Cal State L.A. selected for nationwide initiative

LOS ANGELES — Cal State Los Angeles has been selected as an anchor institution by the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities as part of a new effort to uplift and transform the economies and social well-being of communities across the nation.

The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) and the Democracy Collaborative launched the Higher Education Anchor Mission Initiative to tap into the resources of higher education institutions to find solutions to pressing problems and help the communities they serve flourish.

The initiative is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Cal State L.A. and 30 other colleges and universities were named to lead the initiative as anchor institutions, mission-driven organizations that serve as economic engines in their regions and are linked to the long-term well-being of their local communities.

“Whether public or private, CUMU member institutions are anchored by place and recognize an obligation to their communities to address challenges and work with partners to find creative, equitable solutions,” CUMU Executive Director Bobbie Laur said. “This initiative will guide universities across the country to expand current collaborative work and to form more strategic partnerships that benefit the economic and social well-being of their communities.”

Cal State L.A. is ranked number one in the nation for the upward mobility of its students. The university is a comprehensive multicultural public institution and has been recognized as a powerful engine of social mobility and a force for change across Southern California. The university is designated as a Hispanic-serving institution.

“We are pleased to be collaborating with CUMU on this strategic initiative to change lives and foster thriving communities in the region we serve,” Cal State L.A. President William A. Covino said. “Our selection as an anchor institution aligns with our role as the premier public university in the heart of Los Angeles and our mission of engagement, service and the public good.”

Cal State L.A. serves the public good through initiatives that engage local and regional communities with dozens of mutually beneficial partnerships, such as Achieve LA, GO East LA, Community Arts Partnership LA, and Civic University. This purpose-driven network of collaboration and service contributes to the overall well-being of the region.

“The transformative power of Cal State L.A.’s commitment to improving the economic and social well-being of the communities we serve is well documented,” said Cal State LA Executive Vice President Jose A. Gomez, who is leading the university’s collaboration with the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities and the Democracy Collaborative. “We expect to enhance our work to create new mutually beneficial partnerships that propel the people and places we serve to greater and more resilient economic and civic development.”

Added Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA: “Our collaboration with CUMU will enable us to expand our efforts to effect positive change and ensure that our communities prosper.”

The Pat Brown Institute is working with the Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative on a number of projects to increase civic engagement and will build upon that work under the Anchor Mission Initiative.

Cal State L.A. is the only Los Angeles-area university and one of two California institutions selected by CUMU to lead the initiative. Other colleges and universities named as anchor institutions include the University of Chicago, Georgetown University, Marquette University, Cleveland State University and the University of San Diego.


Vinatieri re-elected mayor in Whittier voting

WHITTIER — Mayor Joe Vinatieri has won another two years in office based on preliminary results for the April 10 municipal election, but longtime Councilman Bob Henderson was trailing challenger Henry Bouchet in the Second District and Councilman Fernando Dutra maintained a slight lead over challenger Lizette Escobedo in the Fourth District.

Marsha Morales of the city clerk’s office estimated there were another 1,000 absentee ballots and other votes waiting to be counted. A final total will not come until after a canvass by the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters.

Vinatieri, an attorney and lifelong resident first appointed to the council in 2006, received 5,301 votes, 73.8 percent, in citywide balloting, besting three challengers.

Raquel McLeod, a business woman running for the first time, was second with 1,027 votes, followed by Rolando Cano with 663 votes and L. Leon Savage with 191.

Bouchot, the executive director of a veterans group, received 990 votes, about 40 percent, in the Second District to lead Henderson, who had 889 votes.

Henderson, who operates an insurance agency, served on the council from 1978 to 1984 and returned in 1990 and has been on the council ever since.

Other Second District candidates were Irella Perez, a Whittier school administrator, 478 votes; Eric Leckey, 64; and Vincent McLeod IV, husband of Raquel McLeod, 51 votes.

In the Fourth District, Dutra, a business owner first appointed to the council in 2012, received 1,235 votes, followed by 1,130 votes for Escobedo, community affairs director for Service Employees International Union Local 201.

