"Charter School for Scandal" by Howard Blume and Kevin Uhrich [August 14-20] should be required reading for anyone even remotely involved in educational issues, especially those would-be reformers who believe that the problem of public schools can be solved by charters, vouchers or privatization.
Trust me on this one. Legalize vouchers, and what Cosgrove is doing will merely be the opener. Once corporate money becomes involved, there will be plenty of lawyers who will be able to outsmart any attempts by the state to ensure that state funds go to the right places. Like any private corporation, Cosgrove's abandons the inner city whenever the costs threaten the bottom line. Yet he gets state funds, while those of us who remain in the inner city are condemned to horrible working conditions, gangs, violence, overcrowding, poor or nonexistent heating and air conditioning, bureaucratic stupidity and incompetence . . . No one cares, no one listens, no one understands.
Former Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally was right when he said, "Charter schools are the wave of the future, and if we don't get on the train, we are going to be left standing with our baggage at the station." Amen to that, brother, especially when you're getting a taxpayer-funded honorarium of $5,000 per month for making such statements (more, incidentally, than I can ever hope to earn even after 30 years in the teaching profession). It's my misfortune that I am so encumbered by such antiquated "baggage" as integrity and professional ethics that I cannot jump onboard.
Thanks again for telling it like it is.
-William Joseph Miller
I must take issue with the portrayal, in "Charter School for Scandal," of Mr. Brady Johnson of the K. Anthony School as a scam artist. I understand that your paper is politically opposed to charter schools, vouchers and Mr. Cosgrove. However, it is irresponsible to tarnish the reputation of a person who has served the educational needs of the African-American communities of South-Central Los Angeles and Inglewood for the last 30 years.
As your article points out, the charter-school legislation contains many loopholes and gray areas, many of which have only recently been corrected. Why not, though, take Mr. Johnson's word that he is unaware of many of the issues that your article raised? Your concerns are legitimate, I should add, but why hold Mr. Johnson to such a high standard of awareness in an area where confusion and lack of clarity abound?
I am the parent of two children, products of the K. Anthony School, both of whom are now college students. Along with countless other current and former K. Anthony parents, I can vouch for the fact that any moneys received by Mr. Johnson - in addition to money out of his own pocket - have been spent on behalf of the students of K. Anthony. Mr. Johnson has been there for African-American students when the LAUSD and the IUSD weren't, and when others were saying our children were incapable of high academic achievement. He deserves better than your smear tactics.
HOWARD BLUME REPLIES:
We never intended to impugn Johnson or what he's accomplished at K. Anthony. In fact, our research and our published articles indicate that Cato led private school operators, such as Johnson, to believe that the state sanctioned Cato's questionable practices.
As usual the Weekly and its staff exhibit extreme bias in their reporting. As for my alleged involvement with Cato schools, it is not a matter of "denying" any involvement. An unbiased and thorough investigative research of Cato records will indicate that I never served as a facilitator for Cato schools at any time, in any shape, form or fashion.
-Mark S. Dymally
WHO'S WHO IN THE WETLANDS
When I read Marc Haefele's article on the Ballona Wetlands situation ["All Wet," July 24-30], I was perplexed by his references to the Malibu-based Ballona Wetlands Land Trust. I suspect that he was confusing the Land Trust with the Wetlands Action Network, which is based in Malibu. (I sympathize: It is difficult to keep all of these organizations straight, especially since they all seem bent on infiltrating each other!)
Also, as a member of the executive committee of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, I feel compelled to point out that the Sierra Club is not a member of the coalition referred to in Mr. Robertson's letter to the editor [August 14-20]. The Sierra Club does oppose the Playa Vista development. We believe that the wetlands themselves should be preserved and restored, but we do not op- a pose reasonable development on the old Hughes site and the runways.
Thank you for your continuing good coverage of this important issue.
IT'S THE AFTERTHOUGHT THAT COUNTS
While it was great to see the Weekly finally give Gary Phillips some well-deserved ink in his own hometown ("The People's Detective," August 7-13), I think it should be pointed out that you're a little late in rallying to his defense. The time to tout the man's work was before his publisher showed him the door, not after. Bringing him to your readers' attention now is a lot like dialing 911 after the last victim of a car accident has been loaded into the ambulance.
