Opinion L.A.

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from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Editorials

Santa Monica College: Lost opportunity costs [Blowback]

Santa Monica College
The editorial board recently questioned Santa Monica College’s decision to offer two-tier course pricing. Here, Martin Goldstein, associate professor of communications at SMC, defends the school’s decision. If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed and would like to participate in Blowback, here are our FAQs and submission policy.

As a teacher at Santa Monica College, my view of SMC offering  additional classes at a higher fee is necessarily shaped by my on-the-ground, in-the-trenches perspective. And that perspective says we should do it, and that students will want those classes, fill them up quickly, and be thankful for them.

Every semester for the last several years I have turned away as many students as I teach. Every semester I hear the pleas of students who can’t get classes they need to transfer and move on with their lives. Every semester I see the personal cost -- and can foresee the social cost -- because I know some of those people we are turning away are never coming back.

I believe those who oppose our additional classes are doing faulty math. They are comparing the few hundred dollars more in tuition per class -- saying that’s not “fair” -- while ignoring the much larger lost opportunity costs of not getting that class, not being able to transfer, not moving on with your life as you hope and plan. What’s the cost of that? 

Some of those we turn away will lose their way during that semester or year they have to wait, and will find the door of opportunity closing in on them. They have to earn a living, perhaps support a family during that time. Life happens, things get in the way, and the system seems to be playing a game of “bait and switch” with you, anyway, by promising a good public education -- then denying it to you when you want it and need it. Maybe it’s not worth it.

We at the community colleges live at the intersection of minimum wage and something better. We are the choice point, the fork in the road that turns you from high school graduate to someone with a chance of earning a decent living. Maybe an AA degree, maybe a BA, maybe retrained for a new career -- we make the difference that can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased income over the course of their lives. That’s our mission and we do it well -- when we can.

If we are underfunded, we can’t.  That’s the situation now. We’ve lost around 300,000 students out of the potential 2.9 million we should be serving. By turning them away, how much is that cost to society in income lost and taxes lost and quality of life diminished?

We know that it is a tragedy, and given that, why is it wrong to try to make it better?  Why is it wrong to give that opportunity to a few more? We now have the full assurance that nobody will be turned away because of cost with the recent $250,000 scholarship commitment, along with other grants and scholarships available. Yes, it’s different, but so is the world of education these days. But our mission is the same, and turning kids away if we don't have to is opposite to our mission. It's bad social policy and bad ethically.

And when someone waves the bloody flag of “privatization,” as doubtless they will, let me state clearly that these classes will be taught in the same public classrooms I teach in now, by the same publicly employed teachers who are teaching there now -- unionized and professional -- offering the same quality public education we have always offered at SMC.

People know a good deal when they see it, and whatever they cost in dollars, the lost opportunity costs of not getting those classes is incomparably greater. If we offer them, they will come, fill the classes, and be grateful for the chance to move on with their lives.

ALSO:

Cal State's closed-door plan

The college learning debate 

How much is enough for a Cal State president?

-- Martin Goldstein

Photo: Santa Monica College students are shown celebrating Earth Day with the Eco Action Club in 2010. Credit: Los Angeles Times

'Daydream Believers' will miss Davy Jones

If it's true, as a Times editorial recently stated, that during this month's Grammy Awards telecast someone tweeted "Wait, who is Paul McCartney?" and someone else replied "To be honest, I have no idea," then news of the death of Davy Jones on Wednesday will be greeted by plenty of blank looks.

But, hey, hey, he was a Monkee!

And for those of us of a certain age -- "Daydream Believers" you might say -- well, the passing of the Monkees' lead singer at age 66 was sad, and a painful reminder that none of us are getting any younger.

The Monkees, of course, weren't even a real rock band, at least not at first. They were a television creation -- four guys thrown together in 1966 to play a rock group on a TV show. Heck, they couldn't even play very well at first. In fact, they weren't allowed to play.

But the show was a hit, the guys were likable, the name worked -- like the Beatles, the intentional misspelling was spot-on -- and so, for a time, the Monkees were as big as the British mop tops.

Jones was the pretty boy frontman, banging his tambourine and singing lead vocals on such hits as "Daydream Believer," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You."

How big were they? Well, I can still remember the "Battle of the Bands" nights in my little Midwestern town when fans could vote for their favorites -- and the Monkees would consistently outpoll the Beatles.

