Tag Archives: Local Cartoon

LAPD’s crosswalk crackdown: Don’t police have something better to do?

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

This one is personal.

Just over 10 years ago, I was ticketed – and handcuffed – for an alleged pedestrian violation while crossing Melrose Avenue. Ironically, this was one of the rare times that I was innocent of even jaywalking, something I do every day.

Anyway, I had done everything right. I waited for the green “walking man” signal before stepping off the curb. I walked between the crosswalk lines. I got across the street just as the flashing red signal began.

All of a sudden, a motorcycle officer zoomed over, threw me up against the wall, slapped on the cuffs, roughed me up and wrote me a ticket. It was an ugly scene, and in broad daylight it must have looked like one, because within minutes there were a couple of dozen passersby shouting at the cop.

Another motorcycle officer appeared, asked the colleague what the heck he was thinking and ordered him to let me go, which he did. But not before he threw my driver’s license into the sewer.

I filed a formal complaint with the Los Angeles Police Department. A few months went by without my hearing anything, so I called to check in. I was told that the complaint was dismissed. They had never notified me.

Stories about the LAPD’s current ticketing crackdown against people who enter the crosswalk after the pedestrian crossing signal has begun flashing red and counting down reminded me of my incident. The Times reports that the LAPD has ticketed four times as many pedestrians for this violation in the division that includes downtown than in other areas of the city.

Is this really a worthwhile use of police resources? Two City Council members have asked for data on whether such tickets really improve public safety.

As Times columnist Steve Lopez points out, the price of these tickets – $197 – is wildly out of proportion to the scale of the so-called “offense.” Moreover, few Angelenos know that stepping into the crosswalk after the red flash of death starts is against the law. “Many… think, as I did, that the countdown is there to tell you how much time you have to cross the street,” writes Lopez.

Because, you know, it’s a countdown. In seconds. If you are familiar with the space-time continuum, and you have crossed the particular street before, you’re probably able to judge with a fair degree of accuracy whether you will be able to make it across in time. Why show the countdown if we aren’t supposed to use that information?

At a certain point, it’s easy to conclude that this is less about pedestrian safety than it is about revenue enhancement. Besides, how safe is the scenario I depict in my cartoon, in which people are racing across intersections at breakneck speed in order to avoid paying nearly $200 in fines?

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Venice Beach declares war on our infantile obsession with nudity

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Nekkid Ladies

Not many people are aware of it, and few exercise the right, but it is legal for women to walk around topless in New York City and other cities. (A bare-chested New Yorker even got $40,000 from the city to settle her lawsuit alleging harassment by the NYPD for her nudity.)

Now, if the Venice Neighborhood Council gets its way, toplessness will become legal somewhere more pleasant than the gritty, often slush-filled streets of the Northeast: Venice Beach.

“I think this is a serious equality issue, and I’m not going to shy away from it,” Melissa Diner, the Venice council community officer who sponsored the resolution told the Los Angeles Times’ Martha Groves. Diner said she hoped to “start a conversation about not only wanting to show our nipples on Venice Beach, but about what else people want to see.”

“Venice Beach was founded and designed around the European culture of Venice, Italy,” the neighborhood council said, “and … topless [sun]bathing is commonplace throughout Europe, much of the rest of the world and many places within the U.S.”

In many states and municipalities, the legal basis for prohibiting the exposure of female breasts falls apart because public lewdness laws are specifically targeted against genitals, which obviously breasts are not. Aside from the inherent gender discrimination of anti-toplessness statutes, the widespread social acceptance of breastfeeding in public beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, and the fact that many American travelers see that topless sunbathing in other countries don’t spark riots of sex-crazed males, exposes — pun intended — the utter absurdity of such laws.

So, yes, it is an important political, social and cultural issue. It’s a question of equal rights, body image, addressing the problem of oversexualization driven by, among other things, advertising. But it’s also a matter of maturity.

I’ll admit, when I first read the headline about Venice considering this change, I giggled. Sorry, that’s the 14-year-old boy I used to be. But then after thinking about it for two or three minutes, I shook it off and got serious.

Which is not unlike what happened the summer that the dorms at my college, Columbia University, converted from single-sex, all-male to coeducational. The showers were old, no curtains, one big room. The first female students moved in before they got around to putting in individual shower stalls.

