Filiberto Gonzalez, Tamar Galatzan and the Minimum Wage

02.24.15


Filiberto Gonzalez is a long time fixture in the tech community here in Los Angeles. When his first child started school in LAUSD I patiently waited for his head to explode and to hear that he was the PTA president or some sort of liason or whatever it is they do now at LAUSD. It didn’t take long and predictably Filiberto, serial dogooder, is running for school board.
You should vote for Filiberto Gonzalez. He’s an ethical man, he’s a hard worker and he has three main priorities as a school board member:

1. Break LAUSD into smaller, manageable-sized school districts.

2. Increase teacher pay to reflect their responsibility to our student and society, while cutting bureaucratic overhead that has no impact on classroom instruction by 10%.

3. Lead in creating the nation’s #1 child protection and transparency plan to assure parents out children are safe in the care of LAUSD.

I’ve met with Filiberto and he’s outlined his plan. It’s based in sound business and community practices. I’d invite you to interact with Filiberto on twitter at @GoFiliberto or on his Facebook page.

Filiberto Gonzalez for School Board

Filiberto also did an in depth questionnaire with the United Way.

There are a number of candidates for the LAUSD District 3 seat including the incumbent and I’d suggest casting a vote for Filiberto. He is endorsed by the San Fernando Valley chapter of NOW and the Daily News said, “For voters seeking an alternative to Galatzan, we recommend Filiberto Gonzalez, a nonprofit fundraiser who makes a forceful case against the incumbent and would be the strongest runoff opponent.”

This is tricky because Tamar Galatzan and I share friends. I know I’m sticking my neck out but Galatzan was a driving force behind the iPad program which is now being investigated by the Federal Government. I don’t know that she won’t be indicted at worst and at best she proved herself to be one of many terrible decision makers. Further, it seems as though there are irregularities in her campaign including possibly using LAUSD funds and influence for her own campaign materials.

Read the whole story on the Gonzalez blog:

My campaign filed a formal complaint today against incumbent board member,Tamar Galatzan, for several campaign ethics violations.  We submitted evidence to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, which enforces campaign finance and ethics rules in LAUSD School Board races, to illustrate Ms. Galatzan’s misuse of government funds and resources.

We believe Ms. Galatzan has violated the following local and state laws:

 

 

Again, this is sticky and I hope it won’t ruin longstanding friendships but the reality is that I have children in private school not because I wanted them to be there but because my son was presented with such awful options for kindergarten that I had no choice but enroll him in a private school. My daughter had a great year once and then a teacher who gave her candy throughout the day and didn’t know her name by December. We tried. We still pay in to the LAUSD in our property taxes every year. Not utilizing the schools doesn’t make us any less a fiscal stakeholder.

Even if we didn’t want to be in public schools we still want them to be good. Even if your kids are raised or you never want kids or you just hate kids and schools, guess what goes up when schools are good? Your property value. And crime goes down.

I’m asking you to be invested in LAUSD just for a moment. Just to vote if that’s all the passion you can swing.

District 3 includes Studio City, Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, West Hills, Porter Ranch, Northridge, Chatsworth, North Hills, Lake Balboa, Granada Hills, Canoga Park, Reseda, Encino, Winnetka, Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Valley Village and Van Nuys. District 3 alone could be it’s own school district, couldn’t it.

 

tamar galatzantamar galatzan 2

Next week I’ll talk to you about the minimum wage and how Mayor Garcetti would like to see it raised here in LA. It makes sense and we’ll talk about it and then I’ll be done talking about Los Angeles politics for a while. I promise.

My Vaccinated Son Has Chickenpox – Sort of

02.23.15


My kid has Chickenpox.