Of course, like most rock banks, the Monkees didn't last. The show ran three seasons, from 1966 to 1968. 

Jones, whose background included playing the Artful Dodger in “Oliver!” on the London stage, carved out something of a solo career. In fact, according to The Times' story, he was scheduled to perform Monkees songs at a March 31 concert at La Mirada Theatre in La Mirada.

And he never lost his boyish handsomeness.

No, he wasn't Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison, whose stars still shine bright years after their too-young deaths. Nor was he McCartney or Mick Jagger, still famous -- and rockin' -- into their late 60s.

But listen to Jones' sweet voice on "Daydream Believer" in the video above.

Maybe you'll become one too.

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Michael Mann's counterstrike in the climate wars

Rearview cameras on cars by 2014? It's so 21st century

-- Paul Whitefield

'Creatocracy' and the Internet free-for-all

Jay-Z
Author Elizabeth Wurtzel -- of "Prozac Nation" fame -- argues in a June episode of "Studio 360," which re-aired a couple weeks ago, for preserving the integrity of intellectual property. "Our GDP is now 47% intellectual property," she told host Kurt Andersen. Distributing artists' work free of charge not only threatens the existence of art and creativity, it also threatens a substantial part of our economy.

Rather than view the Internet as an environment that cannibalizes artists' work, some musicians such as Jay-Z have flipped the traditional music industry model on its head. Instead of relying on record sales for the bulk of their income, they use their albums as a marketing tool to get fans to buy concert tickets and merch. The easier their music is to access online, the better the promotion.

Many of the musicians I know don't mind this new model; some even prefer it. They post their new music on social networks, actively inviting fans to listen for free, banking on those listeners to help build buzz. Why wouldn't you adapt, they ask? There's been a similar shift in other creative fields too, with writers, photographers and designers, to name a few, using their personal sites to promote their work in hopes of spreading the word and getting hired.

That's crazy, says Wurtzel. "This is hard work," she told Andersen. "This isn't something people should be giving away for free." It devalues the product. For a "creatocracy" to work, she says:

Wurtzel: [W]e have the only Constitution that has intellectual property in it. […] I think the thing that [the Founding Fathers] did that was unique is that they didn't set up a minister of the arts; they set up a copyright system. They said you could profit from your creativity, they would not support it, there would not be patrons, there would not be the European system.

Andersen: Other countries have copyrights and patents. What makes our version of it special?

Wurtzel: I think that the government pretty much threw it all to the free market. […] They invented the concept of an audience supporting the arts as opposed to patrons of some other method.

Within the world of music, it would seem as though music-streaming subscription services would bridge the gap. Spotify, which is like Netflix for music, for instance, preserves intellectual property; artists get royalties and promotion; and fans get easy, immediate and inexpensive access to just about anything they want to listen to.

If only it were that simple. The editorial board recently took on this topic, writing:

To some labels and artists, the subscription services are little better than piracy. The royalties are minuscule -- about half a penny per song played on Spotify -- and the way they're calculated is maddeningly hard to understand. […]

For better or worse, the Internet makes music instantly available to anyone who wants to hear it. Many of the sources aren't legal, but they're free and easy to find. As a result, broadband has effectively ended the era when people had to buy an album to find out how good every track was (or wasn't). Consumers expect to be able to hear a recording before committing it to their collection. The challenge for artists and labels is to persuade potential fans to do so on legitimate, royalty-paying sites. At the same time, they have to find ways to introduce themselves to new generations of listeners. That means having a presence on the sites that millions of those listeners use, rather than trying to coax them to places chosen by the artist.

As a commenter, WaltMcKibben, writes on our discussion board, "an artist who can cross all the technological borders will define the century."

ALSO:

Why Chris Brown is no role model

Protest songs: Record labels aren't listening

Academy Awards: It's about art, not political correctness

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Jay-Z performs during a concert at Staples Center on March 26, 2011. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Ballot comeuppance for Judge Lynn Olson?

Lynn Olson

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Oh, the irony. Is it the hammer of justice? The gavel of comeuppance? Or just another judicial election?

It may be wrong to take satisfaction in the fact that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lynn Dianne Olson drew a rare challenge in the June 5 election (read last week's news story by Metropolitan News-Enterprise reporter Kenneth Ofgang). But if taking satisfaction is wrong, then at least for now I don't want to be right.

