Orange County Register
Psychotic Santa Ana cops deliver Django style plantation beating to suspect who had surrendered
Olivia Arzate is the mother of Miguel Arzate, a 27-year-old man taken into custody by Santa Ana Police on June 20. A video showing one of the officers punching her son repeatedly while he is on the ground was recorded by security cameras outside a home on Sycamore Street. Olivia Arzate knew her son had been arrested, but she didn’t understand at first why he ended up in a hospital. It was weeks later that she saw a video of her son’s arrest – him on the ground, an officer delivering six punches and another swinging a baton at her son’s legs. “Yes, arrest and punish him, but why did he hit him?” Arzate said. Santa Ana police said this week the department is investigating the use of force by officers recorded by a nearby surveillance camera the night of the arrest. Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said investigators were aware of the video that night but were unable to obtain a copy for the internal investigation until weeks later. The video was captured by the security cameras of a nearby neighbor. In it, Edgar Vargas Arzate raises his hands into the air while an officer signals with a flashlight for him to get on the ground. Edgar Vargas Vargas lays on his stomach, out of view of the camera, and another officer moves toward him, then appears to put a knee on his back and delivers six consecutive punches. More officers arrive. At one point, Edgar Vargas Arzate can be seen on his side as officers reach toward his hands, which are near his stomach. The video was recorded by security cameras in the home of Miriam Grajales, whose family witnessed the arrest. “He (the officer) started hitting him hard, with anger,” Grajales said. “The guy (Edgar Vargas Arzate) was yelling, ‘Help me! Help me!’”
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Attorney helps sound the death knell for capital punishment
Michael Laurence isn’t interested in taking credit for the demise of the death penalty in California. Plenty of other attorneys are helping to bring this state’s version of capital punishment to its knees. But when, not if, the death penalty is fully put out of its misery, Laurence will be among its chief executioners. During the past 25 years, Laurence has litigated the constitutionality of lethal injection and of the gas chamber, and the state’s failure to appoint competent lawyers for death row inmates. He is the lead defense lawyer in the latest case to upend capital punishment. A federal judge concluded earlier this month that California’s version of the death penalty is cruel and usual punishment because no one is being put to death. “To have a judge say the death penalty is unconstitutional, it is kind of stunning,” Laurence said by phone the other day. Laurence knows better than most the horrible acts that condemned inmates commit. He also sees sides of them that few others do, after they’re off drugs and less psychotic than they were on the streets. He has become expert in how brains function or don’t, about schizophrenia, and the impact of fetal alcohol syndrome. And he is an absolutist. “People don’t trust the governor to figure out their taxes, and yet they trust government to decide who lives and dies,” Laurence said.
DeSaulnier calls for criminal probe of Bay Bridge construction problems
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is calling for a criminal investigation into construction problems on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and said the release this week of a Senate investigative report will show how the California Department of Transportation knowingly accepted substandard work at taxpayer expense. DeSaulnier said the investigation for the Transportation and Housing Committee he chairs will expand on construction and management lapses described in a January draft report, and that these warrant a criminal investigation by the California attorney general or U.S. attorney. The report also confirms a June investigation that revealed how Caltrans knowingly accepted flawed, potentially hazardous work by a Chinese firm that welded most of the new suspension span roadway and tower, DeSaulnier said. His committee will discuss the report at an Aug. 5 hearing. New witnesses will corroborate earlier testimony about the welding problems and issues with the concrete foundation of the span’s iconic tower, DeSaulnier said. He said some expected testimony is “quite disturbing.” DeSaulnier also called for a comprehensive review of the new span’s known and possible defects by experts not biased by previous affiliations with the project, and an examination of the adequacy of oversight by the Federal Highway Administration. The California Highway Patrol is also investigating how Caltrans and its contractors handled weld cracks produced by the Chinese fabricator. Asked if he foresaw the need for a criminal probe, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty deferred to the CHP, which does not discuss pending investigations.
The stealing continues: Candidate Paul Tanaka’s retirement cost Los Angeles County $339,424
Before Paul Tanaka declared his candidacy for Los Angeles County sheriff in August 2013, he took three months off work and, once retired from the Sheriff’s Department, the county government cut him a one-time check for $339,424. The payout covered unused holiday, vacation, sick time and other leave he accrued during his 31-year career — all paid at his final salary, when he was second in command. Including his seven months of wages and benefits, the county paid $591,000 for Tanaka in 2013, according to payroll records provided to the Bay Area News Group, part of the Daily News’ parent company. This made him the second-highest compensated employee, next to the chief neurosurgeon at the largest county-administered hospital. Tanaka did not violate any rules, county officials said. Nor did he “spike” his pension. None of the 339 days leave he cashed out applied toward his retirement income, officials say. The county code limits that widely criticized practice of boosting one’s final salary. Six-figure payouts aren’t rare at the Sheriff’s Department, though Tanaka topped the 2013 list. There were 500 other sheriff’s employees — more than at all other county departments combined — who received one-time payments in excess of $100,000, according to the 2013 data. For some county employees, those checks may have included bonuses or other taxable cash payments in addition to leave time. Tanaka, who did not respond to requests for comment, was pushed out of the department by Sheriff Lee Baca following a series of scandals. Federal authorities are investigating whether high-level sheriff’s officials were involved in witness tampering. During recent testimony, Tanaka told a prosecutor he was aware he’s a subject of the probe, and denied any wrongdoing. He is facing Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell in the November run-off election.