One morning I stumbled in bleary-eyed to the shower, and found several of my new female classmates taking showers. Yes, I was surprised. I was 19. Then I found a spot on the other side of the room, lathered up and got over it. Within a day or two, it wasn’t a big deal.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne so brilliantly documented, America’s original sin, alongside slavery, is Puritanism. Four hundred years after the first colonists arrived in America — people who were so uptight that they couldn’t get along with the British — it’s time that we declared war against our infantile societal obsessions with nudity, especially female nudity.

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Robert Durst and ‘The Jinx’: Is watching TV the future of detective work?

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:The Future of Detective Work

 

Police forces are constantly looking at new technology and new methods for catching criminals: DNA, drones, flying helicopters over high-crime areas to discourage the bad guys from carrying out their dastardly deeds. Could there be a new means of nailing suspects: watching TV?

Last weekend’s arrest of Robert Durst, the New York real estate scion who has been implicated in the deaths of three people over three decades, makes me wonder about that in this week’s cartoon.

Durst has been suspected of being involved in the 1982 disappearance and presumed death of his first wife and now has been charged with the killing of a friend, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles in 2000. He shot and dismembered a neighbor in Texas in 2001 but was acquitted, claiming it was self-defense.

While filming a six-part HBO documentary called “The Jinx,” Durst apparently failed to realize that his microphone was still “hot” (live) when he went to the restroom. Talking to himself, he asks rhetorically, like something out of a tale by Edgar Allan Poe, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

It isn’t clear whether this qualifies as a confession, at least enough to sway a jury, or whether it’s admissible in court. It also isn’t known whether this statement led to the request to the FBI by Los Angeles police to arrest Durst at a New Orleans hotel where he was staying under a false name, and to ask that he be extradited to California. Whatever the details, the revelation in the sixth and final episode of the documentary was pretty much as blockbuster as blockbuster gets – and it probably isn’t going to help him if and when he gets to trial.

Though the families of Durst’s alleged victims and the detectives who have been trying to nab him for years are no doubt pleased that he may be about to face justice for his alleged crimes, they must be a little frustrated that it was a true-crime documentary rather than traditional police work that finally did the job. That said, the police contributed mightily to where things currently stand.

The Durst case is unusual in several respects, none more than the open-mike gaffe. Generally speaking, alleged serial killers with a run dating back to the Reagan years don’t stay free by absentmindedly blabbing — even if it is to themselves in that most private of places.

In the end, it may not have been so much the cliché that Durst wanted to get caught as his succumbing to his outsize ego by agreeing to do the documentary and by taunting the authorities, like a real-life Hannibal Lecter. “Bob doesn’t seem to feel totally comfortable unless he’s at risk,” one of the documentarians told an interviewer. “He seems to like to put himself at risk. It may make him feel more vital. It may be something he’s just compelled to grasp for. In this case, we felt he had a kind of compulsion to confess.”

Sadly for detectives, murder suspects aren’t usually wired for thrills.

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When four cops have to use deadly force to subdue a man, something’s wrong

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Just Cause

The police shooting of a 39-year-old homeless man in the skid row section of downtown Los Angeles is prompting comparisons and reactions familiar to those that followed police killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York. The identity of the man is still not clear, but he was known as “Africa” to some who knew him on the streets.

The incident is still under investigation but many question how dangerous a man without a gun can be to four highly trained law enforcement professionals, all armed. The LAPD says its officers first approached Africa in response to a robbery call, and that its officers shot the man to prevent him from taking one of the officers’ guns. The revelation that Africa was a convicted bank robber who served a long prison term seems to bolster the image of a dangerous person. In Ferguson, police also pointed to the victim’s alleged involvement in a robbery.

Then there’s the context of lousy community relations. “Skid row has been home to police occupation under the Safer Cities Initiative,” Steve Diaz, an organizer for the Los Angeles Community Action Network, said at a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission’s weekly meeting. “They clear people out in the name of gentrification.”

Since at least one of the LAPD officers was wearing a body camera, the investigation is also being viewed as a test case for a technology that advocates hope will hold rogue cops accountable and defend honest ones against folks’ charges of brutality. The claim of a St. Louis man that a policeman turned off his dashboard cam before beating him, following a similar story in New Orleans late last year, has skeptics wondering whether videotaping really is a solution in such cases.

Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember domestic policing before it was militarized and excessive force became the norm, but for me this is as much a story about officers who escalate violence far too quickly as it is about other relevant issues, such as racism.

Writing about Michael Brown, the man killed in Ferguson, a letter writer to the Wall Street Journal noted: “It is unacceptable that Officer Darren Wilson had access to a Taser and intentionally didn’t carry it. We will never know whether a Taser would have de-escalated the encounter between Officer Wilson and Michael Brown, and prevented Mr. Brown’s death.”

What should be something from Kindergarten Cop 101 has gotten lost in many cases: Police should do everything they can to avoid violence in the first place. Then, if a peaceful resolution isn’t possible, force should be escalated gradually. That did not appear to be what happened in Brown’s case. And Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy shot to death two seconds after a rookie officer got out of his police car, didn’t appear to have a chance to cooperate or surrender. Akai Gurley, 28, was killed by a bullet fired by a nervous NYPD officer who heard a noise in the dark stairwell of a housing project.

You can’t blame police officers for being scared when they confront possible suspects. But it’s fair to expect proportionality based on, first of all, the alleged offense. It’s hard to tell from the video in the L.A. case, but there is reason to suspect that this incident moved from confrontation to physical engagement way too quickly. Then there’s the proportionality of physical force: You’ve got four armed officers taking on an unarmed man. Frankly, if they don’t have what it takes to keep the guy down, they need to go back to the police academy.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: The MonkeyParking app could turn us into monsters

Originally published at The Los Angeles Times:

Monkey Parking

 

 

San Francisco kicked them out of Baghdad by the Bay. Now the controversial app MonkeyParking may face a similar fate in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
Got a good parking space? You could sell it with the MonkeyParking app

Bay Area TV station KRON explains how the app works: “If you launch the free MonkeyParking app on your phone and click request a spot, monkey faces pop up. Those are street parking spots near you that other MonkeyParking app users currently have their car parked in but they are willing to sell. You can offer them $5, $10, $15 or $20 for that spot. If they accept, the two of you switch out your cars in the parking spot.”

Not since Los Angeles and other cities announced that they would install sensors in on-street parking spaces that would reset the meter to zero when a car pulls out — depriving the next motorist of the occasional extra few minutes left, and transferring the “extra” cash into city coffers — has a parking story made my blood boil more.

Some members of L.A. City Council seem to agree with me.

They’ve proposed a ban on MonkeyParking and similar apps.

As The Times reported last week, “Councilman Mike Bonin, who asked for the legislation, likened [the MonkeyParking app] to ‘pimping out public parking spots.’

“‘This is not the sharing economy, it’s the stealing economy,’ Bonin said. ‘They are taking a public asset and effectively privatizing it.’”

To paraphrase Elvis Costello, I can’t decide whether to be disgusted or amused. On one level, you have to admire the ingenuity of people who figure out a way to use technology to further separate society into haves and have-nots in order to skim a profit. They sure are smart. Like a mad scientist.

On the other hand, there are certain things that, if you come up with them, you should decide not to invent. Atomic bombs. New forms of torture. How to monetize public space for private gain.

As far as I can tell, no one has brought this up yet, but I foresee a public safety threat if this app is allowed to proliferate. I’m a gentle, nonviolent guy, but even I couldn’t guarantee my reaction if I pulled up to a parking space where a dude is sitting in an idling car, clearly ready to leave but refusing to go until his $20 parking app appointment shows up and swoops in ahead of me.

This is especially true if he tries to explain it.

Me: “Who’s this guy? I’ve been waiting for your space.”

Idling driver: “This is part of the new ‘sharing economy.’ Like Airbnb and Lyft. This guy either needed the space more than you or is able to afford it more than you, because he was willing to pay $20 for it. I’m very sorry you’re going to miss your job interview or your pitch meeting or your audition or your last chance to visit your dying mother. Life is tough, but $20 is $20.”

But this is a big world and a big city, and there are lots of people who just had a very bad day. Some of them are big and some of them have guns. This can’t be a good idea.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: The Los Angeles Billboard Wars Continue

Billboards of the Future

Originally published by The Los Angeles Times:

Constitutionally-protected free speech essential to commerce? Hyper commercialistic eyesores and driving distractions? The Los Angeles billboard wars continue.
After digital billboards, what comes next?

