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Unfair, Disrespectful:

To the editor:

After reading Sections 5 and 7 from the contract for the new Assistant Superintendent of Special Education posted in the Board Agenda for last week’s meeting, the Superintendent has managed to find a new way to disrespect every hard-working employee in the District. Up until this announcement, there had been an unwritten code of ethics about maintaining equitable medical and dental offerings to all employees. including employer/employee costs.

It is the height of arrogance during a time of budgetary crisis to

grant Mr. Walker paid benefits worth $2000 more than every other

employee — along with an open-ended “stipend for out of pocket

medical expenses.” Just two weeks ago, this unique “package” — along

with a $500 per month transportation allowance — was discussed in

closed session with the Board just before the Superintendent announced

in open session that it was necessary to “implement an immediate

freeze on expenditures.” Mixed messages for sure.

Adding insult to injury, District employee groups just agreed to a

major change in the BlueCross PERSCare medical plan that will reduce

District costs by at least $500,000 a year!

In light of the above, I believe SMMCTA and SEIU should join together

and challenge the pending approval of this benefit package. For

starters, if this benefit package was discussed in CLOSED session –

and I believe it was – that is a violation of the Brown Act. Quoting

from the California First Amendment Coalition handbook on the Brown

Act, it reads as follows:

“In the past, local legislative bodies may have used closed sessions

on appointment or employment of public employees to fix or increase

pay and benefits for the new appointee or employee. “The Brown Act, in

Section 54957 (which authorizes closed sessions related to

appointment, employment, or performance evaluations), states: “Closed

sessions held pursuant to this section shall not include discussions

or action on proposed compensation except for a reduction of

compensation that results from the imposition of discipline.”

Clearly, unless it is a consequence of discipline, discussions of pay

and benefits must be kept out of closed “personnel” sessions.

The addition of this new position will bring the total of individual

management contracts in the District to NINE! So much for the

Management Team concept. In the absence of a rebuttal, Superintendent

Deasy got away with making the following recent comment, “We have

fewer administrator positions per pupil than most districts.

That is so we can spend more money on teachers” (11-22-04 SMDP). That

statement has no factual basis. Isn’t it time for the employee

organizations to stand together with fair-minded community members and

stop Deasy’s corporate elitism and his manipulation of the information

the Board and the public receive?

Jim Jaffe

Santa Monica

Conflict of Interest?

To the editor:

If any resident doubts the corruption of “our” Santa Monica City

Council, they need only take a glance at the agenda for the council

meeting of January 11, 2005. On that agenda, Mayor Pro Tem Herb Katz

asks his colleagues to quickly adopt new laws for the benefit of the

Automobile Dealers of Santa Monica.

It is well-known that Katz’s wife is the General Manager of one of the

largest dealerships in Santa Monica, and that dealership owns at least

one other dealership in town. It is also well-known that Katz is the

architect for most of the automobile dealerships in Santa Monica. In

case, it’s not clear, Katz is asking for laws to make it easier for

his architectural clients (and the company his wife manages) to

redevelop their properties.

Why aren’t the mayor and the other City Councilmen speaking out on

this obvious conflict of interest? Or, will they get something out of

it, too?

Maxine Pratt Sandusky

Santa Monica

Ed. Note: At the Council meeting, Katz and the City Attorney both

addressed the conflict of interest question. He reported that he had

consulted the attorney and she had advised him that, under the law, he

didn’t have a conflict of interest. She confirmed that, with the

proviso that she couldn’t read minds. Katz also said that his firm did

little work for auto dealers.

Not drinking

the kool-aid

To the editor:

It would be wonderful if viewpoints in opposition to Bush could be

explored through your medium. We can’t all drink the kool-aid without

having a debate. The media is responsible for exposing all points of

view.

Some of the points in question would include:

For all of President Bush’s talk about a so-called “ownership

society,” it’s ironic that he’s not focused on the things that would

genuinely boost ownership among ordinary Americans: good jobs, fair

wages and a reduction in wealth disparity.

If President Bush was truly interested in promoting ownership in

America, he would stop pursuing economic policies that reward the few

while the many lose ground.

For starters, he would: start fixing a broken healthcare system that’s

straining families and small businesses, drop his opposition to a

living wage, reverse his plans to cut back Pell grants that make

college affordable to working and middle class kids, reverse his plans

to cut back Pell grants that make college affordable to working and

middle class kids, craft trade and tax policies that clamp down on the

flight of jobs abroad, abandon his plans to extend the tax cuts for

the wealthiest 1% — those who make $1 million or more (they already

received $148 billion in cuts last year), ditch his risky Social

Security privatization scheme that would require benefit cuts and

jeopardize millions of men and women who live a few steps away from

relentless poverty.

Dana Vanhove

Santa Monica

Wants more

coverage

To the editor:

For a paper that spends a good portion of its opinion section, week

after week, criticizing city government (criticisms with which I

almost always agree, by the way), I found disappointing Hannah

Heineman’s pro forma summary [Mirror, 1/26-2/1] of the 22 January

workshop regarding a vision for Santa Monica’s future.

It was a chance for the Mirror to tie its ideas for what this city can

be to discussions made at a citizens’ forum. Instead, it read like a

press release. This gathering, regardless of what might come out of

it, was an attempt by Santa Monica to listen to the citizens. Its

rareness should not cloud its importance. I thought it went very well

and deserved a more analytical article, one which only the Mirror

usually seems prepared and qualified to provide. Maybe that will come

in the future. For now, let me add this about the get together at John

Adams Middle School: three of the City’s council members were there:

O’Connor, Katz, McKeown. I can only assume that the four who were not

already know how the citizens of the city feel about. . . everything.

And “everything” was on the table. I especially missed the Council’s

newest member who might have benefited most from the experience. By

the way, a Bicycle Workshop is being held on February 5 at 10 a.m. at

the Edwards Center ([email protected]). Those of you

who make biking in Santa Monica a dangerous experience know who you

are. If you attend, we can talk about it together. That’s what a

community ought to be about.

Ron DiCostanzo

Santa Monica

Ed. Note: We try to confine our analysis to the editorial page and, in

fact, this week’s editorial focuses, in part, on the workshop. And it

should be noted that the City Attorney has said that if more than

three Council members were to attend the workshop, it would be a

violation of the Brown Act.

Continental

surprise

To the editor:

I expected “A Tale of Two Continents” to juxtapose TWO continents when

in fact Iraq and South Asia are both located on the continent of Asia.

I’m surprised this simple geographical fact would elude you.

Emily Horton

Santa Monica

Ed. Note: Not as surprised as we were.

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