Los Angeles, Ca 90041.

Additional meetings will be held in La Cañada on May 19, El Monte on May 22, in South Pasadena on May 23, and Alhambra on May 24.

It is anticipated that by fall 2012, the MTA Board will be presented an update on the SR 710 alternatives that will be advanced and studied during the development of the draft environmental document. Circulation of the draft environmental document, for public comments, and a public hearing is expected to occur by the end of 2013. A final environmental document and the selection of the preferred alternative are scheduled for the end of 2014, according to Michelle Smith, Metro project manager.

For more information on the meetings and the SR-710 Study, visit metro.net/sr710study or call (855) 4Sr-7101 or (855) 477-7100.

Freeway alternative concepts presented at Metro Open House in El Sereno on Monday:

Alternative Concept F-2:

–Connects to SR 2 (Glendale Freeway) between Verdugo Road and SR 134 with a new interchange.

–Performs well for traffic operations across the board, although somewhat weaker at addressing the north-south travel needs because of the alignment.

—Results in different impacts than the other freeway alternatives because of its location .

Alternative Concept F-5:

—Connects to SR 134 at a new interchange— just north of the intersection of Colorado Blvd/Avenue 64.

—Performs well for operations, similar to the other freeway alternatives.

—Results in different environmental and community impacts compared to the other alternative concepts.

Alternative Concept F-6 and F-7:

—Share the same alignment—between the north and south terminus of the existing SR 710

—F-7 is the tunnel alignment, although it has depressed and at-grade sections at the north/south ends.

—Performs well for travel time and travel served, and improves regional and local traffic operations.

—F-6 is surface/depressed alignment (at-grade) very similar with even better operations and mobility.

—F-6 results in more negative physical impacts.

Alternative Concept H-6:

This alignment is between the termini on Huntington Drive, Fair Oaks Avenue, Columbia Street, Pasadena Avenue and St. Johns Avenue.

—Improvements would carry SR 710 traffic over Valley Boulevard and then connect directly to Huntington Drive between Lowell Avenue and Sheffield Avenue.

—Performs well in traffic and transit operations, and was the strongest overall of the highway/arterial alternatives.  It provides additional capacity as a direct route for north-south travel in the study area.

Alternative Concept H-2:

—This alignment is situated to the west, but generally serves north-south traffic: Concord Avenue, Fremont Avenue, Monterey Road, Ave 64, Colorado Blvd.

—Improvements would carry SR 710 traffic over Valley Boulevard and the railroad, and then connect with Concord Avenue.

—Performs well in traffic and transit operations, serves a variety of different trips, and improves a wide range of roads. It has fewer impacts than H-6.

LA Fire Response Time Data Not to Be Trusted, Says Auditor

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A statistics expert who is auditing the Los Angeles Fire Department’s data analysis told the Fire Commission Tuesday that response times supplied by LAFD officials cannot be trusted, in part because of software problems.

Jeff Godown’s audit stems from an assignment he was given in March by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to help the LAFD establish a CompStat-type management system similar to the one set up in 2002 at the Los Angeles Police Department by then-Chief William Bratton, who had successfully used such a system to map crime and police responses in New York City.

The success of a CompStat-type system hinges on the accuracy of the raw data. But LAFD officials conceded in March that the performance data they had released for years made it appear that firefighters were responding to emergencies faster than was the case.

Following inquiries from the Los Angeles Times, department officials released numbers they said were accurate, but Godown rejected the process used to come up with the revisions.

“Both computer and human errors were discovered,” he wrote. “… I am not confident that the data represented by the department’s report is accurate until further research is concluded.”

Godown told commissioners Tuesday that he has been unable to make response times and incident counts generated by two separate data management systems the LAFD has used match, including one the department began using in 2009. Godown said he is working with that software company, Deccan International, to fix the problems.

Fire Chief Brian Cummings played down the inconsistencies.

“We’re not talking huge inconsistencies here,” he said. “We’re talking seconds different over large databases, large data sets, 377,000 calls a year that we’re looking at.”

However, Godown told the commission, the suspect Deccan software should not be used until its kinks are ironed out and recommended that the unit that analyzes statistics for Cummings be beefed up — via more training and the addition of two civilians.

