Ron Tutor was born and raised in Los Angeles, but he comes off more like the stereotypical old-boy Chicago concrete baron. At least one major Chicago contractor, however, says business doesn’t have to be done Tutor style. And Wes Brazas Jr. found out the hard way — firsthand.
Brazas is a project engineer for a contracting and construction company that worked on the recently completed $1 billion expansion of O’Hare Airport. Back in 1992, Parsons-Dillingham hired Brazas to come to L.A. and help with various matters pertaining to the subway construction. Brazas agreed, only to return to Chicago almost immediately after starting work.
"I lasted three days before I saw enough to tell me to get out of there," says Brazas. "He wanted me to handle construction claims, but the first one he gave me involved a contract overrun on which Tutor had more than doubled the original cost to the client. I checked around and was told that this would be the norm with Tutor. I helped bring the O’Hare expansion in at the promised cost, on time, delivering the promised goods and services. But the prevailing attitude with these Tutor types is that you have to expect to end up paying more for a late project in which you get an inferior product. That simply doesn’t have to be the case."
Charges of financial sleight of hand have dogged Tutor on projects throughout the state. Caltrans once hired Tutor to help build a highway near Eureka, a project for which he ended up billing the agency $78 million. Caltrans ruled that $17 million of those costs were "fallacious and, in fact, inflated in the magnitude of approximately 700 percent."
Controversy has also followed Tutor’s activities away from the job sites. In 1992, when he served as co-chairman of the regional carpenters’ pension fund, eight Southern California locals accused Tutor of having persuaded the fund to invest $40 million in Southdown Inc., a Houston concrete company. The problem was, Southdown supplies nearly all the concrete for Tutor’s L.A. projects. (However, Labor Department regulations only prohibit pension-fund trustees from steering investments to companies in which they have a direct financial interest.) The investment quickly declined in value by 31 percent, costing the fund $12.5 million.
In "Scrambled City" (December 16, 1994), Harold Meyerson examined the polarization produced by the anti-immigrant Proposition 187.
This is Los Angeles, as scrambled by Pete Wilson.
The map divides L.A. into those council districts that voted for Proposition 187 and those that voted against, and it’s an alignment the likes of which L.A. has never known. Eight districts voted against 187 — an Eastside-Westside alliance running from Venice and the Palisades to El Sereno and Boyle Heights. Seven districts ä voted for 187: four, predictably in the San Fernando Valley; Rudy Svornich’s harbor-area district; and the two core districts of the African-American community: Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Eighth District and Rita Walters’ Ninth. On this most polarizing of issues, South-Central finds itself on the same side as the Valley — and the city finds its politics turned rudely upside down.
In "The Roots of Reaction" (March 3, 1995), Sam Gideon Anson examined the motivations of the men who drafted the anti-affirmative-action initiative, Proposition 209.
Left unchallenged in all of this are the motives of these anti-affirmative-action crusaders and the methods by which they plan to turn their discontent into a ballot-box victory. Thomas Wood and Glynn Custred did not arrive in the vanguard of the affirmative-action debate out of the clear blue of ivory-tower academia; they each bring to their campaign particular axes to grind, personal and political. And their campaign, managed by a leading GOP political consultant and backed by some of the state’s leading conservative activists, bears the markings more of a high-powered political play than a shoestring, grassroots operation.
Innocence, good citizenship, pure political virtue: They made for great story elements in Frank Capra’s classic political morality play Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Whether they have any relevance in the visceral and volatile arena of racial politics is a question that has gone largely unanswered.
In "The Learning Cure" (November 14, 1997), Sara Catania examined a series of children’s textbooks written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard that the state of California was considering for inclusion on a list of approved supplemental texts.
Many pages in the book are devoted to listing and illustrating the symptoms children will suffer when they don’t "clear up" words. Children who don’t follow the proper procedure could end up feeling "squashed," "bent," "blank" or "not there."
"As simple as it seems," goes a note to parents and teachers in several of the volumes, "many of the tribulations in children’s lives can often be traced back to words they have not understood in their reading materials or in life." In fact, Hubbard claimed proper application of study technology should eliminate learning disabilities and attention-deficit disorders, which he did not consider real. Students with these disorders "are failing to learn because no one has ever taught them how to learn," according to Rena Weinberg. No one has taught them "how to identify the barriers to learning and how to overcome these barriers."