Up Front

by Andre Coleman, Pasadena Weekly, Dec 22, 2005

An Altadena Unified School District?

With the impending closure of elementary schools in their town, Altadena officials are now considering breaking away from the embattled Pasadena Unified School District.

As PUSD Board of Education members decided unanimously Tuesday to close four elementary schools — including Noyes and Edison elementary schools in Altadena — Altadena Town Council members decided to convene a task force to investigate whether that unincorporated community should create its own school district.

“I think it would be irresponsible not to take a closer look at how the closing of these schools will impact children in Altadena,” said Altadena Town Councilman Justin Chapman, who proposed the idea of a task force and will serve as its chair.

“It’s an intriguing proposal that the council has looked at before, and one that may be beneficial,” said 20-year-old Chapman, a student at Pasadena City College and a freelance writer for the Pasadena Weekly.

Pasadena school board members decided to close Noyes, Edison, Allendale and Linda Vista elementary schools after losing more than 1,000 students this year. That decline cost the district $4 million in state funds, forcing cuts to security and other costs.

Linda Vista students currently attend classes in Altadena because repairs to that campus were stopped due to budget constraints.

While governed by the LA County Board of Supervisors, Altadena has an elected, 16-member Town Council that acts as an advisory body to Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

All 13 council members who attended Tuesday’s meeting supported creation of the task force, though some aren’t sure if it will work.

“It would be a great thing,” said veteran Councilman Steve Lamb of the idea. “The problem is there is a state law that requires school districts to pay for the care of special ed students in their district. A high number of special ed students are housed in Altadena at Five Acres and Sycamores in Altadena,” he said. “I would absolutely support [a new district] if we could get the law changed, and we could come to some type of agreement regarding those kids.”

Because of the link between enrollment and funding, any attempt by Altadena to leave the district would likely meet with heavy resistance from the PUSD.

“Obviously we would not be supportive of that,” said PUSD Assistant Superintendent George McKenna, “nor could Altadena realistically do it. The cost issues, the facility issues. … What are they missing from what we give them now?”
Answered Chapman: “At the very least two schools.”

— André Coleman

Hickambottom honored

The Altadena Chamber of Commerce has named longtime Altadena resident and civil rights advocate Dolores Hickambottom Altadena’s Citizen of the Year.

A former field deputy for state Sen. Jack Scott, 74-year-old Hickambottom helped found the Altadena Town Council and Altadena Senior Center.

She moved to Altadena in 1941 with her late husband Elbie, who served many years as a Pasadena Unified School District school board member.

— André Coleman

Bush snubs, ‘railroads’ seniors

For Pasadena senior rights activist Marvin Schachter, the 2005 White House Conference on Aging was more than a little disappointing — it was nothing short of anti-senior.

“It was a conference organized by the administration to avoid discussion of the issues,” Schachter said. “It’s a railroad.”
Conferences have occurred every 10 years since 1961 and are designed to allow seniors to draft policy recommendations for Congress and the White House.

The 2005 conference, which was Dec. 11 through Dec. 14, was different than any other in several ways, said Schachter, a delegate appointed by LA Democratic Congressman Xavier Bacerra.

In an unprecedented move, delegates were not allowed to draft, amend or defeat resolutions put before them, but were instead forced to “prioritize” pre-packaged resolutions prepared by the Bush-appointed policy committee.

“What’s extraordinary about that is the arrogance of the administration — guaranteeing that there would be no active participation by the people who had come here,” said Schachter.

— Joe Piasecki

Don’t believe Bush, says Boxer

During an event promoting her new book “A Time to Run” Sunday at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium’s Little Theater, California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said she was happy to have made a stand against the PATRIOT Act and that she had a hard time believing anything the Bush administration says anymore.

After being introduced by Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, Boxer spoke to a crowd of nearly 100 people, covering topics including the recently disclosed Defense Department eavesdropping program and the war in Iraq.

“I’m proud to be among the senators who defeated the PATRIOT Act,” Boxer said to enthusiastic applause a day after all but two Democrats joined a handful of Republicans to filibuster the debate, effectively enabling two key provisions of the act to expire on New Year’s Day. “We can protect our homeland against terrorism without eroding our basic civil liberties. It can be done.”

Although Boxer once believed claims that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons, “Literally everything they said proved to be wrong, every single thing. Now I’m at the point where I have a very hard time believing anything they say. They think the end justifies the means. That’s dangerous,” she said.

— Justin Chapman