“The men and women of this department are very dedicated to doing what they get paid to do. They should not be in the business of data mining,” Godown told the commission. “We have to take a step back and build up the concrete foundation for what we stand on is those response times … If we can’t get those response times right, we’re going to have issues as far as credibility.”

Godown’s report was overshadowed by the Fire Commission’s reaction to receiving it minutes prior to the meeting when media was given access to the report Monday night.

“I am not happy about that,” Hudley-Hayes said. “If it was done 14 hours ago, then we should have gotten it 14 hours ago, as well … we have electronic media. It should have been sent to us.”

“We can’t talk to you about (the report) in any clear, thoughtful way today which would help us,” Hudley-Hayes added.

The Fire Department now will regenerate all the data previously presented to the public and city officials, according to Godown, who was expected to discuss his report today with Villaraigosa and to update his report within a month.\The commission voted to make recently appointed Fire Commissioner Alan Skobin — who oversaw the implementation of the LAPD’s CompStat system while a police commissioner — as the board’s liaison on the fire department’s data problems.

State Deficit Balloons to Nearly $16 Billion

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed steep cuts across a variety of programs Monday to close a nearly $16 billion state budget deficit, but Los Angeles Unified School District and university officials said the impact on their budgets will remain unknown until November, when voters weigh in on proposed tax hikes.

“We’re going to have to cut deeper,” the Democratic governor said in Sacramento while releasing his budget revision.

“But cutting alone really doesn’t do it,” Brown said. “That’s why I’m linking these serious budget reductions – real increased austerity – with a plea to the voters: Please increase taxes temporarily on the most affluent and everyone else with a quarter of a cent sales tax.”

Brown said the state’s budget deficit ballooned to $15.7 billion since January, when it was estimated at about $9.2 billion. His revised budget includes billions of dollars in cuts – including a proposed four-day workweek for some state employees that would reduce them to 38 hours and allow some offices to be closed once a week. There are also proposed cuts in home-care funding and Medi-Cal payments.

Funding for schools and the state’s two major university systems will remain in question, however, until the November election, when Brown asks voters to approve a bump in the state’s 7.25 percent sales tax rate to 7.5 percent, and to increase the income tax rate on people earning more than $250,000 a year.

If the proposals fail, another $6 billion in cuts will take effect Jan. 1 – much of them impacting education.

This makes all the numbers in the budget dependent on an election that has not happened yet, and thus makes final local budget decisions, extremely difficult if not impossible,” LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said. “If the measure passes, this will give schools some badly needed funds that have been promised over the past several years. If voters do not pass the initiative, the results are so catastrophic it is simply untenable.”

The California State University and University of California systems would each face another $250 million cut in their budgets – likely meaning more program cuts and tuition hikes.

“We very much appreciate the governor’s hard work to avoid further direct cuts to higher education,” said Charles Reed, chancellor of the Long Beach-based CSU system.

“Nevertheless, all Californians should be concerned about the serious long-term damage to student access to the California State University that is posed by the $250 million trigger cut.

“Combined with last year’s $750 million cut, no easy options remain,” he said.

Steve Montiel, spokesman for the UC president’s office, also said the financial picture for the universities will remain in doubt until November.

“We will continue to seek a long-term funding agreement with the state that will provide the stable fiscal footing needed to preserve the university’s quality, access and affordability,” he said.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said Brown’s budget proposal “makes clear that a significant budget problem remains.”

“We will continue to work with the governor and the Senate to close the remaining budget problem, which will require the Legislature making tough cuts and the voters approving temporary revenues,” Perez said. “… Through an open and transparent process, we will craft an on-time, balanced budget by June 15.”

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said the ballooning state budget was predictable given the spending plan that was approved by the Democratic legislature last year.

“As state revenues have been increasing, total spending has also increased by $20 billion since the 2007-08 state budget,” Huff said. “… Despite an 11 percent unemployment rate, 2 million Californians out of work and California being ranked the worst state in the nation to do business eight years in a row, the governor and Democrats have no proposals to help grow the economy or to help our small business community.

