Furloughs coming to your state university

I wrote a column on Friday that attempted to show how a $584 million cut to the Cal State universities will have an effect on people — from faculty to staff to every employee to of course, the students.

The idea is to show the people behind the budget numbers.

What the universities — and I focused on Cal State Fullerton where I am a part-time (adjunct) professor — are doing is taking furloughs. Each employee will have to take 2 days off a month. That amounts to 24 days for those on 12 month schedules, and 20 days for full-time faculty on 10-month schedules. Even part-timers, who teach one night a week, will have their pay docked by 10 percent. It is still unclear to me how I can furlough my time, unless I teach only 2 hours, 45 minutes on some nights?

In the article, I said some universities may be considering in the spring going dark on certain days, which would mean classes would not be offered those days. I mentioned Cal Poly Pomona, which was in the news that day. I received an e-mail from Cal Poly spokesman Tim Lynch, who said even in the spring, Cal Poly Pomona is not considering that move. Here’s what he wrote:

“Although we’ve had to make some tough calls at Cal Poly Pomona, we have not looked into canceling classes in the spring on furlough days.” So, good news for students.

At Cal State Fullerton, College of Communications Dean Rick Pullen said CSUF was not considering that option either. He said that would’ve taken too much re-scheduling. Also, he said from the communications department, they did not want to see radio and tv broadcasting labs usually held on Fridays cut. They are too important to learning.

Pullen is a great guy who comes from the teaching side of things. He said they are trying not to affect the classroom with cuts. Yet, he said some students have complained that they can’t get Communications 101 classes in the fall semester. As it turns out, the university eliminated several of the Comm. 101 sections due to previous mandatory budget cuts. It remains to be seen how many more classes will be cut (usually they just don’t employ part-time instructors, though they don’t call that layoffs!).

Instead, Pullen said the university will enact two furlough days this month, August 7 and August 28 (they both are Fridays). Classes will be held, but all other offices will be closed. Professors who instruct on those days will have to furlough themselves on another day, presumably one for which they do not have a scheduled class. Of course, professors use those days to meet with students, draw up lessons, grade papers, etc.

Pullen suggested some may actually reduce the workload in the classroom to comply with the furlough requirements. One suggestion was to give fewer papers or tests. Fewer assignments, less papers to grade.

It’s a sad day when the state’s inability to balance its budget means professors at our universities have to cut down on teaching. That’s just one casualty of this state boondoggle. It behooves all to find better, more reliable revenue streams to support our state universities, the backbone of our future work force.

Rio Hondo media students shine

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Marlene Chavez, winner of the Steven Tamaya Scholarship Award, is the editor-in-chief of La Cima magazine at Rio Hondo College in Whittier.

Marlene Chavez loves working in media. She is finishing up her Associate of Science degree in print media, and will be taking statistics and courses in Mexican culture this fall.

But she didn’t limit herself to print. Chavez completed two internships, one at MTV and another more recently at KROQ-FM radio.

“I really liked being at MTV because there are so many networks there, and they also own Myspace,” Chavez told me. So, add social networking media to her still young college career.

A few posts back, and in a column in the newspaper, I wrote about the death of my friend and a former political reporter and legislative aid and governmental affairs officer Steve Tamaya 10 years ago this month, on July 3, 1999. A scholarship was set up at Rio Hondo College in Steve’s honor. I thought it would be informative to those who knew Steve to let people know how the scholarship is helping young people with their media careers.

I was more than overwhelmed when I went to Rio Hondo College a week or so ago and met Marlene, who was working on La Cima in Prof. John Francis’s class in the college up on the hill overlooking the San Gabriel (605) Freeway. Marlene is a bright, personable student who will be a media star someday.

She has plans to continue her media studies in public relations at Chapman University in Orange. She is excited about taking those classes within the major emphasis she has chosen.

Also at Rio Hondo that day I met Elan Lopez (pictured below) who was working on a new publication called Today’s Whittier magazine. Lopez was enthusiastic about his work and told me about the kind of lifestyle features (restaurant reviews, etc.) in the publication.

