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In today's pages: LAUSD, Guantanamo detainees and fig trees

September 30, 2009 |  8:38 am

Fig tree

The Times editorial board laments the departure of Guy Mehula, the man who oversaw the recent surge construction for the Los Angeles Unified School District. That program operated with an efficiency and competence rarely found at LAUSD, the board asserts, and those qualities are threatened by Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines' reported plans to supervise the unit more closely:

It's not a coincidence that Mehula's division has operated with an unusual amount of independence and freedom from school board politics and central office bureaucracy. Mehula's resignation on Monday, and the loss of a measure of that independence, are discouraging signs not only for the future of school construction but for the district as a whole.

Elsewhere on the editorial page, the board defends Facebook's handling of a user-generated poll asking whether President Obama should be assassinated. And it urges lawmakers to grow spines and stop blocking the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to maximum security federal prisons in the U.S.

On the Op-Ed side of the fold, columnist Tim Rutten runs through the list of policy challenges facing President Obama -- the jobless recovery, rising health insurance premiums, the war in Afghanistan, the Iranian leadership's nuclear ambitions -- and finds no easy choices. Nina Hachigian, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says the Chinese government is sending mixed signals about its willingness to play ball with international organizations to address global problems: And writer Kathryn Wilkens of Upland muses about the life and death of the mission fig tree that had anchored her garden for decades:

My fig tree was flawed but beautiful in its own way. It didn't reach for the sky; the four main branches were almost parallel to the earth. But its gnarly gray bark and long branches gave it an elephantine dignity. And, like an elephant, it never forgot -- each June and August, it produced hundreds of figs.

Insert your ironic comment about this article appearing in dead tree media here.

Illustration: Blair Thornley / For The Times

-- Jon Healey

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