The little district that could

Congratulations to all the area graduates!

Tonight I’ll be proudly attending the Temple City High School commencement for the Class of 2008. My son, Matt, 18, will be graduating, as will some 534 other seniors.
Here’s a high school from which 15 students will be going to UCLA, and another 15 will be going to UC Berkeley (my son, included). That is just one aspect of the success story that is Temple City High School.

Respected TC businessman Jerry Jambazian wrote in an e-mail to me, after attending the TCHS senior awards ceremony: “In the graduating class there were 151 seniors who had a GPA of 3.5 and SAT (scores) of 1500 and above.”

Call me biased, but you know the argument is easily made that this school, with its above 800 API, is one of the best in the San Gabriel Valley.

That’s why I believe a recent editorial in a weekly newspaper (NOT affiliated with the Pasadena Star-News or any of our weekly publications) that criticized outgoing Temple City Unified School District superintendent Joan Hillard was harsh and inappropriate. The writer went so far as to suggest that Hillard not attend graduation and other promotion ceremonies this year.

While our newspaper (and even yours truly) have been critical of Hillard at times, she deserves to be present at the TCHS graduation tonight. As someone who was at the helm of this district for nine years, she contributed to the continued success of this district and its students. I want to thank her, the other administrators, counselors, coaches, the teachers at TCHS, Oak Avenue Middle, and the three elementary schools and all the staff for a job well done.

The school is a model of what a small district that promotes learning can do.

iPhone’s down side

AS Steve Jobs explained to a rapt audience of technofiles in San Francisco this week, Apple Inc. will release a new and improved version of its iPhone on July 11.

If what happened after its iPod release a few years earlier holds true, Apple will not be the only entity to see increasing profits. Common thieves and criminals will be eating better this summer as well.

That’s because there is a direct correlation between every new release of the latest palm-sized Internet device and street crime.

In the year after the iPod was released, Los Angeles saw an increase of 34 percent of robberies of iPods and other similar electronic gadgets and San Francisco saw a doubling of such crimes, according to a report by Chris Hansen at Dateline NBC.

While Hansen was doing a yeoman’s job reporting the dark side of the usually all-giddy new technology news reports, most of the bad news from the electronic revolution never becomes conventional wisdom.

Sure, techno-bloggers and some iPod and iPhone users know about the bulls-eye painted on their back — even the increasing chance of becoming a victim of a violent robbery — but most go about using the devices oblivious to the dangers.

I happened to be in the Bay Area the day Jobs was unveiling the new iPhone, which will be sold at a lower price ($199 for the 8-gigabyte model and $299 for the 16-gigabyte model). The price of the required service will, however, rise to $39.99 a month plus $30 for data.

While at an orientation lecture from a police officer from U.C. Berkeley, where I was with my son, Matt, who’ll be attending there in the fall, the officer spoke in frank terms about these devices being magnets for “thugs” who often roam the city and campus looking for expensive electronic devices to steal from Cal students.

She mentioned, matter-of-factly, that the release of iPods and iPhones spiked the crime rate at U.C. Berkeley. As a precaution, students should not walk around campus with their iPods or iPhones visible, nor should they have both earplugs in their ears. “Those two white ear plugs are a dead give away,” she told the freshman parents, who absorbed the message like dry sponges.

I have to admit, I had no idea these devices were such a problem. But I did recall my son getting a $300 iPod from his uncle in New York and remembering it was promptly stolen after only two weeks. Most likely, it was lifted from a backpack or gym locker at his high school.

The thefts of these video-data-music devices are quite common. Hansen reported that it has become such a problem on college campuses that some have banned them.
On more than a half-dozen occasions during my visit to the Bay Area, I witnessed a person take out an iPhone and begin surfing data. At the airport, at a Giants game, on the Berkeley campus, on the BART — none tried to hide the device. Were they unaware they were sitting ducks?

