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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scary Thoughts for Halloween

Over the past year or so, there have been various scary developments about which we have blogged.  Most recently there is the recently-filed anti-pension initiative that sweeps in UC.  There is the volatility of state budget because of its heavy dependence on the income tax and the incomes of those in the upper brackets that are reflective of the ups and downs of financial markets.  There is the illusion that online ed will resolve the long-term budget squeeze on the university.

The hotel shown below is pretty scary but so, too, is the UCLA Grand Hotel, in part because of its potential costs but also because it represents an outmoded fixation on new capital projects and a lack of regental ability to oversee and monitor such projects.

We have long noted the invasion of privacy represented by online disclosure of UC employee salary information, the danger it poses of ID theft, and the fact that it facilitates raiding by private universities that do not have to publish such information.  More recently, we have noted that emails of faculty that they might have thought were private are viewed as public documents that can be requested by anyone for whatever purpose.

Well, at least in the area of private communications, we are not the only ones to be concerned, as Harry Shearer pointed out last Sunday on his radio program:




We got a boost. Now we need some answers.

I've got the booster.  But what's for dinner?
We noted in past postings that new UC president Janet Napolitano was to give an important address yesterday about her vision of UC.  The address happened.  But her remarks were mainly boosterism.  (So far, UCOP hasn't put the transcript of the remarks on the web, but yours truly has seen them.)  Greatest public university,  The California dream.  Nobel prize.  Diversity.  The Master Plan.  Etc. 

And, yes, there was reference in the speech to DREAM students - that's what seems to have been the focus of morning news stories.  She said she would allocate money for them and for grad students.  Exactly what "allocate" means isn't clear.  Money they didn't have already?  Money from where? (Apparently from "reserves.")

In any case, there are some Big Issues that might have been addressed - or at least might have been said to be questions she was pondering.  Is UC in the future to be a collection of loosely-affiliated independent campuses that, say, could set their own tuitions?  Or is it to be a tightly integrated system?  Is every campus that doesn't yet have one entitled to a med school?  A law school?  A business school?  Does every academic program have to be found on every campus?

The governor keeps telling the Regents that the State of California isn't going to support UC in the style to which it was once accustomed and that he also doesn't like tuition increases.  So what fills in the money gap?  The remarks included reference to efforts at efficiencies.  Does President Napolitano think efficiencies will fill the gap?  Does she think, as the governor seem to think, that online ed will do it?  Will the Regents go on approving hundreds of millions of dollars of capital projects with little oversight?  Or should budget priorities tilt toward human capital, i.e., teaching and research. 

President Napolitano referred to her learning curve and to her ongoing visits to the campuses.  Obviously, there is learning on the job to be done.  But there will be a Regents meeting in a couple of weeks.  The agenda for that meeting hasn't been posted as of this blog entry, but presumably there will be some real world decisions to be made.  Unless you have some views on the questions above, those decisions will either be made ad hoc or will just be whatever the UCOP and campus bureaucracies serve up.  It would be nice, therefore, to hear more specifics from the new president at the November Regents meeting, if not before.  We know that UC is a great public institution.  Now let's move on.

The San Francisco Chronicle story on the speech is at http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/5M-pledged-to-aid-students-living-in-US-illegally-4941099.php


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

UC Brand: Language Lessons to Come?

Here is an oddity.  On the UCOP website, there is a webpage on the "UC Brand."  You can find it at
http://brand.universityofcalifornia.edu/index.html.  The text is below:

The University of Transformation
Pioneering. Curious. Vibrant. Thoughtful. Even beautiful. The University of California is located wherever a UC mind is at work. At any given moment, people in the UC community are exploring, creating and advancing our shared experience of life in California and beyond. These guidelines ensure we express these shared values with every communication. In short, this site helps us all "Speak UC."

But as of 6 pm today on that webpage, there were no guidelines for speaking UC.  So how do you say "Where are the guidelines?" in UC speak?

Privatized Strawberries at Davis

Please pay as you enter
Strawberry growers are literally being cheated out of the fruits of their labors by the University of California, according to a lawsuit filed against the Board of Regents by the California Strawberry Commission.

UC Davis is ending its strawberry breeding program and replacing it with a private company created by its two long-time strawberry researchers. The two plan to sell strawberry varieties, including those they developed over the past 30 years at UC Davis backed by annual payments of $350,000 by the strawberry commission.

Filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the commission’s eight-page lawsuit wants to block the move, saying the university “seeks to appropriate to itself and a private entity… the fruits – both literally and figuratively – of decades-long research the commission funded.” In return for the commission’s funding, strawberry growers who used the new UC-crated types of strawberries paid lower royalties and got two years of exclusivity before non-California growers could use the new varieties. That changed in 2012 when the university’s strawberry breeders, Doug Shaw and Kirk Larson, said they were going private...

