Having been the recipient of the Weekly’s pointed inquiries for the better part of four years in my capacity as communications adviser to two LAUSD superintendents, I would normally be the last to criticize the L.A. Weekly for being soft on the L.A. School District. However, Howard Blume’s most recent article [“The Short Season of Howard Miller,” June 23–29] on the departure of Howard Miller, the district’s interim chief operating officer, was I believe symptomatic of just how effective Miller and the now-departed interim superintendent, Ray Cortines, were at fooling the city’s media watchdogs, including the Weekly, the L.A. Times and every other news outlet in Los Angeles.
Many may remember that Howard Miller ascended to his job after participating in the plot to oust my former boss, Superintendent Ruben Zacarias. But few seem to recall that when Miller and Cortines first took charge of the school district, they announced a highly touted agenda of “books and bathrooms.” Astonishingly, they left amid glowing praise from the press without compelling evidence that either problem had been solved.
Miller, who was the object of Blume’s tepid reportage, also was a glaring failure at the job for which he was first brought into the school district, the position of facilities czar. Not only was he a party to stopping the construction of the Belmont Learning Complex; nary a school was built under his stewardship. The district’s facilities plan is no better for his efforts after his year with the school district, for which he was paid some $150,000 in salary. What makes this more amazing is that he had a $37,500-per-month consultant helping him with the job of building schools.
Likewise, the tight-wired Cortines, who was lauded for his “reforms,” left the district after having done little more than implement the decentralization and reading plans originally proposed by Dr. Zacarias, and after participating in an elaborate shell game of increasing the number of administrators who can earn higher salaries in the name of cutting bureaucratic fat.
All things considered, I believe the Weekly owes its readers a complete obit on this most recent regime, including an analysis of the millions that were spent on consultant contracts to the friends and allies of these two interlopers, and those of certain school-board members as well.
Perhaps Howard Miller’s departure from the LAUSD brings tears to some observers’ eyes, but not mine. Miller’s tenure at the board was marked by a degree of stupidity that is the hallmark of most of the LAUSD’s bureaucracy. Particularly asinine is Miller’s promise that if test scores improve, teachers’ salaries would soar. Indeed? If I remember correctly, back in 1978, when I began teaching in the LAUSD, Miller — then on the school board — was adamantly opposed to granting teachers probationary contracts, on the grounds that this would bankrupt the system.
Students in inner-city schools — such as the high school where I teach — will always do poorer, for a number of reasons, which have already been rehashed so many times I won’t bother to go into them. The LAUSD’s answer to these problems, year-round scheduling, only adds insult to injury, because teachers actually have fewer instructional days year-round than they did during the traditional school year. It goes without saying that students who spend fewer hours in the classroom will score lower on standardized tests.
Howard Miller epitomizes everything that is wrong with LAUSD central and the 11 satellite systems designed to replace the current institutionalized stupidity. I doubt that Roy Romer will provide much of an improvement.
—William Joseph Miller
Re: Harold Meyerson’s “Ralph Rising” [June 30–July 6]. Thanks for a great interview with Ralph Nader. You do the public a service by presenting a voice that is often muffled by corporate media for political and monetary purposes. Please continue to publish articles on alternative voices and important issues that otherwise would not be heard. Down with corporate politics, and up with democracy and environment!
Some on the far left cannot resist the urge to embark on a course of conduct that will result in the most reactionary candidate winning an election. Though Ralph Nader seems to think that he will not hurt Gore in states in which the vote will be close, the risk is far too great. And Nader is also apparently oblivious of the difference between prospective Bush and Gore nominees to the Supreme Court. His dismissive recounting of history, in which some progressive judges were appointed by Republicans and some archconservatives were appointed by Democrats, fails to realistically look at the present climate.
In 1976, incumbent U.S. ã Senator John Tunney defeated Tom Hayden in the Democratic primary. Many on the left were so miffed at Hayden’s loss, they sat out the general election and thereby contributed to Tunney’s loss to archconservative S.I. Hayakawa. Those who do not learn from history . . .
