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Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 2004 / 25 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Steve Young

Steve Young
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It's never easy to say ‘enough’: The country needs to take an example from the Valley | "All Politics are Local"
— Late Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, who, as a Democrat, would have probably lost his seat if he was around to run this year.

Both President Bush and John Kerry have called for the country to put aside the bitterness of the campaign and unite for the greater good.

'Scuse me, while I clean up the coffee I just spit all over my keyboard. In Washington, conciliation and cooperation are usually locked off in the same store room with the Ten Commandments. Spoken of highly, but not actually allowed to be seen nor employed. And when dealing political, righteous indignation just feels too darn good to quit just for something as frivolous as the greater good.

But there is hope — if the politicos take a look at what's just transpired in the Los Angeles suburbs. That's is where a war had taken place over whether 250 children could actually inhabit a new charter school where they actually wanted get an education.

The war had all the down and dirty elements of big time politics. Lies. Propaganda. Scare tactics. Threats. Passion. Hate. Love. Um, scratch that last one. Editorials shot back and forth with fiery accusations of "I'm good. You're bad." If the other side won out, Armageddon would surely darken our land. Worse, both sides claimed they had the children's best interests at heart. You would have thought Karl Rove had send an emissary to fire up the boys. There was even a good old fashioned attempt at graft.

On one side, the legislators: city councilman, the Los Angeles United School Board, the local neighborhood council. In the other, the public: parents, school administration and children.

Without going into the bloody (and boring) details of permits and traffic studies, for fear the adversaries might remember the pain and reignite the battle, the kids were not able to get into their school site for almost two months past the September 5 starting date.

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But the fact is, they are in school and at the location they wanted to be: Ivy Academia at 6051 DeSoto Ave, Woodland Hills, CA.

What happened? How could two opponents join to become one to make it happen for the children? And how can those boys in Washington learn from the simple folk of Woodland Hills?

It's not all that simple because it came down to people forgetting their own egos, which I believe

in the faraway land of Washington and the nearby fiction titled Hollywood, it is near felony to concede pride and self.

But it did happen and it began with the most powerful gent in the hostility's mix: San Fernando Valley councilman, Dennis Zine. While the councilman had earlier stalled the school's opening, registering plenty o'problems with both the school's site and administrators, he chose to prod the school officials though some challenging hoops, it was he who showed big, stepping forward to cut through the proverbial red tape to say, "enough." There were constituents who would never want another person, child or adult, riding their busy thoroughfares or occupying their precious vacant buildings. They would not be at all too thrilled with pulling the Zine lever come next election. And though not every T and I had been crossed and dotted, Zine's gutsy endorsement, with the aid of his top assistant, Tom Henry, had the kids behind their rightful desks the next school day.

But there were many others who stopped dwelling on the problem and chose to participate in the solution.

The LAUSD, who literally loses children and financial funds with the opening of every new charter, chose to work with the school's administration to move quickly and efficiently to resolve every question and obstacle that stood in the way of a real opening day. LAUSD charter office supervisors, Roberta Benjamin and Jean Brown, who certainly had many other priorities, kept daily tabs, guiding Ivy's path on the straight and narrow.

City managers inspectors chose to move diligently and promptly though the inspections.

The school's administration and parents chose to listen, cooperate and learn to ignore what they had earlier believed to be appropriate shortcuts.

Each of the players in this not so small example of how politics can really work, chose, and it is always a choice, to get things done over "being right." They all learned from the mistakes and failures. In doing so, everyone profited, teaching a mighty lesson for the children. In the end, the children have truly benefitted, just as all the parties had stated to be their primary concern at the start.

You'll notice there was no mention here of the Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council, some of whom sought something akin to financial extortion from the school, who chose not to partake in the answer, but instead chose to play the role of obstructionist to the very end. And in that end they gained nothing but an unpleasant reputation they must now surely regret. Like many in national politics, for all their sanctimonious bluster, they chose not become part of the solution. Hopefully one day soon, they and those fellas up in Washington will begin to learn from the example of this local band of real winners. Then we will all benefit.


JWR contributor Steve Young created for National Lampoon. Comment by clicking here.


© 2004, Steve Young