Index
Thursday
Jul312014

SACRAMENTO: California Senate Pres. Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, plans for the future after end of legislative term, interest in appointment to California Supreme Court: "Steinberg discusses ambitions after leaving the Legislature" ....

* Sacramento Bee:  "Steinberg discusses ambitions after leaving the Legislature" - From the Bee:

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said Tuesday that he has mentioned his interest in being appointed to the California Supreme Court to Gov. Jerry Brown, but downplayed the likelihood that he would land such a position immediately after leaving the Legislature later this year. “He’s got a lot of good choices,” Steinberg said of the governor during a meeting with the Sacramento Bee’s editorial board Tuesday.

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Acting as governor Tuesday while Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are out of state, Steinberg joked that he would not appoint himself as a judge. The Sacramento Democrat described a position on the Supreme Court as “one of many things I’ve thought about,” and left open the possibility that he may run for mayor of Sacramento in 2016 or statewide office in 2018. He said he would only run for mayor if current Mayor Kevin Johnson does not seek re-election.

In the short term, Steinberg said that after leaving the Senate at the end of the year, he plans to practice law and pursue foundation work on the public policy issues he cares most about.

 

Thursday
Jul312014

L.A. CITY HALL: Advanced Development & Investment, Inc., fraud allegations, settlement agreement with city, $7.5 million: "L.A. reaches settlement with developer accused of fraud" ....

***Following up on numerous earlier reports noted here (City of Los Angeles, Advanced Development & Investment, fraud allegations)....

* Los Angeles Times:  "L.A. reaches settlement with developer accused of fraud" - From the LAT:

A real estate developer accused of defrauding Los Angeles while receiving nearly $30 million in city affordable housing funds has reached an agreement to repay a fraction of the money. The city sued Advanced Development & Investment in 2011, saying the company repeatedly padded construction invoices at subsidized housing projects in Chinatown, Echo Park and other neighborhoods. Under a settlement agreement approved Wednesday by the City Council, ADI would provide $7.5 million to the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which has been depleted in recent years.

Collecting that money is far from assured. Roughly 30 other lawsuits have been filed against ADI by contractors, consultants and other cities, according to a report drafted by city lawyers. The federal Internal Revenue Service and the state's Franchise Tax Board have pending claims totaling around $40 million and will likely be first in line to collect from remaining company assets, said David Pasternak, the court-appointed receiver who has been overseeing and gradually dissolving the firm. With ADI funds steadily shrinking, the city "in all likelihood will not be getting" the full $7.5 million outlined in the settlement, Pasternak said.

City Atty. Mike Feuer called the settlement "a major victory for taxpayers," given the city's need for more affordable housing. "We're going to vigorously pursue every nickel," spokesman Rob Wilcox said in an email.

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Other city agencies also say they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars by ADI. The city's Office of Finance has been seeking $289,000 in unpaid business taxes, according to the report by city lawyers. The Ethics Commission is seeking $165,000 in fines as a result of a campaign money laundering case involving ADI executives who allegedly reimbursed subcontractors for their campaign donations.....................

Wednesday
Jul302014

MISCELLANEOUS: AECOM, another acquisition: "L.A. engineering giant Aecom acquires major stadium builder" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "L.A. engineering giant Aecom acquires major stadium builder" - From the LAT:

Los Angeles architectural engineering firm Aecom Technology Corp. -- which has worked on sports stadiums for the Olympics, the World Cup and the NBA -- announced Tuesday that it had acquired Hunt Construction Group, a major stadium builder. The announcement comes two weeks after Aecom announced a $6-billion deal to acquire rival engineering and construction giant URS Corp. of San Francisco, making Aecom the largest publicly traded company in the city of Los Angeles.

Hunt Construction Group is headquartered in Indianapolis and Scottsdale, Ariz., and has managed construction of major U.S. sports complexes. . . . . . . .

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Hunt is a private company, and terms of the deal were not disclosed. Hunt has more than 700 employees across the country and had revenue of more than $1.2 billion last year.

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Hunt has also largely done work in the United States, whereas Aecom generates about 60% of its business outside the country.