Besides the at-large mayoral vote, residents of a council district may only vote for candidates running in that district.

It was the last local municipal election to be held in April. The next municipal election is expected to be in March 2020, under a state law that requires cities to align their elections with either the state primary or general election in even-numbered years.

California’s primary is currently in June but is expected to be changed to March in 2020.

The city’s district system was established as part of a settlement to a lawsuit in which groups alleged that the at-large voting was unfair to minorities.

Residents in 2016 approved a city charter change to that effect.


Overtime costs lead to Sheriff’s Dept. budget deficit

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is running a projected $40 million budget deficit and using dollars allocated for services, supplies and equipment to pay out an estimated $142 million in unbudgeted overtime, according to a report presented to the Board of Supervisors April 10.

Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai told the board that the numbers reflect a historical imbalance in place for the last 20 years, long before Sheriff Jim McDonnell was elected in 2014.

“The sheriff’s budget does not reflect the actual spending in many of the line item categories,” Hamai said, pointing to $260 million in overtime spending, more than double the amount budgeted.

The department says it uses overtime to make up for hundreds of vacant sworn and civilian positions.

In response, the board unanimously voted to hire an independent consultant to develop strategies to recruit and retain more deputies.

The department is also struggling to absorb cost increases in retiree health care and workers’ compensation, with Hamai projecting $100 million in cost overruns.

McDonnell pledged to collaborate with Hamai and the auditor-controller on a sustainable budget, but he also raised “the very real possibility that the [Sheriff’s Department] is underfunded.”

Pressures include an “exponential rise” in the jail population and a growing number of mentally ill inmates requiring additional services, and the sheriff suggested that the scope of the department’s work might need to be cut back to right-size the organization.

“We want to be many things to all people, but we need to ask ourselves if can we afford to do that,” McDonnell said. He later added, “We have reached a fiscal tipping point.”

The sheriff said the organization — which has a $3.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2017-18 — is among the leanest when compared with law enforcement agencies in New York, Chicago and other big cities, which have an officer-to-population ratio of 4 to 1,000 or more, versus the Sheriff’s Department’s ratio of one to 1,000.

“Los Angeles taxpayers are getting a true bargain,” McDonnell said.

The sheriff, the board, city officials and labor leaders all agreed that deputies are being asked to work too much overtime, which hurts morale and creates the risk of bad decisions.

The union believes another 1,500 deputies need to be hired, according to Derek Hsieh, executive director of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. There are currently 9,295 sworn personnel working for the department, according to department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.

“It’s reached the point to where it’s a crisis,” Hsieh told City News Service.

Deputies are being asked to work as many as six to eight extra shifts a month, Hsieh said, which is just “not healthy.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger agreed, saying, “It is not fair to ask them to work large amounts of overtime” to make up for unfilled positions.

Significant mandatory overtime is one of the things that makes it hard to hire new deputies, Hsieh said. The personnel shortage also hamstrings the department from instituting changes — including adding more mental health evaluation teams and upgrading equipment and technology — a point echoed by McDonnell, who cited an “already archaic information infrastructure.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis noted that difficulties in hiring enough officers is “not unique to this department, but part of a national trend,” and urged McDonnell to “focus on quality.”

McDonnell said the department has been searching college campuses and military bases nationwide to find the best recruits, in addition to boosting its social media presence to attract interest.

Keeping deputies from leaving the department is also critical, the sheriff said, telling the board he worries that “deputies are chronically tired” and spending too much time away from their families, especially since many have long commutes to work.

“We cannot achieve full staffing and reduce overtime just by increasing the number of people coming through the front door,” McDonnell said, before making a pitch to would-be deputies.

“It’s one of the rare careers where you get to make an immediate positive impact on the lives of people who need your help,” he said.

A report from the recruiting and retention consultant to be hired by the CEO’s office is expected back in 90 days.

Hamai pledged to work with the auditor-controller and sheriff’s department to bring the budget into balance by June 30.

The CEO said the collaborative review would include an analysis of whether the overtime costs are directly tied to vacancies and an effort to match ongoing revenues to ongoing expenses.