Full story at http://capitolweekly.net/strawberry-growers-pick-uc-regents/

Well, nothing lasts forever.  Nothing to get hung about:

Today is the Day for the Napolitano UC Plan to Be Revealed

As faithful blog readers will know, today is the day that UC president Napolitano reveals her plans for UC.  But it actually will be tonight before the plan is unveiled.  So it will require Patience and Prudence before we find out what the plan is:


Davis and Merced Get Drones, But We Have Snodgrass


The website California's Capitol reports that UC-Davis and UC-Merced have applied to the FAA to have drones. http://www.californiascapitol.com/2013/10/californias-drone-applicants/ and https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/faa_coa_list-2012.pdf. Obviously, the rest of us will be falling behind in this technology.  But at least we have Prof. Snodgrass who drones on and on, as former UC president Yudof once reminded us in his soliloquy on online higher ed:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More late night 405 troubles near UCLA

The on- and off-ramps between southbound I-405 and Sunset Boulevard will be closed to all traffic from 9 pm until 5 am nightly from tonight (October 29) until the morning of Saturday, November 2nd.

Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards should be open as alternatives.

Good luck getting home:



Just saying no

Dirks agrees
From the Washington Post:

...What brought [UC-Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks] to Washington, among other business, was a meeting with top U.S. Education Department officials to discuss President Obama’s plan for the federal government to rate colleges on value by the start of the 2015-16 school year. Obama announced the plan in August, part of what was billed as an effort to increase college affordability.

The rating system is still under design. Obama proposed that ratings should be based on measures such as the percentage of students receiving Pell grants; the average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt at a college; and outcomes, including graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings and the number of advanced degrees earned by a given college’s graduates.

Many higher education leaders have mixed feelings about Obama’s initiative. Dirks is no exception. But he said that it’s better for universities to participate in the discussion than to boycott it. “We don’t have an option but to engage,” he said. One of his bottom lines: Dirks is adamant that schools should not be rated based on the earnings of their graduates. “No. No prevarication. Just n-o,” Dirks said when asked whether it would be a good idea to factor earnings into a college rating system...

Looks like the Regents Will Have to Continue to Grin and Bear It

...The Democratic governor said of his own time in office, "I'm working pretty darn hard, and yet I can't spend a lot of time on getting into the intricacies of government. So that, over the next year, that's something that interests me, to try to understand ... to get a real world feel of what's under my responsibility, and I don't think many governors have ever done that." Brown said doing so will allow him to "think and imagine and come up with things."

Full article at http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/10/jerry-brown-seeking-real-world-feel-of-government.html


Monday, October 28, 2013

LA Conservancy Picks Up Story of UCLA Japanese Garden

The Los Angeles Conservancy includes a story in its November-December 2013 newsletter on the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden UCLA has been blocked from selling through litigation.  We continue to suggest that UCLA work with conservation groups and the family to find a solution that will preserve the garden.  Litigation is costly for the university and its purpose should not be simply to gratify someone's ego in Murphy Hall.  How about a focus that is less on "winning" and more on achieving the dual goals of garden preservation and revenue for UCLA?

You can read the LA Conservancy's story at:

UCLA History: Where's the bridge?

The roadway that connects the plaza between Dodd and Murphy to the one between Royce and Powell carries the sign above referring to a bridge.  Many in the UCLA community know the history but for those who don't, the seeming roadway is in fact a bridge over a ravine that was long ago filled with dirt.  When the Westwood campus was being constructed, however, the ravine was a prominent feature and the bridge was one of the early structures built as the photo below shows.
When the campus opened in 1929, crossing the bridge was a common occurrence as show in the 1930 photo below..

Brown Joins Harvard in Rejecting Fossil Fuel Divestment

We have noted in previous posts that there is a student group that has been using the public comment period at the Regents to push for pension and other fund divestment of fossil fuels. (The demand involves both extraction industries and some utilities.)  It is part of a national student movement.  If you scroll back to our links to Regents meetings, you will be able to hear those demands.

Recently, as we have noted, Harvard rejected the demand.  See http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/10/04/harvard-rejects-call-divest-fossil-fuels.  Today, Inside Higher Ed is reporting that Brown University has also rejected it.  See http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/10/28/brown-u-rejects-call-sell-holdings-coal-companies.

