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Monday
Aug022010

California Supreme Court upholds Proposition 209, ban on affirmative action in government contracting.... **[UPDATED]

* BIG NEWS OUT OF SAN FRANCISCO TODAY:  THE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT, IN A 6-1 RULING, HELD THAT PROPOSITION 209, WHICH BANS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IN GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING, DOES NOT VIOLATE FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES OF EQUAL PROTECTION....  From the Los Angeles Times:

   The California Supreme Court Monday decided that Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in government, does not violate federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection.  In a 6-1 ruling, the state high court said a San Francisco affirmative action program in public contracting was not protected by the federal constitution.

   The court said a lawsuit against San Francisco can to go to trial to determine if the contracting program was necessary to redress deliberate discrimination against women and minorities. If not, Proposition 209 requires the city to end the preferences, the court said.

   The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative public interest group that challenged the program, said the city lacked the necessary evidence to justify the affirmative action and eventually would have to scrap it.

***Updated:

* AND I SEE THAT L.A. TIMES' COLUMNIST GREGORY RODRIGUEZ ARGUES THAT THE TIME FOR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IS UP, THAT IT IS TIME FOR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION  PROGRAMS TO END....  From Rodriguez op-ed column:

   The biggest blow to affirmative action in its nearly 50 years of existence was the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States. Not because Obama is against the policy (he is, as on so many issues, nuanced in his support, i.e. he believes it should exist but not extend to his children) but because his election was widely perceived as being reflective of a profound shift in the country's racial balance.

    I believe that white racial anxiety, not immigration, will be the most significant and potentially dangerous socio-demographic trend of the coming decade. The combination of changing demographics and symbolic political victories on the part of nonwhites will inspire in whites a greater racial consciousness, a growing sense of beleagurement and louder calls to end affirmative action or to be included in it.

   I am so convinced of this that I think to avoid a destructive white backlash in the face of a rapidly diversifying society, the president should call for an end to affirmative action. In a "Nixon goes to China" sort of way, Obama — by virtue of his racial background, party affiliation and political temperament — is better poised to pull off such a difficult task more gracefully than any other politician.

 

Monday
Aug022010

Rangel, Waters: "House ethics battles, a partywide threat"

* POTENTIAL FOR "SPECTACLE FOCUSING ON CONGRESSIONAL CORRUPTION" THIS FALL AS BOTH CHARLIE RANGELS AND MAXINE WATERS ARE BOTH APPARENTLY PUSHING FOR FULL-FLEDGED ETHICS TRIALS.... From the New York Times:

   By defiantly pushing for full-fledged ethics trials, Representatives Charles B. Rangel and Maxine Waters are raising the prospect of a spectacle focusing on Congressional corruption this fall, just as Democrats are fighting to hold on to their majority in an election already defined by distrust of Washington.  Neither lawmaker, both Democrats, faces electoral jeopardy. Mr. Rangel, who was charged on Thursday by the House ethics committee with 13 violations, including failing to pay taxes on rental income from his Dominican villa, represents a safe district in Harlem. Ms. Waters, who is accused of using her office to help a bank in which her husband owned stock request bailout money, has a similarly secure seat in Los Angeles.

   But the tenacity of Mr. Rangel, a 20-term veteran, and Ms. Waters, in her 10th term, in fighting the accusations, puts the interests of these two veteran members of the Congressional Black Caucus at odds with those of their party leaders, particularly the House speaker,Nancy Pelosi, who famously promised to “drain the swamp” and run “the most ethical Congress in history.” The trials threaten to tarnish Democrats as they try to turn the midterm elections into a choice between keeping them in power or returning to Bush-era policies.

   The trials would also stand to remind voters that Democrats, who in recent years extended their reach into the traditionally Republican turf of the rural West and South, are still anchored by an urban, liberal base and led by entrenched veteran lawmakers from big cities.  And the cases could feed racial strains both inside the Democratic caucus, where black members are asking why so many investigations seem to be aimed at them, and out among voters, especially in rural and white districts where many conservative Democrats face tight races.

Monday
Aug022010

Private funeral service set for Keith Richman....

DAILY NEWS:

   A private funeral will be held Wednesday at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills for former Assemblyman Keith Richman, who died last week from cancer.

   Richman, 56, a medical doctor, served three terms in the Assembly from the Granada Hills area. He was an ardent supporter of the San Fernando Valley secession movement and would have served as the areas's mayor if secession had been approved.

   In lieu of flowers, Richman's family asked that donations be made to Providence Holy Cross Foundation, Care Can't Wait Capital Campaign, P.O. Box 9600, Mission Hills, CA, 91346; or to Pet Orphans of Southern California, 7720 Gloria Ave., Van Nuys, CA, 91406.