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Donations can be made to the Steven Tamaya Scholarship Fund at Rio Hondo College in care of: The Rio Hondo College Foundation, 3600 Workman Mill Rd., Whittier 90601.

Saving is not a dirty word

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Above shows the Mortgage Equity Withdrawal (MEW) rate. Note the high point in 2004-2007, then after the housing crunch, it dropped off to almost zero in 2009.

WHEN I was 19, my grandpa, Matteo Mimmo, drove me to the Ben Franklin National Bank in his black Mercury sedan.

Together we walked into the safe deposit vault. After turning the key and opening the narrow metal box, he showed me a savings book (remember those?) with deposit entries going back years and pointed to the balance, about $15,000, and said in his broken English: “I give this to you, for school.”

That’s right. For one year my college education was funded by my grandpa. It was the only year of my life since age 16 that I did not work. His act of personal savings helped propel me closer to my bachelor’s degree.

That was 1978 and it seemed like the last year Americans saved money at a decent rate. Fast forward to 2005 when Americans were saving at a negative rate for the first time since the 1920s. In 2009, that rate has climbed back from slightly above 0 in 2008 to 5 percent in January and 6.9 percent in May, according to news reports.
This is a good thing, right?

No, not according to macroeconomists who say the sluggish economy won’t zip ahead without a burst of consumer spending. A CNN Money.com report said this about Americans’ new thrifty nature: “Why saving is killing the economy.”
Now, hold on one minute.

In the spendthrift days of the late 1990s and all the way up to 2005-2006, consumers spent wildly on homes they couldn’t afford, cars they couldn’t afford, jet skis, well, you get the point. And the economy gods, including Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and those greedy bums on Wall Street, were feeding the barn fire. (NOTE to picky grammarians: I meant this as a joke, as in burning down the barn or house as in collapsed housing market.)
“What fueled the consumption binge was consumers who tapped their homes and used them as ATM machines,” said Keith Leggett, senior economist with American Bankers Association in Washington, D.C. “They were spending more than their income could support.” (See the above graph)

When the housing market collapsed and the bills came due … well, you know what happened. The economy collapsed like a tent in the wind.

No, the problem with Americans was not in the saving, it was in the spending. So don’t tell me that it’s wrong to save now. That’s a load of bull.
I say, we can, no, we should do both (that is, if we have jobs or an income). Leggett emphasized that spending wisely is what we should be doing to help the economy.
However, we’re not so much because we’re hunkered down, worrying about the future, our jobs, our rising utility bills, etc.

So is there an upside to all this saving, I asked Leggett. Surprisingly, he said yes.
First, the increase in personal savings are keeping interest rates low. How is this good, I asked, when I can barely get 2 percent interest on a CD without tying it up for five years? Because having more money in our banks means we’ll need less foreign money as a nation. “From a national defense standpoint, do we want to be heavily reliant upon foreign governments to finance our government?” Leggett asked rhetorically.

Saving for a rainy day, or for retirement, will help our national defense. I like that.
Second, more savings in banks will lead to more capital formation, which will lead to more loans to businesses to buy more equipment and hopefully, hire more workers.
Third, as people save and capital increases, and as things wear out and people replace those items, the economy will grow, he said. When that happens, and the recession recedes, interest rates will go up. And that will be good for personal savings accounts and personal savers.

The only answer “not on my secret eight ball” said Leggett is whether this year’s shift to a prudent consumer/saver is temporary or permanent. That remains to be seen.
Personally, I like the example set by my Grandpa Mimmo. He spent wisely and oh yes, the savings part really helped a young kid from Long Island attend college in California.

Free concerts in Pasadena


Pasadena really turned out Saturday night for the free concert in Memorial Park at the Levitt Pavilion (see photo above). “It’s like a mini Hollywood Bowl,” remarked my wife.

