Capital & Main’s Latest News Section.
By Jennifer Medina
(Note: This feature appeared on the New York Times Web site February 1.)
CLAREMONT, Calif. — The dining hall workers had been at Pomona College for years, some even decades. For a few, it was the only job they had held since moving to the United States.
Then late last year, administrators at the college delivered letters to dozens of the longtime employees asking them to show proof of legal residency, saying that an internal review had turned up problems in their files.
Seventeen workers could not produce documents showing that they were legally able to work in the United States. So on Dec. 2, they lost their jobs.
Now, the campus is deep into a consuming debate over what it means to be a college with liberal ideals, with some students, faculty and alumni accusing the administration and the board of directors of betraying the college’s ideals.
We are the 99 percent. Well, yes we are, but not everyone among us thinks so. Lots of people think they are part of the 1 percent when they aren’t even close. According to Harper’s Index 13 percent of Americans think they are part of the1 percent, and 28 percent of “Hispanic Americans” think they are part of the 1 percent. Since these are statistical impossibilities, it makes me wonder why people don’t identify with who they are instead of who they are not.
Some people identify with the rich because they expect to be rich some day. That is why so many low-income people play the lottery. One day their ship will come in. On the other hand, many people think that if they work hard, climb the ladder and make a few clever deals, they too will be rich. Some 43 percent of Americans actually think that.
That was the unlikely message to emerge from a series of town halls that have been held around the city over the last few months hosted by RePower LA, a new citywide coalition. From East and South L.A. to the Valley and the Westside, environmentalists, business owners and young people in need of jobs have sung the praises of energy efficiency.
Why the commotion? It’s over the promise and potential of making the LADWP, the nation’s largest municipally owned utility, a leader in energy efficiency. Energy efficiency programs can keep our bills low, saving businesses and residents hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. They also provide local jobs. And they can help wean us off our reliance on dirty energy sources that pollute our air and threaten our health.
Thousands of Los Angeles residents and businesses want the LADWP to invest in a sustained manner in programs that make our homes and businesses more energy efficient and create good jobs,
Arturo de los Santos, a 46-year-old former Marine who lives in Riverside, California, doesn’t usually listen to National Public Radio, but a friend told him to pay attention to a disturbing report broadcast Monday on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The report disclosed that Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage company, whose mission is “to expand opportunities for home-ownership,” invested billions in mortgage securities that profited when homeowners were unable to refinance.
De los Santos is one of those homeowners that Freddie Mac bet against. Sunday night he got a court summons at his door from Freddie Mac stating that the mortgage giant was going to evict him.
But he’s fighting back, pledging to get arrested rather than leave voluntarily if Riverside County sheriff’s deputies try to remove him, his wife and four children from the home they’ve lived in for almost a decade. He is part of a growing movement of Americans inspired by Occupy Wall Street to stop banks and other lenders from foreclosing on their homes.
In the summer of 1963 between high school and college I badly needed a job. A friend from my class at Hollywood High School, who thought of himself as a free thinker and was headed to Reed College, told me his dad had a position open for a secretary and, with his help, I could get hired.
Quality Collection Company was located in a grungy office building in downtown L.A. and was run by my friend’s father and uncle who pretended they were lawyers. The company purchased contracts for items sold door to door in mostly black and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles and attempted to collect what was owed on those contracts. Families may have signed up for a deep freezer, not realizing that expensive monthly purchases of meat were part of the deal; or found they had committed to purchasing aluminum siding they didn’t need and couldn’t afford.
My job was to send out the increasingly shrill collection notices on these contracts that included more and more bold black or red lettering and exclamation marks threatening to garnish their wages or repossess their belongings if they didn’t pay up.