Index
Saturday
Feb282015

L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles City Council, District 4 election: "Tom LaBonge's small-town style has become a target" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Tom LaBonge's small-town style has become a target" - From the LAT:

L.A.'s Tom LaBonge is a big-city councilman with a small-town style.

His office bought its own city truck to pick up abandoned sofas and trash across the 4th District. During a downpour, the Los Angeles Downtown News reported that he personally scooped debris out of downtown gutters. He's a civic cheerleader who talks up his Griffith Park hikes, prides himself on creating bicycle and walking paths, and once pushed to make sure Angelenos calling City Hall heard L.A.-themed songs while on hold — not the sort of stuff that tends to polarize voters.

But as a crowded field of candidates vie to replace the termed-out councilman, his record has become a recurring target. David Ryu, a community health center development director seeking the seat, said he was shocked as he was knocking on doors to find starkly divided sentiment about LaBonge. "Who doesn't love Tom? Tom is Mr. L.A.!" Ryu said, praising LaBonge for his dedication. "But Tom can't be everywhere. If you're lucky enough for Tom to walk by, your problem is likely to get fixed. But we need it systemwide."

Critics peg LaBonge as a "pothole politician" focused on neighborhood nuisances rather than citywide solutions. During his 14-year tenure, some of those local decisions have rankled neighborhood groups . . . . . . . .

In Hancock Park, a homeowners group wrote to LaBonge expressing "extreme frustration" with "years of runaround from you and your staff" after trying to get streets fixed with more-costly concrete instead of asphalt to suit historic neighborhood rules. At a candidates forum in Hancock Park, a number of audience members called out "No!" when a moderator said they probably trusted LaBonge . . . . . . . .

   ****

"He's a handshaker and whatnot, but I think people are ready to move on," said Hancock Park resident Tim Allyn ...........................

Saturday
Feb282015

SACRAMENTO: Tuition increase, University of California system, USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll: "Voters strongly oppose UC tuition increase, poll finds" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Voters strongly oppose UC tuition increase, poll finds" - From the LAT:

California voters overwhelmingly oppose a tuition increase at University of California campuses, even if that forces the colleges to cut spending or accept more out-of-state students who pay higher fees, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. In addition, they say that California has done a poor job of making a college education affordable.

Those polled support Gov. Jerry Brown's call for the UC system to use its resources more efficiently over pleas by University of California President Janet Napolitano for additional state funding, which she argues is necessary to ensure its continued quality.

The clash between Brown and Napolitano has pushed UC finances and state budget considerations to the forefront in Sacramento. State lawmakers, vowing to fight a tuition hike, are considering ways to increase funding for the public colleges, while Brown and Napolitano meet one-on-one to find a solution.

   ****

Among those surveyed, 57% favored the governor's approach, compared to 32% who favored increasing state funds or raising student tuition. Support for Brown's view was consistent across all political, racial and economic groups.

   ****

The UC Board of Regents' move toward higher tuition followed years of dwindling budgets for higher education in California .........................

Saturday
Feb282015

L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles City Council elections, "outside money": "Outside money aiding incumbents in L.A. City Council races" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Outside money aiding incumbents in L.A. City Council races" - From the LAT:

Unlimited outside spending in the campaigns for seven Los Angeles City Council seats has topped $1.2 million, with the vast majority of the money going to help incumbents at City Hall. The spending has only added to the lopsided nature of the contests in Tuesday's election.

On the Eastside, total campaign donations to Councilman Jose Huizar — both direct contributions and independent expenditures — exceed $1.3 million. That amounts to a more than 6 to 1 financial advantage for Huizar over his best-known challenger, former County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Council President Herb Wesson holds a similar fundraising lead over his leading opponent, attorney Grace Yoo, in a Crenshaw-to-Koreatown district. In the San Fernando Valley, Councilwoman Nury Martinez has a sevenfold money-raising advantage over opponent, former Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez, fueled in large part by more than $230,000 in independent expenditures.

Thirty years ago, voters backed limits on the size of contributions that Los Angeles city candidates could collect. But those maximums, currently capped at $700 per donor, are being undercut as so-called independent expenditure groups pour tens of thousands of dollars into advertising and other efforts to boost their chosen candidates.

Independent expenditures are permitted as long as donors — labor unions, business groups, super PACs and others — do not coordinate their spending with their candidates. Those unlimited contributions have a distorting effect on elections, weakening contribution rules and making it more difficult for the public to track the money, said Bob Stern, who helped write the ballot language that created the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. The unlimited contributions "allow special interests to spend lots of money on candidates who are then grateful for the money spent on them," Stern said. "No. 2, they hurt candidates who don't cater to big interests. And three . . . . . . . .

   ****

Independent expenditures were a major issue in the 2013 mayoral campaign, when then-candidate Wendy Greuel faced criticism for benefiting from more than $3 million in support from a political action committee affiliated with the Department of Water and Power's major employee union. This time around, the biggest beneficiary of independent expenditure donations has been Huizar, whose backers have spent more than $500,000 on his behalf .............................

Saturday
Feb282015

L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Greek Theatre: "City officials float idea: Could parks department run Greek Theatre?" .... 

* Los Angeles Times:  "City officials float idea: Could parks department run Greek Theatre?" - From the LAT:

Entertainment titans have battled for months over who should run Los Angeles' Greek Theatre.  A city commission recommended Live Nation for the job, but the City Council disagreed with that pick. Neighborhood groups have pressed for longtime operator Nederlander to stay in charge of the Griffith Park venue alongside its new partner, AEG.

That debate has triggered legal threats, played a part in political campaigns and set off an avalanche of lobbying at City Hall.  Now the saga could take an unexpected turn: Parks officials have suggested that the city could operate the theater. Parks department officials are recommending that the city commission toss out its last request for proposals to run the Greek, as lawmakers had urged them to do. It could then redo the process -- or it could operate the Greek itself as an “open venue,” department officials said.

Running the Greek would let the city ..........................

Friday
Feb272015

L..A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Fire Department, California Environmental Protection Agency: "LAFD failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites, state says" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "LAFD failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites, state says" - From the LAT:

he Los Angeles Fire Department has failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites scattered across the city, exposing the public to increased risks from potential spills and mishandling of toxic substances, according to a state report released Friday. The 24-page study, written by the California Environmental Protection Agency, reviewed how the Fire Department enforces state regulations on toxic materials within the city limits.

“Their program has fallen apart,” said Jim Bohon, head of the Cal/EPA unit that conducted the review. “They are failing in environmental management in a very gross way.”

The findings highlight a weak spot in a patchwork system of state and local agencies charged with keeping the groundwater, bays and soils free of dangerous contaminants, especially those in areas near urban dwellers.

   ****

The new report echoes concerns in a 2011 state review that also gave LAFD a failing grade. State officials may move to assign Los Angeles inspection duties elsewhere if the department doesn't fix its problems, the report said.

Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas issued a statement pledging an immediate overhaul ..........