Tag Archives: gangs

I Am A Gang Member

I am a gang member. In my neighborhood it seems everyone is. I can’t remember when I wasn’t in a gang. I’m not bragging or anything; that’s just the way it is in my neighborhood.

My gang controls a certain territory. I don’t know how it came to be our territory; I think we sort of conquered it. Gang wars do happen. Like if another gang challenges us in our territory, or if we need to sell more stuff or need something else in another gang’s territory, or if one of our members is attacked or killed. Usually we have no choice.

Fortunately, we seem to be the best armed gang in the neighborhood. Usually that’s enough, but not always. Sometimes other gangs get so fed up with us that our superiority in weapons turns out to be a hindrance. So it goes. We lose gang wars occasionally, but our overall dominance usually remains. That’s what counts.

The decision to go to war is made by our gang leaders. Even if we disagree with the decision, gang loyalty prevails. That loyalty is crucial to the survival of our gang.

Most of what you’ve heard about gangs is actually true. Like we do have gang colors. They mark our territory but also help create a sense of pride among our members. Also, there seems to be an agreement between the gangs that no one uses the same colors. It works pretty well.

Disloyalty is not tolerated. Sometimes just raising questions can lead to harsh treatment. Sounds tough, but it’s necessary. It’s usually the gangs that are tight that dominate the neighborhood.

And it’s almost impossible to leave the gang. I don’t know anyone who got out who wasn’t forced by circumstances to join another gang. That’s life in the neighborhood.

The only thing most people have wrong about gangs is the terminology. Even though we sometimes use the phrase “presentation of colors,” our gang colors are called “flags.” Gang loyalty we call “patriotism.” Gang membership is “citizenship.” My neighborhood? Planet Earth. My gang? The United States of America.

CA-32: Cedillo Jumps The Shark On LA Radio

This Gil Cedillo is really a miserable little person.  Over at Nuestra Voice you can hear him with LA radio DJ Mario Solis Marich answering questions about that ridiculous attack mailer on Emanuel Pleitez using Facebook photos to build a narrative of Pleitez as a scary drunken gang-lover who parties with white women.  In the transcript, you’ll notice Cedillo’s immediate reaction to bringing up Pleitez’ name:

SOLIS MARICH: There was some controversy over the past 2 weeks when your campaign decided to do a negative attack piece on newcomer Emanuel Pleitez. Many people who observe campaigns including myself took that as a sign that the young candidate was really eating into your base.

CEDILLO: Well, one we’re not sure we’d call it negative unless he calls it negative, the fact that he posted these photos on his Facebook.

Two, we recognize what his roll is in this campaign, to suppress the vote and to try to take away votes and we think the electorate has the right to know all the information, information that he’s made public, about the candidates. We put the record out there and let people decide if they want to elect someone who has 25 years of effective leadership or if they want to elect somebody who they may not have full confidence in.

So in other words, anyone who participates in a campaign to try and get elected is automatically “suppressing votes,” presumably votes from Gil Cedillo.  The backstory here is that Parke Skelton, Judy Chu’s campaign manager, and Eric Hacopian, Pleitez’ top strategist, have worked together on other campaigns, which is to be expected from two Democratic consultants in LA.  Off of that thin reed Cedillo spins a wide-ranging conspiracy theory that Emanuel Pleitez swooped into the race to suppress votes from the naturally chosen “one” candidate who is supposed to win the seat.  Now, if you were of a conspiratorial nature, you could say the exact same thing about Betty Tom Chu, the Republican Monterey Park City Councilwoman who entered the race late and will undoubtedly cause some ballot confusion given the closeness of names between her and Judy Chu.  But it’s this sense of entitlement on the part of Cedillo, this idea that he deserves that Congressional seat and no Hispanic should dare “suppress the vote” by, you know, running against him, that stands out here.  This is typical sleazeball identity politics, the idea that any Hispanic must vote for a Hispanic, and multiple Hispanics in the field dilute the strength of the vote, and they should line up and wait their turn behind the self-anointed savior.

