SACRAMENTO: State Senate seat, District 12, farm belt: Commentary (Dan Walters), "California farm belt district a big target"....

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "California farm belt district a big target" - From the Bee:

California's 12th Senate District was born in a bipartisan political deal after the 2000 census. The Legislature tailored the five-county district – centered in the upper San Joaquin Valley but stretching west into the Salinas area – for a moderate Democrat, Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza. Cardoza instead opted to run for Congress.

Democratic leaders quickly shifted to a former assemblyman with a dairy farm background, Rusty Areias, to claim a seat, but a Republican farmer, Jeff Denham, captured it instead by the narrowest of margins. He went on to serve two terms before segueing into Congress.

Despite the district's lopsided Democratic voter registration advantage, the party was frustrated again in 2010 when Republican engineer Anthony Cannella defeated a Democratic legislator, Anna Caballero.

When an independent redistricting commission did its work after the 2010 census, it kept the 12th district largely intact, expanding it a bit into Fresno County, even though other districts were undergoing big boundary changes.

Why the status quo? Any election changes affecting four California counties were subject to U.S. Justice Department oversight under the federal Voting Rights Act, and two of them, Merced and Monterey, were part of the 12th. Therefore, as the commission later stated, "Merced and Monterey counties were combined to meet the requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act."

Last week, Section 5 was set aside by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the 12th District remains as designed in 2011. It's also one of a handful of Senate districts considered to be battlegrounds next year as Democrats seek to retain their 29-seat "supermajority" and Republicans hope to regain clout.

The identity of Cannella's Democratic challenger has yet to emerge..............



L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, new Mayor Eric Garcetti: Commentary (Jim Newton), "Garcetti and the DWP".... 

* Los Angeles Times:  "Newton: Garcetti and the DWP" - "The city utility could be in for a rougher ride under the new mayor." - From the LAT:

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was sworn in Sunday, has made it clear that no department head from the Antonio Villaraigosa years is safe (except for Police Chief Charlie Beck, who has a term of office that only the Police Commission can cut short). And Garcetti has signaled his particular focus on three of the city's agencies, each of which has had its struggles: the Fire Department, the Information Technology group and the Department of Water and Power.

For Garcetti, the most important of those, both governmentally and politically, is the DWP. It's an enormous business, it supplies the city with important revenue as well as its most basic services, and it's an easy agency to hate — most city departments, after all, don't send out bills to more than a million customers. Moreover, the union that represents most of its workers distinguished itself in the mayoral election by going all out for Controller Wendy Greuel.

Here's what Garcetti said about the DWP when he met with reporters, editors and executives of The Times last month: "The DWP, certainly, is one that I think you need to have leadership from the commission, from the general manager, from whoever chairs the committee in the council." Those are not the words of a satisfied official, and they could suggest a rough ride ahead for the DWP.

But does the agency really need a firmer hand?. . . . . . . .


Still, the DWP is a handy punching bag for a new mayor, and Garcetti's public rumination about the need for strong leadership at the department may reflect his calculation that he could make political hay by beating up the department a bit. Moreover, a little display of swagger might help persuade those who remain unconvinced of Garcetti's toughness................


L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Police Department, employee lawsuits: "LAPD has failed to reduce costly workplace lawsuits, audit says"....

* Los Angeles Times:  "LAPD has failed to reduce costly workplace lawsuits, audit says" - "The LAPD destroys case files, keeps inaccurate and incomplete information on lawsuits and has no system to identify issues that lead to problems, report says." - From the LAT:

Although taxpayers have shelled out tens of millions of dollars in recent years to disgruntled officers who sued over harassment and other workplace problems, Los Angeles Police Department officials have failed to take even basic steps to reduce the number of the costly lawsuits, an audit released Friday found.

In a stinging 10-page report, the L.A. Police Commission's inspector general concluded that the LAPD routinely destroys case files, keeps inaccurate and incomplete information on lawsuits and has no system in place to identify recurring issues that lead to problems between officers.

How the LAPD deals with the dozens of lawsuits filed against it each year — commonly referred to as risk management — has been one of the most pressing issues for Police Chief Charlie Beck and the commission in recent years.................


LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Ontario, Los Angeles): Los Angeles World Airports, control of L.A./Ontario International Airport: "Battle with Los Angeles for Ontario airport might cost millions"....  

* Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:  "Battle with Los Angeles for Ontario airport might cost millions" - From the IVDB:

ONTARIO -- To what costs would the city be willing to go to wrestle back control of L.A./Ontario International Airport? One city official said it could be in the millions with Ontario having already dedicated more than $1 million on SetONTfree -- a social and governmental campaign promoting a transfer of ownership and tackling Los Angeles' management of the airport. And with the filing in less than three months of multiple lawsuits challenging the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports, which operates ONT, that million-dollar figure could grow.

"We knew if we were going to decide to file a lawsuit we were going to have to invest in millions of dollars to save our airport or throw in the towel and lose billions to our economy," said Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner, who is president of the Ontario International Airport Authority.

In 2007, 7.2 million people traveled in and out of the Ontario airport. Today that figure has dropped by 40 percent, according to Ontario officials. In 2012, the airport handled 4.3 million passengers, a number that is expected to drop below 4 million in 2013. The decline in air service at ONT from 2007 to 2009 was a $400 million blow to the Inland Empire's economy and the loss of more than 8,000 jobs, Wapner said, referring to a report released in 2011.


Ontario officials have already spent more than $160,000 on lawyer fees and are willing to spend at least $500,000 in the new fiscal year to ramp up their fight against LAWA and L.A. "We're going to do anything and everything, and we're not going to stop until we have local control," Wapner said. "We feel it's a fight we need to win."


One lawsuit aims to dissolve Ontario's nearly 50-year-old joint-powers agreement with Los Angeles over the airport. In its suit, Ontario says LAWA has abandoned efforts to redistribute air traffic in the region and instead has focused its financial resources on building up Los Angeles International Airport.

Ontario also has filed a joint suit with Inglewood and Culver City to oppose the environmental plan to modernize LAX. Culver City's city attorney, Heather Baker, said that because it is pending litigation it cannot be disclosed how much her city has spent to date or is willing to spend in the joint suit.


Also challenging the environmental plans is the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion.................


POLITICS (Sacramento City Hall): Report/analysis, millions of dollars in "behests" to nonprofit organizations affiliated with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Councilman Jay Schenirer: "Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson given millions for his causes".... 

* Sacramento Bee:  "Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson given millions for his causes" - From the Bee:

Over the past 18 months, retail giant Wal-Mart and a charity funded by the company's founding family have poured contributions into nonprofit organizations affiliated with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Councilman Jay Schenirer at unprecedented levels. The Sacramento City Council has at the same time been weighing whether to relax restrictions on big-box stores, a move that would greatly benefit retail chains such as Wal-Mart. Schenirer solicited the contributions even as he backed the big-box changes, which are expected to be adopted by the council next month. Johnson has stayed silent but is considered pro-business and a likely yes vote.

The Wal-Mart donations are part of a wave of charitable contributions, known as "behests," made to causes championed by members of the City Council. Not long ago, these donations were relatively modest, but they have jumped since Johnson's election in 2008.

Since the start of 2011, the mayor and City Council have reported more behest contributions than all members of the state Senate and Assembly combined, according to a Bee analysis of data compiled by both the city and the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. While behest donations made to state legislators have declined in recent years, the amount reported by city officials has skyrocketed, from $15,750 in 2005 to $7.1 million last year, records show.

Wal-Mart and the Walton Family Foundation, named for the family that created the company, have been the largest donors, contributing nearly $800,000 combined to nonprofits on behalf of Johnson and other council members since 2009, according to disclosure documents filed with the city clerk's office.


Defenders of behests say they represent an important way for local politicians to help improve their communities and schools. . . . . . . . .


Critics, though, say behests provide a back door for deep-pocketed interests to gain influence with politicians. Unlike contributions to political campaigns, there are no financial limits on behests. Contributions of $5,000 or more must be reported within 30 days.


Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said [Councilman Jay] Schenirer's acceptance of the Wal-Mart donations "raises ethical questions," considering that he is pushing for the big-box regulations to be loosened at the same time. "The problem is, he is parlaying his position as a council member to raise money from people who are doing business in front of the city," Stern said.

Schenirer rejects the notion that his position as a city councilman could be influenced by the $50,000 in donations made by Wal-Mart......................