POLITICS (National, State, Local/Sacramento): United Airlines, "shutdown" of flight service between Sacramento and Washington, D.C.: "Congress members challenge United on Sacramento-D.C. flight shutdown" ....

* Sacramento Bee:  "Congress members challenge United on Sacramento-D.C. flight shutdown" - From the Bee:

Eight Northern California members of Congress have sent a letter to United Airlines protesting the carrier’s decision to temporarily shut down the only nonstop flight between two capital cities, Sacramento and Washington, D.C. United said it intends to ground its daily nonstop flight for three months, from Jan. 6 to April 6, then resume the flights.

In a letter Wednesday to United Chairman Jeff Smisek, eight Sacramento congressional members complained that the move inconveniences constituents, business leaders, school groups and families. “Their flights are consistently full, signaling the important role they play in connecting our most populous state’s capital city to our nation’s capital city and their economies,” the representatives wrote. “It is imperative that United Airlines shares with us why they feel this service disruption is necessary.”

The letter is signed by House representatives Doris Matsui, John Garamendi, Doug LaMalfa, Jeff Denham, Mike Thompson, Jerry McNerney, Jared Huffman and Ami Bera.

United officials, in an email to The Bee earlier this week, said the shutdown was due to “seasonal demand in the market,” and noted....................


L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, new initiative: "Los Angeles making it quicker, cheaper to build in the city"; also, "Garcetti pledges to ease building permit process to boost construction" ....:  

* Daily News:  "Los Angeles making it quicker, cheaper to build in the city" - From the DN:

The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety Thursday launched a new initiative designed to cut construction time and costs for up to 600 building projects per year. With the Inspection Case Management program, the department can create a single point of contact for developers to coordinate the various requirements needed for inspections related to major projects, such as restaurants and charter schools, from the time they first pull their building permits.

Mayor Eric Garcetti first discussed the proposal earlier this year at a meeting with the Los Angeles Business Council as part of his back-to-basics program, with an aim toward getting ventures through City Hall.

Garcetti was off on a mayoral delegation through China, South Korea and Japan on Thursday, but his office released a statement that the program is designed to cut construction times by three to six months, thus encouraging investment within the city. Thirteen projects, valued at $903.6 million, are currently being assisted by a pilot version of the program.................


* Los Angeles Times:  "Garcetti pledges to ease building permit process to boost construction"


POLITICS/TRANSPORTATION (Southern California): Metrolink, financial irregularities?: "Metrolink auditor probing irregularities at railroad is put on leave" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Metrolink auditor probing irregularities at railroad is put on leave" - From the LAT:

Metrolink's chief auditor, who was probing financial and management irregularities at the six-county commuter railroad, has been placed on leave by the board of directors, an action that could prompt her resignation. In a sign of continuing problems at Metrolink, the board took the action last Friday against Barbara Manning during a closed session before its regular meeting. The reason was not disclosed.

Manning, an experienced government auditor, was brought in almost 1 1/2 years ago to help improve the railroad's administration and accounting system, which was described in an internal agency report as a "morass."

Jeff Lustgarten, a Metrolink spokesman, confirmed that Manning was put on leave but declined further comment, stating that personnel matters are confidential. Board members also declined to discuss her situation. Manning could not be reached.



"Something does not seem right at the railroad," said Bart Reed, executive director of the Transit Coalition, a local nonprofit organization and advocate of public transportation. "They have a problem retaining people who can get to the bottom of things."

Problems surfaced at Metrolink early last year when its chief financial officer resigned following a scathing report that revealed accounting irregularities, poor management and record-keeping that made it difficult for officials to understand the railroad's financial standing. The internal review by a special committee of two board members found that Metrolink had inadequate cash reserves to meet its financial obligations and that another cash account was short by an estimated $66 million. In addition, money from some accounts was improperly commingled and cash flows were difficult to track.

Since then, two interim chief financial officers have come and gone...............


POLITICS (National): Uber, controversy, privacy concerns, editorial: "Uber executive's suggestion to smear journalists backfires" ....

* San Francisco Chronicle (editorial):  "Uber executive's suggestion to smear journalists backfires" - From the Chronicle:

Uber, the enormously popular car-booking service, was trying to improve its relationships with reporters last week. Instead the company proved that it deserves all the recent media criticism that’s been coming its way — and maybe a lot more.

Uber executives were holding a private dinner in Manhattan that they apparently believed was off the record. The company’s senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, believed this gave him license to suggest that Uber should handle scrutiny by digging into the details of critical journalists’ personal lives. When someone suggested that attempting to smear reporters would cause trouble for the company, Michael said that “Nobody would know it was us.”

The suggestions are shocking, disturbing and completely unethical. Fortunately, a reporter was present who didn’t realize that the dinner was supposed to be off the record — and he rightly reported Michael’s remarks. Days later, the company has attempted to backtrack via a series of tortured apologies, but Michael is still in his position.

Uber is a global company that earned a $17 billion valuation when it did a funding round in June. It has a tremendous customer base and political support at the highest levels (and of course, one of its senior vice presidents is former Obama top operative David Plouffe). It’s a potential world giant, not the local Mafia. It needs leadership that behaves accordingly.

What this latest scandal means for Uber is that journalists are now more likely to scrutinize the company, not less...............


MISCELLANEOUS: United Kingdom hotel, charges assesed to guests for a "negative review": "Hotel Charges Couple for Negative Review of It"; also, "Couple Claims Bad TripAdvisor Review Cost Them Extra" ....