“Republicans believe we must get people back to work, which in turn will responsibly increase our state tax revenues,” he said.

Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka noted that the county has seen more than $1.4 billion in state funding cuts over the past four fiscal years.

“The biggest state budget impact to Los Angeles County, by far, continues to be the shift in responsibility for certain public safety and health-related programs from the state to counties, which was part of last year’s budget,” Fujioka said. “How these programs are funded, both in this budget and in future budgets, remains a major unresolved issue for our county.”

EGP Ballot Recommendations – Tuesday, June 5 2012 Election

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

State Ballot Measures
Proposition 28: Limits on Legislators’ Term in Office. Initiative Constitutional Amendment —
Prop 28 aims to restructure Proposition 140, passed more than twenty some years ago, mandating term limits. Currently state legislators are limited to two three year terms for a total of six years in the Assembly, and two four year terms for a total of eight years in the State Senate. Proposition 28 would allow legislators to spend a total of 12 years in one house or a total of 12 years split between both houses.

One of the unintended and negative consequences resulting from the passage of Prop 140 in 1990 has been that our state senators and assembly members now spend a great deal of time raising money for the next election, rather than focused on the business of state government. Newly electeds spend little time on learning how to make legislation and pass budgets, or to work collaboratively with members of their party or those across the aisle. As a result, they are more likely to act on information from special interests, whether they represent corporations or professional state workers.

Because they are constantly in election mode, money from lobbyists for both these groups wields even greater influence than any average voter can possibly exert. This game of musical chairs, going from office to office has just driven the voters nuts. It has also caused a loss of institutional memory and responsibility when it comes to making decisions that have long term impacts.

There is no guarantee that Prop 28 will turn our legislators into thoughtful law makers, but its worth a try.

Recommend a YES vote.

Proposition 29: Imposes Additional Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research. Initiative Statute —This proposition will add $1 in tax to every pack of cigarettes sold in California. It will also create a nine-member committee to administer the $735 million the tax is expected to raise.

The proposition is being fought  by a coalition of tobacco companies and is being supported by a coalition of anti-smoking groups. So it’s a little awkward for us to say no to good people fighting a good cause, but it’s the wrong time to be talking about new taxes that won’t be used to help California pay off a massive $15-16 billion dollar debt, which is sure to hit senior care, education and health care with additional huge revenue cuts. The debt also threatens the jobs of government workers and teachers, as well as other essential services.

It makes no sense to us to adopt a measure that will raise money to create ongoing programs when the source of the revenue is destined to diminish over time, as we have seen with other initiatives. We cannot support this tax measure during our current fiscal climate.

Recommend a NO vote.

Los Angeles County Measures
Measure H: Los Angeles County Hotel Occupancy Tax Continuation Measure—If passed, this measure will readopt and ratify an occupancy tax originally adopted in 1991. Revenues from the tax are currently used to pay for general fund services, such as parks, libraries, senior services, and law enforcement. Changes in state law require this measure in order to maintain it at its current rate. Measure H will not increase the current rate or impose a new one, but will keep the occupancy rate at 12.11 percent at all hotels located in unincorporated county areas.

The tax is not new and does not constitute a burden on local residents or businesses. It is a valuable revenue stream that should be preserved.

Recommend a YES vote.

Measure L: Los Angeles County Landfill Tax Continuation Measure— This measure will amend and readopt an existing county ordinance to the collection of a business license tax on disposal facilities. The tax is 10 percent of gross receipts imposed on landfill operations in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

The tax pays for much needed services in the County and should be continued.

Recommend a YES vote.

No Country for Rich Men

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in 1863, a short story took the American reading public by storm. Edward Everett Hale’s The Man without a Country told the tale of a poor treasonous soul sentenced to spend the rest of his life endlessly sailing the world in perpetual exile, as a prisoner aboard Navy warships.

Today’s awesomely affluent are just as transient — by choice.

Take Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. This billionaire renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2011, a move perfectly timed to potentially save him hundreds of millions in taxes when Facebook goes public.

Saverin has plenty of company. The number of Americans who formally renounced their U.S. citizenship soared to 1,780 last year from 235 in 2008.