Given the current anti-pension initiative about which we have also been blogging, any sense that the pension fund is being used for "political" purposes would be sensitive and likely something the Regents would avoid. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A "Hole" Lot of Money

We have noted in previous posts that progress on the UCLA Grand Hotel seemed leisurely whenever yours truly dropped by with his trusty cell phone camera.  However, there is now a big hole at the work site for the Grand Hotel where once Parking Structure #6 stood as you can see from the photos taken last Thursday.  Many parking spaces were removed by the demolition.  A small number will be built under the Grand Hotel for use only by the Grand Hotel’s guests, not by general campus parkers.  (The Hotel will have fewer spaces relative to the number of rooms being built than similar commercial hotels on the rationale that guests will arrive in taxis, buses, bicycles, rickshaws, or whatever, but not by ordinary cars.)  Faithful blog readers will recall that an analysis by the campus Faculty Welfare committee back in 2012 indicated that the per-space reimbursement to the parking authority for the space losses due to the Grand Hotel was well below either replacement cost or what had been charged to earlier projects.  You can find that report at http://issuu.com/danieljbmitchell/docs/fwc6-12-12minutes-packet. [pdf format] 

UC parking rules of 2002 make it clear that parking authorities on campuses are in effect stand-alone entities supported by fee revenue.  The campus parking services are not supposed to subsidize other activities beyond basic parking and transportation.  In part these rules were adopted formally because UCLA – alone among the campuses - began charging its parking service ground rent for the land its structures occupied and diverting the revenue.  That practice is now forbidden.  You can find these rules at http://issuu.com/danieljbmitchell/docs/parking-principles2002. [pdf format]  Note that every dollar that the Grand Hotel project didn’t pay to the parking service is a dollar that eventually will be reflected in campus parking rates.  Keep that in mind if you go by the work site for the Grand Hotel and look into the hole.

The Whitaker-Baxter style campaign for the anti-pension initiative continues

An earlier post on this blog provided a bit of California political history regarding Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, the couple in the photo, who developed an approach to campaigning in the 1930s.  As we noted, they developed a network that provided editorial content to newspapers around the state, pushing whatever cause they were paid to promote.

The proponents of the anti-pension/anti-retiree health care initiative that was recently filed and which sweeps in UC, seem to be following the Whitaker-Baxter playbook, as we have previously noted.  Yet another example can be found below in which one newspaper reprints a pro-initiative editorial from another:

http://www.vvdailypress.com/articles/commission-43333-agency-little.html

Our earlier post is at http://uclafacultyassociation.blogspot.com/2013/10/more-on-pension-initiative-coordination.html.

The more things change... 

Hints While You Puzzle Through Your Health Insurance Options from a Blog Reader

As we are coming up to the open enrollment period for the various health insurance options, Prof. Bill Zame of Economics sent me an email with a cautionary note readers may want to consider.  (Edited excerpt):

When insurance plans use the term "out of pocket maximums," they do not mean what an ordinary lay person would mean by the term. As used by the insurance industry and the [open enrollment] plans, only healthcare expenses that are "ordinary and necessary" (by [industry] standards) are included toward  "out of pocket maximums" and only charges that are deemed to be in the range normally charged for services are included toward  "out of pocket maximums."  If one had a treatment that the insurance company/plan deemed "experimental," it would likely not be covered directly and the costs incurred would not be counted toward  "out of pocket maximums." If one chose a surgeon/hospital not in a participating provider group, the plan would pay only a fraction ([perhaps] 40% or 50%) of what a participating provider would charge and count only the remainder of what a participating provider would charge toward  "out of pocket maximums."  This is, of course, not a small matter; uncovered charges for treatments deemed "experimental" or for service charges higher than those a participating provider could charge [could be large.  For example,] CT scans, MRI's, and hospitalization charges could easily run to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

====
Open enrollment runs Oct. 28 - Nov. 26.  There is a link at UC benefits concerning the various plan changes and options at http://atyourservice.ucop.edu/oe/index.html.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Waiting

Our previous post involved waiting until Wednesday for a revelation about the future of UC.

This post involves waiting for UC-Berkeley and LA City to reveal more about the earthquake safety survey in the LA area.  Blog readers will recall that at least one building in a related survey by the LA Times was UCLA-owned.

Ending days of mixed messages, the city of Los Angeles sent a request Thursday formally asking a UC Berkeley engineering professor for a list of concrete buildings that could be at risk of collapsing in a major earthquake. The professor, Jack Moehle, responded quickly, saying that the university was "investigating the legal and ethical constraints" of releasing preliminary research data. He did not agree to release the list. Researchers led by Moehle have compiled a database of about 1,500 concrete structures in Los Angeles built before 1980 that may be at risk of collapse in an earthquake. Seismic experts say obtaining the list is critical for the city to begin tackling the problem. Structural engineers have said hundreds could die if even only one concrete building collapsed...

