Is Education, Ethics and Integrity Viable or Dead?
Letter to the Editor 1 October 2007
Contra Costa Times Headline of Sept. 20th : "CSU executives get raise", at $210/hr, will they study student problems?
On Page 1:"Scathing scientific review follows Delta analysis", on the Dept. of Water Resources report on water used by 26 millions; on Pg C2:"Charges of kickbacks pile up for law firm" accused of paying-off plaintiffs; and, on Pg A19: "Rules are murky for security firms in Iraq" reveals "growing web of rules..." unenforced by U.S. agencies on contractors immune from Iraqi laws. Which is the worst news? The bad Delta water report risks the health of children without pure water -for life.
When our government hires guards from anywhere and puts them outside the law, we are hiring"vigilantes". Why complain about "illegals" when lawyers, break the law? Why expect others to obey the law, if lawyers don't?
The worst may be those responsible to teach the value of the "common good" and didn't. Who hired the trustees that approved the pay raises at CSU? Was it Integrity, Ethics and Honesty? Do we need a policeman behind every citizens, and a detective for every policeman? Who will watch the detective? Did Education die? I missed the obituary.
Michael F. Sarabia, Bay Point.--------Contra Costa Times Headline of Sept. 20th : "CSU executives get raise"Trustees give administrators 12% salary increase amid criticism from students and faculty leadersCalifornia State University's best-paid managers won hefty raises Wednesday as trustees said they should not have to sacrifice high-quality leaders because of political pressure. The Board of Trustees voted 15-2, to give the chancellor, campus presidents and other executives raises of $30,000 to $45,000 per year, averaging nearly 12 percent.
The board members meeting in Long Beach dismissed concerns of faculty members and other employees, students and legislators. "You can't have good institutions without being able to retain the best or recruit the best," said Trustee Jeff Bleich. Repeating points he made in a letter to Chancellor Charles Reed, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who is also a trustee, urged the board to hold off. "I think it is a very serious mistake in public policy," Garamendi said. "I know everybody would like a pay increase, but ... this is just outrageous."
The vote followed criticism from student, faculty and employee leaders, who told trustees the raises would be wrong, given the political climate. Legislators repeatedly have taken the university to task in the past year because of its compensation practices.
Reed told the board that the 23-campus system increasingly has had trouble attracting executives who would be paid significantly more in other states. New executives are being offered more money by Cal State than is earned by presidents who have been with the university for many years, he said.
Raises will help the university partially overcome a 46 percent pay gap between Cal State's executive salaries and those at 20 comparable universities, Reed said. "I have been turned down numerous times because of the compensation lags in California," he said. The raises "will help us avoid having vice presidents making more than some presidents."
The raises boosted Reed's salary to $421,500, and four campus presidents will make at least $300,000. No presidents made that amount before the vote, although they had a raise less than a year ago. The vote came as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger considered two bills that would open Cal State pay policies to greater scrutiny. Garamendi and other speakers urged the board to delay its vote until the governor had made his decision.
Some trustees said there is never a good time to raise executive salaries but that it needed to happen. Despite a need for qualified leaders, university administrators make easy targets for Cal State critics, said Bleich. "They are not starving," he said. "They're just an easy symbol to attack based on what we dislike about society generally."
But student leaders said the board instead should decrease student fees or raise faculty salaries, which lag about 15 percent behind those at comparable schools. Recent faculty raises haven't done enough to support professors, said Adam Haverstock, the student-body president at Cal State Northridge. The executive raises are "neither timely nor appropriate," he said. "Increasing the faculty's pay was about giving faculty the ability to raise a family in California."
During a separate discussion on increased graduate student fees, Garamendi also pleaded for an end to student fee increases, which have ranged from 7 percent to 10 percent per year for undergraduates. Both the Cal State and University of California systems were considering graduate fee increases this week. "For God's sake, tax the corporations; don't tax the students," said Garamendi, who also is a UC regent. "We've got to get the courage as trustees and regents to say enough already. We are no longer a public institution."
------Scathing scientific review of Delta analysisReport riddled with problems, essentially useless, panel says
A key assessment of Delta levees that could lend support for a controversial canal around the region is so flawed that its conclusions are essentially useless, according to a panel of scientists. In surprisingly harsh language, the review found that the long-awaited report from the state Department of Water Resources must be overhauled before it can be used. It also noted that the report's authors dismissed valid concerns about their work in the past.
The panel "believes strongly that the inadequacies in some of the analyses may lead policymakers and others to erroneous conclusions and inappropriate decisions," according to the Aug. 23 report, obtained this week by the Times. At issue is the Delta Risk Management Strategy, a two-part, $10 million study paid for with state bond proceeds. The first phase is meant to assess the vulnerabilities of Delta levees and the economic and environmental impact of floods. The study's second phase is expected to present options to address the threats identified in the first phase.
