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L.A.'s District 2 Talks Budget Crisis, Education

Alexandria Yeager |
March 4, 2011 | 4:49 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

At schools across the Los Angeles Unified School District, teachers and staff are getting laid off and class sizes are growing. The district faces a budget gap of nearly $400 million next year and that will result in a loss of music and art programs, classes with 30 students or more and fewer people like counselors and nurses to support the students. 

North Hollywood, part of District 2, faces budgetary problems (Creative Commons)
North Hollywood, part of District 2, faces budgetary problems (Creative Commons)

One mother is concerned by the budget crisis and says that education is the most important issue in the city.

“School, because I have kids, so that is important to me,” Sara Vazquez said. “Many times I feel that other things are more important [to the council] than, say, having more teachers or having better education for the children.”

Vazquez has two children, a 15-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son, who are students at a Los Angeles district school.

“I see all the cuts in the schools - let’s say the teachers or programs – and that’s upsetting,” she said.

Her husband, George Vazquez, echoes those sentiments.

“I’m mainly concerned with education, about the future of the Los Angeles United School District,” he said. Although he said he is apprehensive about the outlook of the district given the state of the economy, he is currently happy with the education his children receive.

The couple, residents of District 2, both say they will be voting in the upcoming City Council election. The councilman running for reelection in their district, Paul Krekorian, is a former president of the Burbank School District. He is running against Augusto Bisani, a president of a company that distributes restaurant equipment.

Krekorian has served as a city councilman since 2009 when he took the seat previously held by Councilwoman Wendy Gruel. Bisani came in tenth during that election and is expected to lose this year also; his campaign website has not been updated in two years.

Although Krekorian is expected to win, not all residents – even those who plan to vote for him – are happy with his and the other council members’ job performance. One woman, who has been a resident of District 2 for over 40 years, said she does not think that the council members always put the concerns of the citizens they are representing first.

“I don’t think that they pay enough attention to how they spend their money,” Ronnie said.

Despite her dissatisfaction with city council, she says she will probably vote for Krekorian. However, she hopes the council members will show better financial management.

“First of all they have too many perks. That’s the first thing,” she said of the council members. “They need to cut back on perks. And, according to the press, statistically they’re the highest or the second highest paid council people in the country. I don’t think they warrant that, I really don’t.”

She is referring to a Pew Charitable Trusts report. It looked at 15 major cities and found that the annual average salary of the Los Angeles City Council members is nearly $179,000. Washington is the next highest, with members earning an average of $131,000 per year.

Other voters still have not made up their minds.

“I’m not a big news person, watching the news and stuff, so I’ll listen to it as it comes closer and gather my sources right before the election, ” Josh Bradley said.

Bradley is most concerned with financial issues.

“Putting the money where it belongs is very important,” he said.

And he has an opinion as to where it should go.

“Education. There’s been a lot of money stripped from education so putting it back where it belongs is important,” he said.

Residents also have other concerns.

“I think it is very important for each one of us to be conscious of the pollution that we are creating,” Sara Vazquez said, speaking specifically about unnecessary waste, the lack of recycling and air quality.

She says she has a lot of friends with asthma and wants to see the council do more to ensure cleaner air as well as address other environmental issues.

She will keep those concerns in mind when she enters the voting booth March 8.

And although Krekorian is expected to win easily, Ronnie says that shouldn’t stop people from voicing their opinions.

“I wish more people would vote. They have really bad turnouts, and I think it’s a responsibility as a citizen to vote,” she said.

This story is part of our March 8 election preview series Irked and Inspired: Los Angeles Residents Speak On The Issues. 

Reach Alexandria Yeager here.



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