Upcoming 2014 Elections: Leaning Towards a "No" on LA County Measure P/Proposition P

Measure P/Proposition P is about ensuring funding for County of LA (CoLA) Parks up till 2045 through a flat parcel tax.  As a parcel tax, it will require 66% of the voters to say yes, as opposed to a simple majority.

That tax would be $1.6 billion over the next 30 years, which would be $53 million annually.

People who support this proposition say that it is a continuation of funding Proposition A from 1992, which expires in June 2015. 

Proposition A in 1992 guaranteed $540 million over 22 years to various projects across LA County. 

Funds from Prop A went to many projects that have served as icons for LA such as the 4-year renovation of the Griffith Park Observatory, which was allocated $18 million, the rehab of the LA Zoo which was allocated $25 million, $17 million for the California Science Museum.  As for spending on things that are actually close to where I live, I saw that $1 million went to the development of MLK Park in LBC.  Other than construction of a swimming pool at East Rancho Dominguez, I didn't see any funds go to Compton.  Gang reduction programs were specifically allocated no less than $3 million, and nonprofit organizations $10 million.

The funds were raised through an assessment on each property depending on size.

Additionally, in 1996, voters approved another proposition A which gives over $28 million annually to parks.  This proposition will expire in June 2019.  In that round, it seemed that there was more emphasis on gangs I saw that a whole $5 million or so went to parks in "underserved" communities.  

Almost all the elements for me usually voting "Yes" on something vaguely involving public space are there:  money for parks, programming for gangs, etc. etc. 

I generally especially love the quality of CoLA parks, usually really spacious and well-kempt, and frankly, underused.  I really would hate to see the parks sink down to the level of say City of LA.  In my anecdotal experience, even here in Willowbrook with the Earvin Johnson Park, most CoLA parks are truly a cut above City of LA and other city parks, though this proposition does reach some of the smaller cities' parks.  However, I, like Mark Ridley-Thomas think that they don't seem to do enough for disadvantaged areas.

I realize that there is no such thing as a "soft" yes or "soft" no, simply just "yes" or "no."  Right now, given my information from the internet sources:  LA Times, KPCC, ballotpedia, I'm going with a 'no' that was just a "yes" about a minute ago.

The organizations I usually like are a "yes" vote:  LA Land Trust, LA County Bike Coalition, and Father Gregory Boyle who is an organization all himself.  There's also the Daily News.

There are two respectable organizations that advocate a "no":  LA Times on the basis that it was pushed out too fast and goes to a regressive tax, hurting the little people, and the Sierra Club, on the basis that they do not allocate much to disadvantaged areas.

I say "soft no" to highlight the fact that I have not fully marked my ballot and can change my opinion, and also that either vote seems fine, though it does actually put more burden on actual individual people rather than the bigger entities that it has traditionally been dependent upon.  For the time being, I see a lot more clean cut reasons to say no, than to say yes.