Now, here’s the rest of the interview, where Cedillo becomes increasingly ridiculous:

SOLIS MARICH: So, you don’t think that using pictures of a person at a party where they were basically doing what many people of all different ages do, enjoying themselves…

CEDILLO: Dancing on tables and using gang signs that he published on his Facebook, we think, first of all, one, we do not romanticize gangs or gang violence. He and I grew up in the same neighborhood…

SOLIS MARICH: Senator, let me just correct something, before you go down that path, maybe your staff hasn’t told you but he was actually…the quote unqute gang signs…he was actually at a Voto Latino event…

CEDILLO: I know where he was, I know where he was.

SOLIS MARICH: …and he was standing next to a very very respected actress and Latina activist Rosario Dawson who was actually with him making the same signs. So, are you accusing Rosario Dawson of using gang signs?

CEDILLO: I’m saying that that’s inappropriate, I find it inappropriate…

SOLIS MARICH: For both him and Rosario Dawson?

CEDILLO: Yes.  I find it inappropriate, I find it offensive. I don’t romanticize that one bit…

Solis Marich doesn’t get it out, but the “gang sign” made by Pleitez and Dawson stands for Voto Latino.  According to Cedillo, any hand gesture made in a photograph automatically romanticizes gangs.  I’ll bet he doesn’t bring a sign language interpreter along for his speeches!

The dreaded dialogue continues:

SOLIS MARICH: So do you think Voto Latino should apologize?

CEDILLO: No. No, I support Voto Latino, I’ve raised money for them, I know their executive director, I know their executive director is not pleased with this or with Emanuel, but as I said, I don’t romanticize that, I don’t think people who know this experience do and I think that’s for voters to decide.

SOLIS MARICH: So, you don’t think it was inappropriate, Senator Cedillo, to use that photo but not also tell people that while he was doing that that’s Rosario Dawson, and he’s not at a gang event, he’s actually at an event designed to encourage young Latino voters.

CEDILLO: No. No I don’t.

SOLIS MARICH: So you stand behind that mailer 100%?

CEDILLO: Yeah, no, absolutely. Let me be really clear, OK? I do not romanticize gang activity…

SOLIS MARICH: Are you accusing him of being in a gang?

CEDILLO: No. Let me tell you, I don’t romanticize gang activity, I don’t understand this fetish, or romanticizing or promoting that type of activity or emulating it in any circumstance or any environment, period.

SOLIS MARICH: So before we move on, just one final question, so you believe Rosario Dawson and Emanuel Pleitez were romanticizing gang activity at an event that was designed to encourage Latino voters?

CEDILLO: I believe that conduct does that, yes.

You hear that, Voto Latino?  Your efforts to register 35,000 voters in battleground states and produce videos that 5 million Americans watched during the campaign are USELESS when compared to the hand gesture you make signifying your organization, which kills children in drive-by shootings.

Calitics had the right idea when they suggested that CA-32 voters elect anyone but Gil Cedillo to replace Hilda Solis.  He makes that decision easier and easier with each passing day.

Crips And Bloods: The Manifestation of Failed Prison Policy

The Stacy Peralta-directed documentary Crips And Bloods: Made In America looks at the history of gangs in South Los Angeles over the last 50 years, and the violent civil war on the streets that has raged for the past 30, killing as many as 15,000 residents, three times as many as in the Unionist/Catholic war in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 80s.  Anywhere else in the world, UN peace negotiators would be brought in and Security Council resolutions passed to stop the violence.  In South Central, the battles continue, and children growing up among the chaos, according to a recent RAND Corporation study, have higher rates of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) than children growing up in Baghdad.