Los Angeles Times
Cops in L.A. might kick your ass, but they give Islamics the red carpet treatment
The inmate in blue jail-issue scrubs turned toward Mecca and sang the midday call to prayer heard at Muslim places of worship around Southern California on the last Friday of Ramadan. About 80 other inmates, many wearing traditional caps called kufis with their jail uniforms, sat in the pews of a chapel in Men's Central Jail during the service led by a volunteer imam. Before sunrise, the inmates had consumed a breakfast of eggs, peanut butter and jelly, a banana and milk that conformed to Muslim dietary rules. Now they were fasting until their evening meal, which they would eat together after sundown during a jailhouse version of iftar, the nightly Ramadan feast. Since 2012, when the ACLU began complaining about the treatment of Muslim inmates in the Los Angeles County jails, the Sheriff's Department appears to have made significant improvements. Muslims in the county jails now receive halal meals. During Ramadan, a deputy at Men's Central Jail works full-time with the Muslim inmates, ensuring they are fed the pre-dawn meal and that their other religious needs are met. Inmates no longer complain of verbal abuse from deputies denigrating the Muslim faith. In April, the Sheriff's Department issued a directive that Muslim inmates have a legal right to attend religious services. In the last few months, Men's Central Jail has held a Jumu'ah every Friday, according to inmates, volunteer imams and jail officials.
Jerry Brown, avoiding immigration debate, heads to Mexico
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last year granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, he accused Congress of “foot-dragging” on immigration and said Washington needed “a good push.” The move was uncharacteristic of Brown who, in his third term, had largely declined to engage in national policy debates. But an opening on immigration appeared available to Brown, the popular Democratic governor of an influential border state. President Barack Obama and Democrats in Washington were pressing the Republican-controlled House on an immigration bill, amid growing public support for changes to the nation’s immigration laws. “The power of this force of immigrants is so strong, so heavy, that even the politicians can’t ignore it anymore,” Brown said at a rally in Fresno in October, on the day he signed the driver’s license bill. Nine months later, the illegal border crossing of thousands of young immigrants from Central America has upended the immigration debate, shifting pressure onto Obama for his handling of the crisis and mustering conservative opposition to expanded protections for undocumented minors. In this newly charged atmosphere – moreover, an election year – Brown has fallen back. While declaring last year that he was “not waiting” for Washington to act on immigration, his administration now refers to the border crisis as primarily a federal responsibility. Brown has said nothing specific about the handling of immigrants bused into California and has not made stops in cities where tension over the influx of immigrants has flared. When he touches down in Mexico for the first official visit of his term, he is expected to confine himself to the nation’s capital city, far from the border, with talks focused on the environment and trade.
Yee faces racketeering charge in new indictment
Federal prosecutors have added a charge of racketeering to the corruption and gun-running case against state Sen. Leland Yee, filing an amended indictment this week that includes new allegations that the San Francisco Democrat traded official favors for campaign cash. The indictment broadens the scope of the charges facing the more than two-dozen defendants in the case and significantly increases Yee’s potential punishment if he is convicted. Yee, who has pleaded not guilty, could face a maximum sentence of 165 years in prison and $2.25 million in penalties based on the charges in the latest filing. Racketeering charges, developed 45 years ago to combat the mafia, gives prosecutors more latitude on presenting evidence. “The prosecution is always very careful not to bring that charge unless they got the goods,” said attorney McGregor W. Scott, a former U.S. attorney in Sacramento. “It really brings the connotation that it involves serious wrongdoing.” Yee is among 29 people ensnared in a sweeping undercover federal investigation into an organized crime ring allegedly overseen by Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a longtime associate of Yee, and Yee’s political consultant, Keith Jackson, according to a federal criminal complaint. The original indictment following Yee’s March 26 arrest alleged that he took campaign money from undercover FBI agents and offered to arrange an international arms deal. Yee was raising money to retire a debt from his run for San Francisco mayor and to wage a 2014 campaign for secretary of state.