Monday
Aug022010

A.M. Memos - Monday, August 2: Los Angeles Community College construction contracts; San Francisco pension reform measure; Legislature returns after unofficial recess; etc...

* LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT:  CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS, LOW BIDS, QUALITY CONTROL ISSUES, CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS?  From the Daily News (California Watch):

   The Los Angeles Community College District has awarded a series of lucrative building contracts to a Tarzana firm that district officials said needed to be baby-sat to meet construction standards and was doing an "absolutely awful job." 

   The firm, Sinanian Development Inc., lost a contract in July 2008 about a month after district officials had criticized its work at public meetings.  The same month, the company began contributing $75,000 to the district's construction bond measure effort, the first contributions made by the company to any district campaign.  Those donations made Sinanian one of the largest contributors to the successful bond measure. The Measure J campaign collected more than $1.5 million in contributions from June 2008 to January 2009.

   Within weeks of the contributions, Sinanian submitted the lowest bid and won back the canceled project to construct a classroom building at Mission College for $36 million, even after a district official told the LACCD board that while the firm had expertise in the bidding process, it lacked expertise in construction.  One year later, the company won a seventh contract valued at $23 million, even though the district used a construction process that allowed more flexibility to disqualify troublesome contractors.

   The contributions from Sinanian are just one issue at the center of the district's dealings with the Tarzana firm. Officials have grappled with the district's contracting process and how it handles companies that underperform - all while trying to replace obsolete buildings and bring the colleges into the 21st century. As of summer 2009, Sinanian had received more bond money than any other contractor, according to the most recent data.

* PUSHBACK/POLITICAL PRESSURE VS. SAN FRANCISCO  PUBLIC DEFENDER JEFF ADACHI IN CONNECTION WITH HIS PENSION REFORM MEASURE....   From the San Francisco Chronicle:

   Political piñata: Public employee unions and their friends at City Hall are coming down hard and heavy on Public Defender Jeff Adachi for his public pension reform measure.

   In a complaint filed Thursday, Robert Muscat, head of the city's Professional and Technical Engineers union, called on Tax Collector Jose Cisneros to investigate Adachi for allegedly failing to pay city taxes from a private publishing company that has made him at least $130,000 in the past three years.

   Adachi, who has written and published five books since 1996 on how to pass the state bar exam, tells us he started "outsourcing" the sales to a Los Angeles distributor in 2006 and now simply collects a royalty check.  "We don't pay or owe any (city) business taxes," he said.  Anyway, he said, "these personal attacks are meant to divert attention from pension reform."

   Since mounting his drive to require all city and county employees to contribute 9 percent of their pay toward their pensions, and to pick up half the cost of their family medical coverage, Adachi has drawn the scorn of many of his former liberal allies from labor and elsewhere.  Supervisor Chris Daly, who once said he cared more for people in jail than police, even moved to cut the public defender's budget.  The move was soundly defeated, but it underscores how determined labor is to kill Adachi's initiative.   And with good reason: Labor's own polling shows the measure leading, 58 percent to 32 percent.

* TIGHTER CONTROLS ON MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES IN SACRAMENTO..... From the Sacramento Bee: 

   The council directed city staffers...to draft an ordinance that would prohibit dispensaries within 500 feet of "youth-oriented facilities" such as parks, schools and day-care centers. The facilities also would have to be at least 500 feet from churches and substance abuse centers, and 1,000 feet from other dispensaries.

* LANCE ARMSTRONG EMAIL TO THE MAYOR; COUNCIL CONSIDERING RESUMING SF VALLEY MEETINGS; CREATION OF THE LOS ANGELES FIRE FOUNDATION (TO BENEFIT LAFD)....  Rick Orlov's TIPOFF column in today's Daily News.

* ANYONE REMEMBER THE SCUFFLE DURING THE MAYOR'S PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE PORT OF LOS ANGELES IN 2007 THAT ENDED UP WITH A PORT OFFICER PUSHING A TV REPORTER -- AND THAT THE REPORTER THEN FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE OFFICER FOR USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE?  Daily Breeze reports that an appellate court has now upheld dismissal of the lawsuit.

* CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK, CHAIR OF THE HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE, SAYS HE IS PLANNING TO COME TO CALIFORNIA THIS MONTH...TO DO A FUNDRAISER FOR BARBARA BOXER AND TO "JUST HANG OUT."  Sacramento Bee (from New York Times Magazine)

* STATE LEGISLATURE IS BACK IN SESSION TODAY AFTER A MONTH-LONG UNOFFICIAL SUMMER RECESS.  NO BUDGET RESOLUTION IN SIGHT, BUT BOTH HOUSES HAVE FLOOR SESSIONS SCHEDULE.... Sacramento Bee

* AND SPEAKING OF THE LEGISLATURE, HOW ABOUT 18 SEPARATE FUNDRAISERS ON JUST ONE DAY NEXT WEEK?   Sacramento Bee editorial:

   There you have it. Eighteen separate fundraisers. If you were to max out at each funder, you'd be out roughly $70,000. But you would eat, and drink and have a raging good time. At some point, once legislators have rested and digested, they will focus on California's budget. But odds are that won't be on Wednesday, Aug. 11.

 



Sunday
Aug012010

Politics: The courting of Latino voters in governor's race; picking up the tab for the Bell pensions/a surprise twist?

* THE COURTING OF LATINO VOTERS IN THE GOVERNOR'S RACE, HUGE POTENTIAL IMPACT ON ELECTION RESULTS....  Sacramento Bee analysis:

   Latinos represent 21 percent of the state electorate, compared with 10 percent in 1990. Two years ago, they made up 18 percent of the general-election vote. [And...] about one-third of Latino registered voters are immigrants. Two-thirds of those most likely to vote live in Los Angeles,Orange or San Diego counties and the Inland Empire.  

   In 1994, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson – now chairing Whitman's campaign – championed an effort to deny public services to illegal immigrants with Proposition 187. Since then, California Latino voters have tended to prefer Democrats for governor, U.S. Senate and president by an average 46 points over Republicans, a Field Poll analysis found. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only exception.  The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that 63 percent of likely Latino voters are Democrats; 19 percent are Republicans; and 16 percent are independents.  

   Billionaire Whitman is Exhibit A of an aggressive, focused strategy designed to reverse California Republicans' fortunes with Latino voters.  She's aiming for about 35 percent of Latino votes in the November election, the level Republican candidates could expect prior to 1994.

* SO, WHO WILL BE PICKING UP THE TAB FOR THE MASSIVE PENSIONS FOR BELL'S HIGHLY PAID TOP ADMINISTRATORS?  MOSTLY OTHER CITIES (AND THEIR RESIDENTS...) AND FORMER EMPLOYERS, WITH BELL PAYING ONLY A SMALL FRACTION OF THIS.... From the Los Angeles Times:

    The unfolding story of the high salaries paid to municipal officials in Bell has delivered a surprise twist to taxpayers in Glendale, Simi Valley, Ventura and several other Southern California cities — they're on the hook for the pension bills.  More than half of former city manager Robert Rizzo's $600,000-a-year pension will be spread among 140 small cities and special districts such as Norco, La Cañada Flintridge and Goleta that are in the same pension liability pool as Bell.  The rest would be shouldered by his former employers, Hesperia and Rancho Cucamonga, according to estimates made by The Times and reviewed by pension experts.

   In the case of its former police chief, Randy Adams, Bell escapes nearly all the costs of his estimated $411,300-a-year pension. Under CalPERS rules, the city is responsible for just 3% of that because he only worked there for one year. Taxpayers in Glendale, Simi Valley and Ventura would have to pick up the rest. 

   As the Bell pay scandal reverberates across California, it is opening a window on the arcane world of public pensions. The state's permissive pension laws and a host of variables that can dramatically affect retirement pay have created a system that is virtually impossible for the public to grasp, reform advocates say.

    Other cities will be on the hook for much of Rizzo's and Adams' pensions costs even though their salaries were relatively modest until they landed in Bell. When they resigned last week, Rizzo was making nearly $800,000 a year and Adams was making $457,000   Bell hired Adams at more than double the salary he was making in Glendale. That salary spike also doubled his eligible pension amount under CalPERS, the state's public employee retirement plan.

    Glendale would probably have to pay around 16% of Adams' pension. Simi Valley, where he served as police chief for seven years, would absorb 18%, and Ventura, where he worked for 23 years, would pick up the lion's share, around 63%.  City managers in Glendale and Simi Valley estimate they'll have to come up with an extra $40,000 in taxpayer dollars each year to cover Adams' pension costs. Ventura's tab could go much higher.  "We had no control over his final year's salary," said Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird. "Yet the rest of us will be bearing the brunt of Bell's decision."

   ****

    CalPERS last week said it is putting both men's pensions on hold pending multiple investigations into Bell's lavish salaries.  Glendale and Ventura have sent letters to the attorney general supporting the investigations; Mike Sedell, city manager of Simi Valley, said his council is likely to approve a similar approach when it meets Monday. All three of Adams' former employers say their attorneys are looking at whether there is a legal basis to deflate his pension by setting aside his final-year salary.