Full article at www.latimes.com/local/la-me-earthquake-concrete-20131025,0,4904899.story

No rush.  We can wait:

You'll have to wait for Wednesday

From the Daily Bruin:

For her first major public appearance as University of California president, Janet Napolitano will outline her plan for the UC system at a public event in San Francisco on Oct. 30 (Wednesday). Napolitano has said she dedicated the beginning of her term, which started on Sept. 30, to listening and learning. So far in her term, she has largely kept to hosting private meetings with students, administrators and other members of the UC during her quiet and unpublicized visits to UC campuses. She has also given few and brief comments to the media. At the upcoming event, titled “Teach for California, Research for the World,” she will announce for the first time her plans for her presidency. UC spokesman Steve Montiel said no details about the speech will be available before the event...


Maybe it would be better to do it some other day.  After all:
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

Friday, October 25, 2013

More Problems for Night Owls on the 405 Near UCLA

Segment: Mulholland Area: Skirball Bridge and Full I-405 Closures

On Saturday, October 26, 2013 and continuing through Monday, October 28, 2013, the contractor will be pouring the Skirball Bridge deck which requires: 
  • Full southbound I-405 closure from Valley Vista Bl to the southbound Skirball Center Dr on-ramp on Sunday, October 27, 1am to 4:30am with lanes closures starting on Saturday, October 26 at 10pm
  • Full northbound I- 405 closure from Getty Center Dr to the northbound Skirball on-ramp on Sunday, October 27, 3am to 6am with lane closures starting on Saturday, October 26 at 10pm 
  • The Skirball Bridge will be closed from northbound Skirball Center Dr off-ramp to Sepulveda Bl on Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27, 10pm to 6am 
Source: http://www.metro.net/projects/I-405/construction-info/

Report: Berkeley drops ball on athlete graduation rate

From the San Jose Mercury-News:

The No. 1 public university in the country has the least success graduating players among the 72 teams in the major football-playing conferences, according to NCAA data released Thursday. Just 44 percent of Cal's football players graduated within the parameters established by the NCAA. For comparison, archrival Stanford is among the national leaders at 93 percent; state school neighbor San Jose State checked in at 51 percent.  Nor is football the only Cal team struggling to graduate players. While many sports are performing well, men's basketball posted a Graduation Success Rate of 38 percent -- the fourth-lowest among teams in the major conferences...

Full story at http://www.mercurynews.com/sports/ci_24383075/cal-football-team-struggling-classroom-too

A cautionary note (and the naked truth) about email attachments

The item below reminds us that it is easy - when sending email attachments - to pick the wrong file.  Most email programs will give you some way of seeing at least the name of the file you have attached before you send it.  You probably can click on the file itself and verify that it is what you intend to send.  Gmail has an option for setting a delay in sending an email (e.g., 30 seconds) if you realized you made a mistake.

A University of Iowa teaching assistant who accidentally e-mailed nude pictures of herself to math students is no longer assigned to their class. University spokesman Tom Moore confirmed the assignment change for the graduate student, saying Thursday she remains a TA but is performing non-teaching duties.

The woman included the pictures as attachments on an e-mail she sent Tuesday night to 28 students in a pre-calculus class for business students. She was apparently trying to attach the solutions to homework problems instead...

Full story at http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/iowa-ta-nude-pics-reassigned-article-1.1495394

Disclosure Decision Will Make It More Difficult to Hide Funding for Anti-Pension Initiative

You may recall the brouhaha that developed around secret funding by a group that opposed Proposition 30 (the governor's tax initiative) and supported Prop 32 (an anti-union initiative).  It became an issue late in that election.  Large fines have now been levied by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.  While this development may seem like old political news, it will be relevant for whatever groups are pushing the anti-pension initiative about which we have been posting and which covers UC.  It will be more difficult - but not impossible - to continue to hide behind the friendly faces of a few California mayors, the stance taken so far.  Of course, some donors don't care their names are known.  But apparently some do, since care was taken to launder the contributions in the anti-30/pro-32 campaign.

You can read more details and see a TV newscast about this episode at http://www.news10.net/capitol/article/261647/525/State-levies-16-million-fine-over-2012-mystery-campaign-cash

The Koch connection is highlighted at http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/25/5850222/dan-morain.html

A press release from the FPPC is at: http://www.fppc.ca.gov/releasespdf/2013-10-24.pdf

UPDATE: The New Yorker picks up the story at http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2013/10/the-koch-brothers-in-california.html

The related FPPC press conference can be seen at the link below: [starts at minute 6:30]

Which Way LA? Takes Up Chancellor's Racism Report

KCRW's radio program, "Which Way LA?," with Warren Olney had a segment yesterday on the chancellor's report on racism which was circulated recently.