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Hunt also has expertise in building airports and healthcare facilities -- two areas of increasing global demand...........

Wednesday
Jul302014

POLITICS/TRANSPORTATION: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, fare evasion, significant disparity between estimated ridership vs. number of fares actually counted, editorial: "Shouldn't Metro know how many people are riding for free?" ....

* Los Angeles Times (editorial):  "Shouldn't Metro know how many people are riding for free?" - From the LAT:

How many people are riding L.A.'s subways and trains without paying? How much money does the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority lose each year to fare evasion? Nobody really knows, and that's a problem, particularly as Metro hikes its fares in September and makes the case for future fare increases and, potentially, for a sales tax increase in 2016 to help expand the region's rail system.

A Times analysis found a large gap between Metro's estimated rail ridership (115 million last year) and the number of fares counted (about 70 million). In other words, as many as 40% of estimated riders in 2013 didn't enter the system legally, either because they did not pay their fare or because they simply forgot to "tap" a prepaid Metro pass. The number of recorded taps has increased across the system since Metro locked the turnstiles at Red and Purple line stations last summer, yet counts are still substantially below ridership figures.

What's going on with Metro riders? Is the system rife with scofflaws who willfully evade the fare? If so, Metro is potentially losing tens of millions of dollars in revenue that could help close a growing operating deficit. Or are riders unaware they need to "tap" their monthly or weekly pass at ungated stations. . . . . . . .

Part of the challenge is that L.A.'s rail lines were built on the honor system — there were no gates, and sheriff's deputies checked tickets every now and then. Now Metro is transitioning to a gated system. About half the stations have turnstiles, and the Metro board of directors is considering installing gates at all stations that can accommodate them, which could cost as much as $500,000 per stop. Gates are probably a good idea. . . . . But, again, how can Metro's leadership make an informed decision about the costs and benefits of adding gates or even adding inspectors?

The amount of money Metro loses to fare evasion is most likely small compared with its operating budget — fares cover only about 26% of the cost of the rides. Officials want to raise ticket prices in the coming years to bring that number up to about 33% of the cost. But the widespread perception of fare evasion undermines public confidence in the agency and makes it harder for Metro to convince riders and taxpayers that it needs more money.

Wednesday
Jul302014

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Orange County): Audit, Orange County, Great Park, politics, funding, public relations, editorial, "What happened to Orange County's Great Park?"; also, "Arnold Forde: Half a Century of Big Time Politics" .... 

* Los Angeles Times (editorial):  "What happened to Orange County's Great Park?" - From the LAT:

The name of the park, and the original ambition, were great. But in the 12 years since Orange County voters decided they would rather have a public park on the site of the old El Toro Marine base than a large civilian airport, the size and scope of the Great Park have shrunk, along with public faith in the civic leaders who touted the park so loudly.

In its latest incarnation, the park will include a golf course, sports fields and other suburban amenities, totaling 688 acres. The rest of the land on the former base will be set aside for houses, commercial and industrial projects. This is a far cry from the earlier vision that called for a park about twice as big, with an artificial canyon and cultural center that included museums.

Much of Great Park's shrinkage wasn't the fault of Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran, the original and longtime leader of the park campaign, and his allies. The housing market went south during the recession, leading to reduced tax revenue. Then state legislation virtually eliminated community redevelopment agencies, which meant the city lost its main source of expected funding.

But the city appears to have had a role in some of the problems, and this has been the source of a recent public uproar both in Irvine and throughout Orange County. . . . . . . .

Last week, the city publicly released several disturbing depositions given by former Great Park executives in an ongoing audit of the park's early operations. . . . . . . . .

Agran and his supporters call the audit a political ruse launched by their political enemies. There could be truth in that accusation; the Irvine City Council has been marked in recent years by sharp political divisions.

The Great Park was approved by Orange County voters, who are now owed answers. An independent entity bigger than Irvine — probably a county grand jury — should investigate the specific accusations of malfeasance and provide answers that the public can trust.

***ALSO, Related:

* Voice of OC:  "Arnold Forde: Half a Century of Big Time Politics"