Alexander spent the night at a friend’s house Friday and then the day running around with three other boys Saturday so when he was tired and said his throat was feeling scratchy Saturday night there was no reason to be alarmed. When he woke up with a cough and his throat hurting Sunday we just decided to lay low, it’s a cold, right? When he took his shirt off to show me the red spots on his chest I immediately consulted Dr. Google, my stepfather a retired radiologist (basically a pediatrician right?) and a couple of Mom friends. Around here that’s how we practice medicine.

breakthrough chickenpox

I brought him to the pediatrician this morning, thinking that perhaps a home diagnosis might not be sufficient and she confirmed for us a few things:

  • Vaccinated kids sometimes get Breakthrough Chicken Pox. These are very mild cases, not nearly as contagious as a real case and no where near as uncomfortable. In fact Alexander is fever free, many people are.
  • The only way to be 100% certain that this is Breakthrough Chickenpox is with a blood test. If it is Breakthrough Chickenpox he will be better before the test is back from the lab.
  • Breakthrough Varicella (Chickenpox) is no big deal if everyone in the house has a robust immune system. I do not. This bugs me.

He can go back to school when his throat doesn’t hurt and the lesions are scabbed over. So in theory he could go tomorrow but I’m going to give it one more day to be sure no more pox appear.

Of course I called the school to let them know but according to The Hollywood Reporter less than 5% of the students at Alexander’s school aren’t immunized so it’s unlikely that anyone will get terribly ill. Then I got to text the moms whose kids were hanging out with mine this weekend.

Hi all. Sunday morning Alexander woke up feeling a little crummy & then developed some bumps on his chest. The doctor thinks it’s a case of breakthrough chickenpox. It’s very mild because he’s been vaccinated and less contagious because he’s been vaccinated. Everyone else in the house is okay. If your boys don’t have the vaccine you might want to watch them for any sort of bumps or rashes on their torsos. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news (and germs).

Seven sentences with some form of the word vaccine used three times. Why? Because in addition to feeling horrible for my kid I am hopeful that no one else’s kid gets sick and I want them to know that I’ve done everything I can as a mother to make sure my kids don’t have or spread preventable diseases.  The vaccine debate has turned a childhood illness into an act of warfare and I do not intend to get speared behind enemy lines.

I’m grateful that he’s fully immunized because Breakthrough Chickenpox is like a distant cousin of the hell I endured with Chickenpox as a teen. Now here’s hoping it doesn’t spread.

Homeboy Industries: Changing Los Angeles Lives

02.21.15


Some popular bloggers just came back from a trip sponsored by yet another brand that uses labor in emerging nations to make millennial fashion. This business is different in that it’s mission is to empower women in those countries. It’s a non profit that’s run by people who seem to be pretty devout Christians but the business itself doesn’t appear to be as missionary in nature as others have been.

The bloggers who took the international trip are very popular so there’s been much criticism of the trip and naturally that criticism has been almost exclusively done in private forums. The criticisms begin with their inappropriate clothes, the fact that the bloggers are too fat or too skinny, that their hair is just plain awful and that their diet needs are insulting to the local people. This first batch of criticisms are ridiculous. The bloggers are pretty and young and that makes them easy to hate. No one is too fat or too thin, they get expensive things and their hair is just fine. This is easily written off as envy.

I’ve thought about naming the bloggers and the project but I don’t think it’s entirely bad (I don’t think it’s entirely good) and I have no interest in undermining the work they’ve done. Also, it’s not a particularly unique trip or dilemma so perhaps the ubiquity of the junket will serve to spur more thoughtful discussion that ought to be had in any event.

Now for the valid criticisms. People are saying there’s more than a whiff of colonialism and white savior complex with these overseas non profit businesses. People are right to note this. It’s odd when folks go to Africa on safari and come back wanting to save the continent. Part of my teenage soundtrack was the song Do They Know It’s Christmas, it was an insanely popular and raised money for African Famine Relief, certainly a noble cause but at the same moment tone deaf. Who cares if people in Africa know that it’s Christmas time? Not all Africans are Christians, though to be fair a great number are. With that same sense of disconnect people are labeling  many of these trips, the whole business model as poverty tourism.

If you want to photograph poor people there are 1.6 million Americans who don’t have indoor plumbing.

People also note that workers in these emerging nations are not being paid what an American worker would make and ask if this is just gussied up outsourcing? That’s a fair question. Simply because something is a non profit doesn’t mean it’s not making money for someone.

