The Soulvine

By Betty Pleasant
Los Angeles Wave
November 28, 2007

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN — AGAIN — Turn we now to the Roman Catholic Church. Specifically, the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. The church agreed earlier this year to pay $660 million in damages to more than 500 men and women who were sexually abused by Catholic priests when they were children. Now it's time to start coming up with the money and the church is doing it to the children again.

Insurance companies will pay half that money, but the archdiocese has to come up with cold, hard cash to pay the other half. And where will the church get it? From the only place it can: It has to sell some of the many pieces of property it owns throughout this vast region. And what property is it selling? That little rectory in Oxnard where the three nuns live and Daniel Murphy High School, the last remaining predominantly African-American Catholic high school in the central city.

Last month archdiocese officials announced it was closing the school on account of a decade of declining enrollment. They didn't mention the fact that the school sits on a big chunk of prime real estate in the Hancock Park area and that its sale would fetch a substantial sum toward meeting its $330 million settlement debt. Since that announcement, hundreds of the school's alumni, parents and outraged inner-city Catholics and others of goodwill have mobilized to force archdiocesan officials to consider alternatives and reconsider their decision to close the school. They have met with Msgr. Royale Vadakin, moderator of the curia, and Nancy Coonis, superintendent of secondary schools, to discuss options to the school's closure. But no dice. Every alternative the parents and alumni et al. have suggested has been shot down as not open for discussion.

Daniel Murphy parents have unanimously agreed to a minimum $1,000 a year increase in tuition to eliminate the need for the archdiocese's annual $175,000 subsidy, and the alumni have flooded the place with offers of even more money. All parties have agreed to launch a full-press recruitment drive to increase enrollment, despite reports that the low enrollment levels for which the archdiocese found cause for termination had been capped for some time now by the school's principal. All of these offers of help to keep the school operating were dismissed out of hand by Vadakin, who, with great bravado, takes sole credit for the school's pending closure.

So where is His Eminence, Cardinal Roger Mahony in all of this? Nobody knows because he's not talking to anybody. Parents held a protest outside the archdiocese office last month and requested a meeting with the cardinal. They were ignored. Some 300 people held a highly publicized march in front of the cardinal's church, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, on Nov. 17 and reiterated their request for a meeting with His Eminence, but nothing doing. Parents and alumni have made repeated attempts in writing and by telephone to arrange a meeting with our spiritual leader, but no-can-do.

Opponents of the closure believe that the Daniel Murphy family should not be held financially responsible for the victimization and mismanagement of the church's sexual abuse scandal. And they believe — we all believe — that Daniel Murphy is just the beginning of what is destined to be a closure of Catholic schools and other institutions all over the inner city because the archdiocese can no longer afford to subsidize them and needs to unload the properties on which they stand. Who will suffer? The usual suspects: the poor, the immigrant, the old, the young, the sick, the black, the brown, the yellow. Hell, if the church can't afford to serve the people who need it most, then what's the point in having it? Cardinal Mahony needs to speak to this issue and give us a homily on "What Would Jesus Do?" This is my church and I am not a happy Catholic. Haven't been for some time.

DYMALLY DOES IT — AGAIN — What octogenarian is in more legal mess? Why, that obstreperous, cantankerous, contrarian old codger Assemblyman Mervin Dymally, of course. Each time he makes the news, it's for an act that pushes the envelope. This time, he's shoved that bad boy right over the edge. Listen up: Dymally is being sued for the unlawful termination of a married couple who worked in his Sacramento office. The firing occurred in 2004 but the old man has ignored the state's urgings to settle the matter, so the case is scheduled to go to a full-blown court trial on Dec. 11.

This is the deal. According to attorney Bradley Booth, Dymally fired Tamara Mitchell, the assemblyman's chief of staff, because she exercised her rights under the California Family Rights Act and took her sick husband to the hospital rather than come to work. At the same time, he also fired her husband, Jason Mitchell, who worked as one of Dymally's aides, for being sick. "He can't fire either one of them," Booth said. "He's violating the very laws he has enacted! He doesn't want to settle, so we'll see him in court." Merv Dymally. What a guy!

THIS AND THAT — The incoming city manager of Pasadena, Bernard Melekian, doesn't like where he sees Pasadena headed. Melekian, who is Pasadena's former chief of police, told the Pasadena Star News that he is troubled by the decline of diversity in the City of the Roses and the "pricing out" of family housing due to rampant gentrification. He sees Pasadena turning into Santa Monica. "What is this city going to look like in a decade? I don't want to see Pasadena go that way," he told writer Kenneth Todd Ruiz. Melekian will succeed Cynthia Kurtz as city manager on Jan. 8, not a day too soon, by his reckoning.

The Three Stooges on the Carson City Council put on their usual act last week. The idiotic majority — Mayor Pro Tem Elito Santarina and council members Lula Davis-Holmes and Mike Gipson — voted against their own recommendations when Mayor Jim Dear tried to nominate their hand-picked choices to city commission seats. Jim is conflicted about Gipson's run for the 55th Assembly District. On the one hand, Jim (and the rest of the city) is ecstatic about the prospect of getting rid of Gipson and replacing him with a productive Carson City Council member, but on the other hand, Jim is loathe to see Gipson rewarded with a political promotion for bad acts. Jim shouldn't worry about Gipson getting any rewards. Wherever Gipson goes, I'll still be here, hanging on to his empty suit.

Wasn't he just sworn in yesterday!? Assemblyman Mike Davis is having a re-election kick-off cocktail party Thursday evening from 6 to 8 at the Velvet Room, 3470 Wilshire Blvd. Time flies, as they say. Guess I'll drop by. Here's some bad news: Rep. Julia Carson of Indiana's 7th Congressional District, has terminal lung cancer and has taken a medical leave from Congress. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Carson, 69, was an Indiana state senator who was elected to Congress 10 years ago.

AND FINALLY — Reports have it that all's quiet on the Inglewood school board front. I've been told that the two menaces ---board President Arnold Butler and member Bishop Johnny Young — have been sufficiently chastened, chastised and checkmated and have simmered down. Now maybe the district employees can work in peace and the school board can direct its attention to resolving the serious educational issues facing their students, and the financial morass in which the district is embroiled — like, maybe, finding a way to pay the salary increases the board promised its teachers.


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