"We gotta juice this thing"
Leland Yee: New racketeering count against California state senator adds to gravity of case
A new racketeering charge handed up by a federal grand jury against state Sen. Leland Yee says he was part of an organized crime operation in which he sold legislative votes and influence for piles of money, just as he was earlier accused of conspiring to traffic in guns. The indictment made public on Friday reveals for the first time a 2013 incident in which Yee, D-San Francisco, allegedly agreed to take $60,000 -- which he believed was coming from a National Football League team owner -- in exchange for his and another senator's vote on a bill dealing with workers' compensation insurance for pro athletes. "We gotta juice this thing," Yee allegedly told an undercover FBI agent. That money never changed hands, but the wheeling and dealing is part of the new racketeering charge, along with money he allegedly did take for other votes and actions. The indictment replaces charges that prosecutors filed in March against Yee; Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, the alleged leader of a Chinatown mob; Yee campaign consultant Keith Jackson; and dozens of others. Federal prosecutors in that earlier complaint claimed Yee, sometimes nicknamed "Uncle Leland," accepted checks and bags of cash from undercover operatives to pay off his campaign debts and help fund his bid to become secretary of state. Yee also allegedly tried to orchestrate an international arms deal with an undercover agent, promising to arrange shipments of high-powered weaponry from rebel groups in the Philippines for money.
San Fransisco Examiner
Feds: Leland Yee shook down NFL team, 'Shrimpboy' headed organized crime group
Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow led an organized crime outfit - the Chinatown-based fraternal organization Gee Kung Tong - whose members committed a raft of crimes such as racketeering, arms trafficking and murder-for-hire schemes, according to a new indictment filed Friday by the U.S. Attorney's Office. The new indictment, which further details the alleged activities of Ghee Kung Tong (which is also spelled Ghee Kung Tong) members, also details alleged bribes and payoffs taken by suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and his compatriot, former San Francisco school board member Keith Jackson. Those include brides to change Yee's vote in regards to rules governing workers' compensation for NFL players, along with votes on medical marijuana laws and payments taken in order to facilitate the purchase of arms - specifically missile systems - in the Philippines. Yee, Chow and 21 others charged in the case - facing counts of extortion, arms trafficking, murder for hire, and drug trafficking and sales, among others - were arrested in an series of FBI raids in March that netted suspects from across the Bay Area and beyond. Yee, Chow and Jackson have all pleaded not guilty to the original charges. Along with the new charges of running an organized crime organization, which also were leveled against Yee and Jackson, Chow is charged with money laundering, transporting stolen property across state lines and trafficking stolen cigarettes. As for the state senator and his lieutenant, according to the document, "Yee and Jackson engaged in criminal activity, including wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, extortion, trafficking in firearms and money laundering."
Use of illicit drugs becomes part of Silicon Valley's work culture
For Google executive Forrest Timothy Hayes, heroin was the killer app. From the way the Santa Cruz cops talk about it, the security camera video that captured a reputed high-price call girl injecting the 51-year-old tech veteran with a fatal dose of the drug aboard his yacht in Santa Cruz was surely horrific. But it was particularly chilling for another reason: While the seven-minute-long death scene drew a final curtain on the life of the father of five, it raised another on a dark and largely hidden side of Silicon Valley in 2014. With a booming startup culture cranked up by fiercely competitive VPs and adrenaline-driven coders, and a tendency for stressed-out managers to look the other way, illicit drugs and black-market painkillers have become part of the landscape here in the world's frothy fountain of tech. "I've had them from Apple, from Twitter, from Facebook, from Google, from Yahoo, and it's bad out there," says Cali Estes, a Miami-based addictions coach who has helped 200 tech workers -- many of them high-level executives -- struggling with everything from cocaine and heroin to painkillers like oxycodone and stimulants like Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat attention-deficit disorders. "And it's a lot worse than what people think because it's all covered up so well," says Estes. "If it gets out that a company's employees are doing drugs, it paints a horrible picture." Hayes' overdose last November -- alleged call girl Alix Tichelman was arrested in connection with his death -- felt like an eerie tap on the shoulder. Most Bay Area residents tend to marvel at the innovation unfolding around them from the red-hot tech revival and do not fret about the shadowy behavior that might help propel it all.