You can hear that segment at the link below (first 17 minutes):

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What can we say? Or Sing?

UC Davis will pay $38,055 in a workers’ compensation settlement to John Pike, the former university police lieutenant who was internationally scorned in November 2011 for pepper-spraying students at close range during an Occupy-style tuition protest on campus. According to paperwork filed with the state’s Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, the damages cover injuries to Pike’s “psyche.”...

Full story at http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/23/5846956/uc-davis-pays-claim-to-pepper.html

This story may not be music to your ears but consider:

The Anti-Pension Initiative: What Can UC Do?

The State Worker blog of the Sacramento Bee carries a piece on what the political campaign against the anti-pension/anti-retiree health care initiative will likely look like.  Excerpt:

Chuck Reed’s public-employee pension initiative is a long way from making it to a statewide vote – money being the biggest hurdle – but labor unions have already started blasting the proposal.

The San Jose mayor’s measure would, among other things, change the California Constitution to explicitly allow state and local governments in a fiscal emergency to cut future retirement costs by lowering current employees’ benefits prospectively but leave accrued benefits untouched. Right now, court rulings appear to give government workers an ironclad right to the pension promised on their first day of work.

The unions say that Reed’s proposal will speed government pensions down the same road to near-oblivion that private-sector pensions have traveled. Here are some ways they’ll fight it: 

Kill it in the crib. Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat with strong union backing, assigns ballot measures’ titles and summaries. Last year she essentially killed efforts to put a different pension initiative on the 2012 ballot with summary statements that were “either provably false or grossly misleading,” the measure’s proponents said at the time.That, in turn, waylaid raising the $2 million or so for signature collection needed to put the proposal on the ballot. Unions would love Reed’s measure to get the same treatment.

Remember the real audience. Only a handful of people have checkbooks big enough and political leanings strong enough to underwrite Reed’s campaign. Convince them it’s a lost cause and the thing will never get off the ground. Pour money into social media and maybe a traveling campaign of “real people” to talk about how Reed’s measure would affect them. Make potential backers think twice.

Hammer out-of-state money and Wall Street. “Opponents want the guy with the big checkbook in Texas to be the face of the measure,” said Dan Schnur of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. He was referring to a Houston nonprofit with ties to a former Enron executive that last summer gave $200,000 to the mayor’s hometown chamber of commerce for pension reform research. Unions have blasted the donation. Wall Street tycoons who brought down the economy make good targets, too.

Talk up cops, firefighters and teachers. Make them the victims of Reed’s proposal. ...

Organize...

Full story at http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/24/5846884/the-unions-playbook-for-public.html

Missing from the strategy is one element UC can contribute: FACTS.  There are major, major budgetary implications of the recently-filed proposition that would affect UC.  That story needs to get out.  There are fiscal implications for school districts, localities, and the state.  Proponents think it's all about saving money.  In fact, getting to full funding of pensions and retiree health in the period specified in the initiative, even if these programs are stripped down, could have major cost increasing impacts.  That story needs to be told.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

And still more on the pension cabalistas...

From Salon.com:  [excerpt]  10-23-13

Less than a year ago, the Wall Street Journal alerted its national readership to what was happening in the tiny state of Rhode Island. In a story headlined “Small State Gets Big Pension Push,” the paper noted that the state’s “rollback of public-employee retirement benefits has turned (it) into a national battleground over pensions.” With the help of billionaire former Enron trader John Arnold and his partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts, conservative ideologues and Wall Street profiteers who engineered Rhode Island’s big pension cuts were looking to export those “reforms” to other states. Now, after two huge revelations in the last few days, we know more about what that means in practice — we know the kind of corruption and damage the “reforms” mean for taxpayers and retirees, and we know what kind of new muscle is behind the effort to bring that corruption and destruction to other states...


As we continue to point out on this blog, the forces behind the newly-filed anti-pension/anti-retiree health care initiative that covers UC consist of more than a handful of California mayors who are the public front for the effort.  There is a Regents meeting coming up in November.  Will there be discussion of this matter?  Anyone telling UC president Napolitano she has a "problem"? Will there be some charts and graphs introduced by the president explaining what the initiative, applied to UC, will mean to the university budget?  The impact on CURRENT employees and the campuses will be dramatic.  The governor has been attending Regents meetings.  Anyone talking to him?  If he starts doing the math on what this means for UC, CalPERS, and CalSTRS, he might be in for a shock.  Anyone at the Dept. of Finance telling him?  Is the Legislative Analyst talking to the legislature? 

