April 18, 2011
State of the City Continued from page 1 realize that at a Partnership institute you get “good” graffiti. In white spray paint someone has scrawled “OMG! I Love This School!” (Really.) I’m not sure what this says about the state of modern education. 4:54 p.m.: The auditorium is packed, the joint and the mood brighter and lighter than last year’s State of the City, held in the mausoleum-like Deaton Auditorium in the LAPD headquarters in Downtown. In that speech AnVil focused on the budget and the city’s dismal finances. It was about as much fun as a wake where the sobbing widow throws herself on the casket. Good thing that the city’s fiscal state has since been turned around. Oh wait, that hasn’t happened. 5 p.m.: An announcer introduces… the Jefferson High School Drumline! A dozen students parade on stage and beat the heck out of their drums. Six minutes later the drumming stops and the crowd applauds. Then the drumming starts again. Wow, the mayor’s opening act is a drumline. I’m reminded of the scene in Spinal Tap when the band arrives at an amusement park and sees a marquee reading “Puppet Show and Spinal Tap.” 5:10 p.m.: Drumming stops. More applause. It doesn’t restart. I see the hundreds of suits and students and, since this is a school, think of a vexing math problem: If 1,000 people are in the room, and each comes up with $10 a month, then how long will it take to pay off the $42,000 in fines that Villaraigosa owes for accepting free tickets to dozens of sporting events and concerts, including the Spice Girls? 5:11 p.m.: Still doing the math when the answer hits me: It doesn’t take any time at all when you can establish legal defense funds and, ahem, ask your friends in business to donate. 5:12 p.m.: Still thinking about the fines when I mind wobble back to the Spice Girls. Seriously? The mayor went to see the Spice Girls and claimed it was city business?! For this alone the fines should be doubled.
DowntownNews.com 5:15 p.m.: Villaraigosa enters to a standing ovation, resplendent in a dark suit and blue tie. How would that suit look in the governor’s mansion? Maybe he’ll find out one day if Jerry Brown invites him to visit. With bright lights and TV cameras focused on him, Villaraigosa flashes a smile. Council President Eric Garcetti is momentarily blinded. 5:17 p.m.: AnVil’s speaking manner is deliberate, easy, the cadence intentionally slow. He riffs on Jefferson as a veritable war zone six years back and then, in a possible reference to ’80s act Journey, pays tribute “to all those who never stopped believing.” 5:20 p.m.: References his “Dream With Me” speech, the inspiring 2005 inaugural address, delivered when the economy was booming and hope ran rampant across Los Angeles. Nostalgia is nice. 5:21 p.m.: Runs down some accomplishments, citing an increase in port traffic and trade. “We have city staff actually cold calling employers,” he proclaims, and there’s one thing that happened since (now outgoing) Austin Beutner came aboard as First Deputy Mayor in January 2010. “We are jump-starting job creation with a business tax holiday,” he states, and that’s another program aided by a Beutner push. A moment later he adds, “From across an ocean, we’ve brought BYD, a leading Chinese clean-technology company, to its new North American headquarters.” Hey, it’s a Beutner trifecta. 5:23 p.m.: Villaraigosa wanders into traffic and transportation, mentioning synchronizing 90% of the city’s intersections and the $40 billion being generated by Measure R. He describes something called America Fast Forward, a new political/business/labor program to push transit projects. But holy missing link, one program that was vital a year ago isn’t mentioned. It rhymes with “dirty hen.” I keep listening, but he doesn’t say boo about 30-10. I wonder why. 5:27 p.m.: Swerves to crime and touts the number of police officers and the Big Accomplishment of 40% fewer gunshot victims than six years ago. 5:31 p.m.: He hits the city’s finances and references a recent labor agreement. He crows, “I have a message for Wisconsin’s Governor Walker: Collective bargaining works in Los
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Angeles!” Somewhere Walker responds, “I have a message for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: The Green Bay Packers just won the Super Bowl! How’s football in Los Angeles these days?” 5:33 p.m.: Talking city cutbacks, he says, “I am proposing an 11% cut to my staff budget.” A loud thud sounds as 20 mayoral staffers faint. 5:34 p.m.: Moves to education, the topic that will consume the final 15 minutes of the speech. No reference to the disastrous, failed effort early in his term to seize control of the LAUSD. Instead he touts the Partnership, which gave him 21 low-performing schools, where upgrades and reforms followed. He cites new LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, calling him “Bill Bratton with a ruler,” making me wonder how Deasy will stop drunk, belligerent Dodger fans from messing up multiplication tables. 5:41 p.m.: On to the funding crisis in education, and says government alone can’t solve the problem. “We need publicprivate partnerships,” he proclaims, then calls for “private investment.” A loud thud as 60 business leaders faint, knowing they’ll get hit up this week for donations to another mayoral program. 5:43 p.m.: More school dreams, among them a call for “a teachers’ contract that’s simple, flexible and straightforward.” No one would argue against the merit of such aims. However, skeptics might point out that reform takes hard work, money, political connections and follow-through. Especially follow through. 5:48 p.m.: Quotes Thomas Jefferson. Not in relation to Los Angeles’ $350 million budget deficit or Sally Hemings, but, “To penetrate and dissipate the clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.” 5:49 p.m.: Closes with other lines that sound like they should be Journey hits. “This is our opportunity. Let’s seize it together. Our kids are counting on us.” Medium applause sounds. Then Villaraigosa walks offstage and a DJ plays Junkie XL’s remix of Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation.” The lyrics go, “A little less conversation, a little more action.” Interesting message. Contact Jon Regardie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Los Angeles Downtown News is a free weekly newspaper distributed in and around downtown Los Angeles.