The spark for this surge? U.S. tax officials have been clamping down on overseas tax evasion. This bit of unpleasantness has some wealthy Americans, such as the Brazilian-born Saverin, cutting their ties to dear old Uncle Sam. They simply pay a $450 paperwork fee and an “exit tax” on unrealized capital gains, if they hold assets worth over $2 million or have paid over $151,000 to the IRS in any recent year.

But the affluent who’ve formally renounced their citizenship comprise just a tiny share of what the Financial Times has labeled the “stateless super rich.” These uber-wealthy folks shy from the notoriety of citizenship spurned. They just live their lives as if they have no nation to call their own.

The most famous member of this stateless-by-choice community may be Nicolas Berggruen, a 52 year-old “homeless billionaire” worth over $2.3 billion who has spent the last decade hopping the world from one five-star hotel to another.

But few of the stateless super rich settle for hotel suites. Most of the vagabonding wealthy own personal residences. Lots of them. Typically, the Financial Times reported last month, a stateless super-rich household will have one or two properties in their “country of principal residence,” another in London, New York, or some other “global city,” a “holiday home” in a warm climate, and maybe another pad somewhere snowy.

Among the super rich, this perpetual-motion existence has become almost de rigueur, notes Jeremy Davidson, a London realtor who handles properties that run at least £10 million, the equivalent of over $16 million.

“The more money you have,” explains Davidson, “the more rootless you become because everything is possible.”

That rootlessness is keeping the price of luxury real estate soaring. So far this year, in Manhattan alone, four luxury co-op apartments have sold for over $30 million each, notes Crain’s New York Business.

Just how many potential stateless super rich are currently roaming the world? Late last year, the Singapore-based Wealth-X consulting firm put the overall global number of people worth at least $500 million at about 4,650. These super rich together hold an estimated $6.25 trillion in assets.

That’s more than enough, note urban planners, to create havoc in the hotspots where the stateless super rich most often gather. Their gentrification on steroids supersizes prices for local products and services — and prices out local residents in the process.

The massive mansions and apartments belonging to these homeless billionaires can also exacerbate local housing shortages and constitute an assault on any healthy sense of urban community. The super rich, as they flit about, leave their properties unoccupied most of the year. The resulting emptiness, notes Columbia University sociologist Saskia

Sassen, sucks the neighborhood vitality out of great urban centers.

The super rich don’t notice. Or care. They have no interest in putting down roots. During their brief seasonal sojourns, they live in isolation from the greater community around them. They venture out into local public life only long enough to corrupt it with trinkets for local pols who promise to keep tax rates toothless.

The stateless protagonist in the classic short story Edward Everett Hale penned nearly 150 years ago desperately yearns to rejoin the society he so treasonously spurned. Today’s stateless super rich don’t figure to display any similar yearning. They’re having too grand a time. At our expense.

Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality published by the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed via OtherWords.org.

Thanking Preschool Teachers Who Make A Difference

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

On April 26, I had the pleasure of joining more than 250 guests representing the ECE community, business leaders and general public at the Globe Theater in Universal Studios Hollywood to honor a special group of people committed to the preschool cause.

On that day, LAUP held its fifth annual Preschool Teacher of the Year Awards during which five dedicated early childhood educators were recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty to prepare their students for school and life.

Parents, peers and administrators nominated preschool teachers from across Los Angeles County for these prestigious awards that included a $2,000 prize. An independent panel taking into account each candidate’s record screened all nominees based upon a balanced, thoughtful and impartial evaluation.

This year’s winners were Silvia León at Montara Avenue School in South Gate; Shauneé Breaux Roberson at Training & Research Foundation – Ozzie Goren Head Start in Los Angeles; Kathleen Coppinger, at Lemay Early Education Center in Van Nuys; Maribel Cobian at Un Mundo de Amigos Preschool in Long Beach; and Anna Shirokova at Teremok Preschool in Chatsworth.

Every day, these individuals go above and beyond the call of duty to better prepare their students for school and life. They are all so deserving of this recognition and award.

Furthermore, they are using effective instructional methods and strategies in their classrooms that effectively contribute to the well-being of students, their preschool and community.