More on the pension initiative "coordination"

Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker, founders of Campaigns, Inc.
You probably have never heard of the couple above, Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, who founded what some regard as the first modern political advertising firm - Campaigns, Inc. - right here in California in the early 1930s.  You may not have heard of the great "EPIC" campaign of 1934 - their first big target.  (They ran the opposition.)  I will leave it to you to read up on the history of all of that which you can find in http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/09/24/120924fa_fact_lepore?currentPage=all  However, a key tactic they developed was distributing information favoring their clients to small newspapers that were always looking for material.  From the link above:

...They ran a newspaper wire service, the California Feature Service, which sent a political clipsheet every week, to fifteen hundred “thought leaders,” and cartoons, editorials, and articles to three hundred newspapers. Rural newspapers were so desperate for copy that many printed whatever the California Feature Service sent them, including documents that were basically press releases disguised as editorials endorsing whatever political position Campaigns, Inc., was being paid to advocate. The trick was to send out clippings so sly that a tired editor might not notice that they were written by an advertising outfit. One California newspaper editor used to play a game with his staff, while reading the stuff. It was called “Where’s the Plug?” Whitaker and Baxter weren’t just inventing new techniques; they were writing a rule book. Never lobby; woo voters instead. “Our conception of practical politics is that if you have a sound enough case to convince the folks back home, you don’t have to buttonhole the Senator,” Baxter explained. Make it personal...

Got the idea?  Now that you do, here is a link to an item that appeared recently in the "Marin Voice," said to be written by "a member of the Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans, a Marin-based public pension reform group."

http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_24357793/marin-voice-giving-voters-say-public-pensions

In short, Whitaker and Baxter are alive and well in the 21st century.  We have noted in previous postings that the recently-filed pension initiative - that sweeps in UC - seems to be part of a well-coordinated effort that goes well beyond a few mayors who are the public face of it.

UCLA will appeal eviction from VA baseball stadium

UCLA ROTC cadet in 1930s
From the Westwood-Century City Patch:

UCLA will appeal a federal judge's ruling that effectively locks the university out of Jackie Robinson Stadium—which is on Veterans Administration land in West Los Angeles —where Bruin baseball has been played for decades, it was announced Tuesday...

If appeals fail, the university may have to vacate the stadium after the 2014 season... U.S. District Judge S. James Otero ruled in August that by not using the land to provide health care for vets, the VA is in violation of federal law. Otero issued a written ruling Monday rejecting efforts to persuade him to overturn his decision...

Full story at http://centurycity.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/judges-ruling-may-prevent-ucla-from-playing-baseball-at-jackie-robinson-stadium

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anti-Pension Cabal? Smells that way

We have noted in past posting on the filing of a public pension initiative that there appeared to be a good deal of "coordination" in the effort, including a Stanford-Hoover MOOC (online course) on personal investments that somehow ends with a session on public pensions.  There appeared to be more involved than a few California mayors who are the official face. The fact that UC is swept into the initiative - although it is not a city and has its own set of pension modifications adopted by the Regents in 2010 - seems to be evidence of a larger agenda.

Groups representing public employees have suggested the same:

ALEC and TIAA-CREF Join The Assault On Public Pensions

The right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council has jumped into the conservative effort to dismantle public pension systems in a big way, making it one of its top 2014 legislative priorities, a public pension advocacy group has warned. The National Public Pension Coalition, which represents public sector employees, in a statement today flagged ALEC’s entry into the public pension battle as a threat to the financial security of millions of state and local public employees. It’s an escalation of the campaign against public pensions highlighted in the Institute for America’s Future Report, “The Plot Against Pensions.” That report focuses on the work of a foundation founded by John Arnold, a former Enron executive, and a public pensions project of the Pew Charitable Trusts to promote the notion that there is a public-pension “crisis” that can only be solved by substituting these pension programs for programs that shift risks to workers, eliminate benefit guarantees and create new profit streams for Wall Street money managers. “Studies” that take advantage of the Pew reputation as a reputable, unbiased source of information have encouraged several states to take actions to privatize their retirement systems that, as the report points out, leaders in some of those states have already begun to regret.

ALEC set the stage for its own intervention into the public pension debate with a report in August that encouraged states to convert their public pension (“defined benefit”) plans into 401(k) plans or other “defined contribution” plans. The report said that the “unfunded liabilities” incurred by state pension plans could range anywhere from “$750 billion to more than $4 trillion.” To address the shortfall, the report concludes, “There is ample evidence to suggest that legislators should move from defined-benefit systems to properly designed alternatives, such as defined-contribution, cash-balance, or hybrid plans.”  That report was followed by a paper issued earlier this month by TIAA-CREF Institute, the research arm of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association–College Retirement Equities Fund, which markets the kind of plans that ALEC wants states to move to. That paper was written by an associate of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and asserts that a defined-contribution plan is not necessarily more expensive for workers and taxpayers than a defined-benefit pension plan...


