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AFTERNOON MEMOS: Possible federal government shutdown, warning, potential furlough of 800,000 federal workers; Jane Harman seat, report; Oakland, effort to place parcel tax on mail-only ballot, also city contracting issues; NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, centrism draws praise as well as criticism....  

* Los Angeles Times:  "Obama phones congressional leaders as talks continue in attempt to avert government shutdown" -  "President Obama spoke by phone Wednesday with congressional leaders, who say negotiations over a budget agreement continue even as agencies are girding for a possible government shutdown. Despite multiple meetings on Tuesday, including one at the White House, congressional Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on the scope of a proposed $33-billion package of domestic program cuts for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also met one-on-one Tuesday afternoon, with each side releasing a terse statement indicating no deal was imminent."

* Washington Post (PostPolitics):  "Administration: Shutdown would furlough 800,000 federal workers" - "Officials began warning Wednesday of significant cutbacks in government services as the threat of a federal government shutdown lurched one day closer to reality. Failure to reach a budget deal would mean furloughing about 800,000 federal employees nationwide — many of whom are expected to surrender their BlackBerries, according to senior administration officials familiar with shutdown planning. . . . With  little more than 48 hours remaining before the current funding resolution expires, federal agency heads, workers, and untold numbers of tourists and Washington-area residents were forced to focus on what life would be like if the government halts non-essential services."

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "Oakland City Council to vote on pact, parcel tax" - Report on effort by new Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to place a parcel tax -- $80 per parcel -- on a mail-only Oakland ballot; also, follow-up regarding controversy relating to contracting issues/politics at Oakland City Hall....

* New York Times:  "Cuomo's Centrism Draws Praise but Stirs Criticism" - "He has clashed with unions, who he believes have helped drive his state into bankruptcy. He has been praised by prominent conservatives like Sarah Palin and Rudolph W. Giuliani. And he has taken thousands of dollars in campaign money from the New York billionaire David H. Koch, who with his family has financed the Tea Party movement. His name: Andrew M. Cuomo, the governor of New York, a state where Democrats dominate and where his father, Mario M. Cuomo, is still invoked as a paragon of activist government and liberal principle."

* Los Angeles Times:  "Candidate to replace Jane Harman in Congress urges supporters to battle Wal-Mart in Torrance" - "Teacher and antiwar activist Marcy Winograd, one of the most prominent of the special election candidates to replace former Rep. Jane Harman, is urging her supporters to help fight a Wal-Mart proposed for Torrance. . . . Meanwhile, the two other prominent Democrats on the May 17 special primary ballot continued to battle for endorsements........."


POLITICS/EDUCATION: Los Angeles Community College District, bond construction program, new citizens panel to be formed....

***In late February-early March the Los Angeles Times ran a six-part series describing major waste within the Los Angeles Community College District bond construction program. Three days after the series concluded, the district's Board of Trustees fired the manager of the program. Latest on this is that LACCD Chancellor Daniel LaVista says he is setting up a new citizens panel to review the various issues that have been raised...and that not everyone is convinced as to the panel's prospects of success.....

* Los Angeles Times:  "New panel to review L.A. community colleges' flawed rebuilding program" - "The committee will examine costs and the checks and balances in the $5.7-billion bond-funded program. Critics say the new effort does not go far enough." - From the LAT:

   The Los Angeles Community College District will set up an independent citizens panel to review "the very serious issues" plaguing its $5.7-billion campus rebuilding program, Chancellor Daniel LaVista has announced.

   The construction program "must be reassessed in an effort to resolve legitimate issues on the remaining projects, complete future projects effectively and demonstrate the district's commitment to program integrity," LaVista wrote in a newsletter sent late Monday to college faculty and staff. The panel, he said, will examine construction costs and the district's "system of checks and balances to ensure ethical and prudent decision-making," among other things.

   LaVista acted in response to a recent six-part series in The Times, which reported that tens of millions of dollars had gone to waste as a result of chaotic planning, shoddy workmanship and bungled or abandoned projects at the district's nine campuses. The district, for example, spent $39 million to design and start construction of four major buildings at West Los Angeles College, then scrapped the projects when officials realized there would not be enough money to finish them. It lost $10 million more to mistakes in the management of a renewable energy program.

   On March 9, three days after the series concluded, the district's elected Board of Trustees fired the head of the construction program, Larry Eisenberg.


   [LaVista's] newsletter left unclear how the new panel would differ from the 10 citizens committees that already monitor the program — one for each campus and one for the district as a whole. In the newsletter, LaVista said he hoped to release details of the new panel's mission and membership on April 27.

   Henry Porter, a member of the districtwide oversight committee since 2007, was skeptical of the new initiative, saying leaders of the construction effort had failed for years to give his panel the information required to monitor the program effectively. "If you're not giving them the information needed, it's all superfluous," he said................


POLITICS: "Wife of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman wins primary election to succeed him"  

* Washington Post (AP):  "Wife of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman wins primary election to replace him" - From the WP:

   LAS VEGAS — Mayor Oscar Goodman calls himself the happiest mayor in the world, and he had another reason to celebrate Tuesday after his first lady easily topped 17 other candidates in a primary election to replace him as Sin City’s leader. Carolyn Goodman captured 37 percent of the vote in the crowded field, more than double the ballots of her closest competitors in the race but not enough to avoid a June run-off against the second-place finisher.