San Francisco Chronicle
San Bruno: E-mails show cozy ties between state and PG&E
A high-ranking aide to the California Public Utilities Commission's president advised a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executive on ways the company could fend off a legal challenge during the fallout over the deadly gas-pipeline explosion in San Bruno, newly released e-mails show. The e-mails - among 7,000 obtained by the city as part of a lawsuit settlement with the state agency - show that PG&E repeatedly went to top regulatory officials with complaints or requests for help related to investigations stemming from the September 2010 explosion, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. San Bruno officials said the communications were proof of a cozy relationship between the commission and the utility it regulates. That has been a consistent theme of commission critics since the pipeline disaster, which the National Transportation Safety Board said revealed a "culture of complacency" in the state agency that was supposed to ensure PG&E operated its pipelines safely. "These are people who are acting like they are on the same team," said Britt Strottman, an attorney representing the city. "They are not supposed to be on the same team." City Manager Connie Jackson added, "These communications not only show an unprofessional, unethical and inappropriate relationship between PG&E and PUC officials - we believe it is illegal for this communication to have occurred." A commission spokesman called the communications routine and said they did not indicate that PG&E received favorable treatment from the state. PG&E said it would review the e-mails to ensure that they met the company's standard of communicating with state regulators in "an ethical manner."
While the Middle East and Crimea burn, Obama sets up straw man in L.A.
Obama speaks of ‘economic patriotism’ at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
Striking a theme of “economic patriotism,” President Barack Obama issued a clarion call on Thursday for stepped-up retraining of those unemployed during the Great Recession so that they can fill the skilled jobs that are becoming available today. The president, in a speech in front of more than 1,500 people at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in downtown Los Angeles, said that about 10 million jobs have been created since the recession decimated the economy in the middle of the last decade and the unemployment is now at its lowest level since September 2008. “What we should be doing is training more people for the kinds of jobs that are opening up. And I encourage people to go back to school,” Obama said to a round of applause. “The decisions we made to rescue the economy and the auto industry have paid off.” Before arriving at the school the president make an unexpected stop at Cantor’s Deli for a quick lunch and chatted with customers. The crowd began gathering shortly after 11 a.m. under a hot sun, with many seeking shade under trees. Paramedics were soon at the scene to treat people who had trouble coping with the heat. As the president was about to step to the podium, a section of supporters began chanting a chorus of “four more years.” A heckler briefly interrupted the president at the start of his remarks but was drowned out by the pro-president crowd, which began chanting “Obama, Obama Obama.” A protest also broke out along Washington Boulevard about a block from the school, prompting heavy police response. The demonstration broke up after the president left. During his approximately 30-minute speech Obama touched on the familiar theme of the Affordable Health Care Act and how tough it is to deal with Congress on some matters and steps his administration is taking to help American workers.
I'm rich, get the hell off my beach....
Los Angeles Times
Coastal Commission enters fray over San Mateo County beach access
The California Coastal Commission on Thursday took what it called a "significant step toward restoring public access" at Martin's Beach in San Mateo County by calling on members of the public who have been there over the decades to fill out declarations saying so. If results of the "prescriptive rights survey" posted online show that the public has been using the private road now owned by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla as if it were public land for at least five years, then a court could establish a continued right of public access, according to the commission. The development adds another twist to California's highest-profile legal battle between those seeking public beach access and a private property owner who does not believe he is required to accommodate it. The family that owned the property south of Half Moon Bay prior to Khosla's 2008 purchase had allowed the public for decades to stroll down the private road that provides the only land access to the beach -- or drive down and park for a fee. Khosla initially allowed access at a higher fee but then closed the gate altogether in 2010 after he was told by county planning officials that he needed to open the gate year-round and lower the cost of parking to the historic rate of $2. The billionaire known for his green investments said in a recent interview that he found those demands "unreasonable" and that any state requirement that he provide access violates his rights under the U.S. Constitution. Khosla has also said he feels that he has been unfairly targeted because of his wealth and high profile, an allegation commission officials deny, saying for years they knew of the owner only as Martins Beach 1 LLC and Martins Beach 2 LLC.
San Francisco Chronicle
Vinod Khosla blames costly demands for Martins Beach trial
The ugly courtroom clash over Martins Beach, near Half Moon Bay, would not have happened if government and environmental zealots had not made unreasonable and costly demands, billionaire investor Vinod Khosla said Thursday in defense of a beach closure that has captivated Californians up and down the coast. The venture capitalist said he closed the 53-acre property to the public after San Mateo County, the California Coastal Commission and the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation unfairly tried to impose their will on him. "If they wanted you to make your backyard a park, would that hurt you?" he asked. "The Coastal Commission and the county have been completely unreasonable. They have been taking an extreme view and don't want to compromise on anything." Closing arguments were given last week in the Martins Beach civil trial, which is seen by many as a test case of California laws declaring that beaches are public property below the mean high tide line and that they must remain open. Lawyers for Surfrider want San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach to force Khosla to apply for a coastal development permit for closing the gate and making other changes on the property, which he bought for $32.5 million in 2008. They are asking for millions of dollars in penalties against Khosla for blocking public access. The judge is expected to rule in the case within 90 days.
