Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Name Game

News and views:

News: Assembly Concurrent Resolution 149 by Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, would designate a portion of the 405 Freeway as the "Kevin Murray Highway."

Views: It's good to know that our state legislators, when not watching the state circle the financial drain, have time to do good deeds.

But wait a minute. Who is Kevin Murray? Ah, yes, now I remember: Murray served in the Legislature from 1994 to 2006 before being forced out of office by term limits.

According to Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters his legislative career was about average. He carried a few significant bills, including one aimed at encouraging installations of solar energy panels on roofs. Murray also carried some questionable measures, such as one stemming from the messy divorce of Southern California supermarket tycoon and major political donor Ron Burkle, to close public access to legal documents in divorce cases.

Unfortunately, Murray joined the politicians-with-their-pants-down brotherhood when a Los Angeles County Park Police officer found him with a prostitute in Murray's state-leased black Corvette, parked outside John Anson Ford Theater just after he was sworn in as a state senator.

Apparently that qualifies him for everlasting commemoration, at least in Hall's eyes.

But I think his vision falls short.

If you want to name the 405 Freeway for someone, why not O.J. Simpson? He brought international attention and fame to that vast stretch of road when he fled down the slow lane after his wife was found murdered. We could call it Bronco Boulevard.

For that matter, we could name almost every street in Hollywood after some celebrity who found themselves involved in a sex scandal. Just meet me at the corner of Roman Polanski Drive and Paris Hilton Lane.

If you think that's absurd, consider this: the Transportation Committee approved ACR 149 unanimously.

News: Legendary singer Lena Horne dies.

Views: She was beautiful, graceful and talented, but the most important thing to remember about Lena Horne is her refusal to live her life as a second class citizen.

If you think segregation merely meant separate schools, consider this:

All but abandoned by her parents, Lena was passed around from relative to relative and had to endure racist slurs, beatings for minor infractions and schoolgirl mockery because she was light-skinned.

When she finally began to receive acclaim as a singer, she signed with prestigious white bandleader Charlie Barnet, but in many ballrooms she wasn't allowed to sit on the bandstand between numbers.

Her parts in most movies contained few speaking roles and usually had little to do with the storyline so her appearances could be edited out for white audiences.

Already a star, Horne wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM's 1951 version of "Show Boat" but lost the part to Ava Gardner, a personal friend in real life, due to the Production Code's ban on interracial relationships in films.

Once, when entertaining the troops during World War II, she discovered that German prisoners of war were given preferential seating over black soldiers. She refused to perform.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, she chose to focus on quietly defying segregation policies at upscale hotels in Miami Beach and Las Vegas where she performed, according to her biography. At the time, it was customary for black entertainers to stay in black neighborhoods, but Ms. Horne successfully insisted that she and her musicians be allowed to stay wherever she entertained.

One Las Vegas establishment reportedly had its chambermaids burn Ms. Horne's sheets.

A lesser person would have retreated. Instead, she rose to become an entertainment industry icon who forced her industry to be color blind.

Lena Horne's greatest hit was her triumph over injustice. Let's remember her as something more than a pretty face.

News: A third-grader at Brazos Elementary School in Orchard, Texas, was given a week's detention for possessing a Jolly Rancher.

School officials in Brazos County are defending the seemingly harsh sentence. The school's principal and superintendent said they were simply complying with a state law that limits junk food in schools.

Views: Thank God the Candy Cops in Texas are looking after the children. Of course, if her parents had made up her lunch, she could have been packing chicken fried steak and a side of onion rings. That's because in Texas, they won't restrict what a parent might provide for their child's consumption.

The irony is that many school lunch menus still feature and array of cheeseburgers, pizza, burritos and barbecue pork sandwiches.

But no candy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The High Cost of Deportation

Down in Texas, they love their rootin' tootin,' gun totin,' flag wavin,' Obama-bashing governor Rick Perry, a down home conservative if there ever was one.

This is the guy who won the undying love of the Tea Party set when he told a rally that Texans might get so fed up with Washington, they by golly just might secede from the union.

To his credit, he stopped short of calling for a resumption of the Civil War.

But despite - or may because of - his verbal excesses, conservatives think he's Mr. Right.

That's why more than a few eyebrows rose and brows furrowed when Perry recently shared his thoughts on the tough new Arizona immigration law, which would make failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

Those who thought Perry would embrace the concept and have the Texas Rangers round up every Mexican from the Panhandle to Galveston Bay were sorely disappointed.

Instead, Perry said that while he fully recognizes and supports "a state's right and obligation to protect its citizens ... I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona, and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas."

Primary among those concerns, he said, was that the local police and sheriffs would end up spending too much time corralling illegal immigrants and would neglect to catch criminals and keep the public safe.

Meanwhile, in Santa Monica, researchers at a Rand Corporation think tank were coming to the same conclusion. According to study done by Rand, a 2007 partnership between Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the sheriff's department in Maricopa County, Ariz., resulted in deputies identifying 16,000 illegal immigrants among 106,000 jail inmates over three months.

However, the effort racked up a debt of $1.3 million in only three months, the percentage of crimes the department solved dropped and police response time soared. The federal government has since canceled the agreement.

Even cities in Arizona understand the economics of this fiasco. The Tucson and Flagstaff city councils have voted to sue the state over its immigration law, citing concerns about enforcement costs.