Member, Platform Committee
California Democratic Party
I think it is lamentably characteristic of our national, and especially our journalistic, degeneracy when we, like bafflingly conflicted Harold Meyerson, must find a hard-working, frugal, quietly populist hero like Ralph Nader as somehow lacking because he doesn’t ape the disingenuous theatrics of our reptile president, the weenie bravado of his party-appointed successor or the braying moronity of the opposition’s puppet. Does no one understand that public office was not meant to be an extension of Hollywood, that difficult busman’s work constitutes the bulk of the duties, that a true executor of the office would ideally be a combination of lawyer, accountant, conciliator and philosopher? No, instead we take the governors of the worst-managed states in the nation (Arkansas, for instance), prep ’em up with acting lessons and set ’em loose to create exactly the sort of outrages we have seen under the previous fool.
Meyerson should be offering sacrifices to the gods that we have someone self-disciplined like Nader running for president, not finding myriad reasons why his inability to act the flamboyant idiot is a deficit. I can’t even begin to express what a dire state it represents that Meyerson would frame his “advocacy” in those terms and that we, the readers — and, by extension, the nation — would countenance it. His sanction, even soft-pedaled as it is, of these egregious bread-and-circus mummeries as being a prerequisite for either believability or charisma puts the stamp of approval on that which he so limply and peripherally inveighs against. In such ways are people damned by faint praise . . . and in such manner are spin doctors interned, eh, Mr. Meyerson?
—Marc S. Tucker
This letter is in response to Hope Urban’s article “Unbroken Will,” in your June 16–22 issue. I am a principal in Lucia Properties, LLC, which is proposing development of the Van de Kamp’s property located at the intersection of San Fernando Road and Fletcher Drive in Glassell Park. The article contains a gross error in quoting me as to something I never said. The false “quote” reads: “If someone did throw a rock through [development opponent Miki Jackson’s] window, I don’t blame them one bit.” This is not a statement I made to Ms. Urban during the course of our telephonic interview, and even in the best of Ms. Urban’s one-sided writing it does not flow with the content of the rest of the article and directly contradicts the previous sentence (which Ms. Urban did correctly quote).
I feel that Ms. Urban included such a quote to sway the community and local politicians in the upcoming hearing [on whether to approve the project]. If nothing else works, implicate the developers in criminal actions (or condoning such criminal action) to enrage and inflame the neighborhood and keep the politicians from lending their support to this project.
It would be refreshing to see an article about this project in an upcoming L.A. Weekly issue, from an unbiased reporter who could report on the community’s true feelings about the project (including the feelings of the residents upon whom this project will have the most impact) and such items as jobs, tax dollars and community safety.
I have never supported vandalism and criminal behavior, and my brother and I through our various companies have continually helped in the community to raise funds for the slain police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. I encourage your paper to join me in this support with an article discouraging all of your readers from taking any action against the project’s foes or proponents.
Lucia Properties, LLC
THE EDITOR REPLIES: Hope Urban stands by her story.
MANOHLA DARGIS: THE BACKLASH
Manohla Dargis’ review of The Perfect Storm [“Blow Hard,” June 30–July 6] was the best review of a film I’ve read yet in the Weekly. “Hollywood’s mounting inability to tell stories that have any connection to the real world” is right. There needs to be in every work of art that which relates to life truthfully, no matter how abstract the premise. That’s what makes film a great medium, and why these stinker exploitation films are such a waste of your and my time. I’d work for free on anyone’s film that satirizes the whole lot of ’em, just for the satisfaction!
—Ricki Ray Harris
Bravo to Manohla Dargis for debunking those nimrods of nihilism, the Coen Boys [“Too Simple,” July 7–13]. Blood Simple, which was praised by some critics as a triumph of style equal to Orson Welles, was an empty exercise in puerility, and an unmitigated disaster. Sad to say, though the Coens have progressed technically, their thought processes are still at the same smirking, adolescent level. Their “profound” view of humans is that we are stupid, greedy rats trapped in a deadly maze, and the audience is supposed to chortle as we commit graphic mayhem on each other. The fact that this inept piffle is now being fobbed off on the public as some kind of event is a sad statement on where movies are today.
THE IMPERTINENCE OF BEING ERNEST
Re: Ernest Hardy’s “Saving It” [June 30–July 6]. Hardy characterizes Whitney Houston’s “Could I Have This Kiss Forever” as “a duet with offensive ethnic stereotype Enrique Iglesias.” Since he fails to qualify what he finds offensive, this complaint reads as an indictment of E.I. as an ethnic stereotype simply for being a successful mainstream crossover popular recording artist who has transcended a musical genre. How patronizing is that?
—Monte A. Devendittis
Hempstead, New York