During the awards event, I was also honored to present LAUP’s second annual Elizabeth Hamilton Lowe Child Advocacy Award to children’s advocate Molly Munger of Pasadena. Molly’s tireless work on behalf of California’s children is a true demonstration of her dedication for civil rights and social justice for all.

Overall, I was overwhelmed by the support of the preschool cause during this ceremony. Our honorees received well-deserved recognition, and in my view, it is people like them who give our cause a sense of purpose. Congratulations to all!

Celia C. Ayala, Ph.D. is CEO of Los Angeles Universal Preschool.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated.

Assessor’s Forecasts Challenged

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

As part of an ongoing audit of the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office, an outside consultant Tuesday recommended to the Board of Supervisors that the assessor’s staff should not be making independent forecasts of property tax revenues.

Assessor John Noguez estimated in December that the county’s tax base would drop by about $2.6 billion because of falling home prices. That number grew to about $13.5 billion by the time of his April report to the board, based on additional market moves. That translated into a roughly $50 million drop in county tax revenues, which shocked the board and prompted an audit.

Consulting firm Rosenow Spevacek Group, Inc. was hired by County Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe to analyze the series of forecasts. Jim Simon of RSG said today that the April number was the result of a math mistake and less than nuanced analysis by the assessor’s office.

“Their function is to be assessors, not forecasters,’’ said Simon, who called the April number “exceedingly low’’ and provided a forecast about halfway in between Noguez’s December and April numbers.

Simon agreed that there had a been a drop in property values, saying about 30 ZIP codes showed falling values late last year. He also acknowledged that the property assessment rolls are volatile now that about one in five properties is assessed at or near market value and markets are in flux.

Simon recommended that market information be analyzed as specifically as possible, taking into account geography and land use and not making wholesale assumptions about the entire tax roll.

The board’s frustration with the process was evident.

“We’ve got enough problems with the state and federal government let alone to have a problem with our assessor’s office,’’ Supervisor Don Knabe said.

RSG’s report also noted that the assessor’s staff had seen significant turnover in key management roles responsible for forecasting and both Knabe and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky worried aloud about whether such a “brain drain’’ was hurting the efficiency of the department.

However, forecasting errors may be the least of their worries, as county prosecutors investigate the possibility of corruption in the office. Noguez has been accused by a former employee of offering unwarranted tax breaks to property owners in exchange for contributions to his political campaign and a team has raided his offices and homes seeking documentation.

Noguez has denied any wrongdoing.

Knabe said Tuesday he planned to introduce a proposal to regulate tax agents who seek reductions on behalf of their clients, treating them under the same rules as lobbyists.

In response to the RSG recommendations, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas proposed that Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka consider a working group comprised of the assessor, the auditor-controller, the treasurer and himself to generate forecasts going forward. Fujioka said he will evaluate the idea and return to the board with a specific recommendation.

City Budget Committee Votes to Delay Layoffs Until 2013

May 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The City Council Budget and Finance Committee Tuesday approved a plan to delay layoffs of more than 200 city workers until Jan. 1, after budget officials found an extra approximately $16 million in revenues and through additional cuts to city departments.

The budget proposal approved unanimously by the committee recommends the city use half of the money to defer the layoffs while the City Council decides how best to use the funds.

“While we want to try to protect jobs … our first goal is restoring services, not protecting jobs for their own sake,” said City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the budget committee.

The money to delay the layoffs came from a variety of sources, including about $6.6 million in one-time revenues, $2.4 million from an increase in parking fines and $5 million in unused funds across a wide variety of city departments.

An additional $5.8 million became available after the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller revised upward the amount of property tax revenue that will go to the city.

The committee’s approved budget restored about $40 million to the embattled Los Angeles Fire Department, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months after officials admitted improperly reporting emergency response times.

The committee maintained $500,000 for an independent study of the department’s response times.

The recommended budget gutted funding from a proposal by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to provide seed money for a new non-profit economic development entity to replace the defunct Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles.

The committee’s budget plan goes to the full City Council for debate on Friday and a vote on Monday.

Next Page »

Copyright © 2014 Eastern Group Publications, Inc. ·