   Term limits kept Oscar Goodman from running for a fourth term, much to his disappointment. To protect his legacy, he campaigned hard for his wife, who promised to carry out his vision of a transformed downtown Las Vegas and never shied away from her husband’s shadow. “It is just reasonable for a smooth transition of the city and all the people who love him and know what he has done and want this to continue,” she told The Associated Press minutes after her victory speech. “That is the question: Are you satisfied with where we are and do you want to continue on that pathway, or do you want to continue in another direction?”

   The first lady needed more than 50 percent of the vote to automatically become mayor. It was an outcome she had hoped for and seemed headed toward in the early days of the election. Instead, she will face off against Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani in the June 7 general election.


   Carolyn Goodman was an early favorite and outraised her rivals with the backing of her husband’s affluent friends, a group that includes casino bigwigs, Nevada politicians and celebrity lawyers. The primary often seemed like a contest for second place for the candidates whose last name was not Goodman. The other candidates included wealthy French businessman Victor Chaltiel, tequila maker George Harris and City Councilman Steve Ross.

   Giunchigliani was neck-and-neck with fellow county Commissioner Larry Brown for most of the campaign. She squeaked into the general election with 8,395 votes to Brown’s 8,380, a 15-vote difference. Giunchigliani said Brown called to concede and promised to endorse her in the June battle. She said she would also seek endorsements from her other primary rivals.”


   Giunchigliani conceded that Oscar Goodman was as much her opponent as was his wife. “I am running against a name, let’s put it that way,” she said. “But I think the public recognizes that the time for that type of leadership style has passed.”


   Carolyn Goodman stood out on the ballot because of her married name. But she is a Las Vegas player in her own right. She is the founder of a private school attended by the children of casino owners and has rubbed elbows with Sin City’s elite alongside her husband for years.

   A general election between Carolyn Goodman and Giunchigliani, two powerful blondes with fierce tongues, is bound to get ugly..............


POLITICS (National): Focus on Wisconsin, state judicial election viewed as an early test of voter response to Republican initiatives, election tally virtual "dead heat"....

* New York Times:  "No Winner Yet in Wisconsin Supreme Court Election"- From the NYT:

   The contest for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat remained too close to call Wednesday morning in balloting that some voters viewed as a referendum on the state’s Republican leaders and their cuts to collective bargaining.

   Until emotions boiled over in the state capital weeks ago on questions over labor unions, public workers and budget cutting, Justice David T. Prosser,  who was seen by some as part of a conservative majority on the court, had been widely expected to coast to a second 10-year term. But election officials reported an extremely tight race as Tuesday night wore on, with a higher than expected turnout: Justice Prosser was in a dead heat with JoAnne Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general who was not widely known through the state before this race. With 99 percent of the vote reported Wednesday morning, the pair were separated by fewer than 600 votes from among more than 1.4 million cast. The leader had flipped again and again throughout the night on Tuesday.


   The close outcome followed a highly personal, frenzied contest which drew millions of dollars in advertising from national conservative and liberal groups. Despite its designation as a non-partisan race, the contest morphed into a referendum on Scott Walker, the new Republican governor who during his first three months in office pushed for a law cutting benefits and collective bargaining rights for public employees.


   Though state judicial elections rarely attract national attention, the race here did — one early test of how voters were viewing Republican leaders who won control of numerous spots in legislatures and governorships last November, including those in Wisconsin...............


* Los Angeles Times:  "Wisconsin judicial election and power struggle: Dead heat" - "The Wisconsin Supreme Court election that has come to represent a partisan power struggle is virtually deadlocked, with conservative Justice David Prosser holding a slight lead over Assistant Atty. Gen. JoAnne Kloppenburg."

* Washington Post (AP):  "Wis. Supreme Court election too close to call in election where union rights fight loomed"


MORNING MEMOS: DWP spending, effort to cut costs (Daily News editorial); state budget crisis, "entitlement mentality" (Dan Walters); California Assembly, guards directed to carry weapons full-time while on duty..... 

* Daily News (editorial):  "DWP effort to cut costs should have come sooner, but at least it's a start" - Goodbye corporate credit card. Hasta la vista Holiday Light Festival. Sayonara office supplies. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is finally joining the rest of the business world and reining in unnecessary expenses. Unlike private enterprise, which began slashing costs at least three years ago, the publicly owned utility still appears to have some fat left to cut. On the job less than three months, new DWP General Manager Ron Nichols managed to find nearly half a billion in savings for the next three years............

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "Entitlement mentality explains funding commitment" - There's no single reason why California, once a model of fiscal probity, finds itself with an intractable budget crisis. Rather, it's been budgetary death by a thousand cuts – countless single-purpose decisions over several decades by voters and politicians to either increase spending or reduce revenues, eventually resulting in what Capitol bean counters call a "structural deficit." Even when the economy is doing well, California struggles to cover all of its paper spending commitments. When it's doing poorly, as it is now, the deficit soars to unmanageable proportions.........

* Sacramento Bee:  "Speaker orders California Assembly guards to pack heat full time" - With temperatures rising at the Capitol  over the state budget and hot-button legislation, the state Assembly's security detail has started to pack heat full time. The lower house's sergeants-at-arms, whose duties include protecting legislators on and off the Assembly floor, have been directed to carry "department-issued Smith & Wesson .40 caliber semiautomatic weapons full-time while they are on duty," according to a March 31 letter Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Ronald Pane wrote to inform the Senate of the change. The change in policy was directed by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, though the timing and reasoning remain a mystery.........