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Wednesday
Mar272013

MORNING MEMOS: Orange County, OC Great Park considering more cuts, fees; Port of Los Angeles, protest set at L.A. mayor's residence over BNSF/SCIG railyard project; L.A. mayor's race, Wendy Greuel attacks Eric Garcetti's job-growth claims....

***Various items this morning from across the spectrum of politics and/or public policy....

* Orange County Register:  "Great Park to consider more cuts, fees"

* Daily Breeze:  "Protest set at Los Angeles mayor's residence over Port of Los Angeles railyard project"

* Los Angeles Times:  "Wendy Greuel attacks Eric Garcetti's job-growth claims" - "The controller accuses her rival in the mayor's race of 'fudging' numbers on creating jobs. Garcetti's camp calls the accusation baseless."

Wednesday
Mar272013

POLITICS: Stockton bankruptcy filing, Sacramento Bee editorial, "CalPERS isn't a white knight in Stockton's bankruptcy"....

* Sacramento Bee (editorial):  "CalPERS isn't a white knight in Stockton's bankruptcy" - From the Bee:

Before it filed for bankruptcy protection last June, the city of Stockton cut its police force by 25 percent, its Fire Department by 30 percent and the workforce in all other city departments by 43 percent. The city also cut health benefits to retired city workers, slashed library hours and reduced maintenance at parks. Then the city did something almost unprecedented in municipal government finance – it stopped payments to its creditors. These were Wall Street firms that had loaned the city millions of dollars to finance dubious downtown redevelopment projects, a new city hall and the city's pension bond.

Stockton, however, did not reduce its $29 million in annual payments to the California Public Employees' Retirement System. And that fact infuriates creditors, who believe they are being disproportionately targeted for harm in the city's petition for bankruptcy.

Bondholders and their insurers are contesting the city's effort to enter into bankruptcy. They argue the city had other options. It could have cut city employee salaries and benefits even further or trimmed services. It could have raised taxes. But, most significantly, the city could have cut payments to the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

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CalPERS has represented itself as a defender of Stockton and its workers, an artful marketing ploy. . . . . . . .

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The pension system doesn't like to acknowledge it, but its actions played a role in Stockton's financial collapse......................

 

Wednesday
Mar272013

POLITICS/TRANSPORTATION: California high-speed rail project, report, "High-speed rail's strongest backers now express reservations"....

* Los Angeles Times:  "High-speed rail's strongest backers now express reservations" - "Proponents of the bullet train from L.A. to the Bay Area say political compromises reached to advance the plan undermine legal safeguards and will slow travel." - From the LAT:

The California bullet-train project has collided with farmers, political conservatives and wealthy suburbanites who would like to see the $68-billion system killed. Now it is facing tough criticism from an unlikely quarter: within the ranks of high-speed rail's true believers.

Some longtime backers of the project are objecting to political compromises that they say undermine legal safeguards for the massive investment, notably a design that would move passengers between urban destinations faster than air travel, as well as requirements intended to prevent a half-built system.

Among those raising objections is a Bay Area high-speed rail trailblazer who for decades played a pivotal role in building public and political support for the system. Quentin Kopp chaired the state Senate transportation committee for years and co-wrote legislation that launched the bullet-train project. He later served as board chairman of the state agency overseeing construction of the system. But in a recent legal declaration, filed in a civil suit seeking to halt the project, Kopp, a retired judge, said the project as now planned violates the law underpinning $9.95 billion in state financing approved by voters in 2008. The declaration puts Kopp in the improbable position of supporting a suit by key rail antagonists: officials in Kings County and two farmers supported by powerful agriculture interests.

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Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman from San Diego and current board member of the state rail authority, is another leading high-speed rail advocate. She stunned a room full of bullet-train supporters this month when she opposed a critical deal with a Northern California transit agency. Without the agreement, the political coalition supporting the project could unravel.......................

Wednesday
Mar272013

POLITICS/DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES: Downtown News, The Regardie Report, "Seven Downtown Entities That Are Blowing Up or Melting Down"....

* Downtown News (The Regardie Report):  "Seven Downtown Entities That Are Blowing Up or Melting Down" - From the DTN:

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - On March 14, Downtown was blindsided by the news that Anschutz Entertainment Group President and CEO Tim Leiweke was out the door. People treated it as the biggest surprise since the time that a gaggle of Greek soldiers hid in the belly of a wooden horse.

Maybe we should not have been surprised at all. Although no one foresaw The Great Leiweke Exit of 2013, it fits in perfectly in a year in which seven prominent local businesses, institutions or offices are blowing up or melting down. Wherever you look, a leading Downtown-based entity is enmeshed in a struggle for supremacy or even survival.

The Leiweke-Anschutz continental-sized divide is only the start. Downtown’s leading museum, MOCA is under financial duress. Then there’s the community’s biggest media property, the Los Angeles Times, which faces an uncertain future as hawks (and some vultures) circle a publication that is being sold.

That’s not the end of it. The community’s two biggest political jobs are up for grabs, the most powerful religious institution is dogged by controversy and even a tall building is under attack.

Here’s how it all shakes out.....................

Wednesday
Mar272013

POLITICS (Bay Area): San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, investigation, role of agency's assistant general manager in steering a no-bid contract to nonprofit that she chaired....

* San Francisco Chronicle (Matier & Ross):  "Did SF official steer contract to her nonprofit?" - From the Chronicle:

An assistant general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is under investigation by city officials for her role in the awarding of a $200,000 no-bid agency contract to an East Bay nonprofit that she chaired.

Juliet Ellis is the $195,000-a-year assistant for external affairs at the commission — with a big part of her job figuring out how to put in place the agency’s new environmental justice and community benefits policies. According to the 2012 financial-disclosure statement that Ellis filed with the city, she also served as the  board chairwoman of the Oakland nonprofit Green for All, which offers training for disadvantaged minorities in energy-related work. The disclosure statement required her to report only a broad range for her slary at the nonprofit — between $10,000 and $100,000. PUC rules allow administrators to take on outside work, but only with special permission and on the condition that there be no conflict of interest.

The commission awarded a no-bid contract to Green for All in July to train people for city jobs. Ellis assured her bosses she had played no role in approving the agreement — but a public records request by The Chronicle turned up e-mails and other evidence that appeared to directly link her to the awarding of the deal. A PUC insider tells us Ellis “was involved in almost every discussion and meeting to use Green for All, and she worked with them to develop the scope of work.”

PUC General Manager Harlan Kelly said he has suspended the Green for All contract indefinitely while the conflict case is investigated........