Los Angeles Times
Color blind, trigger happy, idiot psycho cops cost taxpayers millions
Torrance surfer shot at during Dorner manhunt to receive $1.8 million
David Perdue planned to go surfing on Feb. 7, 2013, during the height of the Dorner manhunt, when his truck was rammed by a Torrance police officer and then struck by several bullets. Perdue was not hurt, and police at the time said his pickup truck matched the description of one belonging to Dorner, who had already killed three people and injured two others as he cut a bloody swath through Southern California last year. "The Torrance Police Department is very sympathetic to the disruption this incident caused our community and to all involved," said Sgt. Chris Roosen, the department's public information officer. The case was set to go to trial in August, and Perdue's attorney has questioned how police could have confused Perdue with Dorner. Perdue's pickup truck was not the same model or color as Dorner's, and the ex-cop was several inches taller than Perdue and roughly 100 pounds heavier, attorney Robert Sheahen previously said. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office previously cleared the officers involved in the shooting of any wrongdoing.
San Francisco Chronicle
Anyone else would already be in prison...
Aldon Smith a big test for Jim Harbaugh, 49ers
The two biggest distractions of the 49ers' offseason - packaged in two of the most productive players on the team - appeared before the media and microphones at 49ers' training camp Thursday. Earlier in the day, head coach Jim Harbaugh, standing in the shiny new news-conference room inside Levi's Stadium, declared that the 49ers were "the least unhappy team" that he's ever been around. And no amount of contract concerns or legal issues was going to change his stance. But Vernon Davis and Aldon Smith both have created different but significant strains of unhappiness over the past several months. Davis, whose minicamp holdout flew in the face of "the 49ers' way" as espoused by Harbaugh, couldn't say if his holdout was a mistake and claimed to not remember what he said on his June media tour. If he needs a refresher, that was when he announced that he wanted to focus "on building his brand," remarks that were roundly mocked around the universe. But he's back in camp and pronounced himself "elated," which is good news for a team that needs his offensive skills and versatility. In a far more serious vein, Smith is trying to put two years of trouble behind him, the type of trouble that has threatened to derail his career. He, like Davis, seemed cloudy on the details of his distraction. Smith, speaking for the first time since he was sentenced in a Santa Clara courtroom last Friday, was unclear on when and how exactly he would serve his sentence: 11 work-crew days in lieu of jail time, expected to be served on Mondays. "In the times I have free time, I'll take care of it," Smith said. "I think it's whatever works out best for my schedule." Sounds like he's trying to complete an incomplete algebra class instead of serving time for weapons and drunken-driving charges. We know that famous athletes get far more accommodations than the average law-breaker, but it's uncomfortable to see it displayed so brazenly.
Officials want to build a ‘total disaster city’ for training, with fires, explosions and crashes
Saying California’s emergency responders need more training to handle major calamities, state and local leaders are pitching plans to build a world-class $56 million training facility in eastern Sacramento County that would pit fire crews against a variety of realistic, pressure-packed simulated disasters. Emergency crews would be required to douse a real 727 jet as it lies in pieces across a field after a simulated crash at the training site; or make split-second decisions on how to approach a derailed train leaking crude oil; or figure out how to quickly pull survivors out of a partially demolished and unstable building after a terrorist bombing or earthquake. Initial construction on the Emergency Response Training Center has begun on 53 acres east of Mather Field in Rancho Cordova. The facility, billed as one of the most varied, modern and sophisticated training sites in the country, would be “a total disaster city,” said Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Chief Kurt Henke, one of the officials behind the push. “This is a one-stop shop,” he said. “Anything you can think of, you can set it up at this facility.” The project is a joint effort between Henke’s fire department, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Sacramento Fire Department. The three departments have set up a joint powers group called the California Fire & Rescue Training Authority.
Scaffolding purchase prompts blast from California Board of Equalization chairman
Work crews this weekend will replace leased scaffolding outside the defective Board of Equalization headquarters with scaffolding purchased by the state, prompting board Chairman Jerome Horton to blast the Brown administration for failing to find a new facility for the agency. Horton said Thursday that while the change may make financial sense in the short term, it sends a signal that the Department of General Services intends to keep Equalization’s 2,200 or so employees in the troubled building. The downtown Sacramento structure has a history of toxic mold, defective elevators, leaking windows, corroded wastewater pipes, floods, and exterior glass panels that spontaneously break or pop off. Employees have blamed some illnesses on the building, and Horton and other board members want a new facility for the tax-collecting department. Horton said General Services’ decision to move from renter to owner is “officially making the scaffolding permanent” around an “irreparably broken building” that sparked a $50 million tort claim earlier this month. The board has paid out $2.3 million in connection with building-related employee injury claims.