It doesn't take a political scientist to determine why this Draconian legislation was signed into law. Arizona has become the point of entry for many illegals, drug wars rage across the border and the federal government has kicked the problem back and forth for years.

Why? Aside from the usual ideological gridlock in Washington, politicians don't want any part of immigration reform that calls for the mass deportation of illegals. It's political poison.

Republicans actively court Latinos as a swing bloc vote. No less a GOP icon than Condoleezza Rice said that not passing comprehensive immigration reform that would have legalized millions of undocumented immigrants in 2007 was her "deepest regret."

Democrats, while paying lip service to human rights concerns, understand that many illegals who come to the country and manage to establish themselves are potential union members. And without union support, the Democratic Party becomes an afterthought.

So, if the Arizona law is financially, politically and probably legally unworkable, what happens next?

Anyone who thinks that somehow the government will round up all 11million illegals in the U.S. and deport them is living in a dream world. It would cost at least $94 billion to find, detain and remove all those believed to be staying illegally in the U.S., according to federal government figures.

"It is impossible for this country to rout people out of our society and send them home. It's just not going to happen," said no less an expert than former President George Bush.

President Obama suggests removing incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. It would offer citizenship to undocumented workers who would need to register, pay taxes and pay a penalty for violating the law. Failure to comply might result in deportation.

Those ideas, along with a major increase in border security, are a good start.

Unfortunately, the future of immigration reform rests with the politicians in Washington. And unless elected officials rise to the occasion, more Arizona laws, as wrong-headed as they may be, are inevitable.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Foot ball Games

If there's anything more loopy than the history of professional football in Los Angeles, I don't know what it would be. Maybe a Marx Brothers movie.

First, the Rams win the hearts and minds of fans during their 34-year run at the Coliseum, where they are almost always a winner. Then the team is inherited by a brassy ex-showgirl who dumps her fans for the garden of delights that is Anaheim. Unfortunately, Knott's Berry Farm draws better crowds. And L.A. is left with a bad case of the St. Louis blues.

But wait. Here come the Raiders, who leave their ancestral home in Oakland and end up in the Coliseum much to the delight of gang-bangers, devil worshipers and drunks who make up most of their fan base. Al Davis can't get a new stadium deal done so he moves back to Oakland, leaving behind more lawsuits than victories.

Years pass. The Coliseum tries to lure back the NFL which, after the Ram and Raider debacles, would sooner award a franchise to North Korea.

A stadium is proposed on a toxic landfill in Carson. It fails the smell test. The Rose Bowl becomes a candidate. But someone forgot to ask its owners, the people of Pasadena, if they thought it was a good idea. They didn't.

Out of the gloom emerges local billionaire Ed Roski, who has a plan. He's got the land, he's got the connections, he's got the permits. He's going to build a 75,000-seat stadium in Industry. It's shovel ready, all he needs is a team and the support of the NFL.


He doesn't have either. Yet.

Suddenly, another proposal. Businessman Casey Wasserman along with Tim Leiweke, who built the sports and entertainment complex which includes Staples Center, L.A. Live and a 1,000-room hotel, are mulling a $1 billion domed stadium which would provide the exclamation mark for their sprawling downtown development.

Why a domed stadium in the land of endless summer? Because it would have a multitude of uses. Supporters, letting their imaginations run wild, are already envisioning it hosting the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Final Four, the Olympics, even two, that's right two, NFL teams.

"This is the final piece to the downtown puzzle," Wasserman told the press. "It's the only chance for the city to benefit from the economic power of a stadium of this caliber."

Wasserman apparently doesn't like to sugarcoat things. Either the city gets on board or they commit economic suicide.

So L.A., which has no team and only lip service from the NFL, has instead The Battle of the Billionaires, Roski versus Leiweke/Wasserman, no holds barred. The winner gets to tango with a bunch of skeptical NFL owners, a group of gentlemen who make Goldman Sachs look like Habitat for Humanity.

This contest isn't even started yet but this we know:

Never bet against Ed Roski. His tenacity in trying to lure the NFL to Los Angeles has been remarkable. He's spent millions trying to make his dream come true.

But Industry might as well be just north of Moose Jaw, Saskatchawan, as far as the NFL is concerned. Roski's people like to say it's just a few miles from downtown L.A. but it's light years from the glitz and glitter of Hollywood. Believe it: star power makes a difference.

Industry is also a million miles from the center of power and influence in Southern California. Downtown is where the big boys in business and politics play. These people are salivating at the chance to have a big-time stadium and the money it generates in their neighborhood. Leiweke/Wasserman will have them eating out of their hands.

Downtown has history on its side. It is where most of our teams - Lakers, Kings, Dodgers, USC - have played. It's where we hold parades to salute our heroes and funerals to remember them.

Industry has freeway access. Downtown has access by light rail and subway.Downtown has high-end hotels and restaurants. Know a good place to eat in Industry?

Most important, Leiweke/Wasserman say they plan to privately finance their stadium. As for Roski, his plan is for a team and the NFL to privately finance his stadium; Roski would likely hand over the land and entitlements and keep an equity stake in the team.

This newspaper reported recently that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has concerns. "While the stadium in the City of Industry has gotten many construction approvals, it still needs to be determined how to pay for it," he said, in a classic of understatement.

Advantage, Leiweke/Wasserman.

Whatever happens, it won't happen soon. The NFL faces a contentious union contract negotiations that could cancel the 2011 season. Until that is resolved, L.A. will continue to watch pro football on television.