Perhaps you remember Olson. She was the operator of Manhattan Bread and Bagel in Manhattan Beach when, six years ago, she filed an election challenge against Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs. And won. Janavs, an experienced and well-regarded jurist, was forcibly retired to make way for Olson, who had not practiced law in years and was patently unqualified to take the bench (she drew a "not qualified" rating from the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., and a thumbs-down from the Los Angeles Times editorial page; Janavs was rated "exceptionally well qualified").

Of all the 140 or so incumbent judges who were standing for reelection, why would Olson pick Janavs? Olson explained later that it was because Janavs was a Republican, but there were lots of Republicans to challenge. Janavs was beatable, probably because voters breezing over a ballot and candidate names they don't know are more likely to pick an easy name like "Lynn Olson" over a tough-to-pronounce, foreign-sounding one (it's Latvian) like "Dzintra Janavs."

In California, most trial judges are appointed by the governor, but every two years a few candidates are elected to fill vacancies -- or challenge sitting judges at the ballot box. Challenges are rare. Successful challenges are rarer. And unlike with other political offices, in which voters should have a free hand to oust incumbents for any reason or no reason at all, it's a bad practice to boot out competent sitting judges. Why? Because we want them to remain sufficiently independent in their rulings, and not feel that they have to make popular decisions or to hook up with a political party, fundraiser or special interest just to keep their jobs.

Most judges go unchallenged when they are up for reelection, and their names don't even appear on the ballot. They automatically win a new six-year term.

So Olson ousted Janavs (although then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger almost immediately reappointed her). And now, the first time Olson is up for reelection, she has been challenged. No automatic re-up for her.

The challenger? Perennial candidate Douglas Weitzman. Olson has the edge in campaign and fundraising know-how, but still -- instead of cruising to automatic victory, she will have to campaign and raise money to keep her job.

What's this called? Payback? Turnabout? The hunter becoming the hunted? Divine justice?

Or just a judicial election.

[For the record, 3:12 p.m. Feb. 14: The original version of this post misspelled the word comeuppance in the headline.]

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L.A.'s bike lane blooper

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Carmen 'I am a liar' Trutanich

--Robert Greene

Photo: No credit. From a 2006 election flier.

 

Food stamps and the right to make unhealthy decisions

Market
Is it fair to mandate to food stamp recipients what they can and can't eat? Sen. Ronda Storms (R-Fla.) thinks so, which is why she authored a bill that imposes restrictions on what people can buy with federal aid. Times reporter Richard Fausset writes:

A few months ago, Storms, 46, started noticing that some fellow shoppers were using federal food stamp money to purchase a lot of unhealthful junk. And it galled her -- at a time when Florida was cutting Medicaid reimbursement rates, public school funding and jobs -- that people were indulging in sugary, fatty, highly-processed treats on the public dime.

Naturally, Storms' bill hit a nerve.

In an editorial, our board writes:

The list in Storms' bill is so long -- foods containing trans fats, sweetened beverages, "sweets" from jello to doughnuts, and "salty snacks" -- that it seems to include most items not found in the produce or meat aisles. The notion that poor people have any more time to cook from scratch than other Americans who rely on prepared supermarket "junk" food is clearly absurd, and infantilizing them by restricting their choices in this way is demeaning. […]

The best way to prevent people from making bad food choices is to give them proper nutritional information. But for the government to reach into their supermarket carts is downright -- dare we say it? -- socialistic.

On our discussion board, several readers complain that beggars can't be choosers. "When you eat on someone else's dime you eat what's provided and say thanks rather than whine about how oppressed you are," writes David in LA. Furthermore, argues kroneborge, "I strongly support the right of people to make unhealthy decisions, they should be able to smoke, eat and do whatever drugs they want as long as they pay for it and their healthcare themselves. But if I am paying for it, then they need to be living right."

Question is, who determines what it means to be "living right"? It could also be argued that obesity and diabetes aren't the only health risks associated with our food consumption. If you're going to go about banning risky foods, why not put the kibosh on Florida tomatoes too? And microwaveable popcorn? Or milk, poultry and red meat? Or food that comes in cans? Most people know that chips are bad for you, but I doubt there are a lot of people out there who've ever considered that a can of chicken soup could be toxic.

