Index
Friday
Dec192014

MEDIA: Linda Deutsch retirement: "Veteran AP Trial Reporter Linda Deutsch to Retire" ....  

* ABC News (AP):  "Veteran AP Trial Reporter Linda Deutsch to Retire" - From ABC News:

Linda Deutsch, whose decades-long tenure as an Associated Press courts reporter made her a witness to some of the most sensational trials in U.S. history, is ending a career that saw her report Charles Manson's murder conviction, O.J. Simpson's acquittal and countless other verdicts involving the famous and the infamous.

Deutsch, who wraps up a 48-year career with the AP on Monday, was a young general assignment reporter in 1969 when she was thrust onto the court beat. A rag-tag band of young hippies, influenced by a petty criminal who had reinvented himself as their guru, broke into two upscale Los Angeles homes on successive nights and killed seven people, including actress Sharon Tate.

When Manson and his followers went on trial, Deutsch was sent to an LA courtroom to back up a veteran AP reporter. The trial became a huge story, with Manson's followers carving Nazi swastikas into their foreheads and disrupting the courtroom with chanting and singing. At one point, Manson himself leaped over a defense table and tried to stab the judge with a pencil.

"I thought, 'Oh, this is really something. I didn't know trials are like this,'" Deutsch recalled recently.

By the time Manson and his followers were convicted, Deutsch was the AP's trials expert. She would eventually earn the title "special correspondent" as she traveled the country reporting on the most prominent court cases of the day ? everything from the 1976 trial of newspaper heiress and kidnap-victim-turned-bank-robber Patty Hearst to the negligence trial of the captain of the tanker Exxon Valdez, which caused one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history.

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Deutsch had been covering trials for 25 years when the public finally a put a face with the veteran AP reporter's byline. . . . . . . . .

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After retiring from AP, Deutsch, 71, plans to write a memoir recapping those moments and others in her life....................

Friday
Dec192014

POLITICS (National): Right-to-work laws, union organizing, opposition: "Foes of Unions Try Their Luck in County Laws" ....

* New York Times:  "Foes of Unions Try Their Luck in County Laws" - From the NYT:

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Conservative groups are opening a new front in their effort to reshape American law, arguing that local governments have the power to write their own rules on a key labor issue that has, up to now, been the prerogative of states.

Beginning here in the hometown of Senator Rand Paul and the Chevy Corvette, groups including the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation and a newly formed nonprofit called Protect My Check are working together to influence local governments the same way they have influenced state legislatures, and anti-union ordinances are just the first step in the coordinated effort they envision.

A carefully devised plan began to unfold last week, when the Warren County Fiscal Court met here and preliminarily approved, in a 6 to 1 vote, a “right to work” ordinance that would allow employees represented by a union to opt out of paying union fees. This week two more Kentucky counties, Fulton and Simpson, followed suit, and a dozen more are expected to do the same in the next six weeks.

Supporters of the effort say that if they are successful in Kentucky, they will try to pass similar local laws in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other places that do not have a statewide right-to-work law. Protect My Check is promising to pay for the legal battles of any local government that tries it.

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Kentucky provides a perfect laboratory, said Jason M. Nemes, a Louisville lawyer involved in the initiative, because it is the lone Southern state that does not have a right-to-work law, and its neighbor West Virginia, where Republicans captured control of the Legislature last month, may soon pass one. Other states where Republicans expanded their control in the midterms, like New Mexico and Wisconsin, are also considering statewide bills.........................

Friday
Dec192014

L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, response time, code enforcement complaints: "Responses to L.A. building and safety complaints vary widely across L.A." ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Responses to L.A. building and safety complaints vary widely across L.A." - From the LAT:

When Angelenos phone the city to complain about illegal construction, trash piling up next door or other building nuisances, some parts of town have gotten a faster reaction from building inspectors than have others, a Times analysis of city data shows.

The delays have been greatest in eastern Los Angeles, where nearly a quarter of code enforcement complaints languished at least three months without a response. That was twice the comparable rate on the Westside and four times that found in South Los Angeles, according to the analysis, which spanned the period from January 2011 to July 2014. Central L.A., where 18% of complaints studied failed to receive a response within 90 days, was the closest to eastern Los Angeles in terms of delays.

Inspectors also failed to meet the Department of Building and Safety's own response-time goals — which range from one to 20 days depending on the nature of the complaint — in more than one out of three cases in eastern Los Angeles, a rate nearly 40% worse than the citywide average.

In Highland Park, it took more than a year for the city to respond after a complaint was received about illegal construction work being done on Planada Avenue, records show. The man who had filed the complaint — and has since died — was surprised when a city inspector finally showed up, recalled neighbor Margie Flock. "They just presumed they weren't going to do anything," she said.