I’m not ready to say that these blogger trips don’t have value. I’m not hopping into discussions about exploitation, missionary work, the fact that non-profits need large marketing budgets or cultural sensitivity. Instead I want to introduce you to a non profit that is local to Los Angeles and has transformed lives and the cityscape here since the 1980’s.

homeboy industries tee

Homeboy Industries started in Boyle Heights which is just east of downtown. Unless you have a friend who lives there, a gang affiliation or a sudden need to buy used tires it’s unlikely you’ve gotten out of your car in Boyle Heights. You’ve probably driven through as it’s bisected by the 5 freeway. Before my childhood Boyle Heights was actually a middle class Jewish neighborhood. My first college roommate was from Boyle Heights, she was Latina and the poorest person I’d ever met. Visiting her home the same year that Homeboy Industries began with some screen printing changed my lens.

By the 1980’s Boyle Heights was a dangerous place to live and there was a priest here in town, Father Greg Boyle, who rightly noted that by giving jobs to young men who were trying to leave gangs there was structure to their days and a support system that reduced recidivism was created. I remember their early tee shirts and the failed graffiti removal business.

Homeboy industries currently provides jobs, job training, education, therapy, legal aid, tattoo removal and more for the men and women they serve.

Homegirl Cafe is a spectacular place to grab lunch downtown, the service can be a little spotty but when your server is leaving gang life and just doing her best it’s easy to be patient and to cheer wildly when they get it right (which is usually the case). The food has been consistently delicious.

Currently you can buy Homeboy Industries chips and salsa in Ralph’s grocery stores (it’s our local Kroger). If you buy tortilla chips there’s no reason to buy anything else, they’re no more expensive than the mass produced chips, you know they’re local, they happen to be delicious and you’re spending money with a company that is taking men and women (and their children) out of gang life and helping settle them into a more typical existence with a career and a family a positive impact on our community. Nothing needs to be imported.

You can shop Homeboy Industries from anywhere. They have books and tee shirts, bags and a Bundt Cake that makes an amazing and reasonably priced gift.

bundt cakeI’m not sharing Homeboy Industries with you because they’ve reached out to me or because I think you need more cake (you probably do). I’m sharing this because I’ve been critical of cause marketing, because I’ve decided that the only charities I will personally support are the ones who have an impact on girls and women in America or on the population of Los Angeles.

I’m sharing Homeboy Industries with you because they’ve undeniably taken blight and turned it to business. They serve the community by providing jobs and also by providing great food and fun clothes. They provide soft and hard job skills, an exit from gang life and save the city and state tens of millions of dollars.

homegirl cafe
I’m sharing Homeboy Industries with you because it’s unlikely that you have to leave your hometown to find a business that deserves recognition. I’m sharing Homeboy Industries with you because shopping in your own back yard can be a lot of fun.

Is every non profit 100% good? Probably not. There are sometimes unintended consequences of altruistic actions (like the graffiti removal men being killed) and sometimes you’ll find a non profit that simply does not align with your own values. It’s important to think critically when you’re deciding who to support.

I want to ask something of you who are critical of the poverty tourism junkets. I challenge you to find and highlight someone or some organization who is making a positive impact in your own back yard. There are thousands of them right here in Los Angeles. I promise you that there’s someone doing something magnificent in your home town.

Intrinsic or Extrinsic Stress in High School

02.18.15


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High school is full of stress. Today I sat for nearly two hours to learn about what the Junior year would bring us as far as College Admissions. First of all I am unprepared to sit and listen to anyone for two hours, that was stressful and secondly it made me want to cry. One speaker after another talked about how to keep it from being high stress and then went on about the import of having A’s and B’s and high test scores and I’m sitting there wondering if any high school student ever gets a C or if they’ve gone the way of the dodo bird?

Maybe I’m living in Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average?

I’m told to not worry about ACT prep courses until Junior year but then there’s a prep course offered during the summer session before the Junior year. The kids are supposed to take the ACT in the spring of their Junior year and then again in the fall of their Senior year and no one will be taking the SAT at all because for the class of 2017 it will be a new test and there’s no way to prepare for it. And then again there’s some murmuring about the fact that the head of the College Board was instrumental in creating the Common Core Standards and that the new SAT is being developed to somehow defend the Common Core.