That's all beside the point, though. "The point of the food stamp program is to stop vulnerable Americans from going hungry, not to impose some sort of national dietary regime," writes Elizabeth Nolan Brown on Blisstree. "And while it may seem more helpful (in a sort-of paternalistic way) to limit what folks on food stamps can buy to certain healthy or cost-efficient foods, what good does that do anyone if those foods aren't things a food stamp user will actually eat?"

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--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: La Casa Market in East Los Angeles. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Redistricting: Watts new?

Maps-bWhat's the opposite of "I told you so"? Because whatever it is, I need to say it about the draft map proposals released Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission. Blogging on the recently concluded special election in Council District 15, I said there was just no way that Watts was ever going to be severed from the distant harbor.

But except for gaining or losing a few blocks at the far northern end, where Watts joins South Los Angeles and the central city, Council District 15 doesn't change. It can't, and it won't, because it has nowhere else to go. It's fenced in by the harbor on the south and the very strange shape of the city boundaries from there northward. Unless more territory is annexed to or detached from Los Angeles, this district will look pretty much the same in 50 years as it does today.

Never mind. The proposed map moves Watts out of the 15th and makes it part of a Council District 9, which traditionally takes in most of downtown but now would go only as far north as Olympic Boulevard.

Is that good or bad? It's different, and it could be good, although I'd be interested to know what Watts residents think. I suspect that many of them might like to finally be severed from San Pedro, the harbor community that always controls the election of the 15th District council member because it's where most of the money and most of the votes reside.

Every council member from that district, going back at least to World War II, has been a San Pedro resident. And it must be extraordinarily hard for the District 15 members not to promote the interests of their neighborhood and its very distinct demographic -- families with roots in fishing, shipping, loading, unloading and moving freight, largely white with a strong Italian, Croatian and Greek ethnic identity -- as opposed to Watts, with its distinct history and largely African American and Latino immigrant demographic, as well as environmental degradation, dense public housing problems and persistent gang crime.

Of course, not every community can have its own district. Communities must be joined with others that are like them -- or very unlike them. So would Watts now instead be pushed around by wealthy and gentrified downtown?

Perhaps not. The Bunker Hill and Flower Street office towers would be excluded, as would most of the 1920s bank buildings that are now condos and apartments. A lot of the conversation is going to focus on how the northern two-thirds of downtown would now be united as part of the same 14th District that includes Boyle Heights and far-away Eagle Rock. But the 9th District, in addition to Watts, would include downtown's Staples Center, L.A. Live and, assuming it gets built, Farmers Field football stadium.

So is this now the Anschutz Entertainment Group district, and will Watts now become the afterthought of AEG, instead of remaining the afterthought of the Port of Los Angeles? Could the AEG connection be better leveraged to help fund improvements in Watts?

Don't know the answer yet. Let's watch and listen.

ALSO:

Watts and Not-Watts

Planned remapping of  L.A. City Council districts draws fire

INTERACTIVE MAP: Current and proposed Los Angeles City Council districts

--Robert Greene

Lawyers, labor, leaders rally for court funding

A campaign by attorneys and labor and business leaders to restore funding to state courts is beginning to get some attention, and it's about time. As The Times notes in an editorial Tuesday, courts stand apart because of their essential role in a society of law. Every part of California government has to take -- and has taken -- serious budget cuts, but the justice system must be first in line for restoration.

Instead, under Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal, courts are first in line for further "trigger" cuts if voters reject taxes and if other hoped-for revenue fails to materialize.

A committee known as the Open Courts Coalition, headed by Los Angeles attorney Paul R. Kiesel and Burlingame lawyer Niall McCarthy, is calling on the Legislature to keep the courthouse doors open in 58 Superior Courts around the state by keeping court funding intact and gradually restoring $350 million that has been cut in recent years. The group closed off a block of Grand Avenue between Disney Hall and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Jan. 18 for a rally to support the courts; speakers included former Gov. Gray Davis and former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.

In a video prepared by the group and delivered to Sacramento lawmakers on Jan. 13, members of the legal, business and labor communities do their best to get the Legislature's attention. (See the video at the top of this post.)

"Courts strangely are much like fire and police," says Milo Brown, court employees business representative for AFSCME Council 36. "You never think about them, you're never concerned about them, until you need them."