For a hot second it looked as though Los Angeles’ ban on digital billboards – essentially giant televisions mounted on top and on the sides of buildings – had settled the matter. But a superior court judge struck down the ban as a violation of free speech under the state Constitution in October, kicking the issue back to the City Council. That rarely bodes well for a coherent solution anytime soon.

That said, there are a number of remedies to what critics describe as a blight of giant moving images reminiscent of the dystopian film “Blade Runner,” which incidentally was set in an L.A. that seemed to have crashed into Hong Kong during endless rain.

Among the possible solutions now being considered by council members are “sign districts,” outside of which digital billboards would be prohibited. However, the idea that seems to have the most traction at this point is to allow a certain square footage of new digital billboards in exchange for the removal of an equivalent, or greater, area of traditional static ones.

David Zahniser reports in The Times: “Clear Channel Outdoor said it favors a takedown formula that allows for new digital billboards. But it has been resisting the effort to scale back the locations where billboards could be permitted. If city officials are interested in eliminating a significant number of older billboards, said company spokeswoman Fiona Hutton, they will need to offer more potential sites for new digital signs.”

No one seems to be proposing an outright ban.

Since nothing in life is certain but death, taxes and advertising in increasingly – and annoyingly – previously off-limits public spaces, the future of digital billboards seems assured in Los Angeles. The only question is, how many will there be and how many of the old-fashioned ones will get taken down.

As a cartoonist who likes to consider possible future ramifications for public policy, I can’t help wonder about what comes next. America’s best minds don’t go into the arts or politics; they work for transnational corporations that hire other great minds on Madison Avenue to figure out how to sell us stuff that we didn’t even know existed, much less needed. Sooner rather than later, therefore, today’s wild and crazy digital billboards will become part of the scenery. Pedestrians, if they still exist, and motorists will learn to ignore them.
After digital billboards, what comes next?

There will have to be something new, and that something probably will include holographic projections that tower over the skyline. Ideally – in their thinking — companies would be able to transmit signals directly into our brains suggesting that we purchase their products. And when that happens, we will go through this process again, taking down ineffectual old digital billboards while issuing the right to fill the skies and clutter our minds.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Dianne Feinstein’s Would-Be Successors Gear Up for 2018

Bye Bye Dianne

 

Many Californians, and not just Republicans, would like to see fresh faces representing the state in the United States Senate. At ages 81 and 73 respectively, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are not only some of the most senior senior citizens holding representative office in Washington, they appear somewhat incongruous given California’s culture of youth worship.

Boxer’s current term expires in 2016 and Feinstein in 2018. Polls that show Californians interested in replacing them with someone else may not mean much – after all, in many cases that would mean convincing lifelong Democrats to vote Republican – but the possibility that one or both groundbreaking women legislators might retire an array of boldface state political figures eyeing the possibility of a run in two to four years.

The Times’ Cathleen Decker reports:

By the middle of October, according to the last full report available, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom had spent more than $544,000 on his campaign and had almost $3 million in the bank. And he was sending out none-too-subtle fundraising appeals with lines such as: “For us, it’s all about the day after Election Day, the day after that, and all the days ahead when we’ll make big decisions about California’s future.” Since the lieutenant governorship is a vast, responsibility-less black hole, those big decisions presumably center on Newsom’s future.

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, meanwhile, had spent more than $2.2 million by mid-October, with almost $2.4 million in the bank. And she was blanketing the state with let-me-introduce-myself ads noting that she “aggressively prosecuted predators who victimize the vulnerable … cracked down on sex trafficking of women and children … took on the transnational gangs … prosecuted sexual assaults and enforced laws requiring equal pay for equal work.” No pushover, in other words.

Although I am in part persuaded by the seniority and experience argument in favor of returning Boxer and Feinstein to Washington – their tenure has earned them positions on key committees that allow them to leverage more power to the Golden State – I tilt more toward the belief that the term “career politician” ought to be considered an oxymoron, and the public service are not to be a career, but rather a chance to briefly give back to society before resuming private life.