One of the more amazing things about the documentary is that, despite unparalleled access to the gang-bangers surviving on the streets over the past 30 years, there is precious little about the actual feud between the Crips and Bloods.  Most of the history of why they fight and why they kill has been lost in the minds of the young leaders on both sides who suffered an early death.  Crips and Bloods shoot and get shot largely because they are supposed to oppose one another.  Wearing the wrong colors in the wrong neighborhood is a death sentence, but it’s unclear why.  At one point, one of the original gang leaders, Masuka, says that “one of the ways the oppressor state functions is by turning the subjects against one another.”

The story traces gang culture from the earliest days, through the Watts riots of 1965, the Black Power movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the rise of the Crips and Bloods, as South Los Angeles fell into a self-perpetuating cycle of decay and despair.  After the major factory jobs left in the early 1960s, residents were without opportunity and without hope.  Crack cocaine and other drugs eventually became the only economic salvation.  And it led to violence and warfare in the streets.

The most revealing sequence in the film comes when every current gang member is asked about their childhood, and they all – to a man – respond that they were products of a broken home, without fathers, with the family members who raised them selling drugs out of the house, caught at an early age without positive role models or figures to enable their own empowerment.  Those living in South LA with strong family units had mothers and fathers who kept them off the streets and away from the gangs.  Those without had little hope.  And this is a very direct consequence of an insane prison policy that locks up nonviolent offenders, particularly in the black community, at absurdly high rates.  One out of every four black men will be imprisoned at some point in his life, and particularly in California, the inability of the system to handle all the warehousing of inmates leads to a lack of rehabilitation and an expanded recidivism rate.  In fact, the explosion of gang activity inside the prisons ensures an increase outside the jail.  This revolving door in and out of prison rips apart families and leads to a sustained cycle of gang activity and violence.  The “war on drugs” is unquestionably a war on people of color and the lower classes.

That is the faillure we are talking about when we look at California prison policy, a failure that will now lead to mass release in the absence of leadership in Sacramento.  Policymakers would rather lock away the problem instead of facing the terrible blight in the black community.  Indeed, they have locked up these people inside AND outside of prison, confining them to the few miles in South Central that is their turf; there are stories in the film of young gang members who have spent their entire lives in a 10-block radius.  The border between South Central and suburbs like Lynwood and South Gate has been a virtual pen for black youth for 50 years, with anyone crossing the border risking a beating or even their lives.  We built communities that are prisons, through restrictive housing covenants and police directives to “maintain order”.  This is what created gang life, out of mutual protection from whites.  And what now sustains it is not only the locking up of parents from sons and daughters, not only the locking up of blacks inside ghettos and away from opportunity, but the locking up of minds, the locking in of self-loathing and the snuffing out of the flame of hope.

While South LA is now as Latino as it is black, the difficulties for residents and the ravages of gang life remain.  While violent crime has decreased since 1992 it remains unspeakably high.  As we look at prison policy in California, and in particular the efforts by elites in Sacramento to block any meaningful reform, despite bending over backwards from federal receivers to work out agreements that allow for inmates to retain their Constitutional rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, we need to think about the Crips and the Bloods, about why they persist, about why they fight, and about why we made them.

The Most Important Office You May Know Nothing About

Yesterday I spent some time at an often contentious debate in the race for the 2nd District of the LA County Board of Supervisors.  The two most high-profile candidates for the seat, State Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas and former LAPD Chief and current City Councilman Bernard Parks, squared off in a pretty lively debate which featured a lot of sniping and criticism.

Why the heated exchanges in a county Board of Supervisors race?  Why is a state Senator and a very highly recognized City Councilman running in this race?  Why is Sheila Kuehl planning to run for the Board of Supes when Zev Yaroslavsky’s term is up in the near future?

Because these are unbelievably powerful positions.

