POLITICS (Bay Area): Port of Oakland, executive director placed on administrative leave, outside law firm to review credit card expenditures by senior port management....

***Following up on earlier report noted here....

* San Francisco Chronicle (Matier & Ross):  "Port of Oakland executive director placed on leave" - From the Chronicle:

Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin Thursday was placed on immediate paid administrative leave following allegations that one of his top aides spent $4,500 in public money at Houston strip club.

Benjamin, who has been head of the port since 2007, was placed on leave by the Board of Port Commissioners following a lengthy closed-door session Thursday evening. As director, Benjamin oversaw the port’s maritime operations, Oakland International Airport and its commercial real estate. The commission named Deborah Ale Flint, the port’s director of aviation, to take the helm for the time being.

No reason was given for Benjamin’s removal; however, the commission also announced that it was bringing in an outside law firm to review credit card expenditures by port brass.


Benjamin’s exit comes after news reports in The Chronicle that port Maritime Director James Kwon allegedly spent $4,500 entertaining shipping executives at Treasurers’, a Houston strip club, during a business conference in 2008.

According to a well-placed source, port commissioners were told that the strip club trip may be the tip of the iceberg and that the port was looking at the possibility that there may have been “hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable expenditures” by higher-ups going back several years. There are also rumors swirling around port headquarters that Kwon may not have been the only port executive at the Houston strip club..........


POLITICS (State, Local): San Bernardino, bankruptcy, city has stopped making required payments to CalPERS, failure to make $5.3 in payments, $1.2 million considered delinquent....

* Sacramento Bee:  "San Bernardino stops payments to CalPERS, owes pension fund $5.3 million" - From the Bee:

The city of San Bernardino has stopped making its required payments to CalPERS since filing for bankruptcy and owes the big pension fund $5.3 million, CalPERS said today.

San Bernardino's missed payments creates a bizarre new twist in the unfolding political and financial drama over cities' pension obligations. It raises significant questions about whether cities can use their financial problems to justify getting out of their obligations to the powerful pension fund.

CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco said the pension fund has been talking to the city about the missed payments. "If we can't resolve the missed payments...CalPERS will assert its rights and remedies available under the law," he said. Ultimately, the San Bernardino pension program could be terminated, and the dollars contributed by the city to CalPERS over the years would be put into a special fund. No more money would be contributed, and the pension program for city workers would depend entirely on how that remaining pool of money is invested.

Pacheco said that, because of grace periods, the city's delinquency totals $1.2 million.

Steve Turner, president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association, said employees have been assured by CalPERS that retirement benefits aren't being cut off...........


* Los Angeles Times:  "Bankrupt San Bernardino halts payments to CalPERS pension fund"


L.A. CITY HALL: Proposed tax measures for March 2013 municipal ballot, higher tax on parking revenue, higher tax on real estate sales + suggestion of parcel tax increase measure....

* Los Angeles Times:  "City official pushes two tax increases for L.A. ballot" - "City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana says the hikes -- one on parking revenue, the other on real estate sales -- would generate up to $125 million annually for the city budget." - From the LAT:

Los Angeles' top budget official has asked the City Council to draft two tax measures for the March ballot, saying both are needed to avert cuts to police and fire services. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the tax hikes — one on parking revenue, the other on real estate sales — would generate up to $125 million annually for the city budget, which faces a shortfall of $220 million.


The proposals come six years after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council embarked on a plan to boost the size of the Los Angeles Police Department by 1,000 officers. To pay for that expansion, they tripled the trash pickup fee for single-family homes and apartments with two to four units.

Villaraigosa said he is open to both tax proposals, which are scheduled to be reviewed Friday by a committee headed by Council President Herb Wesson. But the mayor also warned that he would embrace them only if the council agrees to make other decisions, such as privatizing the zoo and the Convention Center and proceeding with a delayed package of layoffs.


Wesson and two other council members — Eric Garcetti and Paul Krekorian — have requested language for a third possible tax increase that would generate money for park programs by hiking property taxes by $39 per parcel. All three tax hikes are being weighed for the March election, when voters will be asked to choose a mayor, city attorney and city controller and decide who will fill eight of the council's 15 seats.

The parks measure would need two-thirds support to pass, Santana said. By contrast, the other two measures would need 50% of the vote plus one..........

* Daily News:  "L.A. City Council to consider two tax hikes for March ballot" - From the DN:

Despite a looming budget deficit of more than $200 million, a City Council panel on Friday refused to endorse two proposals to increase taxes, and it indefinitely postponed a suggestion to increase parking taxes.

The council's Rules and Election Committee sent two proposals - a $39-a-year parcel tax to fund parks and a doubling of the documentary transfer tax - to the full City Council without recommendation. The measures are being eyed for the March ballot. "I want to give the full City Council an opportunity to discuss these," said Council President Herb Wesson, who chairs the panel. "So, I am sending these on without recommendation."




L.A. CITY HALL: Sixth Street Bridge replacement, international design competition, HNTB Corp. selected to design replacement for 1932 viaduct, $400 million contract....

* Downtown News:  "City Picks HNTB for Sixth Street Bridge" - "Firms Beats Two Other Finalists for $400 Million Project" - From the DTN:

City officials this morning announced that the firm HNTB Corp. has been selected to design the replacement for the ailing Sixth Street Viaduct.The decision, revealed during a press conference on the bridge, marks the end of an international design competition for a $400 million contract for the project that connects Downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.


HNTB, which beat out the firms AECOM and Parsons Brinckerhoff in the final round, wowed a bridge design committee with its series of 10 rolling arches. . . . . . . .


The nine-member design panel selected by 14th District City Councilman José Huizar and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unanimously recommended the HNTB design. The project is expected to create nearly 5,000 construction jobs, said Villaraigosa.

The selection marks the start of a contract negotiation period that is expected to take about three months. The design process will begin in January and take another 18-24 months. Construction would last three years, so tentative completion could be as far away as 2019.......


POLITICS (National): Report, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg starting a "Super PAC," plan to spend $10 million to $15 million in final weeks of 2012 camapign, highly competitive races across the country, candidates who will be focused on "problem solving"....

* New York Times:  "Bloomberg Starts 'Super PAC,' Seeking National Influence" - From the NYT:

Seeking to reshape a national political debate he finds frustratingly superficial, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York is plunging into the 2012 campaign in its final weeks, creating his own “super PAC” to direct millions of dollars in donations to elect candidates from both parties who he believes will focus on problem solving.

Mr. Bloomberg. . . .expects to spend from $10 million to $15 million of his money in highly competitive state, local and Congressional races. The money would be used to pay for a flurry of advertising on behalf of Republican, Democratic and independent candidates who support three of his biggest policy initiatives: legalizing same-sex marriage, enacting tougher gun laws and overhauling schools.


The move reflects an eagerness from Mr. Bloomberg, who is entering the twilight of his tenure as mayor, to help elect candidates he regards as centrist and who are willing to compromise, and grapple with what he sees as grave problems confronting the country.

Up until now, Mr. Bloomberg has played a relatively modest role in politics outside New York, occasionally donating to causes or candidates he favors or holding fund-raisers in his Manhattan town house to support them. But two years ago, he signaled a desire to play a bigger role in combating more extreme forces in American politics. The organization he is now establishing — and the money he will channel into races around the country — represents his most ambitious effort yet, one that will continue after he steps down in January 2014............