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Cracked Sidewalks - Your Tab, or the City's?

Step on a crack, break the budget’s back!

For more than 70 years, until about 1974, Angelenos were required to repair the sidewalks in front of their houses if the roaming roots of trees made them dangerous.

Then, in 1974, the city got a pot of federal money to do the fixing itself, and everyone figured that practice would go on forever.

Well, ''forever'' may stop this year. Federal funds and other money once devoted to this is gone gone gone. And as the city looks for places to cut the budget, it's thinking of making homeowners responsible for repairs once again.

Whoa, you say! Really? You’re not alone. We got loads of calls about how this would work: Could people even get homeowners’ insurance if they’re liable for upkeep on the sidewalks? [Hard to say.] Could homeowners tear out the sidewalks to avoid liability? [Nope.]

City council member Bernard Parks, who heads the city budget committee, told me it’s all still being hashed out, so stay tuned. In the meantime, the fine people in the KPCC public interest journalism newsroom want to know how budget cuts are touching your life. Have your say at THENETWORK

Here’s some news that puts broken sidewalks in perspective: how about a broken planet?

The world’s biodiversity is collapsing. Waters are befouled. Amphibians and some fish and plant species are disappearing at an alarming rate. The worst thing is – we’re not alarmed. At least not enough.

Eight years ago, the United Nations ordered up a report to show how much better we were doing on that ecological front. Well, the report’s in, and even if they graded on a curve, we’d be flunking. As the UN’s David Ainsworth told me from Nairobi, Kenya – and bless him for being awake and on the phone at 2:30 in the morning Kenya time! – some nations have been tapping on the brakes when it comes to eco-disaster, but not fast enough. The remedy? Same old-same old: money and awareness.

I remember the writer Carlos Fuentes once telling me – I think I’ve got this right – that at the moment that a big earthquake hit Mexico City in September 1985, he was in the northeastern United States [was it Maine?] writing about ... an earthquake in Mexico.

Isabel Allende’s historical novel about Haiti was published in this country a few weeks ago, not long after a huge earthquake devastated modern Haiti. She has such a gift for telling stories, and telling us about our own Western Hemisphere, but Haiti was something different, inasmuch as its history is wrapped up in French as well as Spanish conquest.

Her story of a Haitian slave, Tete, carries the nation’s story as so many of her heroines do, and I enjoy hearing her ‘’talk’’ her book as much as I enjoy reading it. I was especially charmed by the caller who had named her daughter Eva Luna, after the title character in one of Allende’s books.

Keep listening here to keep up with two of the Beltway’s biggest pieces of political theater: the upcoming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, and the hearings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, about how the wheels came off the economy [from the sound of it, Wall Street did a lot to loosen the lug nuts].