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MAYBE there's something in the water that saps Los Angeles bureaucrats of their brains.

Or maybe the Los Angeles Unified School District's deadly virus - causing those it infects to deflect, deny and defend - is contagious, spreading like wildfire throughout downtown and the rest of the state.

First, Dr. Shirley Fannin, director of disease control programs for the county Department of Health Services, catches the virus. On Wednesday, bureaucrat Fannin said the county couldn't be bothered with conducting environmental tests at school sites with potentially high cancer risks.

Fannin said she doesn't know how much such studies would cost, but the county cannot afford them.

Then the virus spreads to officials in the state Department of Health Services, who claim it's not their job, either, to study whether schools near landfills are health hazards.

What are these bottom feeders being paid for? Their looks?

Cancer is a real concern among faculty at Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, Towne Avenue Elementary School in Carson and 28 other campuses throughout the LAUSD system.

Finally, after years of ignoring the problem, the LAUSD joined with some state officials in requesting urgent help to study the two potentially worst sites - Poly and Towne.

In the wake of the Belmont Learning Center fiasco, it was a prudent request.

Teachers at Towne Avenue have long voiced concern that a former landfill, located within 100 feet of the school, could be a health hazard. Ten or 11 of 31 faculty members have been diagnosed with breast cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, cervical cancer and prostate cancer since 1990, according to an internal district memo.

At Poly, located within 200 yards of the former Sheldon-Arleta landfill, teachers have complained of noxious odors and health ailments since the mid-1980s, according to records and interviews.

The county and the state have all but turned their backs on teachers' cries for help.

Fannin's response is more than curious. It's shameful.

If the county has not properly funded her department, why not use this urgent request as a means of demanding more money? Why not call on the county Board of Supervisors to stop shirking its responsibility in looking after the health and welfare of residents?

Instead, Fannin all but told the school district, the state, the students and the teachers to buzz off.

Obviously, she's incapable of performing her duties if not given necessary resources. The county supervisors need to exercise leadership and fund the study or turn over responsibility to the state Department of Health Services.

Somebody needs to find a cure for this virulent and rampant virus - denying responsibility, deflecting accountability, defending incompetence - before it kills democracy.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Daily News
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 15, 1999

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