"The work you do in the Legislature, what you bring to the governor to sign into law, is meaningless if there is no forum to enforce it," says California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

Participation and cooperation of the Los Angeles Superior Court as well as statewide court leaders and representatives of court employees is significant, because they are sharply at odds on actual court expenditure and management issues. Here are some examples of participation by court supporters with a stake in keeping the courts functioning.

Cantil-Sakauye visited The Times' editorial board this month to discuss court funding and unhappiness expressed by many judges with centralized leadership -- the Judicial Council, which Cantil-Sakauye heads -- and with a costly case management computer system. Listen to her remarks here, here and here.

Stand Up for Justice

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Gov. Brown's vision

Spare California's courts from cuts

Chief justice: 'We've become slower, thinner, smaller'

--Robert Greene

Photo: Court workers, attorneys, judges and business and labor leaders gather for a rally to restore court funding on Jan. 18 in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Lance Rubin / Open Courts Coalition.

Newt Gingrich's fiction [Most commented]

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich's victory in Saturday's South Carolina primary gave the Republican candidate the opportunity to stand at the podium and spin a little fiction about how he's a Washington outsider.

"There's nothing new or particularly original about a candidate seeking to distance himself from the East Coast establishment," writes the editorial board in "Gingrich's 'outsider' gambit." "But it's particularly rich to have Gingrich attempt to position himself as an outsider." They continue:

Gingrich served 10 terms in Congress and was speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. In that post, he was two heartbeats from the presidency, and he was the galvanizing force of the GOP's return to power. In other words, he was near the pinnacle of the rarefied Washington elite. As for the "New York" half of his sneering denunciation — a reference to the media he's been lambasting for weeks — it is worth recalling that Gingrich is a prolific book writer who once received a $4.5-million advance, which he was forced to return after ethics questions were raised about it. And need one even mention that he has made his fortune in Washington (he earned $1.6 million, for instance, giving "strategic advice" to Freddie Mac, the quasi-governmental mortgage giant) or that he and his wife maintained a credit line at Tiffany? Surely that qualifies as admission to some sort of elite.

Here's what readers are saying on our discussion board.

What do Gingrich and Bristol Palin have in common?

Listening to Gingrich rebrand himself as the authentic outsider is like listening to advice on teenage abstinence from Bristol Palin -- as she holds her baby.

--Archibald

What's wrong with Gingrich? Here's a list:

The right-wing nuts' talent for self-deception is astonishing. The Newt is one of the most deeply dishonest and immoral major candidates this country has seen, not to mention his hypocrisy and radical extremism.

--Navydad

Is Gingrich all that different from other politicians?

Gingrich can say anything he wants, all U.S. politicians have established that the truth is optional.

--michael14

The rest of America is smarter than South Carolina, right?

If it weren't for the frightening possibility that Gingrich might actually become president, his astonishing hubris and hypocrisy would merely be entertaining.

Alas, his "I'm an outsider" shape-shifting is an old and tried Gingrich trick that's working once again.

Before he was an "elite" and then an "anti-elite," Gingrich successfully used deferments to avoid the Vietnam War era draft -- at 19 he married his 26-year-old high school teacher no less.

Then with no military street cred whatsoever, Gingrich went on to teach an officer war fighting course for the U.S. Air Force. He also served as an informal advisor to then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Talk about big ego, no shame.

So pretending to be what he isn't, dodging, weaving, obfuscating and attacking are standard operating procedures for this hypocrite.

Please, somebody tell me the American electorate is smart enough to see through this guy.

-- CarolineR2

If Gingrich is the nominee…

If Gingrich is the nominee, Romney and Paul should run as a third party ticket ... or maybe both as separate tickets.  I have been a Republican since 1976 and under no circumstances will I vote for that hypocrite Gingrich or the nut-case Santorum.  Romney should be the nominee. Period.

--bill1745

*For clarity purposes, spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.

RELATED:

McManus: Is Romney a true conservative?