Los Angeles County has 10.3 million residents, over a quarter of the whole state.  The county covers 88 cities and multiple unincorporated areas.  Ridiculously enough, there are only five seats on the county Board, meaning that each Supervisor represents over two MILLION people, more than 15 states and the District of Columbia.  I have to assume that these are the biggest districts in terms of population anywhere in the country.  Right now, seats on the board are held by Gloria Molina, Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Zev Yaroslavsky, Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich.  LA County is immense and rich in diversity, the most in the nation according to the last US Census.  Burke, Knabe and Antonovich’s seats are up for re-election this year, but a sitting Supervisor actually getting challenged in a race is a rare event indeed.  Before term limits (now 3 terms or 12 years), the seat was practically a lifetime position.  The winner of the Parks/Ridley-Thomas race in the 2nd District will yield only the third Supervisor to hold that seat since 1952.

Given all this, what exactly does the Board of Supervisors do?  Well, the Board is the largest public employer in the state of California, serving 102,000 employees, including control of the pension funds.  They also provide services for the entire county, managing county lockups, county hospitals and a host of social services.  It’s a mammoth job and I can’t for the life of me imagine why it still contains only a 5-member board other than the fact that it increases incumbency protection.  When these seats are contested, the dollar sums are outrageous.  Parks and Ridley-Thomas raised well over six figures in the first quarter of 2008, and labor is spending immense amounts in favor of the state Senator.

Using a political tool that sidesteps campaign financing limits, Los Angeles labor unions have raised an unprecedented $2.5 million to elect state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas to the county Board of Supervisors.

Before voters head to the polls in June, union officials say they will add an additional $1.5 million to the “independent expenditure committee” pot.

“It is a tribute to my colleagues and brothers and sisters in labor,” said Tyrone Freeman, the head of Service Employees International Union Local 6434, one of the contributors to the Alliance for a Stronger Community.

Obviously, an office with such sway over public employees and county service contracts will catch the eye of labor, and they’ve gone almost all in for Mark Ridley-Thomas.  Councilman Parks voted against creating a living wage zone around LAX-area hotels, and has a history of pro-business policies on the City Council.  In yesterday’s debate, he sidestepped the question by saying that the zone shouldn’t be confined to the LAX area, while Ridley-Thomas said outright that “a lving wage law is a tool to fight poverty” and any effort to extend it ought to be taken.

It’s a very interesting race.  Parks has the higher profile and the support of a lot of local leaders, including Yvonne Burke, who has held the seat for 16 years.  Ridley-Thomas has the support of the entire Democratic caucus of the State Senate (every single one of them is down on his endorsement list) and much of the Assembly.  Parks has Maxine Waters’ support, and Ridley-Thomas has Diane Watson’s (she ran against Burke for the seat 16 years ago and lost).  The district includes Mar Vista and Culver City all the way down to South LA and Watts, the majority of residents in the district actually have Spanish surnames, yet this is a major contest in the African-American political community.

And these two appear to really, really not like each other.  The first question in the debate was about gang violence and gang activity, and while Parks stressed youth development and afterschool programs, Ridley-Thomas slyly noted that “some would say that the Los Angeles Police Department acted as a gang during Rampart” (a reference to a major scandal that happened under Parks’ watch as police chief).  It went pretty much downhill from there, with Parks claiming that Ridley-Thomas applauded the closure of King-Drew Medical Center and made sweetheart deals with developers as a City Councilman; with Ridley-Thomas hitting Parks on all sorts of issues (health care, environment, labor) and saying “He will know what leadership looks like when it’s working,” and on and on.  There are differences between the candidates, particularly on issues like the living wage ordinance, but both are stressing economic development for their depressed district, investments in education and health care access, transportation issues (even congestion pricing).

The fierceness of the contest reflects the importance of the race, and the fact that they’re running for what amounts to a 12-year term.  It may not be a sexy seat for progressives to pay attention to, but it has an incredible amount of importance.

A time to remember

Its time for the annual march on Fort Benning, and great strides have been made by SOAW.  Two hundred three congressmen voted to stop funding to the School of Assassins, a fifth country announced its military will discontinue involvement with the school, and congress voted to release the names of the 2005 and 2006 graduating class. But this progress may be deceiving.  The last year’s Foreign Operations bill included $16.2 million to fund International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs).  These facilities including ILEA-South in El Salvador which was established to deal with the prolific gang violence and instability in Central America.  Unfortunately, reports about human rights violations from authorities continue to come from El Salvador.