Could one man be that powerful?

Part way through this morning meeting I remembered how to breathe in and out. I remembered that we’d been through this once with Jane already in selecting a high school and there aren’t that many high schools to choose from in our area. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of colleges and universities and all we need to do is be there to help her hit deadlines, study her best and choose wisely.

Jane often feels stressed about school as does every high school kid. The question is where the stress is coming from. Is she putting pressure on herself to do more than she has time for? Is the school putting pressure on her to be perfect (whatever that may be)? Am I putting pressure on her to run faster, calculate better, code cleaner and write more? I hope not.

We’ve got two and a half academic years around here with Jane. The trick as I see it is to provide soft landings when Jane needs a little help, to stay out of her way when she’s hell bent on achieving a goal and to keep the college planning in perspective. She’s coming out of a great school and she’s going to go to a great college not because I know that my kid is headed to a prestige school but because I know that my kid is headed to a school that’s a great fit for who she is and who she wants to become.

The extrinsic pressure? I’m like a valve stem on that one – just doing my best over here to let some of the pressure go.

Did Fresh Off the Boat Forget Asian Bloggers?

02.8.15


This weekend I read a post by a blogger I’d never heard of before. Her name is Grace Hwang Lynch and her blog is called HapaMama. I was unfamiliar with the term Hapa so after devouring the first post it was down the rabbit hole where I read an interview and learned that Hapa describes mixed race Asians. It’s not a term that’s universally embraced, as is evidenced in Grace’s interview with Jason Fung, which makes their interview all the more compelling.

My knowledge of Asian culture is limited to food and spas. I was about to write: I love that I live in a diverse city but that’s not entirely true. I spend a fair bit of time in Koreatown because once you’ve been to a jjimjilbang Burke Williams just won’t do. I often go to Monterey Park, Chinatown or parts of Gardena for Asian food. So I guess that Los Angeles is diverse in many ways but with everything still in it’s own part of town I’m not sure that we aren’t still self segregating. That’s another post.

If you are a mom blogger, particularly a PR Friendly Mom Blogger this post will look different to you. If you are not part of a blogging community, don’t follow hashtags and have no idea when a junket is happening you’ll see things the way I lay them out here. So with that I’d like to demonstrate to bloggers what the casual reader observes. I am very much on the outside of mom blogging events, junkets, PR lists, and it is with this lens that I watched the Fresh Off The Boat hullabaloo evolve.

First there was a post and it’s a good post. Grace wrote about a junket where she observed on instagram and begins with:

I am tremendously disappointed in finding out on Instagram this afternoon that there was a “Fresh Off the Boat” blogger event in conjunction with the “Big Hero 6” event today, and that not only was I not included in this, but that none of the influential Asian American bloggers were. I never heard back from Ellen Gonzalez at ABC.

Grace includes the following image in her post

Instagram image of bloggers on the bus to the #ABCTVevent

She goes on to make some very good points about Asian American bloggers, the need to hear their voices and their relevance (duh!) in promoting shows like Fresh Off the Boat. Make no mistake this is all about promotion and excluding Asian American voices from the promotion is an obvious error if we’re looking in from the outside.

I shared Grace’s post on Facebook and was met with some interesting responses, most of them private. Let’s face it, bloggers don’t want to criticize The Mouse in public. They want to be invited on trips, to theme parks, Hawaii, cruises and to movie premieres. I understand that but I also know that I’ve been critical of Disney before, Disneyland is far from my Happiest Place on Earth, and I’m still invited to things, granted they’re kinda crappy and the one time I was invited to Disneyland with my family it was on Passover. Cultural sensitivity runs deep I suppose. Publicly Yolanda Machado (one of the bloggers on the junket) said:

It’s actually a horribly researched post. The trip wasn’t for the show, so it isn’t ABC budget (it’s actually for a Latino themed film), there are mothers on there of multicultural kids, and at least 3 or 4 diversity bloggers on the trip. I see her sentiment but she is stereotyping people just by a photo.

