Departing L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon C. Cortines; a contract perk for California prison guards; Michael Hiltzik on the deficit-reduction debate

Cortines as a leader

Re "Cortines leaves mark on district," April 16

Like the soldiers who served under Army Gen. George S. Patton and called themselves "Patton's men" in honor of the general who got them through World War II, I am grateful to have served Ramon C. Cortines.

The former superintendant of the L.A. Unified School District got us through some very tumultuous times; he was a disciplined professional who provided a playful smile, an attentive ear and a quick kick to the rear. Cortines earned his pay, and his legacy will prevail.

Patton's salient words in his autobiography capture my sentiments: "It is rather sad to me to think that my last opportunity for earning my pay has passed. At least, I have done my best as God gave me the chance."

We salute you, Mr. Cortines.

Tom Kaminski


If stubbornness and self-confident pride are attributes that drove Cortines these past three years, imagine the Los Angeles Unified School District if he had been superintendent for 30 years. Children, parents and teachers cannot wait for another Cortines at the helm of this gargantuan ship of education.

We can only hope that Cortines' attributes are in the new superintendent's toolkit and that the school board and staff are held accountable by the community.

Louise Schuck Pappas

Shell Beach, Calif.

Who's guarding our tax dollars?

Re "Brown offers perks for prison guards," April 19

The Times reports that Gov. Jerry Brown's contract with California prison guards will allow payoffs for unused vacation days at retirement, time off currently valued at $600 million.

These guards will also get eight weeks of vacation in their first year and can retire at close to full salary at age 50.

Is this adult leadership and shared sacrifice? This is the same governor who proposes to cut support for education and Medi-Cal and to retain our high income, sales and auto taxes. It is the state where budget gimmicks and fund transfers have obscured the fact that there has been no truly balanced budget for a decade.

Does California have a future to offer our children?

Steve Murray

Huntington Beach

With the state near bankruptcy, Brown offers prison guards, whose union gave his campaign

$2 million last year, a sweetheart deal costing millions of dollars for years to come.

Yet he tours the state saying that if we don't extend the tax increases, our state will face disaster.

Does anyone need any more proof of the corrupting influence of public employee unions?

David Goodwin

Los Angeles

Paying prison guards huge retirement payouts for unused vacation time defeats the whole purpose of the paid vacation concept. Paid vacation is supposed to give workers a break in their routine to renew their work effort.

If vacation time is not used, the vacation time should be lost forever. Adopting such a rule would force workers, if they are smart, to take a break and renew their efforts.

Yas Saito


I thought Brown was a man of principle, but now, I know he's willing to sell out the people of California for campaign contributions. I really expected better from him.

He won't get my vote if he runs for anything again, but I guess my vote's not worth the $2 million the prison guards union gave him last year.

Hadassa Gilbert

Los Angeles

America's future is up to us

Re "GOP plan would hit neediest hardest," Business, April 17

I applaud Michael Hiltzik for challenging us to think seriously about the future of our country and then take action.

I believe we are at a political and economic crossroads. Do we want to go in the direction of preserving tax cuts for the wealthiest, or do we want a nation that establishes equity between the various classes of Americans, including those in the middle and working classes? This is both a moral choice and an economic one.

My choice is clear: I want a nation that values all people in all classes and makes decisions that preserve equity. I believe this is the ethical foundation on which our nation was built.

Karl Strandberg

Long Beach

The difference in political philosophies that Hiltzik finds at the core of the deficit-reduction debate was summed up by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

Ernest A. Canning

Thousand Oaks

Chimp slip

Re "O.C. Republican slammed for Obama-chimp email," April 17, and "Sender of email issues an apology," April 19

So an NPR executive is caught in a "sting" with two phony Saudi businessmen agreeing that the "tea party" is racist, and he loses his job. An Orange County GOP leader sends out an email portraying President Obama and his parents as chimpanzees, and there is no resignation or firing of the official, Marilyn Davenport.

In her defense, Davenport did issue a non-apology apology, in which she claims she is a devout Christian and lives her life in a Christ-like manner.

Here's a news flash for Davenport and her GOP supporters: Jesus was not a bigot.

Doug Fredericksen


Airport rail

Re "Rail to airport still has hurdles," April 17

I have been perplexed by the Federal Aviation Administration's insistence that the overhead lines of a light-rail train, such as the Green Line, would interfere with Los Angeles International Airport operations.

The Portland, Ore., light rail runs directly into Portland International Airport. While waiting to board a Horizon Air plane, I stood on the tarmac and noticed that between the planes and jets on the tarmac and the control tower ran the overhead light-rail lines. As I waited, a light-rail train passed.

My flight took off without incident, as have countless other flights from Portland. If it works there, why not at LAX?

Matthew Hetz

Los Angeles

Feet of clay

Re "For it's 1, 2, 3 times we're out," Opinion, April 16

If Tim Rutten is a bit angry at sport celebrities' nasty utterances — as with Kobe Bryant — or with Barry Bonds' conviction for obstructing justice in a steroid case, he is lamenting their humanness. We admire our celebrities, so we want them to be perfect. That they are not is a reflection on us, and we blame them for our misjudgment.

Many celebrities are burdened with the "imposter complex." Internal voices say, "I'm not this good. I don't deserve this adulation." With that complex often comes an urge to self-destruct to keep things real.

June Stephenson

Thousand Oaks

Mining options

Re "Report says mining claims threaten sensitive land," April 15

A law passed in 1872 allows corporations to claim mining rights on federal lands without competitive bid, extract resources without paying royalties and shunt clean-up costs onto taxpayers.

Wow. On what planet is this a fair or responsible stewardship of our public resources? Oh yeah, planet Corporate America.

Tell ya what, environmentalists: If our politicians don't have the stomach to reverse this situation, let's just go out and stake claims and tie up the land. All it takes is $140 per claim and some paperwork. Surely the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund could muster the resources to safeguard our natural legacy.

Sarah Tamor

Santa Monica

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