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Have the  “shenanigans” at the Van de Kamps Bakery Finally Cooked the LA Community College District’s Goose? Or is It Still Simmering?

The battle with the district over abuse of bond funds heats up as Van de Kamps Coalition calls for investigations into the double dealings of the Board of Trustees and their minions from DA Cooley and Attorney General Brown.

For Immediate release:


Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee Moves To Investigate Conversion of Van de Kamps Satellite Campus To A Profit-Making Leasing Scheme Of LACCD Board Of Trustees


Former State Senator Richard Polanco Accuses LACCD Officials of “Bait and Switch Shenanigans”


LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee Member Scott Folsom Urges His LACCD Counterparts To Require District Officials To Provide Independent Expertise To Investigate This Wrongful Activity


(February 22, 2010, Los Angeles)  At its regular quarterly meeting this past Friday, the District Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (“DCOC”) for the Los Angeles Community College District (“LACCD”), after listening to allegations of misuse of voter-approved bond funds, voted to investigate the allegations through the request that the District appoint an independent financial analyst and legal counsel to advise the Committee.


State Senator Richard Polanco (retired) led off testimony by a number of alarmed officials and community members. In his testimony before the DCOC, Polanco branded the District’s abandonment of its promises of a community college campus at the former site of the Van de Kamps Bakery as a “bait and switch” that was inconsistent with promises made to the voters of Northeast Los Angeles.  He pointed out that the conversion of the campus by LACCD officials was part of a series of shenanigans that would deprive the community of for-credit educational opportunities identified in a feasibility study conducted by the LACCD before it purchased the Van de Kamps land for development of a satellite campus to Los Angeles City College.


As the Van de Kamps campus neared completion in 2009-2010, LACCD officials, with no consultation of community stakeholders, announced that instead of opening the planned satellite campus to Los Angeles City College, it would lease out the $72 million campus to a charter high school and multiple unemployment programs.  The charter school is the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools and the unemployment programs are Workforce Centers currently paying rent to other private landlords in the Los Angeles area.  Both lessees are closely associated with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.


The meeting began with tense allegations by some DCOC members that District officials had ignored the direction of members at the December 2009 DCOC meeting to schedule a special meeting to hear presentations from the Van de Kamps Coalition, a community advocacy group that has worked for a decade to bring a community college satellite campus to the site, and from Larry Eisenberg, Director of Facilities for LACCD.  Members were unhappy that Eisenberg had refused to schedule a special interim meeting when Van de Kamps Coalition members testified about possible misuse of bond funds at the December quarterly meeting.  Although he made no effort to check availability of the DCOC members, Eisenberg claimed that their schedules made it difficult to get a quorum for a special meeting.


California Education Code requires a school district that passes a bond measure with just a 55% vote of the people to have a citizens’ bond oversight committee and to provide such committee with technical assistance to enable the committee to perform its oversight function.  While LACCD’s General Counsel, Camille Goulet, admitted under questioning by DCOC members that the District had an obligation to provide reasonable resources to the Committee, she would not commit to whether or not the LACCD, the largest community college district in the nation, would provide the requested resources to its own bond oversight committee.  Van de Kamps Coalition members claim this tactic is consistent with an internal District memo that identified the “Stonewall Approach” as a viable way for the District to respond to community alarm over their actions with the Van de Kamps campus.


After the testimony last Friday, DCOC members, in a split vote, ordered the request that LACCD officials provide expert technical and legal assistance to analyze the allegations of bond misuse.  Unless DCOC members take further immediate action, their next meeting will not occur until after LACCD officials claim that they will finish redesign and construction of the commercial tenant improvements at Van de Kamps.


“It’s becoming clear that District President Mona Field and Mr. Eisenberg are rushing the construction work at the historic Van de Kamps Bakery building on Fletcher Drive in Atwater Village/Glassell Park while Ms. Goulet impedes the ability of the District’s Bond Oversight Committee to carry out its investigative duties,” said Andrew Garsten, a member of the Steering Committee of the Van de Kamps Coalition.