Colleague Daniel Fritz, who was using his iPhone in the newsroom Friday, said he never uses the device unless he feels secure. When he does use it in public, he cups his hands around it “so it looks like any, ordinary PDA,” he told me.

A very funny YouTube video by Flixxy Films shows how a bump-and-rob scenario can cost a person several hundred dollars in a few seconds. Also, some iPhone users are victims of identity theft as thieves download the owner’s personal banking data and use it for fraudulent purchases. The video concludes with the owner pressing a remote control detonator that blows up the device and the thief.

Hansen of Dateline asked if Apple can design such advanced technology, why can’t they incorporate a way to track down the thief or render the device useless when stolen?
I’m guessing that will never happen. More reason why users of new technology should know the down side as well as the up.

Prop. 13: Thirty years later


Howard Jarvis, tax fighter

Today, as I write this, (June 6) it is exactly 30 years since the voters approved the historic California tax-cutting measure Proposition 13.
What do you give for the 30th anniversary? Hmm, I know a lot of school teachers worried about layoffs who would like to give the voters a sack of coal.

I’ve been in California exactly as long as Proposition 13 has been around. Yup, I moved here from New York in August 1978 to attend Univeristy of California, Irvine and like many, I fell in love with SoCal and stayed. Today, it still feels like we’re living under the cloud of Prop. 13. Living here and reporting on communities in Orange, San Bernardino and now, Los Angeles County for almost those 30 years, I’ve seen and heard all sides of the property tax cutting measure.

My first experience was when I was still in New York. I got a phone call from my parents, who had heard from my brother, who had just joined the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department. He was worried, very worried, that if this ballot measure was to pass, he would be out of a job.

Well, that didn’t happen. In fact, in April, he retired from the department after 31 years of meritorious service.

Scare tactics were the first reaction to the measure. But California found a way (it was called reserves) to pay cities and schools for the shrinking property tax revenues. Then, as we saw in Tuesday’s Covina Utility Tax vote (Measure C, approved by 65 percent of the voters), the use of scare tactics to convince voters to vote for a tax is still in vogue.

Which brings me to my next point. Utility Users Taxes came about after Prop. 13, after the state stopped the bailouts and started taking some of the money back. Then property tax revenue bond began to appear on our property tax bills. Almost every school district has one, some have two on the rolls. When you add community college districts and some water districts, it, well, almost adds up to a pre-Prop. 13 tax bill.

The point is: other taxes have taken the place of lowered property taxes. It is the old step on the snake illustration; step on the tail and you haven’t killed the snake, you just fatten the head.

Ancient art of voting

I almost drove by my polling place this morning because … there were no cars parked in front of the church in Temple City. A poll worker opened the door for me and as I walked in, he and the other workers joked that he was out recruiting voters “and invited me in.”

As I went through the process of signing in, getting my ballot and putting my “inka-vote” dot next to the persons I was voting for, I thought how this has become an archaic activity. It is almost like some ancient art, and I’m still doing it like they did in past generations.

It was not so much the paper ballot and the inky half-pen tied to a metal chain that I used to mark my ballot. But it was more the feeling that I was a select remnant: those who still vote in primaries! I had a colleague at work who saw my “I voted” sticker ask me what that was about. So, I guess I’m part of the ancient collective that still votes…

I know what you’re thinking. This voting thing is done WAY too often. And splitting the primary this year (presidential held in February, all the rest held today, June 3) was a bit much. Remember how everyone said the presidential primary in California would make our state “more relevant” in picking candiates for president? Well, imagine what it would’ve been like had we kept our presidential primary in June? We would’ve had CNN and Matt Drudge camping out in California today and all week.

Oh well, water under the bridge….
About today’s ballot. We here at the Star-News/SGV Tribune/Whit DN editorial board enjoyed meeting candidates for judges of Los Angeles Superiior Court. Our choices are in the newspaper today and on our web sites (“Our Picks: Election Day”). Check them out. There are considerable differences in many judicial candidates. Meanwhile go out and vote. You have until 8 p.m.