The Weekly’s Michael Goldstein was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore, so he wrote a story about the $446 ticket he received in the mail along with a grainy photograph taken by one of L.A.’s 32 red-light cameras. Goldstein’s resulting article (“Los Angeles’ Red-Light Ticket Ripoff,” December 30) went on to note that, while the cameras are raking in some $4 million in gross revenue, they aren’t doing so well in terms of limiting accidents. In fact, say some experts, accidents — particularly of the rear-ending sort — are increasing, as drivers slam on the brakes when they catch sight of the cameras.

Readers, meanwhile, have a typical and understandable response, such as this one from Suzi in Boyle Heights: “These red-light cameras have infuriated me for years. What really upsets me is the amount of the ticket. $500 doesn’t mean much to the upper classes but it is a fortune for someone working for close to minimum wage. Now, even more ways for the working poor to get screwed. I’d like the politicians to have to decide whether to pay the ticket or pay the rent.”

If Suzi thinks the cameras are a crime against the working poor, a reader called No-Spam (from nowhere, apparently) thinks they are a crime against the middle-aged: “The average person caught by these cameras is mid-40s with a clean driving record. Almost all supposed violations are right turns on lonely roads where people do not stop for three seconds because there is no traffic in sight. It is all about revenue, since the camera company only gets paid if they generate enough money.”

That’s interesting, but No-Spam has an even more important suggestion: “I got one of these [tickets], and absolutely took the two days off work to fight it. I won. If more people fought these outrageous tickets, they would stop. This racket only works if people shut up and pay.

Ralph Tropf of Los Angeles doesn’t care, damn it. “The only statistic that matters in this article is ‘… since the cameras went up, we haven’t had one fatal collision,’” says Tropf. “I walk twice daily between my apartment on Los Feliz Boulevard and the Red Line station at Sunset. Every week some selfish idiot trying to beat a red light nearly mows me down. If the city makes money with red-light cameras, fine with me. Let the scofflaws pay for road repair rather than raising my taxes. Goldstein and the Weekly are not fighting the good fight on this one.”

Oh, well, we can’t be right all the time, Ralph. Give us a call and we’ll tell you about the lousy ticket we got in Ashland, Oregon, over the holidays. …

Ever read a story about the dedicated, iconoclastic public school teacher who is beloved by kids but not by school administrators? In “Silencing Hawthorne High’s Music Man” (December 23), Beth Barrett tells of one such teacher, Donald Flaherty, who has for several years led Hawthorne High’s “drum line” percussion group and a drum-and-bugle corps, and who was recently reassigned to mere music-appreciation classes. The cause? Insubordination, writes Barrett, for failing to produce a marching band for Hawthorne’s football games.

While most of this story’s respondents are Flaherty supporters, Paul Bailey, an adjunct professor of music education and theory at Cal State Fullerton (and one-time band director at John Marshall High School in Los Feliz), has this to say: “Talk about the forest for the trees: Teaching a drum line does not make a music program. I can easily see why an administration would reassign a music teacher (no matter how successful and well meaning) if they were unable and/or unwilling to field a marching band. Like it or not, the marching band is the most efficient way to get a large number of kids to participate in music. It’s unfortunate, but at the end of the day a music program should give musicians a variety of experiences and not focus on the specialized competitive agenda of one teacher.”

Begging to differ are those kids whose lives were enhanced by working with Flaherty, such as Ryan Almeida, who identifies himself as a recording artist, producer, sound engineer: “During my last year of high school I had the honor joining the Gold drum-and-bugle corps led by Flaherty. That man changed my life. Till this day I live by some of the quotes of Dr. Flaherty. This man has a passion for what he does. Flaherty does not just teach music, he teaches Life. How to be a good person, how to work hard, how to have class, and how to follow your dreams. It is because of this man and the programs he developed and the high standards he set for his youth that I am where I am today.”

If you think it’s hard being a music teacher, try being a music journalist. Every year-end, you have to pick the CDs of the year, and this year, the CDs of the decade. (“The 10 Best L.A. Albums of the ’00s: From Beck and Dilla to Fiona, Jenny and Quasimoto, a mishmash decade of Southern California sounds,” by L.A. Weekly Music Critics, December 30.) It’s tough work. And then someone has to take the piss out of you in a comment like this one from Peter of Los Angeles: “I am sorry, but that was the most pathetic selection of music picks I have ever seen. Beck with the album of the decade? Maybe if you are a lame Hollywood hipster douche bag who spent the decade buried under a rock. I am so sick of your music writers assuming all of L.A. shares their awful taste in crappy indie rock or horrible hip-hop.”

What, dare we ask, does Peter think deserves our kudos?

“My vote for album of the decade goes to Slayer’s God Hates Us All. Released on September 11, 2001, it was almost prophetic in its subject matter (the song “Payback”). It was loud, offensive and in your face, an uncompromising testament to American Metal. Just my 2 cents.”

Thanks, Peter, for the 2 cents. We’re glad you couldn’t afford more.

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