By the time Louie Beltran Cruz played its first note, the entire lawn had filled up:


We were celebrating a friend’s birthday, a milestone the MC announced to the whole crowd! The best way to get there is to take the Gold Line to the Memorial Park station. Very convenient.


Above, Louie Beltran Cruz group warms up.

Opening boxes from a past life

THE slanting orange light caught my eye. I was downing my last bite of buffalo burger at The Dish restaurant in La Canada Flintridge when the sun, bending through the restaurant’s unusually large bay window, prompted me to jostle my pockets for my dark glasses.

The lazy days of July are longer and warmer — finally! — as the sun-worshippers would say. They welcome the triple-digit heat as an antidote for those gloomy June days they’re holding a grudge over.
I’m from the East where heat has a twin brother called humidity. So here, where the hot air is dry, I can’t complain. At the beach two weekends ago it was windy. But it was the beach — so nya, nay, nya, nya Midwesterners. On the drive Sunday from La Canada, the orange sun skipped over the green pines of the Angeles. I half imagined myself in one of those mountaintop mansions off the 210 Freeway. The sun was sending rays like darts at a house with 24 front windows. All I could think of was the streaks in the window panes.
“They must have one heckuva Windex bill,” I said to my wife, who was driving toward the Pasadena/210/Colorado Boulevard tunnel.
“What?” she said, concentrating on the road.
We went to the canyon town to eat and escape the heat. It worked. Yet, six hours before that, my wife was going against cast, attempting a garage cleanup in the noon-day heat. Hey, at least that made me forget the heat.
I poured through each dusty box and unearthed old newspapers chronicling everything from the new millennium (Dec. 31, 1999) to the Whittier Narrows Earthquake (Oct. 1, 1987). There were clips of stories I wrote of the housing boom of the 1980s and a firestorm of the early 1990s. I had written about a young baby needing a liver transplant and a middle-aged daughter about to meet her father for the first time.
I liked writing about family drama. Probably because I was escaping my own.
Also in the boxes were letters from my mother in New York, asking me to find her and my father an apartment. They were moving, retiring, to sunny SoCal. That was June 1979, 30 years ago.
Thrust with the responsibility of helping my parents relocate, then graduating from college and finding a job (and getting married), the letters caused me to compare my life with that of my own near-20-year-old son. Today, the 20 or 21-year-old is studying abroad or attending the Burning Man event.
There were college notebooks filled with notes on comparing political systems or analyzing social communication. One assignment — “the life of a rumor” — came from a true story. Some of my professors thought my friend, Frank, and I and our friend, Serena, were starting a cult. We were thinking of sharing a house, but that’s all. When the leader of an on-campus Christian group to which we belonged heard this, he asked if we were starting our own religious cult. The year — 1979 — was shortly after the Jim Jones cult suicides made headline news.
My wife’s old boxes contained the following: old love letters from a former boyfriend; a Girl Scouts sash with sewed-on badges; and a Polaroid of herself and a high school friend. And oh yeah, some love letters from me.
“I was so sentimental. I saved every one of your letters,” she said.
As the sweat rolled down my back, I was thinking how unsentimental I’ve become. Years of parenting will do that to you. I put aside a box of letters from friends, some who were in grad school in New York or San Francisco. But when I went to read them later, they no longer interested me.
Our oldest son, Matt, 19 and a half, enjoyed picking me out of a fifth grade class photo. I tried to get my younger son, Andy, heading to UCI this fall, interested in his old dad’s UCI notebooks. But he didn’t take the bait.
My family has come a long way from its Italian heritage. We’ve become so American. We don’t complain about the heat and we don’t reminisce about the past. We live in today, sun in our eyes, or not, and try not to open any more boxes.
At least until next summer.

Walking for clean water

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This sounds like a good idea.
A preacher’s kid from Hollywood, Jordan Wagner, son of the head pastor of Oasis Church on Wilshire in L.A., is hawking Generosity Water to fund water wells in Africa.