Power has a tendency to become so entrenched that it is often hard for people who hold it to relate to the concerns of ordinary people – i.e. their constituents. In Feinstein’s case, for example, it was telling that after years of running interference for the national security agency and its massive infrastructure of illegal surveillance against the American people revealed by Edward Snowden – as chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, which is actually charged with policing the NSA, not justifying its actions – Feinstein only took issue with spooks when they tapped into her own investigative committee’s computers. Plainly she had spent too much time with people like director of national intelligence James Clapper, who famously lied under oath by saying that the NSA didn’t “wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans, to keep her ear to the ground.

I don’t think that the two senators are too old to serve effectively. I think they’ve been in office too long to serve us. Retiring soon in order to open up the field to a younger generation of public servants would be a classy move.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Roommates from Hell

Roommates

 

Southern California has always had one of the priciest real estate markets in the United States, but in recent years the gap between what people can afford to pay for rent or mortgage and median housing prices has opened to a gaping chasm.

Tim Logan of the Times reports about new data that reflects just how bad things have gotten for most Southlanders:

            Nearly half of all working-age adults in Los Angeles and Orange counties live in a home with another adult who is not their spouse — a higher percentage than any other big city in the country, according a new report by real estate website Zillow. In second place: the Inland Empire.

Economists at Zillow crunched U.S. census numbers and found that 47.9% of adults in metro L.A. lived in “doubled-up” households in 2012, a number that has grown rapidly — up from 41.2% in 2000 — as the recession and yo-yo-ing housing market have pushed more people to share apartments.

“You’ve got a lot of households that are blending together,” said Zillow economist Skylar Olsen. “They’re doing that to make housing more affordable.”

That’s especially true in Southern California, where relatively high costs and relatively low wages combine to create what is, by some measures, the least affordable housing market in the country, especially for renters.

One has to wonder: how is this sustainable? Although there’s been some improvement in the economy, unemployment, especially long-term, remains stubbornly high. Wages remain stagnant. You can’t squeeze blood out of a stone. Won’t people just move away to somewhere more affordable?

Maybe eventually. For the time being, the pull of family ties, whatever work they currently hasveand just plain inertia is keeping hundreds of thousands of people stuck in houses and apartments that they can’t really afford. Until things turn around, maybe, someday, who knows when, they are doubling up and tripling up with friends, lovers and random people they find on Craigslist. As someone who has from time to time been forced to participate in the so-called “sharing economy” to make ends meet, I have nothing but sympathy for this situation.

Having a roommate you don’t want, simply for economic reasons, violates your privacy and sense of personal calm at least as much as secret government surveillance programs that intercept your email. This goes double if, like me, you are an introvert.

For this week’s cartoon, however, I do appreciate the fact that this predicament makes for a fun sight gag. If I had the ability to add sound here, imagine all the characters either snoring or growling ominously like zombies.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: Drought Goes On, California Goes On Too

Happy Hour

 

Some “deep green” environmentalists believe that the tab for two-plus centuries of industrialization is about to come due in the form of a catastrophic ecological disaster — one that might lead to the great sixth mass extinction on a scale similar to the meteor believed to have taken out the dinosaurs. (Yes, that means you, human reader.)

Here in California, the current drought — which some scientists believe may be the worst in 500 years — understandably leaves many Golden State residents, always aware of water restrictions in a region surrounded by deserts, with a sense of disquiet. What if this goes on? Will the California Dream turn to dust and blow away?

Apparently not. Like the Earth in general, California’s climate is surprisingly resilient, according to recent computer models.

State climate researchers ran a projection of what would happen after “even decades of unrelenting mega-drought similar to those that dried out the state in past millennia,” reports Bettina Boxall of the Times.

“The results were surprising,” Jay Lund of UC Davis told her.

If you own stock in the ag business, you might want to consider unloading them. Agriculture, the climatologists found, would be hit hard. “In their computer simulation, annual runoff into rivers and reservoirs amounted to only about half the historical average. Most reservoirs never filled. Under that scenario, experts say, irrigated farm acreage would plunge…The state’s 8 million acres of irrigated cropland could fall by as much as half, predicted Daniel Sumner, director of the University of California Agricultural Issues Center. Farmers would largely abandon relatively low-value crops such as cotton and alfalfa and use their reduced water supplies to keep growing the most profitable fruits, nuts and vegetables. They would let fields revert to scrub or dry-farm them with wheat and other crops that predominated before California’s massive federal irrigation project transformed the face of the Central Valley in the mid-20th century.”

