ZEV YAROSLAVSKY at WVRC on February 3rd
Proving that you CAN return, PP ERIC LOBERG was once again in charge, in the absence of GORDON what’s his name. Thus the Pledge and 4 Way Test were led by ATHENA JACKSON.
PP BOB WESSLING provided the Invocation “I am grateful, my loving God, for my arena of service, for a place to put my feet, for burdens to carry and lives to touch in the course of my daily labors. May I be sensitive to your leading and to the hurts and needs of people around me. I step into this day as your messenger and servant. Help me to be bold, yet full of understanding, steeped in conviction, yet humble and tolerant of the convictions of others, willing to proclaim, yet just as willing to listen, and ready always to reach out to someone who is lost and lonely. Grant to me, O God, the grace to be compassionate in my relationship to my brothers and sisters about me, to show kindness and love to everyone in my path. And while I am your servant, may I be a student as well, willing to learn and to grow in my understanding of life and your purposes in the world about me.“ Wow, BOB, a good choice thanks.
LENNY next came forward, and you can see that he is having trouble moving without help. This may be his last as Song Leader, and if true, we will certainly miss his enthusiastic spirit. He did choose Working on the Railroad, and we did all the verses.
There were guests. Acting Prexy LOBERG brought former member STU GILMAN, and he is always welcome. JOHN O’KEEFE was with an old friend, Bill Whitman. Rafello Romano from BH was our Visiting Rotarian, and he brought Wes Truit. And Sunny was of course with LENNY. The timing escapes me, but RICK BROUS led us in The Good Old Winter Time. TERRY M WHITE reminded us of the upcoming Valentines Brunch it is set for 11:30 on Saturday February 12th, at the Bistro Gardens, 12950 Ventura Blvd in Studio City. Cost is $55.00, and either TERRY or DON NELSON can take your check.
One should never be surprised that PP ERIC had a joke to pass on. And, for those of us who do remember his penchant (always wanted to use that word, by golly) it was sometimes accompanied by minor fears regarding propriety, it should be stated. Anyway, this one concerned a new mechanism designed by NASA (or was it the Air Force?) which, after much obfuscation gadzooks, that’s TWO new words in the same week! - turned out to be a gun that fired chickens (dead ones, note) at great speed, their target being aircraft windshields, which obviously, would provide an accurate gauge of the strength of the aforementioned windshields. And it isn’t necessary to remind us all that birds do indeed impact windshields, so there! But, moving right along, this new mechanism immediately caught the attention of those who build high-speed trains. Assuming the user paid a proper use fee, they were employed immediately, to frightening effect. Not only did the chicken smash the train windshield, it proceeded to completely penetrate the seat back of the nearby engineer who we should observe, was not physically present during the test, thank goodness! Naturally, this result caused considerable concern to the tester, who immediately sought the advice of the original designer that was NASA, or maybe the Air Force, remember? After a thorough examination of the evidence supplied by the tester, the designer, whoever the hell it was, came back with what almost seemed the obvious advice “Defrost the chickens!”
PP CHRIS BRADFORD did his usual good job in introducing 3rd District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Before this position, he served on the LA City Council from 1975 until 1994, being elected and re-elected six times. He has been our Supervisor since 1994, and has been re-elected three times. He is a graduate of Fairfax High School, and has two degrees from UCLA, making him a true Bruin. Supervisor Yaroslavsky was a driving force behind the Orange Line bus way, which traverses the San Fernando Valley, plus the rebuilding and modernizing of the Hollywood Bowl. He was instrumental in the development of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Since 1991 he has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, that promotes the development of democratic institutions in developing democracies. He has monitored three elections for NDI, Romania 1990, Mexico 2000 and Ukraine 2004, plus conducting seminars in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Bosnia/Herzegovina. Supervisor Yaroslavsky has also spoken before WVRC several times.
Zev began by relating a story about a student protest in 1965 at UCLA. Bill Walton was involved, and it finally cooled down. Zev’s wife was working at UCLA at the time, so she had a close look at what was going on. He wants to talk today about what is going on state-wide, and notes that California routinely has at least a one billion dollar deficit. Zev believes that you have to put the savings in a good year in the bank, against a time when they will be needed. He also believes that the sooner you make tough decisions, the better. The cash crunch during Pete Wilson’s term as Governor was seven billion dollars short, which was solved by a tax increase that lasted three years, plus savings, so we still came out even.
When Zev was elected in 1994, Orange County declared bankruptcy that same day which was very unexpected. The next year, Credit Suisse asked for a conference call with the five County Supervisors. They underwent a 45-minute grilling about finances, since Credit Suisse held some of the County bonds. One basic result of this wake-up call was that the five Supervisors resolved to never again be in that deficit position. As a result, they have saved when income was good, and spent only from those savings in bad years. As a result, the County has never had to take drastic measures, and has never had to lay off an employee.
Term limits have perhaps contributed to these cash-flow problems. Those in Sacramento do not have the experience, gained over time, that enabled previous state governments to stay within their means. In addition, this shorter term thought process leads to pressing concerns about re-election, literally all the time and thus not as much gets done as needed.
One way the State is trying to save money is by transferring responsibility for many programs to the counties. When they succeed, not only the functioning of the agency but its budget transfers to the county, period. There is a major effort underway to try to depopulate the State jails simply release many prisoners, which would, at least briefly, save money. But the longer term effects would be disastrous, so this is being resisted as best it can be. A related problem is that State parole officers get a Public Safety Bonus, which can almost double their income (and costs). As an example, if your last salary was $100,000, you are eligible to receive 3% of this amount for each year you worked and after 30 years, that is, $90,000 a year for life! Our county employees do not receive this benefit but if nearby counties are paying that, it is hard to deny it locally.
Zev spoke about our subway plans. Presently, they are on a 30-year basis, which means they would be completed in 2040! There is an active effort being made to switch that 30 years to a ten year window, with construction to be completed within ten, and the balance due to be paid over the remaining twenty years. He favors ending the Westside subway at the VA, and I wondered but could not get my question asked why we wouldn’t want it to go all the way to the ocean? Beverly Hills is currently objecting to the subway running under their high school but this will be resolved, he believes. A great many people who work on the Westside cannot afford to live here thus they NEED fast public transportation to solve that problem.
Q&A JACK PAUL asked why commercial property was bracketed with residential in Prop 11? Howard Jarvis wrote it this way to ensure its passage, and it should be eliminated. JOHN HEIDT asked about subway routes, and Zev thinks they will work out OK, stopping at Constellation in Century City and then into Westwood and the VA. I think it was ATHENA JACKSON who asked if the objections to the subway by Beverly Hills can be overcome, and Zev believes they will eventually see the light. And YOE says, ZEV, that was an excellent report. Thanks for coming to see us. And on that subject, thanks to all of you who were in touch during my own brief hiatus.