Yolanda does have a good point. We are all stereotyping the bloggers by a photo. My friend Yvonne Condes often talks about being a caucasian looking Latina. Bloggers like Yvonne may succeed bit by bit in teaching people that Latina is a broad term and some of us may look at Instagram photos and not assume everyone is caucasian some day, but for now, we see a group of women who presumably screened Fresh Off the Boat and none of the faces look Asian.

We know that images are powerful. If you ever doubt the power of images you needn’t look further than Pinterest to confirm their import both online and off. Armed with the knowledge that images are powerful wouldn’t it make sense to ensure that when someone takes a photo of your group they’ll see more than one hue? More than two? Maybe even ensure that every woman who looks at a photo of a group will see at least one person who looks at least a little like she does. I’ve been told by more than one person that I don’t “read well in the Bible Belt”. In case you aren’t fluent in euphemism that means, “too Jewy”.

I don’t know how bloggers are supposed to research events they haven’t been invited to. There are blogger groups that I’m part of and I still don’t understand the business model. I don’t understand what PR Friendly Bloggers bring to the table. I don’t understand the hows and whys of the junket and I will never understand how bloggers are selected and what measurement occurs. This is all outside of my current job description.

If you work at a TV or a film studio you don’t need bloggers to tell you that perception is everything. AJ pops in to remind us what a publicist’s job is:

PR 101. Perception matters. These women might have kids at home, husbands, cousins, etc. I hate to stereotype and I hate to make assumptions but I’m a slave to my profession sometimes… However, when you’re a good publicist, you think ahead to the photo opp. No matter what you’re promoting. To do otherwise is naive. I’d love to see the invite list for that junket. And the schedule. I suppose we’ll never know the full story because no one over there is really commenting.

Blogging is problematic. Bloggers spend a lot of time communicating with one another in groups both private and public. Sometimes I think bloggers forget that they’re writing for an audience that isn’t limited to their friends and social media fans. There are people out there who simply read a post and keep on clicking to the next thing. The fact that an event is hashtagged has zero resonance for people who aren’t at the event and don’t measure impressions as part of their job.

Jenny Lawson popped in on Jeremy’s timeline with this:

I don’t have a dog in this fight & I don’t get invited on press junkets but there were several WOC in the group (Mexican and Latina, I think) and I believe the blonde lady fixing her ponytail in the picture is Myrah (from Mamacita La Cuponera) who is a proud Latina. One of the blog posts explains that this was a pre-set group focused seeing a movie about high school Latino sport team, and the ABC thing was a later addition. TOTALLY agree there needs to be more inclusion, better thought-out PR, and increased intersectionality, but I hate that there are Latina women who went to watch a movie with an inspirational Latino focus and found themselves embroiled in an incident that wrongly labels them as white. Bleh. Ignore me if you want. This shit is complicated.

This shit is complicated, which is a reminder that we can uncomplicate things when we invite people who don’t look, act or think like us. We can uncomplicate things when we have guests who can share different experiences with us, provide us with a view from a different background.

One of my favorite bloggers emailed me with the following. They would like it to be anonymous. I will agree with this blogger, not anonymously.

If this were a “Blackish” press trip and it was all white bloggers, no one would be talking about what kids were at home or who was invited. Black Twitter would be in an absolute UPROAR right now and you’d have high profile bloggers chiming in with support.

It has been pointed out in private forums, in DM’s that were requested to be private, and in phone conversations that this wasn’t a junket for Fresh Off the Boat. The junket was a three day trip for McFarlane, a Disney movie that I was invited to see. I was told anonymously that the FOB portion of the trip was 90 minutes of a three day trip and therefore is less important.

I respectfully disagree.

I really wanted to hear from my friend Chris Lam who is a new mother, a blogger, works in social media and is Asian American. I asked her what she thought of Grace’s post and what she thought of the follow up around it. Chris’ reaction:

If they truly walked the walk (bloggers talking about inclusion and having a camaraderie), then they would agree with Grace, stand by their “sister” blogger and help their peer(s) through the glass door/get on the damn bus.