Biodiversity would suffer too. “Aquatic ecosystems would suffer, with some struggling salmon runs fading out of existence.”

Water prices will rise. Desalination plants will be built along the coast. While initially painful, the agrishock would only affect 4% of the state’s economy — notable, but not fatal.

Bottom line: “The California economy would not collapse. The state would not shrivel into a giant, abandoned dust bowl. Agriculture would shrink but by no means disappear.”

Paradoxically, this good news (or not-that-bad news, anyway) is bad news.

Political and economic leaders tend to ignore problems before they turn into a crisis — especially when heading off the issue would cost money. The news that California’s drought probably won’t lead to ruin within their lifetimes, or our children’s lifetimes, ensures that they’ll keep ignoring environmental destruction. Species will keep going extinct. Flocks of birds will continue to thin out. Invasive species will accelerate the process. These things may not sink the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but they really really really suck.

This is one of those rare times when I wish — almost — that the scientists had lied about what they discovered.

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LOS ANGELES TIMES CARTOON: iDeasy

iDeasy

It sounded like a great idea at the time: L.A. would give students a boost into the 21st century by putting tech directly into their hands. The city’s United School District would buy 700,000 iPads from Apple, each loaded with educational software supplied by Pearson, the major textbook publisher.

“In June 2013, the [Los Angeles] Board of Education approved a deal with the Apple/Pearson team after senior staff assured members that its proposal was both the least expensive and highest in quality, Pearson provided curriculum; Apple was to supply iPads,” Howard Blume writes in the Times.

Apple’s sleek tablets appeared in 47 Los Angeles public schools during the 2013-14 academic year. Right out of the gate, however, it became clear that there were problems with the $1 billion contract. At a time of drastic budget cuts and brutal teacher layoffs, Apple charged L.A. more per device than other districts had paid. Pearson’s software was glitchy and incomplete. Schools weren’t set up to deal with security concerns — protecting the hardware, and blocking students from viewing inappropriate Internet content proved difficult. The district bought iPads at full cost even though their model was about to be replaced by a newer version. “Students at three campuses, for example, deleted security filters so they could browse the Internet — prompting officials to prohibit the use of the devices outside school. At times, officials also provided conflicting or incorrect answers about the project to a technology committee headed by school board member Monica Ratliff.”

When government bureaucracies wind up paying too much money to private contractors for goods and services that fall short — especially when the deal gets cut quickly — it’s reasonable to wonder whether the bidding process was open and transparent. Based on a series of emails disclosed at the request of the Times under the California Public Records Act, communications between L.A. schools superintendent and executives at Pearson and Apple, and the complaints of rivals who tried to land the district’s business, appear to indicate that an arm’s-length approach gave way to a level of institutional coziness that verges on outright political corruption.

“It looked like Apple was positioned to be the choice,” Chiara Tellini of Irvine-based Mind Research Institute, groused to Blume.

From Blume’s report:

In one email, from May 24, 2012, then-Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino seems to strategize with higher-ups from Pearson, an international education-services company, on how to ensure that it got the job.

“I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one,” wrote Aquino, who was an executive with a Pearson affiliate before joining L.A. Unified.

Deasy was one of the last to participate in that email exchange and made his comments after Aquino’s, which covered several topics.

“Understand your points and we need to work together on this quickly,” Deasy wrote. “I want to not loose [sic] an amazing opportunity and fully recognize our current limits.”

Charming.

(More from Blume: “On Sunday, Deasy said that the conversations were only about a ‘pilot program we did at several schools months before we decided to do a large-scale implementation. We did work closely on this pilot.'”)

Under fire and possibly facing an ethics probe, L.A. Unified has suspended the Apple/Pearson deal.

“You should make every bidder think they have a slim chance of getting the job,” Stuart Magruder, a school bond oversight committee member who questioned the deal at the time and got fired over it only to be later reinstated, told Times columnist Steve Lopez. Deasy “didn’t do that.” Lopez is not alone in wondering aloud whether Deasy’s days at L.A. Unified are numbered.

If not, they ought to be. In politics as in business, there’s little effective difference between the appearance of impropriety and outright corruption. Taxpayers have the right not to have to wonder whether their money is being safeguarded — and students have the right not to know they’re being shortchanged by a regime heavy on high tech and low on actual teaching.

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