The strategy report was supposed to help inform a comprehensive "Delta vision" plan that was ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and is due at the end of November. The scathing review now casts serious doubt on whether that will happen, though officials said the report could still be useful when an implementation plan for the Delta vision is developed next year.
Many observers say the state's water agency has been angling to get a Peripheral Canal built around the Delta and that the "dreams study" strategy report would help build that case by showing how vulnerable the levees are to floods, which could damage Delta farms and threaten part of the state's water supply.
The thinking is that if the water supply from the Delta, which is used by two-thirds of Californians and on millions of acres of farmland, is highly vulnerable, and if shoring up levees is prohibitively expensive, then a canal might appear to be a good alternative.
Few dispute that the Delta is vulnerable, that levee failures could have severe statewide consequences or that shoring up levees would be expensive. But the more acute the threat, the more attractive a canal might appear. The science review did not specify whether the report's errors tended to skew conclusions in any particular direction, and a state water official strongly denied there was any bias toward a canal in the study.
"What we're interested in doing is seeing as objectively as possible how vulnerable the Delta is," said Les Harder, a deputy director of the water resources department. "We've approached this very openly and very honestly." The study is one of several under way that address the question of how water should be moved through the Delta region. There is widespread speculation that state officials are trying to build support for a canal through those processes.
In addition to the risk study, groups of scientists and policymakers are drawing up a new Delta vision, writing a comprehensive plan to address endangered species in the Delta, and doing a formal re-evaluation of the way water is taken out of the Delta. "The DWR (Department of Water Resources) is the common element in all these things and has been trying to force all these studies through the same mold," said Tom Zuckerman, a member of strategy report's steering committee and special projects manager for the Central Delta Water Agency. "I don't think there is any question this has been orchestrated," he added.
Depending on how it is built and regulated, a canal could deprive the West Coast's largest estuary of fresh water at great cost to the region's water quality and possibly to native fish and other wildlife.
The June draft of the report made a strong case that the Delta could not be relied upon for water deliveries to users across the state, calculating a 28 percent chance of more than 30 levees failing simultaneously in the next 25 years because of an earthquake and as many as 260 floods in the next 100 years. But the science panel's review said the report's numbers cannot be trusted, saying the results are "of limited utility" and that the study's shortcomings will not be simple to solve.
"We understand the time pressures that have been placed on the ... analysis, but the results are too important and potentially too useful to be rushed to the point that the results are not trusted or that the generated results are unjustified," the panel wrote.
State officials said the criticisms will be addressed and added they did not expect changes to the overall conclusion -- that the Delta is vulnerable and that the cost of it failing is catastrophically high. "Overall, even given the overly critical scientific review, it's not a fatally flawed document," said Keith Coolidge, a spokesman for CalFed, a state agency that oversees Delta issues.
One member of the governor's Delta vision task force said the crisis facing the Delta is nothing new, but the state's water agency should put the estuary's health on equal footing with the state's water supply. "Clearly, they have gone back to the Big Ditch approach," said Sunne Wright McPeak, a former Contra Costa County supervisor and member of the governor's Delta vision task force.
Besides a canal, other options under consideration include reducing the state's reliance on the Delta for water, and an idea that couples continued delivery through the Delta with a smaller aqueduct around it.
-------------Charges of kickbacks pile up for law firmLOS ANGELES -- A New York law firm accused of paying kickbacks to plaintiffs in class-action and shareholder lawsuits said Wednesday that one of its partners will be indicted and more charges will be filed against the firm.
Milberg Weiss said in a statement that it has learned Melvyn Weiss, who helped start the firm, will be charged in connection with a seven-year federal investigation. "Mr. Weiss has decided to discontinue his participation in firm management in order to focus on the defense of the charges against him," the statement said.
The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, where the case will be tried, declined to comment about the case. It wasn't immediately known whether Weiss had hired an attorney to represent him. Weiss would be the latest lawyer from the firm to be indicted.
On Tuesday, prosecutors said William Lerach agreed to plead guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in the case that could bring a sentence of one to two years in federal prison. His arraignment is pending. In July, David Bershad pleaded guilty to conspiracy and will be sentenced early next year.
Prosecutors accuse the firm of secretly paying more than $11 million in kickbacks to get people to take part in more than 150 class-action and shareholder lawsuits, allowing its lawyers to be among the first to file litigation on behalf of shareholders and secure the lucrative position as lead plaintiffs' counsel. Prosecutors say they believe the firm netted more than $200 million in fees during a 20-year period.