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President of Community College League of California: L.A. Times Expose Timing is Dirty Trick

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Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 12:57 PM

click to enlarge Los Angeles Community College District's building technique
  • Los Angeles Community College District's building technique
Yes, it could be argued that the timing of the L.A. Times expose on the Los Angeles Community College District's misspending of an alarming percentage of $5.7 billion in bonds comes at an awkward time, days before the March 8 election for its Board of Trustees -- perhaps leaving insufficient time for debate.

No, it can't be argued that the cold hard facts are presented and that they are worthy of a double-take.

Scott Lay, president of the Community College League of California, sent this in an internal district email:

I dislike the tone of the LA Times articles and think dirty tricks are involved dropping this ten days before a majority of the trustee seats are up for election at the LA district. Nevertheless, we work with public money, which comes with both advantages and disadvantages, particularly during economic times like these.

In economic times like these, indeed. It sure throws a dis-advantageous wrench in things when tax payers start looking a bit closer at where $5.7 billion of their dollars go.

In this case, it seems tens of millions of dollars went poof and vanished into mistakes and oversights -- more precisely: lack of oversight at all.

The Times six-part expose ran its second installment today and it is already sounding repetitive: put cash in, don't pay attention, see problem and/ or change mind, whitewash and repeat.

Of a new health and science center at Los Angeles Valley College:

Ceiling panels and floor tiles were askew. Crooked cabinet doors would not shut.

Hot water ran through cold water pipes, cold water through hot. Hot, dirty water flowed at emergency eyewash stations, making them useless. Spigots at some sinks were misaligned, pointing water straight onto lab counters.

Wild temperature swings left students roasting or freezing. A deep chill killed lizards in a biology lab. An imbalance in air pressure created a wind-tunnel effect, and it took a herculean effort to open or close classroom doors.

The problems at the Allied Health and Science Center went well beyond comfort or convenience. Exit signs and fire extinguishers were missing. Hanging pipes and light fixtures were not securely attached to ceilings.

L.A. City College had fun with pictures:

Architects were hired to design a five-story fitness center with a glassed-in dance studio on the top floor. Before construction began, the college president decided to move the fitness center to the other side of campus. There, it would need to be short and wide, not tall and narrow.

The $1.8-million design was suddenly worthless. The district paid architects $1.9 million to draft a new one.

And sometimes, buildings even get a chance to be built twice! Aw, they must feel special.

At Valley College, workers renovated a theater complex, installing new seats, lighting and sound equipment in time for a 2009 student production of "Alice in Wonderland." But even before the $3.4-million job was done, officials decided to build a new theater complex. The renovated one is slated for demolition.

Wouldn't it be nice if the waste had been limited to what tax payers voted to spend it on at least?

The waste has not been limited to construction. Bond money that was supposed to pay for new buildings has gone to public relations, travel and promotional videos.

The good news? The $350,000 of videos had AWESOME music and totally rad graphics! The district was intent on at least succeeding as entertainers. This is L.A., you know.

Contact Mars Melnicoff at mmelnicoff@laweekly.com / follow @marsmelnicoff

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