What makes the proposition something I am giving the "soft no" to?  
  • It is funded by a regressive flat tax;  every property owner across the county pays the same $23 per property each year on your property tax bill, no matter if you are the owner of the Staples Center or if you are the owner of a tiny little motor home in Compton on a gang-ridden street.  $23, when the average according to KPCC was around $13, while larger corporations paid in the thousands.  The LA Times Op-Ed in favor of a no vote notes that the range paid was from 3 cents to $10,000.
  • Questionable motives:  why the rush?  Why not use that same assessments structure enacted in 1992?  This a way of straddling the line to keep industries and small businesses happy?  Not made clear anywhere.  I do wonder what Supervisors Molina, Yaroslavsky, and Knabe have to gain.  It also seemed that Ridley-Thomas would have been on board, though he thinks there was not enough given to underserved communities.  To me it seems like a trial run to see what they can get away with.  I'm not sure why this was not anticipated and prepared for.
  • They don't specify their allocations, something they did for 1992 and 1996.
  • It seems that we could "survive" a temporary shortage in funding until at least 2017.  There still appears to unused money from 1996:  $134 million in unallocated funds.  Additionally, after scanning the documents of Prop A it seems that a lot of the projects in there got its money for specific acquisition and renovations that have already been completed.  The campaign for Prop P has not threatened jobs, but the lack of repairs, upgrades, and improvements, which might be a safe way of implicating but not threatening jobs.  There doesn't seem to be any sense of critical urgency from any of the proponents threatening livelihoods and current conditions, which also makes me believe that it won't be a big deal if this doesn't pass.
What would sway me to a "soft yes"?  
  • Essentially, just more information on why the proposition is the way it is.  I need more to go on than just "it funds parks and programs, etc..."  I need to know these things:  a)  why it relies on the flat regressive tax, b)  why the County Supervisors took so long before enacting this to appear on this ballot, and 3)  how badly parks and services might suffer if the money isn't there in the meanwhile.
  • Attempting to take the perspective of the three county supervisors and some of the planners' point of view, it seems like they are adapting this proposition in part because it finds a way around the constraints under the current measures. County Park Planner Clement Lau says that they are focusing on how to get parks in underserved areas, making it sound like it was not possible under the current system.
  • I would throw my support if this was really the only way of securing funding for the short and long-term.  It is risky to hold out until a later time.  The supervisors won't be able to get another item on the ballot until 2016, and we would not be able to use that money till 2017.  And just what would happen?  The Daily News makes this effect real.  They say this:  "Take for instance L.A. County where next year the city will get $1.4 million for maintenance and service thanks to previous propositions; that would dwindle the following year to $484,000 and then disappear by 2019 without voters approving a new parks measure." 
As it appears to me, it appears risky voting "no", but ultimately the measure seems to be more preventative and experimental, than critical, urgent, and targeted.  For me, I think this puts more pressure on getting it right in 2016.

Los Angeles (Silver Lake, Atwater Village, Eagle Rock), Filipino-Americans, Catholic Grade Schools: An Overview 1990-1998

The title of this article represents the time that I was in Catholic School grade in Los Angeles.  That's 8 years of grade school.  My 4 years in Catholic high school were another story altogether and radically different than the time in grade school.

I don't know that if I have many "special" stories or a story, worthy of a movie, or a memoir, but I was inspired to write primarily because of a KCRW/Zocalo segment on Catholic School education in the 1930s. Also, I was once told by someone that there aren't enough stories about "us", "us' meaning Asian-Americans, so here are a few more.

The popular media I've seen on Catholic schools have always involved white kids somewhere east dealing with nuns who would break pencils on their students' hands.  I've listened to and read articles about how the Catholic school was really strict about everything.

Some of those stories have resonated with what I experienced, but I don't think what I experienced exactly has been represented quite yet.

I only have realized my experience well after my undergraduate years.  In college at UCLA, I realized that a lot of Filipino-American kids in LA (When I say "LA", I tend to mean areas from Central LA (Historic Filipinotown) to Echo Park to Los Feliz to Atwater Village to Eagle Rock and Glendale) tended to go to Catholic schools;  I say this without wanting to discount the number that went to public schools, but I can't speak to that experience except for one year in kindergarten and my college experience at the UCs and CSUs.

I mention "Filipino-American" so much in this piece because I think Filipino-Americans and our experiences have kinda "flown under the radar" in popular discourse. Back then from the 1990s to 1998, Filipinos made up a visible population in many Catholic schools across LA, at least from what I "felt" at surrounding schools and in my own.  On anecdotal observation of my old school and schools across LA, they still do. 

I don't mean to speak on behalf of all Filipino American experiences in Los Angeles, but I think I have more than enough to "say something", at the very least about my experience.  I would like for my articles to be one dot that represents one experience in Catholic schools and through the Filipino-American experience, but also is one step in making the Filipino-American racial and ethnic category visible, credible, and present in recent history; ready to engage and participate in public discourses about education and other civic affairs.   I mention it at the outset because it is contrary to the dominant narratives which don't usually include people of color in the now.  By using "Filipino-American", I don't mean to "tribalize" or necessarily say that my experience was radically different than other students', but I just want to say that being "Filipino-American" was one lens through which I viewed things, just like being Mexican, being "short", being a girl, or being tall can affect the way you may perceive things.

Only after having married a Catholic school teacher have I come back to re-call what have been probably my most formative learning experiences.

My project and premise is simple:  I find myself trying to reflect on "what it all meant" and how bits, pieces, and chunks of the experience might have impacted me for today.

There's the obvious great memories.  Graduation.  Field day at the base of the Griffith Observatory with In N Out Burger.  Field trips.  The last days of June which involved wrapping school textbooks in brown covered wraps.  Halloween.  Christmas shows.  Valentines Day with "school families." Talent shows.  School festivals.   The American flag popsicles on hot days.  Art class.  Birthdays in school which evolved into these dance parties as we got into "junior high" from 6th - 8th grade.

There was the mundane things outside of the classroom.  The assignment of play areas.  The dodgeball wars on the playground. P.E.  Kickball.  An almost all-asphalt playground that also served as a parking lot for church on Saturdays and Sundays.  Basketball rims put up around November to coincide with "basketball season."  The organic separation of boys and girls, except for occasional boys vs. girls games.   

There's the everyday rituals that I remember and suddenly miss.  School uniforms and wearing them correctly.  The morning assemblies which began with lining up, and doing a Pledge of Allegiance.  The birthday announcements.  Staring at the analog clock in the back of the class to make sure it was almost close to 3:00 PM dismissal time. Taking home parent envelopes. Getting dropped off in a car behind the cones.  Going to my parents' or friend's car after school.  Or going to daycare after-school.  Homework time during daycare, and then play time after homework.

The school was dominated by car-drivers, and I imagine, probably still is given the geographic spread we students covered.  My dad usually dropped us off because my mom always drove and went to work early at the hospital.  Incidentally, only one kid I knew lived close enough to walk to school;  everyone was shuttled in a car, and I was pretty much able to recognize different cars that everyone was shuttled in.  One carpool of an extended family of Fil-Ams was (kinda mean) called the clown car.  Biking was completely non-existent, though I do remember one incident during the Summer my sister entered Kindergarten;  a little white girl was riding a bike with her older adult-sized brother who was probably somewhere between 15 and 25.  She was bleeding from the nose and was crying.  Some other adults rushed and asked what happened.  He said that they had been hit by a car;  yikes.  Didn't have any effect on what I thought of biking.

There's the curious markings of what made those years clearly the 1990s.  The computer lab just before computers became normal in every home.  A TV with a VCR occasionally being dragged into our classroom.  The slow-moving printer that printed tear-able flaps on each side of the paper which we'd have to rip off, which some used to make these little crafts.  The occasional guestspeaker whether a DARE officer or a missionary.  The principal outlawing "baggy pants" and "jeans" for fear of any association with gang culture.

Of course there wouldn't be the Catholic "school" without the classrooms, my classmates, and teachers and their personalities.  Each year, we fluctuated between 32-35 students, which means that there was enough a crowd in the class, but still kind of intimate.  We had one desk and all books contained within it starting in 2nd grade.  We stayed in one classroom.  We occasionally switched seating positions.

I also remember every single teacher and their quirks.
  • 1st grade was a super-tall white lady who brought who equally super big son and daughter to school one time.  
  • 2nd grade was a Filipino lady almost my parents' age (and definitely taller than my 4'8 mother) who said that she was older than most of our parents;  she was the first time I was acknowledged as doing well in class.  
  • 3rd grade was technically a nun with a nun with an Irish accent, but did not really dress the part and was acknowledged as one of the nicest teachers;  for some reason I did the worst under her.  
  • 4th grade was a taller, thin white lady with curly hair and what someone described as loose lips;  she was cool, she apparently might've dated a vaguely Asian guy that was also helping at our school, and where I felt I found an "academic groove."  
  • 5th grade was the same Filipino lady who incidentally was chosen as my sister's godmother;  I struggled again.  
  • 6th grade was an older white lady with short hair and a passion for diagramming sentences.  I probably forgot, but I felt like I learned a lot from her.  
  • 7th grade was slightly split between a white guy who left in the middle of the year and was replaced by a fresh college graduate, the son of the long-time school secretary.  
  • 8th grade was a younger, hip cool white lady who specialized in teaching Math and saw me off to the selective Catholic high school of my choice.
I don't know if I could name every classmate, but we spent enough time to where I can recognize faces, though if you ask me to name a kid from a different grade, that might be a little challenging.

Nowadays, as people in our 20s and 30s, I could probably recognize probably a fraction of those who went to the school from 1990-1998.  Probably more likely if you were at the school for at least 4-5 years.  Pretty much if you were a girl in 6th grade or older by the time I was 11, I was probably crushing on you.  It is really really weird saying this as a 30-year old man, but as a growing 10-11-12-13-14 year old, I was a fan of pretty much all the girls.  To me at that age, they weren't little school girls, they were growing, taller-than-me fully formed women.  It didn't make a difference if I was able to be with them or Tyra Banks. Who was hot or not became a topic of conversation amongst the boys starting at 10 years old.  I already had my first two crushes by then.  A Filipina and a Korean girl.  They reminded me of the hit song by Ace of Base, "The Sign." 

Around me, some of the boys were even more knowledgeable about females, their anatomy in a way more advanced than I was. One of the boys proudly admitted that "Showgirls" was his favorite movie, which shocked the teacher, but not really me, because I had no idea what that was.  Another talked about how he wanted to do something pretty lude to a computer teacher, which made me wonder what he was talking about.  That was 5th grade.  I don't think I was an angel, I simply didn't know what the heck these kids were talking about, at the time.

I also remember how friends and closeness shifted as the years went by.  Throughout my time at the school, anyone who liked basketball was someone I grew close to --- that also happened to be a lot of the Filipino-American kids.  My dad was unique early on in schooling in that we were relatively close to a few of the black families in my grade.  As the years came, some parents also gravitated towards my parents and vice versa, mostly the Filipino immigrant parents, which happened later.  I already was brought there because my g-sis, 2 years older than me, had been enrolled and also came to crushing on her friends, this group of attractive Filipina girls who each seemed out of my league.  I did outside activities with other kids which centered first around karate, then Filipino folk dancing, then basketball, and then theater drama. 

I do remember that we created outcasts.  There was never any overt reason why we created outcasts, but it probably had to do with a combination, "cooties" or some kind of irrational fear of "contamination", which is something of an embedded statement about class, and weakness.  A few of my friends were instigators against these outcasts:  they would laugh them off, trip them up, I guess it looked a lot like bullying.  With my friends as aggressors, I never looked at it as that, but upon reflection it probably was.  

I was never big enough to bully anyone, but I do remember occasionally partaking in the teasing of certain kids for questionable non-reasons.  Some of it was "just because."  Some of it was because I really thought some people were gross or disgusting;  actually having a running conversation with some people, one tall Mexican girl in particular, seemed really disgusting to me, and I feel awful upon reflection.  But they probably didn't take me that seriously cause I was like 4'8 and known for farting all the time at least throughout 7th grade.  Irony is that I'm married to a pretty tall Mexican girl now, so...(God's way of getting back at me?)

When I think back critically about how my views have changed, there are things that make me wonder about how much has changed within student culture.  The rumors of having a lesbian principal.  Usage of the word "gay" to describe things that were "stupid."  Parents complaining about fundraising for air conditioning which never came in my 8 years.  Wanting and having the few Filipino teachers that were at the school.  Having almost a majority Filipino-American school and then transitioning into a majority white American high school where Filipinos existed but were not the dominant group.

Now as a 30-year old with a wife teaching at a Catholic school, a lot of my memories have been triggered, and myself making a foray into education, and I wonder about the current-day functionings:  is enrollment falling as it is across the board in Catholic schools?  How do they integrate technology into the classroom?  What immaturities are the kids running with now?  Do they finally have air conditioning?  Is the school still something of a pipeline to my ever-popular high school?

Unpacking more later.

LA Magazine's Description of a Disneyland Map from 1968 Is Disappointing


In the above link you will see a map of old Disneyland which looks a lot like Disneyland as it was when I last took a visiting cousin in June of this year.  The basic sections of the park are there with the exception of ToonTown.

The author doesn't go as in-depth as I expected, except to name a few things from the bygone era.  What's interesting is the sponsorship of attractions by major corporations including good ole Monsanto, Kodak, General Electric, Carnation.  Nowadays, I can't think of any other particular brand within the park other than Disney.  What would have been interesting would be side-by-side comparisons of different attractions and locations.

I wonder about the mundane things that make up the experience at Disneyland:  how long were the lines?  How were they managed?  What were the prices relative to now?  What was the surrounding geography prior to building the extra resort areas?

I also wonder what Disney was like before all the relatively recent cinematic successes of the Disney princesses and cartoons.  What was the electrical parade like?   

This would have been a whatever type piece that I wouldn't have thought about much again, if there wasn't one part of this blog that is banal and perhaps under the radar for 99.9% of the population, but irked me a little maybe because the writer used a phrase that I disliked when I don't think it's necessary.

It was use of the adjectival phrase, "politically incorrect."
There are some comically dated attractions: the now politically incorrect “unfriendly Indians” who burned settlers cabins - See more at: http://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/citydig-disneyland-like-1968/#sthash.556U4oJz.dpuf
There are some comically outdated attractions:  the now politically incorrect "unfriendly Indians" who burned settler cabins.
There are some comically dated attractions: the now politically incorrect “unfriendly Indians” who burned settlers cabins - See more at: http://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/citydig-disneyland-like-1968/#sthash.556U4oJz.dpuf
Ask yourself, would the phrase have been OK if the writer simply wrote this?

There are some comically outdated attractions:  the "unfriendly Indians" who burned settler cabins.
To me it would've been fine, he could've done without that "now politically incorrect."

I almost categorically dislike writing that includes that phrase, "politically incorrect" because it tends to signal a writer who appears to quietly show disdain for what they perceive as a more diverse, inclusive status quo.  It's like a quiet clamoring for the exclusive "good ol days."  I'm not going to try to guess the writer's intention, but in my experience, it's usually not a good sign.

The idea of "politically correctness" rests on the idea that some "truth" is not being spoken and/or is being censured/hidden because the person/entity (Disney) speaking does not want to offend people. It is as if the writer was saying that Disney was speaking some 'truth' by having this "unfriendly Indian burning cabins" show/exhibit, Disney made a reactionary decision to cancel it, and have been prevented from doing this only because some customers got mad and started crying to put it crudely.

Maybe that is exactly what happened, but as a part fan of the general stuff that Disney puts out, I'd also like to think that the internal decisionmakers of Disney itself became more diverse, aware, and more inclusive and sought to do away with the exhibition "organically."

Observations of Truckers from a Truck Stop in Tulare County

Recently, I was sent out to survey truck drivers for 5 days in Tulare at a diesel station for trucks.

Before the project began, the only reason I knew Tulare is because my sister's first-year college roommate was from Tulare.

I had no idea what Tulare was about, only that along Route 99 it was above Bakersfield, and below Fresno(yes). 

After these 5 days, I can say that I've gained a better appreciation of the area and the (changing) demographic of truckers.

I'm a(n) (almost) life-long Angeleno, buried in the city, where almost any object is readily available if you just have the money.  I've come to appreciate and "re-visibilize" truck drivers as a necessary part of the economic and social infrastructure.  I think having been in a city and urbanized towns for my entire life, I have been exposed to lots of demographics and lots of people, which is good, but I feel like I know them only superficially, and fill in the rest of my information about them with my imagination.

That said, here are a few things as an Angeleno that I observed about truckers through either observation or conversation:
  • The popular image of a trucker is probably a single white male, which definitely exists, but I met with my share of black, Latino, Asian, Indian Sikh, men and women, mid 20s - mid 50s
  • I saw bits and pieces of inter-racial solidarity:  a guy with a white redneck T-shirt buddy buddying with some other black uh blackneck buddy, another time where a white guy just walked up and saw his old black buddy in the truck and simply started jabbing with him
  • I did see moments of inter-racial tension:  a white guy that I had interviewed 10 or 20 minutes before had become impatient with a truck that was parked in front of him.  The truck in front of him was driven by a black man.  The white guy got increasingly frustrated and started honking.  Then he got out of his truck and walked yelling at the black guy.  At some point, I remember him yelling "N*** think they own the world" and continued honking before ultimately deciding to back up from his diesel station and making his way out.
  • Another moment was of this inter-racial tension was during an informal conversation that I had with a trucker from the Mid-West whom I had previously interviewed.  He pointed out the Indian Sikhs and talked about how they in particular were driving rates down.  A few Sikhs drive in pairs or more, which is a better deal for a distributor than him alone.  He lamented that they also tended not to spend money within the US and would send that money home.
  • Many of these truckers were open to my interviews;  I conducted about 130.  Some loved talking to me, others thought I was in their way.  Some probably legitimately had to get somewhere, others just wanted me gone.  Some got increasingly suspsicious of the survey, some warmed up as we went along.
  • Most seem to be proud of having driven everywhere
  • A lot of the white truckers do hold conservative views, which is not really a shocker:  One California trucker made a comment about high-speed rail taking away from resources such as addressing the water crisis.
  • A lot of white truckers from the East seem to dislike California, making comments about everything from the speed limits (which is apparently 80 in Florida), to the water crisis
  • Some do reminisce on when they was more to pick up and deliver in the Central Valley.

How Dangerous Is Compton? October 2014 Edition

Considering that what little my wife and I knew of Compton before moving here, it hasn't been the worst.  Our section at least has been fairly quiet, and everything other than the stealing of parts from my sister-in-law's car is more or less what we expected.

I have been here a year in Southwest Compton near Central and Alondra, which is mostly Latino, either immigrants or 2nd generation, and haven't experienced many (relatively) serious problems on my street.

On the surface level, if you were simply to drive around the neighborhood, I think outsiders or perhaps those adjusted to more comfortable living would be scared. The gang around here likes to tag up the blank walls here, but I don't see any rivals or any crosses on it which would indicate some kind of battle or struggle.  I wonder if the gang is just generational and more about tradition at this point.

No gangsters have gotten angry and threatened me, nor would I have known.  Unless they have tats, I can't really tell who is or isn't a gangster --- no one's really dressing up in super baggy clothes or walking around and intimidating people.  Not that I'm actively looking for those people.  I think I would approach these people the way a Phil Dunphy would.

It really is not the 1980s or 1990s anymore or at least my idea of what 1980s and the 1990s looked like with gangs in them, and I guess approaches change.

On occasion, I come home late at night.  The street, largely a residential single family house area, is pretty quiet.  This is something of a classist statement, but I can imagine that if it were apartments or a trailer park in the area where I'm forced to come face-to-face with residents in close quarters, my opinion might shift a bit.  One of my sister-in-laws and her husband and their small child live on the Eastern side of Compton near a Church's Chicken in an apartment complex.  They've survived and are on the brink of thriving.  However, the apartment complex they live in looks like a fortified maximum state prison with a white picket fence on steroids and definitely requiring a key to get inside.  Inside the complex however, it feels like as comfortable as any other apartment complex.

When on my street, you can usually extend common courtesy with adults passing by, usually, unless I bump into someone really intent on looking hard.  Even when I sprained my ankle on a run towards Gardena, one kid even went up to me and asked, "are you OK" to which I just quickly waved him off, even though I was now reduced to a painful hobble on a journey back to my house.

Most of the time during weekends, it's just parties with neighborhood kids and visitors, sometimes even multi-racial coalitions of kids just running around doing their kid things, which is a contrast to the last time NBC LA came around here.

If I could sum it up in a sentence, people pretty much just leave us the hell alone here, least in this part of Compton.

My wife and I are still relative outsiders.  I guess it is much easier when you don't know much of anyone that actually grew up here, other an occasional interaction with a neighbor.  Aside from my running or trips to Cal State Dominguez Hills we pretty much just shut ourselves in.

My car, a nondescript, largely unwashed 11-year old Toyota, hasn't been touched, though on one occasion, I did see one kid sitting on it like he owned it, which annoyed the living fuck out of me.  I wonder how things would change if I got a new car.  I do see new regular cars on the street on occasion and they appear to do fine.

However, my sister-in-law, who lived here for a few months with us, her 10-year old Honda that was as nondescript as my Toyota wasn't as lucky --- she had some parts stolen.  I felt terrible for her because it was an expensive part for her.  But she appears to be over it, has given up her car to her brother, and is now 400 miles away up North.

Tragniew Park near us isn't the worst park in the world.  A least it gets used.  We've been able to walk the dog on occasion during the PM hours when there are kids playing soccer and some kind of band practicing.

I will tell you that the only times I haven't felt as comfortable or secure in Compton have been when I was walking around Civic Center area. Even though the Sherriff's station is headquartered there, all I smell is desperation.

The desperation where you feel eyeballs on you.  Where some people might approach you, see an opportunity, and ask for change.  Sorry, homey, I ain't Barack.  I don't want to just bring it to you, work with me, and maybe we could do something.

Most things considered, least from our vantage point, there is some negative to see if you're looking for it, but if you just want to do your thing, then, ain't nothing stopping us from doing that.

Though, once I do commit to a project involving Compton, this might change.

My Memories and Experience of Community/Neighborhood Storytelling via Radio Stations in LA as a Tween-Teen in the 1990s to Early 2000s and Today

Welp, I think I've really nailed my real interest in life, meaning I've found something that kinda ties all my various interests in together:  communication infrastructures, particularly in LA.  I'm particularly interested in how our physical and social environments, our "scapes", our "communication infrastructures" are designed in ways which serve to discourage/encourage actions.

One of the main interests in study of communication infrastructures is with "strong community or neighborhood story-telling."  The idea is that a community thrives if we have a "strong storytelling community." The "storytelling community" consists of the following:  a)  residents in family, friends, and neighbor networks, b)  nonprofit organizations, and c)  geo-ethnic media.  So if each of these elements are talking with each other, then we could see a strong community developing.

Today, a piece of story-telling that's piqued my interest under "geo-ethnic media":  radio in LA.

One day early in the 1990s amidst the heightened popularity of KIIS FM and Rick Dees when I was being babysat alongside my godsister, we decided that we wanted to play radio.  Our idea was to sit around our boom box and play music.  After a while, it got boring to me.  "What else do they do?"  I asked.  She replied, "I don't know, sit around, and talk to each other.", which also seemed boring, and thereby ended our imaginary game of "radio."

I never remember ANY story on local radio or TV speaking directly to either Filipinos, Atwater Village, or hell even Los Feliz.

This is why one of my most memorable moments of my childhood was picking up and reading a list of the FBI's most wanted at the local Lucky's on Hillhurst and Ambrose, and seeing the picture of Conrado Baylon Fiel.

I wrote a post last year about radio.  I was planning on writing more follow-ups, but it kinda fell by the wayside.  I was originally trying to be scientifically methodical and go year-by-year about my radio station habits, but I found it a little tedious and incorrigible with my schedule, so I'm opting for an approach looser on the exact dates and years, and focused more on delineating my most vivid experiences or at least my memories of what I experienced.

Anyhow, I've been reading various academic papers about communication infrastructures, and came up on an article about two radio stations in LA:  one, a commercial radio station, KKBT, what was once known now as 92.3 or 100.3 "The Beat", and the other, being former Minnesota Public Radio affiliate, turned NPR member station KPCC on 89.3.

The article concluded that each of these stations were successful "storytellers."

What's fascinating about the article:
  • Captures points in time in 2002-2003 when I was actually in Santa Cruz for college
  • The Beat doesn't exist anymore, though Steve Harvey is still on radio and even bigger on National TV
  • Larry Mantle, whom I occasionally listen to today, and only really discovered about 2 years ago, was one of the interviewees.  Kitty Felde was a host back then, I've only known her as some kind of a reporter from either DC or Sacramento. 
  • KKBT by the time of the study in 2002-2003 was noted primarily as a black radio station for people living near Crenshaw
  • The article mentions community activism taken by KKBT.  Wow, I had no idea whatsoever.

For me, the radio for a good chunk of my life was there for one thing and one thing only:  music.  Any music I liked.

The music stations seemed to be divided by race rather than any geographic region, with mostly black and Mexican people liking Power 106.  We Fiipino kids flipped between Power 106 and 92.3 the Beat.  Once I got to high school I tried KROQ, which I thought to be code for "white people music."

Radio was "never" for talk, much less story-telling unless I wanted to know about traffic, weather, and news, at which I'd switch to AM radio.

Stories and storytelling did not exist, unless they were embedded in songs, one of which was Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise, which had help from being a song for a movie trailer, Dangerous Minds.  I recited the lyrics but didn't really know what they meant by them, as would be the case for legions of songs.  I just wanted my ears to feel stimulated.

I do remember a few particular things about "The Beat" from the 1990s-2000s, in particular that in retrospect, are quite interesting, and perhaps have influenced me to think about issues, while I was waiting for those songs.

  • The Peace Symbol Sign as their logo, it made me think of them as a "cleaner" version of the excesses and dirtiness of Power 106 with Baka Boyz and Big Boy and more gangsta-ish music, though Power 106 had more "sticky" personalities
  • Their tag-line "no color lines" was befuddling to me, why would there be any color-lines, but I went with it, which in retrospect probably isn't a bad message to stick

  • Theo, whom I later found out was Asian.  That fact blew my mind.
  • A smallish K-8 school, radio stations occasionally provided us with talking points:  we talked about how deep Theo's voice was, but people talking was usually seen as a "distraction" to the music
  • It was all about the music for me, and not really about community action and politics, though I do vaguely remember these conversations on Saturday mornings during high school.  One quote I remember had to do with race and mentioning Michael Jackson's Black or White song, and the caller saying, "sorry Michael, I think it does matter..."
  • Steve Harvey during his time at the Beat was not that funny to me;  I cringed.  I didn't have anything against him, and even kind of liked his sitcom on the WB, but his jokes seemed to be too stale.  But as I see him today, I could see why he would appeal to a different audience of which I am not really a part.   

In contrast to such vivid memories of the Beat, talk and/or news-oriented radio was simply something on AM radio, was interesting only for sports news, so I didn't know anything about public radio until recently.  "Stories" for me meant "news" and white people talking "all business-like." I didn't want any of that as a kid.

Nowadays, I live in what would be considered "the hood," Compton, untouched by Hipsters, but known widely in mass media via stereotypes.  My wife speaks fluent Spanish, but were not integrated very much into any network here, other than small-talking our immediate neighbors.  We speculate about what people might think about us:  I wear my glasses, I go out and run like I'm in Redondo Beach, we're the only ones in our block with only two people living in the house.

But I feel connected to some of the issues and have a hunger for the stories here. I'm completely plugged into public radio, (though NPR is still primarily a domain of white people), makes up most of what I know.  However, I must say that KPCC's vibes feel slightly different than the national NPR news programs. On Facebook, I have the technology to see who also "Likes" KPCC, and there is a good healthy sub-section of my friends, who tend to be all of college-educated, civic-minded, and yes, progressive.  I only started really listening to NPR member station KPCC after the shootings in Newtown, CT.  Now, I know the schedules on weekdays and weekends on KPCC. I've become a "member" of the station.

I really think given their constraints that KPCC does a great job of covering my particular city, and at least initiating conversations. I occasionally hear the local KPCCers dig into various issues from universal preschool education to the fact that they were going to allow law enforcement to carry rifles in the schools.  And it feels great, I do feel connected to the city, though it seems like my wife and I are the only ones in the neighborhood here in Compton, who even knows about this station and would be able to converse with others.  It's great and vastly entertaining for us, but it doesn't seem like the folks here even know of the station.

Though I find myself wondering what are they listening to?  What are they watching?  I know that one side is probably on Spanish language media, the other is sports...

Not One, But Two Compton Schools Chosen for Blue Ribbon Excellence

In the category of "Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools."

Jefferson in the East and Tibby Elementary on the West, to be exact.  To get this recognition, both schools had to improve dramatically over the past 5 years in Math and language arts exams.

For someone not directly immersed in the educational field, sounds great.

This in addition to Laurel Street Elementary on the West, which on Laurel Street proudly displays on its billboard a 900 API score out of a possible 1000.

Good stuff, I wonder what has changed dramatically within the schools.  I also wonder what this might mean for junior high and high schools, and if anything can be done there.