As bribery case continues, CalPERS reaps profits from tainted investments
It’s been one of the darkest chapters in CalPERS history, a bribery scandal that prompted a guilty plea from its former chief executive earlier this month. It’s also been rather profitable. America’s largest public pension fund has racked up sizable gains from investments brokered by Alfred Villalobos, the Nevada businessman accused of bribing top CalPERS officials. One $974 million investment midwifed by Villalobos is now worth $2.91 billion. A $701 million deal is valued on CalPERS’ books at $1.36 billion. The track record on Villalobos’ deals represents one of the great ironies of the CalPERS influence-peddling scandal. During a six-year stretch that ended in 2008, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System poured more than $4.4 billion into investments marketed by Villalobos on behalf of Wall Street clients. Out of 11 separate deals, only one has lost money, a relatively small transaction in which CalPERS invested $75 million. Experts say CalPERS’ investment profits don’t tell the whole story. They say Villalobos’ alleged misdeeds cost CalPERS money even though the deals he brought to the pension fund largely panned out. A 2011 investigative report commissioned by CalPERS said the pension fund likely paid tens of millions of dollars in additional investment-management fees because of Villalobos’ work. CalPERS routinely pays management fees to its investment partners, and the investigative report said those firms may have secretly inflated their fees to compensate for commissions they were paying Villalobos. CalPERS was able to recoup much if not all of that money. Using its considerable clout, it launched a campaign in 2010 to extract fee discounts from dozens of investment partners, including two that had hired Villalobos.
Despite conviction, Richard Alarcón keeps $116,000 a year from Los Angeles city pension
Despite being convicted of four felonies this week by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury, former City Councilman Richard Alarcón will continue to receive his $116,000 annual pension, an official said Thursday. Unlike some other California jurisdictions, Los Angeles doesn’t prohibit city employees convicted of felonies from receiving pensions, a representative of the city’s civilian retirement division said. Alarcón was convicted Wednesday of four counts of perjury and voter fraud for living outside Council District 7 and lying about his address on official documents. His wife Flora, 49, was convicted of three counts. His attorney Richard Lasting said Thursday he will file court documents in the coming weeks to have the case tossed out. Alarcón’s conviction comes three months after City Councilman Mitchell Englander introduced a motion that would require city workers convicted of a felony involving the use of their city position to forfeit their pension. The proposed law was spurred by revelations over the $72,000 annual pension collected by a recently convicted city building inspector, Englander’s motion states. Englander’s office didn’t respond to a comment Thursday. But earlier in the week, an Englander spokeswoman said the councilman is still pushing to pass the ordinance. Amid growing scrutiny over workers’ benefits, Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 signed a law requiring public employees convicted of a felony to forfeit retirement benefits accrued after the date the felony occurred. However, Los Angeles has its own pension systems, and the state law doesn’t apply to the city.
Jerry Brown names law school professor to California Supreme Court
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday nominated a Mexico-born Stanford Law School professor to the California Supreme Court, moving to replace one of the high court’s most conservative members with a Democrat. Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who would replace retiring Justice Marvin Baxter in January, is Brown’s second selection to the court of his third term, both coming from the halls of academia. Brown appointed Goodwin Liu, then a UC Berkeley law professor, in 2011. Cuéllar, who previously advised President Barack Obama on immigration matters, would join Liu as the only Democrats on a court dominated by Republican appointees. Its composition is becoming increasingly liberal under Brown, however, and the Democratic governor has one more immediate vacancy to fill, to replace retired Justice Joyce Kennard. Cuéllar served as a special assistant for justice and regulatory policy in the Obama White House in 2009 and 2010 and co-chaired the Obama transition team’s immigration policy working group in 2008 and 2009. He worked in the Clinton administration’s U.S. Treasury Department from 1997 to 1999. Cuéllar was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and as a young boy walked across the border legally each day to attend a Catholic school on scholarship in neighboring Brownsville, Texas, the Governor’s Office said. He moved with his family at age 14 to California’s Imperial Valley after his family was granted green cards, and graduated from Calexico High School. The Governor’s Office said he became a U.S. citizen as soon as he was eligible in 1994. Cuéllar, who has taught at Stanford since 2001, told The Stanford Daily last year that “when you grow up on the border, you realize that a legal demarcation has such a huge effect in distinguishing one country from another, for example, and the whole structure of law shapes who’s a citizen and therefore who counts in one society or another.”
Los Angeles Times
Want to go to UC, move out of state...