Oh, I know David Chute's article was in the works before the ax on Phillips actually fell, but the fact remains that Phillips, like all of us lowly mystery authors in L.A., would be up the ol' shit creek if he depended on the Weekly alone to get the word out about what he writes, and how well he writes it. A genre novel? Reviewed in the L.A. Weekly? Fuhgedaboudit!
May I make a suggestion? Try finding some space in your next summer-reading issue for the kinds of books Phillips writes: smart, thought-provoking crime fiction. Nothing mind-expanding, groundbreaking or impenetrably esoteric - just intelligent, socially conscious and, yes, dare I say it, entertaining. You know, the kinds of books people really do read in the summertime.
Granted, such exposure may not make the difference the next time one of Phillips' publishers tries to use his sales figures against him, but it sure as hell can't hurt. And imagine how much better you'll feel for having done your part to keep the brother in print, rather than wailing about the silencing of his brilliant voice after the fact.
-Gar Anthony Haywood
Re: Michael Simmons' "The Cannibus Connection" [August 7-13], the case of Peter McWilliams is a fine example of the insanity of our country's war on drugs. Mr. McWilliams meets all of the criteria for requiring medical marijuana, yet is being made an example by the federal government, in direct violation of California's medical-marijuana laws. It is clearly not constitutional for the DEA to enforce federal laws for which the Constitution does not allocate jurisdiction to the federal government. The Founding Fathers must be turning in their graves.
Thank you for Michael Simmons' report on the arrest and indictment of Peter McWilliams, along with several associates, on charges of conspiracy to sell marijuana. None of your colleagues in the daily Los Angeles press have done a story on McWilliams, apparently reserving their ink for endless speculation over the exact nature of our chief executive's dalliance with a now-infamous White House intern.
I hope you will do a follow-up. Your continued interest in McWilliams' plight might just be enough to keep our government from killing him.
-Thomas J. O'Connell
If McWilliams is found to have developed an untreatable form of AIDS due to the deliberate actions of those who are prosecuting him, those prosecutors should be brought up on charges of attempted murder.
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
FORWARD TO THE BRINK!
I am writing in response to a recent article by Jim Crogan ["Back From the Brink," August 21-27] regarding efforts to extend eligibility time limits for General Relief welfare recipients.
Let the record be clear: I support, and have supported, state legislation to extend the time limits in conjunction with increased funding for job training, food stamps and other support services. In fact, this proposal was crafted by Los Angeles County officials and has the county's support.
A recently released report by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp. offers encouraging preliminary results about Los Angeles County's GAIN program and its success in placing former welfare recipients in paying jobs. I'm very hopeful that we can build on this foundation to expand and improve our job-training and -placement results for growing numbers of recipients in the future.
Supervisor, 3rd District
Criticism can be an essential component of the artistic process, but Steven Leigh Morris' article on The Cider House Rules [July 24-30] was yet another in a long string of "reviews" in the L.A. Weekly in which pretentious references, bizarre use of undefined terms and exposition of plot substitute for an intelligent discussion of a play. A critic should provide insight into the work staged, not simply regurgitate the story as he remembers it and attempt to appear well-read. Such writing is more than annoying and inadequate; it is unfair to potential viewers and to everyone involved in the production.
THE BAY AREA'S GAIN, OUR LOSS
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About 13 years ago, I discovered the L.A. Weekly. A fellow high school sophomore brought the paper onto campus to show his friends all the kinky personal ads in the back. After a couple of weeks, I noticed there were articles in the front. I have been hooked ever since.
I could make this a long, drawn-out letter, elaborating on the eye-opening stories, my favorite writers, the coolest features . . . but I just want to say goodbye. I'm moving to the Bay Area this weekend, and while I've heard wonderful things about the Guardian and other papers up there, they will never hold the same place in my heart that the Weekly has.
So thank you, Weekly, for giving me plenty of reasons to love and detest L.A. I will miss this city - and you - terribly.