At a church service Sunday at New Beginnings Family Church in Monrovia, the energetic Wagner spoke of how he wanted to help people in Africa by providing them clean water. Generosity Water was born.

People can buy a bottle for $2 or a case for $48. The proceeds go toward building water wells — providing clean water — in Ethiopia and Kenya. Today, 1.1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to clean water. Water-born illnesses are a major factor in premature deaths, including the deaths of children.

As Wagner told the congregation, it makes little sense to go to Africa and build hospitals if the main problem remains. People are getting sick from drinking contaminated water. It’s better to address the source.

Locally, New Beginnings Pastor Rob Spina will be “water walking” 100 miles starting Wednesday from the church at Live Oak Avenue and Peck Road. People can sponsor his walk, follow him on twitter at twitter.com/waterwalking or by calling (626) 327-2330 and asking for his location. Don’t want to walk too far? You can join Spina on his last three miles down Myrtle Avenue from Foothill Boulevard on Saturday around 11 a.m.

Remembering Steve Tamaya

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Former political reporter and political aide, Steve Tamaya, died 10 years ago this month. He was 37.

MY good friend and one of the best political reporters this newspaper has ever seen died 10 years ago this month.

Steve Tamaya started having headaches and walked into Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center that late June afternoon and collapsed. Doctors said it was a brain aneurism that led to a massive stroke.
I said my goodbye at his hospital bedside, while Steve was in a coma. He squeezed my hand as I spoke to him about forgiveness, God and heaven.
A few days later, on July 3, 1999, he was gone.
Myself, and some 350 others celebrated this tough, yet extremely gifted journalist’s life at a memorial service in Fullerton July 8, 1999. He was taken at age 37, way too soon. But his legacy did not end that day.
Every year of the past 10 years since his death, a young journalist student at Rio Hondo College where he went to school is awarded for his or her dedication to this important craft. Those that knew him and shared his passion for politics and journalism, including his mentor and professor at Rio Hondo College from 1980-1982, John Francis, helped set up the Steve Tamaya Scholarship Fund in 1999.
A small scholarship is given to the Rio Hondo student who best epitomizes Steve’s hard-nosed style of news gathering that made him one of the smartest political writers and later, political aides in the state. (After leaving journalism, Tamaya worked for Sen. Richard Mountjoy and then for the City of Diamond Bar).
This year’s scholarship recipient was Marlene Chavez, lifestyles editor of Rio Hondo’s school newspaper El Paisano. According to Francis, Chavez “is a very hard worker — in the mold of Steve — and is a good writer.” Chavez also is editor-in-chief of this summer’s edition of La Cima, the school’s magazine, which Steve Tamaya was editor of in 1981.
“There has been a scholarship winner every year since his death and some have gone on to work in the field,” Francis said on Thursday by e-mail.
I count myself as someone who learned under the scholarship of Steve Tamaya how to be a better journalist and a better human being.
Donations can be addressed to: Steve Tamaya Scholarship Fund, care of Rio Hondo College Foundation, 3600 Workman Mill Rd., Whittier 90601.

* * *
Steve would be all over the special election in the 32nd Congressional District.
Of course, the first observation he would make is that it is being held on Tuesday, in mid-July. Heat, summer, barbecues and pool parties don’t usually go with politics and elections. Elections are more common with autumn, drizzle, pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce.
What is it about politicians as they climb the ladder of political office? They become more aloof with each rung.
Assemblywoman Judy Chu, when she was a Monterey Park City Councilwoman, was always very approachable. Even as a member of the Assembly, she or an aid would stop by the newsroom or drop an e-mail about her latest bills, which include one that helped the state increase its revenue from tax slackers by offering them a payment option without a penalty. I can count on one hand a pol who helped close a budget gap. Judy Chu is one of them.
Yet, in this election campaign, she’s ducking debates, including a town hall she skipped Thursday in El Monte sponsored by the American Legion. Rule No. 1: If you are going to be successful in Congress, don’t forget your constituents. As Woody Allen once said, “80 percent of success is just showing up.”