UC enrolling more new students from other states and nations
The number of new UC students from other states and nations will continue to increase this fall, extending a trend that university officials say is financially necessary but critics say is changing the nature of a beloved state institution. The percentage of all new UC freshman who come from outside California is expected to be 20.2%, up from 18.3% last year and 15.5% the year before, according to preliminary data based on students’ statements that they will enroll. Among the nine UC undergraduate campuses, the percentages are the highest at UCLA with 30.1%, UC Berkeley with 29.8% and UC San Diego with 28.4%. The lowest shares were at UC Merced with 1.2% and UC Riverside with 6.9%. However, UC officials say that the rise in new out-of-state students is not reducing the ranks of California freshmen, who are expected to total 35,943, just 21 fewer than those who said they would attend last year at this time. Administrators say that the nearly $23,000 that nonresidents pay annually on top of the regular $12,192 tuition helps support classes and financial aid for Californians. While the share of non-Californians among UC’s overall undergraduate student body has increased from 4.6% in 2007-08 to 11.4% last year, UC still enrolls much smaller numbers of out-of-staters than other highly ranked state universities, such as the University of Michigan and University of Virginia. According to the new statistics, 3,691 U.S. students from other states have said they will enroll as UC freshmen, up 389 from last year, and 5,412 international students have indicated that they will come to UC, 662 more than last year.
Delay likely in corruption trial for California Sen. Ron Calderon
The corruption trial of Democratic Sen. Ron Calderon will likely be delayed until next May, months after the suspended lawmaker is forced to leave office because of term limits. Calderon is fighting federal corruption allegations of fraud, bribery and money laundering, and the case was scheduled for trial on Sept. 16. Mark Geragos, his attorney in the case, described the amount of documents being produced by the government as voluminous and ongoing. Prosecutors agreed to Geragos’ request for time to go over the paperwork with his client ahead of the trial. The new date would be May 19. “That’s our estimate based on the amount of discovery,” Geragos said. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, said the judge has yet to approve the request. Court records state the government began producing documents relating to the case in late April, and the number has grown to 280,000 pages, including 10,000 FBI documents, 3,900 of grand jury testimony, 2,000 of recorded telephone conversations and more than 200 recorded meetings. The latest wave of documents was provided to the defendants on June 23. Tom Calderon, a former state lawmaker charged in the case, also signed the request for a delay. Ron Calderon was one of three Democratic state senators, along with Leland Yee and Rod Wright, suspended with pay in March after they were accused of criminal charges in unrelated cases.
San Francisco Chroncile
Police kill mentally ill drug adict...Family of man who died in struggle with Oakland police sues
Relatives of a man who collapsed while struggling with Oakland police and later died filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city Tuesday. Hernan Jaramillo, 51, became unresponsive after officers tried to put him into a police car for a psychiatric evaluation outside his home on the 2300 block of East 21st Street on July 8, 2013. Jaramillo's death was the result of an "onslaught of horrendous abuse of police power," Jaramillo's sister Ana Biocini and other siblings said in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Biocini had called police to the home she shared with Jaramillo after hearing him "making a great deal of noise for reasons unknown" in his bedroom, the suit said. She said she feared that he was being assaulted by an intruder. Jaramillo began struggling with officers as they tried to put him into a car, police have said. Biocini said she had pleaded with the officers to stop, "insisting that her brother was not the perceived intruder," the suit said. Officers threw Jaramillo to the ground, the suit said. One officer "pressed his knee into Mr. Jaramillo's back while other officers used their weight to hold him down. Mr. Jaramillo screamed out for help and strained to breathe under the collective weight of the four or five defendant officers." The Alameda County coroner concluded that Jaramillo died of multiple drug intoxication, with "physical exertion" as a contributing factor.
Naughty Nadia lashes out at Kamala Harris on Facebook
Nadia Lockyer, the wife of state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, is lashing out at Attorney General Kamala Harris for not pursuing charges against a former boyfriend she said assaulted her, promising “the opposition of the Lockyer family” if Harris ever runs for higher office. In a Facebook post last week, the former Alameda County Supervisor accuses Harris of making an “unjust, anti-feminist, anti-victims rights decision to not prosecute the man that almost killed me.” “So this pledge stands,” she wrote in all caps. “If Kamala Harris ever runs for higher office she will have to face the opposition of the Lockyer family and all those truly committed to victims’ rights.” The Facebook post, first reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, refers to a heavily publicized case two years ago, when Nadia Lockyer’s affair with a methamphetamine addict and own drug use became public. Lockyer told police in 2012 that she was injured in a violent assault by her former boyfriend, Stephen Chikhani, a methamphetamine user she met in an addiction treatment program. The California Department of Justice, which took over the assault inquiry from Alameda County, declined to pursue charges against Chikhani. A spokesman for Harris, who is widely considered a potential future candidate for governor, declined to comment Monday on the Facebook post.