DCOC members were especially troubled when they learned that in November 2009, the Board of Trustees voted to spend $400,000 for more architectural services to redesign the classrooms, biology labs, and art studios in the original plans for the historic bakery building already approved by the State Architect.  The Van de Kamps Coalition has produced District e-mails showing that District officials intend to convert some classrooms into office space and reconfigured training rooms to meet the “commercial tenant” needs of the unemployment programs funded by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  Such building modifications may forever foreclose use of the Van de Kamps site as a satellite campus of Los Angeles City College.


The Van de Kamps Coalition has pointed out that the conversion of the Van de Kamps buildings to meet the needs of the Mayor’s pet projects was never contemplated as a legitimate use of voter-approved bond funds.  “The California Supreme Court rejected Mayor Villaraigosa’s effort to seize control of the LAUSD.  Now the Mayor is using his influence to hand over brand new K-12 schools to charter schools, and seizing the Van de Kamps Satellite buildings for his favorite K-12 charter school and his federal stimulus funded workforce unemployment programs,” said Miki Jackson, another long-time advocate for the Van de Kamps Satellite Campus.


None of these proposed lessees of the Van de Kamps buildings were required by LACCD officials to competitively bid for the right to lease these brand new community college facilities.  Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a public supporter of the Alliance charter school, and the unemployment programs workforce programs.  Coalition leaders allege that Vice Chancellor Marvin Martinez was given the task to lease out the Van de Kamps campus by former LACCD Chancellor Marshal Drummond, even though Martinez sits on the Board of Directors of one of the Workforce programs that was allowed to lease the bakery building without competitive bidding.  Drummond abruptly left the District last summer after allegations of alcohol abuse and dereliction of duty surfaced at the same meeting where the Board of Trustees approved the changes in use of the Van de Kamps campus.


Under state law and the language of the LACCD’s previous bond measures, the bond funds are to be used to construct or renovate community college classrooms and facilities for students of LACCD.  The Board’s decision takes the LACCD in direction contrary to the limitations on use of bond funds and other funding for the campus.


In 2000, when Polanco was serving the community as a Senator, he obtained $3 million in seed money from the State of California to assist Los Angeles City College in establishing a community college satellite campus at the location of the former Van de Kamps Bakery and Restaurant.  At that time, LACCD Board Trustees Mona Field and Sylvia Scott-Hayes led the LACCD’s enthusiastic pursuit of the Satellite Campus. Then LA City College president Mary Spangler was a strong supporter of the Satellite Campus as was the City College’s academic Senate which voted in favor of it.


In other testimony at last Friday’s DCOC meeting, long-time Northeast education activist, Scott Folsom, testified that as a member of the LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee himself, he and his colleagues had access to independent analysis and legal advice from advisors with no conflicting responsibilities to the school district.  Folsom urged the DCOC members to stand up for their right to have independent examination of District records as an appropriate check and balance on District expenditures of bond funds.


According to Laura Gutierrez, getting public officials to take action to investigate the allegations of wrongdoing has been difficult.  “We hope the District Attorney Steve Cooley, or the California Attorney General Jerry Brown will open immediate investigations as is required by the Education Code whenever there are allegations of misuse of bond funds,” she said.  Looking at the partially finished buildings on the Van de Kamps construction site, she observed drily, “Our young adults in our Northeast communities need the opportunities offered by this community college campus promised to us and the LACCD Board of Trustees, using our own tax money, have robbed us of those opportunities.”


Read more at Van de Kamps web

site, click on drawing of the his-

toric bakery building check out

the “bait and switch” slide show.



For Attacks on Freedom of Speech

Wanted

What has happened to once proud defender of free speech LACCD Board of Trustees President Mona Field? There’s nothing worse than a lefty gone >>right>>>>

...read more

So what was with Board Prez Mona’s tirade aimed - at Senator Polanco at the LACCD Bond Oversight Committee meeting on Feb. 19th?  It seemed a rather embarrassed committee got her away from the table as soon as possible. What is going on? What has this politician done that is scaring her so bad she is hiding from her own record? Well, Mona we hate to be the ones to break it to you, but it won’t work. There are all those recordings of meetings of you touting your involvement - then there is your campaign where you promoted Van de Kamps as a jewel in your crown. What was that quote about uneasy lies the head that wears a crown...especially one you made yourself. Then there is the saying about having cake and eating it...and tangled webs...don’t forget the tangled webs..

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