Now you can say that the article above comes from a "special interest" group.  But too many things are happening surrounding the initiative filing to pass a sniff test for coincidence.


UCLA History: Banding Together

Recruitment for UCLA band in 1940.

Alternative Entrance

From the Daily Bruin:

University of California student leaders are proposing a new admissions criterion that would give preference to applicants from low-income schools that have special partnerships with UC campuses. Under the criterion, UC campuses would look at whether an applicant comes from a Title I high school – a school that serves a significant number of low-income students – or a community college with low transfer rates that has a partnership with a UC campus. The partnerships would involve academic preparation and outreach programs that the UC would create for these schools. Students proposing the new factor, including UC student regent Cinthia Flores and Undergraduate Students Association Council External Vice President Maryssa Hall, say it would reinforce what they believe is the UC’s responsibility to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds make it to college. They also say it will help the UC’s focus on recruiting in-state students instead of admitting out-of-state and international students to increase revenue, a strategy the UC has utilized in the past few years since nonresidents are required to pay more in tuition...

George Johnson, chair of the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools – a committee of UC faculty that recommends admissions criteria to the UC Academic Senate – said some of the existing admissions factors may already serve the purpose that the proposed factor aims to address... Since a majority of state schools already receive Title I funding, a school’s Title I status might also not be a very distinguishing factor in finding schools to partner with, Johnson said. In the 2010-11 year, about 60 percent of public schools in California received Title I funding...

Full story at http://dailybruin.com/2013/10/22/uc-student-leaders-propose-new-admissions-criterion/ 

Monday, October 21, 2013

More Let Me Outta Here Re: Pension Initiative

I want out!
Yours truly has been posting about the recently filed public pension (and retiree health care) initiative which covers UC.  UC needs a strategy including first attempting to see if the sponsors will amend it or file a revised version that omits UC.  This is a political battle it would be best to avoid if possible.

The initiative has the potential to become a "symbol" of intergenerational conflict as a recent article in calpensions.com points out.  Once things become symbols of something that goes beyond the issue at end - think "ObamaCare" - the pros and cons get lost.

From the calpensions.com article - which starts about the pension initiative itself, but then goes on:

...Last week, the opinion pages of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal both had articles about a “legendary investor” who has been touring college campuses to urge students to mobilize against what one of the writers called “generational theft.”  Stanley Druckenmiller, 60, a retired hedge fund founder said to be worth $2.9 billion, often was joined by Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem’s Children Zone in appearances at Stanford, Berkeley, USC and other campuses...

Full article at http://calpensions.com/2013/10/21/initiative-shows-how-young-pay-pensions-of-old/

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Don’t worry about us here at UCLA! Take all the time you need!

Back in December 2011, commuters on the 405 Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass drove by an unusual sight. A retaining wall built for the new car-pool lane was collapsing, the gray concrete panels visibly buckling and falling.  Alarmed by the discovery, construction crews tore down the wall. At least 14 other walls also came down and were rebuilt. State officials moved quickly, banning the construction of similar retaining walls throughout California. Today, the 405 Freeway project is more than 15 months behind schedule, a timeline that has Angelenos bemoaning the traffic congestion caused by construction of the 10-mile car-pool lane.  A federal review quietly released in August of the massive $1 billion project identified the collapsed wall as the “single biggest factor in extending the completion date to September 2014.” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx also noted that a second major factor was an unexpected need for relocations of utility lines...


Just take your time:  

Another don't click reminder

Don't click!
Another reminder that when you get emails - such as the one above - that seem to have some official connection to UCLA and invite you to click here, download here, etc., be very cautious.  The one above may just be harmless commercial spam but the best thing to do is to delete it.  It clearly is not from a UCLA source.  Clicking and downloading may infect your computer and cause damage to it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

One report airs some dirty laundry. Another doesn't air.

The LA Times picks up story on UCLA report circulated by email to faculty:

UCLA's policies and procedures are inadequate to deal with increasing complaints of racial bias among faculty — nearly all of whom surveyed said they had experienced some level of discrimination, according to an internal report obtained by The Times.  The report also found that allegations of overt racism were not investigated and, if they were, they rarely resulted in sanctions or punishments...

The review, which was launched by Chancellor Gene D. Block in 2012 after he was approached by a group of concerned faculty, found that university policies regarding racial bias and discrimination were vague and insufficient... Block declined a request for comment through a representative.  The report was compiled by a five-member panel headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and included attorney Connie Rice, former UC Davis professor Dr. Maga Jackson-Triche, UCLA professor emeritus Gary Nash and  Bob Suzuki, former president of Cal Poly Pomona. The panel interviewed 30 administrators and faculty members...