Eventually, after a long-delayed inspection, the department ordered the owner of the home to provide required off-street parking — because spaces had been blocked off by construction, department spokesman Luke Zamperini said. Other lagging complaints on the eastern side of the city involved garages allegedly turned into dwellings in Boyle Heights; builders ignoring design rules in a historic district in Highland Park; and illegal construction in Lincoln Heights, records show.

"It's astonishing," said Robert Garcia, founding director of the City Project, an advocacy group focused on equitable development in Los Angeles. "The pattern is quite disturbing. ... All residents of the city are entitled to equal access to services. And clearly the residents of eastern and central L.A. are not getting them."

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Last year, the citywide median wait for a visit from an inspector or other initial action by the building department following a complaint was eight days — compared with 26 days in the eastern parts of the city, according to the Times analysis of records posted on the city's new open-data website. Complaints involving issues that were deemed potentially hazardous were handled more quickly, with a median citywide wait of three days for a response. Zamperini said city inspectors "focus on the most egregious or dangerous issues — and if there's any time left, they get to the other ones."

Waits for inspectors have improved this year in eastern Los Angeles and across the city, officials point out. But during the first half of this year, the typical wait was still several days longer in eastern areas than citywide, the Times analysis found. The Times also analyzed response times in smaller areas and found that responses differed greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood, ranging from a median wait of 42 days in Arleta to a single day in Sylmar. In the San Fernando Valley, which had faster overall response times, some eastern neighborhoods had long delays.

Getting an inspection is only the beginning of the process: Actually fixing a problem can take months or even years after an initial inspection.............................

Friday
Dec192014

L.A. CITY HALL: Development, pollution impacts, stronger protection for residents, editorial: "L.A.'s freeway-adjacent residents need more more protection from pollution" ....

* Los Angeles Times (editorial):  "L.A.'s freeway-adjacent residents need more protection from pollution" - From the LAT:

A growing body of research shows that living next to a freeway can significantly increase the risk of asthma, heart disease, pre-term births, reduced lung function in children and premature death. Yet Los Angeles continues to approve residential developments next to freeways without imposing strong measures to protect the residents.

Case in point: the Da Vinci apartment complex, half of which was destroyed by fire last week. It was built 10 feet from the busy 110 freeway, with balconies overlooking the traffic. That's much closer than the 500-foot buffer zone that state air quality officials recommend for residential projects. Air pollution monitoring in Los Angeles has shown that levels of carbon monoxide and dangerous ultrafine particles are extremely high on and next to freeways and that the pollution doesn't dissipate until almost 1,000 feet away.

In an attempt to cut potential pollution exposure, city planners required that developer Geoffrey H. Palmer install special air filters in the Da Vinci's ventilation systems — which wouldn't really help much if people opened their windows or balcony doors. Yet when Times reporter David Zahniser inquired, city inspectors discovered that the developer hadn't installed the equipment needed to accommodate the stronger filters. Palmer ended up adding the equipment, but the filters won't be effective without regular replacement — something the city does not follow up on once a project is complete, unless there's a complaint.

Friday
Dec192014

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Bay Area): San Francisco, "storm of the decade," local infrastructure, editorial: "Why the Bay Area fell apart during the storm" ....

* San Francisco Chronicle (editorial):  "Why the Bay Area fell apart during the storm" - From the Chronicle:

While the Bay Area’s “storm of the decade” left many residents shrugging about its strength (San Francisco got less than 3.5 inches of rain), our infrastructure tells a different story.

Local school districts and businesses closed their doors in droves. Parents were left scrambling, and tourists were left confused about where to spend their money, but it turned out that, in many cases, they weren’t being overly cautious. Power outages throughout the Bay Area, and overwhelmed sewage systems in different places, including San Francisco, showed how stressed our infrastructure has become. “These storms really point out the vulnerabilities of the system,” said Jean Walsh, a spokesperson for San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission.

During last week’s storm, major streets in San Francisco had to be closed due to flooding, and some businesses in low-lying neighborhoods like the Mission were flooded out. “We are aware that this is a problem,” Walsh said. Walsh said San Francisco is finally moving on a 20-year sewage improvement plan that will cost $2.7 billion and involve making major upgrades to pipes all over the city, some of which are more than a century old. Their goal is to replace up to 15 miles of sewer every year — “not a lot, it sounds like, but it requires a lot of construction to replace old pipes and people are very sensitive to having construction around them, too,” Walsh said.

Asked why it took so long to launch the plan, Walsh mentioned a “decadelong process of approval” through the Board of Supervisors and all related agencies, partly because “we’re not getting any federal money for this — it all comes through San Francisco ratepayers.”

And even a $2.7 billion plan won’t allow the SFPUC to take care of all of the sewage problems in San Francisco.

As for all of those power outages, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. defends its performance .....................