Today the Los Angeles Times
published two articles on the Los Angeles Community College
Districtís bond-funded Building Program, with more apparently to
appear over the coming week. In the main article, the Times
acknowledges the pressing need for renovations and the valuable
improvements paid for with bond money. We, on the other hand,
acknowledge that there were past problems with planning and
oversight. However, the articlesí implication is that problems
with the $6 billion Program have overshadowed these improvements.
The Times is wrong. Of course, in any construction program of this
magnitude and scope there are going to be issues. We have rigorous
new systems in place to address these issues to ensure we are
meeting our responsibilities for accountability.
In fact, this program, one of the most heavily audited and
examined in the history of public construction, has been found
over and over again to be well-managed, careful with taxpayer
dollars, and committed to innovative management and reducing
impacts on the environment. And while we take the issues
identified by the Times seriously, it is important to keep a sense
of perspective. Los Angeles voters have approved three separate
bond measures, totaling almost $6 billion. No one can deny that
this money was desperately needed to modernize each of the LACCDís
nine colleges, most of which were in various states of decay and
disrepair. No one can deny that investment in community colleges
is a critical part of our economic recovery. No one can deny that
the benefits of LACCDís Building Program are real, and are being
delivered safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. In
fact, our latest count shows that the building program has
completed nearly 50 major projects (with budgets over $5 million),
changing the faces of each of the Districtís nine colleges.
After ignoring the good news of the Program for years, the Times
spent 20 months on this investigation and now picks at a few
issues in what appears to be a sensationalist series published
right before trustee elections. The timing is suspect, and the
reporting is one-sided. So far, we are sorely disappointed. While
the Times notes that half the $6 billion is still to be spent and
there is time to "correct" things, I say to the Times that with
only two articles published, there is an even better opportunity
to correct their sensationalist tone and one-sided and biased
We at the LACCD take the management of the Program very seriously.
Our regular annual audits over the years, which have examined the
Programís performance and finances, and have been conducted by
outside, independent firms, have yielded consistently good marks.
At the same time, issues that the audits have identified (not
surprising in a $6 billion program) have been quickly and
forthrightly addressed by the Programís management. We have also
taken corrective measures when others, including the Times, have
identified issues. This commitment to improvement is part of the
Programís DNA, and is an aspect noted by the auditors themselves.
LACCD has over the past two years taken a number of steps to
strengthen program management. The board of trustees has:
1) Approved the creation of an independent Office of Inspector
General to report to the board and conduct on-going reviews of
performance, financial integrity and legal compliance of the
Program. The first IG took office in October.
2) Approved the creation of a whistleblower program so that staff
may report on issues that need investigating.
3) Taken a variety of other steps to tighten controls on
contractor compensation and selection.
These actions and many others put the District and the Program on
the leading edge of management of bond-funded capital programs in
As to the construction issues raised in the article, especially
those at Valley College, City College, and East LA College, we
have rectified many of the issues and we are making progress on
the others. To the extent that the Times identifies issues that
neither we nor our auditors were aware of, we will move
aggressively to take corrective action.
As to the article published today on contractor contributions, we
have to ask, whereís the news? The fact that companies seeking
public contracts contribute to bond measures and elected officials
is not new or news. In fact, we applaud those companies who, just
like interested individuals, contributed to our various bond
measures. Without private support, it would have been impossible
to educate the public on the desperate need for renovation at our
As to implications that these contributions brought favorable
treatment, such insinuations are ludicrous. We are not aware of
any evidence, and the Times has not presented any, that
contributions to either bond measure campaigns or trustee
elections have influenced the selection of contractors. LACCDís
bond construction program has very strict protocols governing how
construction contracts are awarded, and these procedures are
followed closely. In fact, it is impossible for one person, be he
or she a staffer on the Program Management team, an employee of
LACCD itself, or a member of the Board to Trustees, to award a
In fact, LACCDís Trustees are quite insulated from the process.
They have no role in the evaluation of individual construction
contract proposals except where there is a bid protest. Their main
function with respect to contract awards is to ratify staff
recommendations in this area. So the idea that contractors made
contributions to trustees and as a result received contracts is
The bottom line is that students, faculty, staff, and the
communities surrounding the colleges are already greatly
benefitting from the improved facilities. Thanks to the Program,
students are being better prepared for important careers in health
care, child development, high technology, and public safety, or to
transfer to a four-year college if that is their goal. The
stimulus effect of the Programís spending is one of the very few
bright spots in todayís Southern California economy. Finally, the
Programís attention to environmental responsibility is also
important to coming generations.
The improvements we are making to our colleges are not just for
today or the next few years, but are meant to provide benefits
over the coming decades. The LACCDís Building Program is and
continues to be a great investment by the people of Los Angeles.
With these improvements, everyone benefits, and for a long time to