Full story at http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-ucla-discrimination-20131019,0,2297269.story

The report itself - which appears to be a public document since it was widely emailed to all faculty - is at http://ucla.in/17RxdOF

On the other hand, another UC report on LA building earthquake safety is currently not being released, according to the Times, because of fears of building owner lawsuits.  (The Times has been doing reports on vulnerable buildings in the local area.)

See http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-concrete-quake-20131019,0,1097898.story

Going Up?

UC president Napolitano, on her campus tour, says she hopes not to press her luck and see tuition go up.

Not a guarantee, of course.

See: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_24341488/new-uc-president-keep-eye-costs

Tuition will either go up, stay the same (likely for now), or go down (has happened in the past but very unlikely under current conditions).  In fact, past UC presidents have gone with the (budget) flow:


Friday, October 18, 2013

Unbranded

Odd that the undergraduate advertising and marketing group would get the Anderson School "brand" wrong, since branding is a big part of advertising and marketing.  The word "business" has not been part of the School's title (or "brand") since the 1970s.  The name used now is Anderson School of Management or just Anderson or Anderson School, although the name carved in stone on the Anderson complex is Anderson Graduate School of Management. 

Let's Start With This Idea on the Pension Initiative: One Size Doesn't Fit All

Don't buy it.
Editorial: The pension (and retiree health) initiative on which we have been reporting on this blog sweeps in UC for no particular reason.  Yet all the propaganda concerning it so far deals with mayors and cities.  UC has no mayor and isn't a city.

Were the Regents consulted by initiative proponents?  Was anyone at UCOP consulted?  Anyone at UC at all?  Yours truly sincerely doubts it.  Did anyone in the group pushing the initiative look at such issues as faculty recruitment, compensation, or any other UC issue?  Did they look at the issue of the constitutional autonomy of the Regents?

Basically, UC needs out.  The proponents of the initiative have plenty of time either to file a revised initiative excluding UC or making an amendment to what they have filed so far. 

The Regents, as blog readers will know, amended the UC pension plan in 2010, well before the state enacted its own plan (which exempted UC because of its earlier action).  We don't want to be swept into someone else's plan.  Where the governor stands on all of this is unclear.  The Sacramento Bee is reporting that he put a proponent of changes similar to the ones in the initiative on to a state board.  See http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/17/5830657/jerry-brown-taps-pension-reform.html.  CalPERS opposes the initiative.  See http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/16/v-print/5827735/calpers-weighs-in-on-new-public.html and http://www.calpers.ca.gov/index.jsp?bc=/about/press/pr-2013/oct/pension-ballot-initiative.xml.  However, the legal fight that CalPERS is having with the bankrupt City of San Bernardino is tending to inflame the pension issue in the public mind.  See http://www.sacbee.com/2013/10/18/5831919/calpers-renews-san-bernardino.html. The renewed BART strike in the Bay Area also is not going to help with public opinion.  So, again, UC needs out.  And if it can't get out, UC needs a plan pronto.

UCLA History: Early Parking

Cars parked around site of soon-to-be-opened Westwood campus of UCLA in 1929.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pension Initiative Backstop

We have been covering the pension initiative that has now been filed with the state and, in an earlier post, discussed some key elements of the initiative (including the coverage of UC).  An interesting element in the initiative is a provision that provides for defense in court of the initiative by private parties.  It is quite likely that if the initiative passed, it would be challenged in court.  And the attorney general might well refuse to defend it, given the politics of the initiative. In the case of Prop 8 - the anti-gay marriage initiative - the attorney general did refuse to provide a defense.  The pension initiative has an element that provides for an outside defense backstop.  (Whether that provision itself could be challenged, yours truly leaves to legal types.)

An article dealing with the defense component of the new pension initiative from an author sympathetic to it can be found at:
http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2013/10/legacy-prop-8-court-case-pops-pension-reform-initiative/

Planning for a Shake

You probably saw this notice but here is a reminder.  

On October 17th, at 10:17 a.m., the UCLA campus community, along with millions of other Californians, will participate in “The Great California Shakeout”–a statewide earthquake drill. As part of our participation, the UCLA Office of Emergency Management (OEM) will test the BruinAlert system while airing a simulcast Shakeout drill on the campus AM radio station (AM 1630).


To fully participate and maximize the effectiveness of the drill, we ask that you take these simple and potentially life-saving steps:

  • DROP to the ground (before the earthquake knocks you down)
  • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (until the shaking stops)

Please visit www.dropcoverholdon.org for more information and instructions on how to protect yourself during an earthquake...
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Yours truly is out of town today so he won’t be under his desk.  However, he is old enough to remember: