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Opinion

We’re thankful

It has become our custom on Thanksgiving Day to spend a few moments reflecting on the past year and our many reasons to be grateful. Here-with, a few of the people and developments for which we give thanks.

A decisive election. The 2008 campaign not only ended with the election of a promising president, but did so by enough of a margin that the results did not turn on the actions of election monitors in Florida or Ohio or on the intervention of the Supreme Court. Barack Obama’s popular-vote victory over John McCain by 7 percentage points was the biggest such win since Bill Clinton’s reelection in 1996, and Obama carried traditionally Republican states such as Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia in running up his 192-vote victoryin the electoral college.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. Bair has been both determined and creative in her efforts to stem the home foreclosures that are at the root of the credit crisis, and her approach to troubled loans at IndyMac Bank has become a model for the industry. Bernanke has been unusually active and innovative at the Fed, and although his efforts haven’t always yielded results, it’s particularly reassuring to have an economist in that vital job with his particular expertise -- the Great Depression.

Marlene Canter. The Los Angeles Unified School Board operates under a kind of two-party system. There are the board members who were hoisted into their titles by the teachers union, and those who owe their seats to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Canter, who recently announced that she will not run for a third term, was an exception, an independent candidate beholden to neither. It showed in both her lack of grandstanding (a rarity on the board) and in her willingness to put the interests of students above all else. She voted for fiscal responsibility when most other board members abandoned the idea, and was among the first to support charter schools as a way to offer options to inner-city families. She was responsible for major improvements in nutrition in the schools and, through her strong backing of former Supt. Roy Romer, she provided an environment in which he could make important reforms. Her voice of reason, too often outvoted by those with an agenda, will be missed. We thank her for her work on the board since her first election in 2001.

California firefighters. Every time the hot Santa Anas blow, we’re grateful they’re on the job. Sadly, as this month’s ring of fire from Santa Barbara to Orange County painfully reminds us, we’ve had too many opportunities to appreciate them this year.

Locke High School. If there was ever a school that needed a change of culture, it was Locke High School in Watts, which was known more for campus violence than for achievement. So many students would leave before graduation that the senior class was regularly one-fourth the size of the freshman class. Thanks to both charter operator Green Dot Public Schools for offering to take on its biggest challenge so far, and the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District for approving the transition (as well as Cameron Diaz for donating olive trees to grace the campus quad), Locke now has a chance for real transformation.

Los Angeles and California voters who value public transportation. In the Nov. 4 election, they passed both Proposition 1A, calling for a bullet train that will run from Sacramento to San Diego, and Measure R, which calls for a half-cent sales tax increase in L.A. County to fund transit projects. Living in a state with severe traffic and air pollution problems, Californians are quick to recognize that highways and automobiles are the transportation systems of the past, not the future. What’s more, these projects will create new jobs -- and boost the state’s budget -- just when the economy most needs help.

Bill Stall. The Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times editorial writer, who died Nov. 2 from complications of pulmonary disease, brought an unfailingly insightful view of California political issues to these pages. He was a gentleman and a friend. We miss him.

Dorothy Green. Another writer and student of this state who died in 2008 and whose passing diminishes us all. Green was among the founding leaders of Heal the Bay, and she was a forceful, articulate advocate for clean water and smart management of the state’s water supply until her dying days. Indeed, her final published article ran on the Opinion page, honoring us one last time.

Police Chief William J. Bratton. His name surfaces as a candidate every time a big law enforcement job comes up -- including London police chief and head of U.S. Homeland Security -- so Bratton may not stay in Los Angeles forever. But his success in reducing crime and improving management of the troubled L.A. Police Department has been so notable that we’d be sorry to see him go.

Merrick Bobb. As much as Los Angeles appreciates its police, so does it require thoughtful civilian oversight of their work. For more than a decade, Bobb has supplied that perspective. His regular reports on the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department are models of constructive criticism-- sharp and insightful without ever being unfair; his occasional analyses of the L.A. Police Department are similarly vital. Bobb and his staff at the Police Assessment Resource Center have pioneered the field of police accountability. What’s more, Bobb manages that effort with his characteristic optimism and good cheer, merely deepening the immense regard that so many in this city have for him.

Hulu.com. A joint venture by News Corp. and NBC Universal, this outlet provides a smart, free source of recent TV shows, classic programs and a smattering of older movies. It’s an example of how the entertainment industry should respond to digital piracy: by offering a better product.

iPhones and G-phones. Apple and AT&T made the iPhone, a revolutionary pocket-sized Internet terminal -- err, cellphone -- cheaper and faster this year, while also opening it (more or less) to independent software developers. Then HTC and T-Mobile came through with a competitor based on Google’s software, followed by Research in Motion and Verizon Wireless with a BlackBerry-powered version. That makes three promising, low-cost platforms for innovation in mobile Internet applications.

Los Angeles drivers. No, not those drivers, who panic in the rain or make left turns on red lights. The ones who drive people who can’t or won’t or would just rather not -- the bus drivers and taxi drivers and Paratransit Access drivers and all kinds of shuttle drivers. We thank them for getting behind thousands of wheels and getting millions of us where we need to go. We also thank those who can drive but don’t, who bike and carpool and make good use of their EZ transit passes on two dozen public transit systems from Lancaster to Long Beach. Whether they’re motivated by gasoline prices or the health of the planet or the chance to just look at the city, block by block, we thank them for leaving their cars at home.

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti. We don’t appreciate everything the City Council does -- it bobbles its share of issues and expends a fair amount of hot air. But Garcetti’s is a cool and intelligent head, charged with the difficult task of herding 14 other willful colleagues. He handles the job with grace, which we appreciate and which benefits the city.

Proposition 8 protests. After California voters overturned the right of homosexuals to marry, thousands of gays and lesbians, their family members, friends and supporters took to the streets throughout the state and across the nation. Yes, there were incidents, but securing civil rights is hard and heartfelt. Some questioned why the marches came after the measure had passed and not before, and demonstrations certainly would have been helpful during the campaign. But those who marched showed the world this issue will not be dismissed so easily.

Tina Fey. Her weekly skewering of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was a joy to watch, but more important, it drove home the disturbing lack of preparedness and policy expertise on the part of the Republican vice presidential candidate.

A year without any new U.S. wars. Two is too many, and we hope next year to mark this day by giving our thanks for at least one less.

Oh, and yes -- John McCain, for dignity in defeat, and Barack Obama, for a hard-won victory. History will long remember the image of Obama and his family on the stage in Chicago, accepting the nation’s vote. It is often said, and sometimes exaggerated, but this year’s presidential election could only have happened in America.


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