International Gangs

Gang violence and social instability in El Salvador and other Latin American countries are products of our actions and influences.  Guadalupe Chavez and Tiel Rainelli, along with the good people on staff at Presente!,  provide an incriminating article connecting the actions of mercenaries, paid for by our representative and trained by our military, to the violence in Latin American and the resulting emergence of international gangs

“During the 1980’s, under the false logic of the Cold War, the United States provided direct military aid and School of the Americas training for the Salvadoran army that was systematically violating human rights in El Salvador. U.S. military aid, training, and on-the-ground advisors provided the government of El Salvador with the resources and know-how to terrorize the civilian population.
The war left over 70,000 dead and not a single soul untouched. Over two million people fled El Salvador with a great majority of them immigrating into the United States. Los Angeles became a refuge for many Salvadoran families…

…The War on Gangs gradually began to take shape in the mid 1990’s after a 1996 immigration law in the U.S. facilitated the deportation of undocumented people serving more than two years in U.S. detention facilities. From 1996 to 2003, the United States deported 70,000 people to El Salvador.” Those deported were not well received once they arrived in El Salvador, instead they were stigmatized and marginalized for their cultural differences and kept out of yet another system of employment, and education. In response to the deportations and the import of the gang culture from the United States to El Salvador, the Salvadorian government implemented “localized anti-gang measures and [formed] death squads that emerged to kill youth thought to be gang members.”

The Broader Picture

The story of El Salvador is one of many that connects the struggles in our own communities with those in Latin America.  Developing countries have the resources and ability to create prosperous, democratic, and even capitalist societies.  But if they try to become independent of our interest and our corporations cannot exploit their resources we, intervene like in Chile and Venezuela among others.  And a plug for our economic hit men

On the Domestic Front

The threat of political violence may be just as real here at home.  Our government hosts a list of the usual suspect left over from the Iran/Contra scandal like current Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, head of the Information Awareness Office Adm. John Poindexter and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams.  They instigated the ‘Salvadoran option’ in Iraq and now oversee security in the US.  Besides the ILEA facilities overseas we are expending Blackwater training facilities here in Southern California .  Isn’t it nice to know, just in case some disaster happens, real or perceived (say an earthquake or rise in gang violence), that we have an apparatus of private mercenaries, who operate with impunity, ready to profit off the suffering of other.  Additionally, more social unrest will only feed our prison industrial complex which act as gangland finishing school.

Positive Alternatives

While there must be an exponential return on investment from the $16M we spend on our School of Assassins, that money might serve better going to other programs.  Here in Los Angeles, the city is busy implementing the advancement project, a comprehensive report by Constance Rice and others geared toward prevention of inner city violence, prison reform, and community development. Churches in 50 cities across the US have joined the   new sanctuary movement. Homies Unidos has gang prevention programs set up in the US and El Salvador.  Homeboy Industries has opened its new facilities in downtown LA.  Jeff Car, founder of the Bresee foundation and ex-COO of Sojourners has been appointed Gang Czar by Mayor Villaraigosa.  We might also look at the success of gang intervention programs in other countries like the Alcatraz Project in Venezuela.

Tough On Crime? Not So Much.

I was rendered almost ill by John Edwards’ stance in the debate against the decriminalization of marijuana because “it would send the wrong signal to young people.”  Chris Dodd made a strong response that cut to the heart of our failed prison policy.

DODD: Can I respond, I mean just why I think it ought to be? We’re locking up too many people in our system here today. We’ve got mandatory minimum sentences that are filling our jails with people who don’t belong there. My idea is to decriminalize this, reduce that problem here. We’ve gone from 800,000 to 2 million people in our penal institutions in this country. We’ve go to get a lot smarter about this issue than we are, and as president, I’d try and achieve that.

This, of course, is most acute in California, where we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop on a federal court order that could potentially force the release of thousands of prisoners due to overcrowding.  State Sen. Gloria Romero held her ground and didn’t allow the usual spate of tougher sentencing bills to pass the Legislature this year.  So once again, George and Sharon Runner will go to the ballot with a punitive measure designed to make themselves look tough while further battering a crippled prison system.

A year after bringing to California Jessica’s Law, the crackdown on sex offenders, the husband-and-wife team of state Sen. George Runner and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner announced Monday a new initiative that would target gang members for tougher prosecution and dedicate nearly $1 billion annually to enforcement and intervention.

The Republican legislators from Lancaster hope to collect enough signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2008 ballot, and they have the backing of the father of the state’s three-strikes law as well as law enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

The Legislature has already rejected this bill, and it would again constrain the state budget with another walled-off mandate while doing nothing to address the major crisis in overcrowding.  It’s feel-good nonsense for “tough-on-crime” advocates.

By the way, let’s see how the last initiative the Runners promoted, Jessica’s Law, is working out:

Hundreds of California sex offenders who face tough new restrictions on where they can live are declaring themselves homeless, making it difficult for the state to track them.

Jessica’s Law, approved by 70 percent of California voters a year ago, bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children gather. That leaves few places where offenders can live legally.

Some who have had trouble finding a place to live are avoiding re-arrest by reporting that they are homeless – falsely, in some cases.

Experts say it is hard to monitor sex offenders when they lie about their address or are living day-to-day in cheap hotels, homeless shelters or on the street. It also means they may not be getting the treatment they need.

“We could potentially be making the world more dangerous rather than less dangerous,” said therapist Gerry Blasingame, past chairman of the California Coalition on Sexual Offending.

I agree with all of that except the word “potentially.”  We felt good about “getting tough” on sex offenders, and now we have them living under bridges and untrackable.  How do you think “getting tough” on gang violence is going to work out?

Irvine’s Crime Prevention Programs and the Crime Rate

(OK, fixed! : ) – promoted by atdleft)

Today, the FBI confirmed what CA AG Jerry Brown said in May, Irvine is one safe city. In fact, it’s the safest in the nation:

For the third year running, Irvine tops all large cities in the nation with the lowest incidence of violent crime after posting a nearly 17 percent drop in 2006, according to a report by the FBI. Reported violent crimes for the city – which include homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault – fell from a total of 151 in 2005 to 126 in 2006, for a rate of 67 per 100,000 in the preliminary posting of the 2006 FBI Annual Uniform Crime Report. (OC Reg 6/5/07)

Last time, I talked about the importance of parks and recreation.  And of course, economic factors surely weigh into the amount of crime. Given that Irvine has a pretty high per capita income, it’s not surprising to see a low rate of crime. But Irvine actually does better than similarly sized cities with higher per capita income. Take that Sunnyvale! (Ok…Sunnyvale is #2 on the AG safe city list, but that’s one slot below #1).

But something else is also at play here, that is the role of the city’s various crime prevention programs. Irvine has implemented geographic policing, neighborhood watch programs, and Internet reporting.  Follow me over the flip for more..

So for a city of about 200,000 people, how the heck does Irvine stay so safe? Well, how about the Police Department’s various programs. One such program is geographic policing.  This program gets beat officers out from behind desks and in the community, where they are visible. Irvine’s neighborhood alert has also been effective. Knowing your neighbors helps reduce crime and creates a more livable city. Or is it the WatchMail program? Can the internet actually be used as a tool to reduce crime in the community? Whatever they are doing, the Crime Prevention Unit of the Irvine Police Department is proving to be quite effective.

And clearly, it seems like Irvine has enough patrol officers to cover the entire community. And perhaps now that the Irvine Police Department now does “geographic policing”, officers really are connecting more with the community. And maybe, their Crime Analysis Unit is having some effect. Perhaps by finding out what had gone wrong, they can then work with the community to make things right. Whatever is happening, the Irvine Police Department must be doing something right.

And clearly Irvine’s Progressive Mayor and Police Chief know how tough it can be to keep such a big city so safe. Yet for the last three years, they have been remarkably successful in leading the way not just for Orange County, and not just California, but for the entire nation. From The OC Register:

“When you are the safest city in America, you have to work especially hard to maintain that position,” Irvine Mayor Beth Krom said. “This is a source of pride for the entire community.” […]

“Getting to know the people who live and work in these areas helps them to be able to identify the problems in these areas and any impacts on the quality of life,” said Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard.

And how has Irvine been able to avoid what the other major cities in Orange County are suffering from?

The national crime trends were largely echoed in Orange County, with all eight cities with populations of 100,000 or above recording increases in robberies, and a sharp decline in property crime.

There were 19 more murders in Orange County’s biggest cities in 2006 than the previous year – a jump that can be largely result of a spike in gang violence in Santa Ana, which recorded nine more murders in 2006.

However, car thefts, arsons and other property crimes dipped across the nation for the second straight year, the data show. Huntington Beach – which saw a 12.6 percent drop in violent crime – was the only large Orange County city to see a rise in property crime, recording 365 more property crimes last year compared to 2005.

Huntington Beach must now worry about property crime becoming more prevalent throughout town. Santa Ana is now facing a crisis of escalating gang violence. Up in North Orange County, the cities of Orange and Fullerton are grappling with dramatic increases in violent crisis. Take a look at the major California cities on the FBI’s list, and things aren’t looking very good not just in OC, but throughout the state.

So what is Irvine doing right that other cities in California aren’t? Are Irvine’s police services that much better? Are they doing a better job of preventing crime? Are the parks and community services really making that much of a difference? There’s a secret to Irvine’s success, and more communities should try to learn this secret to figure out how to take a real bite out of crime.

That Other Mayor

I don’t write a lot about Mayor Villaraigosa; I don’t live in the city, and I get the sense that Antonio wants everyone to know he’s there without necessarily knowing what he does, which makes it frustrating to try to gauge.  But this is an interesting article about the promise that he had matched with the difficult reality of this last year.  His eye appears to be off the ball of improving the lives of Los Angelenos, and toward the crystal goblet of higher office, and it shows in the work he’s done.  He’s very active in pressing flesh (it’s almost a permanent campaign) and tackling high-profile projects like the school takeover and LA Live development downtown.  But substantively, I think this list of accomplishments are a little thin.

Villaraigosa and his senior aides acknowledge the recent disappointments but prefer to see them as minor bumps overshadowed by the mayor’s accomplishments on education, public safety, mass transit, the environment and city budgeting.

They say, for example, that he deserves credit for balancing the city’s books and dramatically reducing a $295-million structural deficit — by more than $200 million — amid declining revenues.

They also speak of his successful effort to win an increase in trash collection fees to hire 1,000 additional police officers, saying the city is well on its way to meeting the goal as the rate of violent crime — including gang homicides — drops.

They single out his efforts this year to tackle gang crime by devoting more money to suppression and prevention programs.

And they point to Villaraigosa’s securing billions of dollars in state bond money for mass transit projects — including carpool lanes on the 405 Freeway — and an aggressive expansion of the Department of Water and Power’s use of alternative energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A lot less than meets the eye here.  There’s still a deficit.  The reports on gang violence and police protection has been tempered by the MacArthur Park riot and the fact that LA County still has 120,000 gang members.  I resent the focus on carpool lanes on the 405, and mass transit projects are actually stagnating, plus MTA had to raise its fees last week.

Villaraigosa is succeeding in the sense of setting himself up for the Governor’s mansion by taking on the big issues even if he doesn’t really move on them.  I don’t know if residents of the city will look back fondly on this time, however, thinking they had a champion for them at City Hall.  I’d welcome another perspective, however.