A Newt seduced South Carolina's Christian electorate

Gingrich's best value among 'values voters'? Beating Obama

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Newt Gingrich speaks to supporters at the Hilton Hotel in Columbia, S.C., following his victory in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary on Jan. 21. Credit: Jeff Siner / Charlotte Observer/MCT

First open seat for D.A. since 1964 [Coffeebreak Quiz answer]

 

It has been 48 years since the last open-seat election for district attorney. That's when Evelle J. Younger defeated Manley Bowler to succeed William B. McKesson in the 1964 race

At least eight candidates are competing in the June 5 primary to become Los Angeles County's next district attorney. There is no incumbent. When is the last time that happened?

 

That's today's Coffeebreak Quiz answer: It has been 48 years since the last open-seat election for district attorney. That's when Evelle J. Younger defeated Manley Bowler to succeed William B. McKesson in the 1964 race.

Every district attorney since then has gotten the job by either defeating the incumbent or being appointed by the county Board of Supervisors.

The current D.A., Steve Cooley, beat his boss, Gil Garcetti, in 2000 after Garcetti was battered in the media over the failure of the O.J. Simpson murder prosecution and public squabbling over the Rampart police scandal.

Garcetti took the job in 1992 from his boss, Ira Reiner, after Reiner dropped out in the final months of the campaign. Reiner also had trouble with high-profile cases, including the McMartin Preschool child-molestation case and the prosecution of four police officers in the beating of Rodney King. Reiner had the job beginning in 1984, when he defeated Robert Philibosian, who in turn had been appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 1981 to fill a vacancy.

The vacancy was created when Dist. Atty. John Van de Kamp was elected state attorney general. Van de Kamp became district attorney in 1975 on appointment by the Board of Supervisors to fill a vacancy created by the death of Joseph Busch. The supervisors appointed Busch to the office in 1971 to fill the vacancy left when Younger was elected attorney general. And of course, Younger had the job since 1964, after he won the election to succeed McKesson.

I once worked for Younger, many years after he left office, at a Los Angeles law firm that specialized in bankruptcy. Good training for reporting on Los Angeles city and county and California state government. And, come to think of it, for working at the Los Angeles Times.

Another man I worked for, Metropolitan News-Enterprise Editor and Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace, noted in a column that Younger was related to outlaw Cole Younger and others in the Jesse James gang. Grace has written extensively about the county's not-always-upstanding district attorneys, going back to the beginning.

The actual nomination period for this year's district attorney race begins Feb. 13, but eight candidates have declared that they are running and/or have been raising money for the race. They are Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace; Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Ipsen; Assistant Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson; Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey; Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers; Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcus Musante; Deputy Dist. Atty. Mario Trujillo; and Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.

Check back with Opinion L.A. and the Los Angeles Times editorial page between now and election day for discussions of the candidates, the issues and our endorsement.

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Name that questionable street banner

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Mayoral deputies Szabo, Frank shell out for candidates

-- Robert Greene

Photo: Evelle J. Younger, then a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge, looks on as his wife, Mildred Younger, emerges from a voting booth in 1954. Mildred Younger was running for state Senate, and would have become California's first female member of the Legislature had she won. Credit: Los Angeles Times

First wide-open race for D.A. since -- when? [Coffeebreak Quiz]

 At least six candidates are running for Los Angeles County district attorney in the June 5 primary to succedd retiring incumbent Steve Cooley

At least eight candidates, are running for Los Angeles County district attorney in the June 5 primary. Incumbent Steve Cooley is retiring and leaving an open seat, something that hasn't occurred in Los Angeles since -- well, since when?

That's today's Coffeebreak Quiz. When was the last time there was an open seat here for district attorney? In other words, no incumbent running to defend his (and they've all been men) job. Hint: It's been a really long time. Second hint: When we say "incumbent running to defend his job," we mean actively raising money, campaigning and having his name on the ballot -- but not necessarily keeping his campaign going up until election day.

The next D.A. will have a lot to deal with. He or she will need to not just make certain that felons are locked up, but may have to grapple as well with possible ballot measures dealing with the "three-strikes" law, the death penalty, medical marijuana, criminal-justice realignment and perhaps more. Look for a lot more from the Times editorial page on the race for district attorney.

And look in this space, at this time tomorrow, for the answer to the Coffeebreak Quiz.

ALSO:

Name that questionable street banner

A banner month for the Golden Globes

Mayoral deputies Szabo, Frank shell out for candidates

-- Robert Greene

Photo: Steve Cooley discusses his plans after winning his first race for Los Angeles County district attorney in 2000. Credit: Rick Meyer / Los Angeles Times

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