Los Angeles Times
Gov. Brown signs bill to reduce deportations for minor crimes
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure aimed at reducing deportations of legal immigrants who are convicted of misdemeanors. The legislation aimed at reducing deportations of noncitizens who are legal residents cuts the maximum possible misdemeanor sentence in California by one day, from one year to 364 days. Under federal immigration law, a felony is a crime punishable by 365 days or more, in which case a noncitizen legal resident can face deportation, according to state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). Deportable crimes that carry a maximum one-year sentence include theft, fraud and forgery. "As a result of the differences between state and federal sentencing laws, some legal residents are torn from their families for committing minor crimes, such as writing a bad check," Lara said. The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, will affect thousands of legal residents in California each year who might otherwise face a deportation hearing, said Zachary Nightingale, an immigration attorney in San Francisco. Each year, 10% of all deportees are legal permanent residents, and 68% of them are sent out of the country for minor, nonviolent crimes, according to the American Immigration Council, an immigrant advocacy group in Washington. "The governor signed SB 1310 to help ensure legal residents won't be deported for minor crimes," said Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown.
Los Angeles Fire Department to hire 165 new firefighters in wake of recruiting controversy
With a new fire chief awaiting confirmation and thousands of expected applicants, the city of Los Angeles is beginning the process of hiring 165 new firefighters even as standards and procedures are being revamped to avoid the problems that have plagued the department in the past. Applications will be accepted from 8 a.m. today through midnight Thursday. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who last week selected Assistant Chief Ralph Terrazas to be the next chief, had previously pushed up the hiring deadline to fill vacancies and help reduce response times. Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said the mayor believes bringing in additional firefighters is critical to keeping our city safe. The move comes even as a report is still in the works by the RAND Corp. on how hiring procedures should be amended. RAND officials said they hope to have a draft to city officials by the end of July. The department’s criteria for candidates came under criticism this year because of the number of recruits who were related to firefighters, as well as accusations that some received special training to prepare them for the process. Some 850 applicants who had previously cleared the city requirements are now being required to reapply to the department to put candidates on equal footing. Frank Lima, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, has estimated the LAFD has lost 560 firefighters over the last six years and continues to lose about 10 a month through retirement or other factors.
Orange County Register
Labor costs driving push to raise taxes
Two Orange County cities considering sales taxes
In Orange County, it appears, La Habra is the only city with its own local sales tax now, at a half-cent. The sales tax in Orange County is generally 8 percent. But city hall staffers in Placentia and Stanton are recommending that residents create their own city sales taxes. In Placentia, the sales tax would be a half-cent on the dollar, raising $2.4 million annually for the city coffers. In Stanton, it would be a full cent, bringing in $3.1 million a year. If these cities create their own sales taxes, those spending in their towns would be paying 8.5 percent or 9 percent in sales tax. If the councils move forward with the possible sales taxes, voters in each town would make the ultimate decisions with their November ballots. “We obviously need money, and this is one thing that will help us maintain the level of services,” said Placentia Councilwoman Connie Underhill. She pointed out that many city employees are doing more than they were hired to do because the city can’t afford to fill numerous vacancies. City officials say rising pension costs and a relatively small sales-tax base have hurt Placentia; if changes aren’t made, the annual budget would have a $5 million shortfall in three years. Meanwhile, Stanton has been dipping into reserves for several years, including an anticipated $1 million for the current fiscal year, to fund services, according to a city report. Without additional measures, the city expects to run out of reserves in six years. The city already has made steep cuts in recent years in staffing, and in funding to the Sheriff’s Department and to the Orange County Fire Authority, which both serve Stanton.
Legislature puts California acupuncture board on notice
The state board tasked with licensing and regulating California’s roughly 11,000 acupuncturists has faced trouble before – a cheating and bribery scandal rocked the board in 1989. Now, amid criticism that the California Acupuncture Board’s priorities give short shrift to consumer protection, state lawmakers are moving for an overhaul and lobbing a pointed message at its executive officer to get in line. With the board’s authority set to expire Jan. 1, the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee has a bill to extend that date, with strings attached. Senate Bill 1246 narrows the board’s regulatory portfolio, offers a shorter-than-usual extension and includes a provision that could threaten the tenure of Executive Officer Terri Thorfinnson. Specifically, the bill says “the executive officer appointed on or after January 1, 2015, shall not have served as the executive officer of the board at any time prior to January 1, 2015.” Interpretations of the section vary. A Senate committee consultant, Le Ondra Clark, said the wording would not require the board to fire Thorfinnson, but would prohibit her reappointment after Jan. 1 should the board appoint a new executive officer. Thorfinnson said in her analysis for the board that the provision “effectively terminates” her tenure. “I’ve not ever seen them do this before,” Julie D’Angelo Fellmeth, who monitors state consumer boards and is administrative director of University of San Diego’s Center for Public Interest Law, said of the Legislature’s approach. “They might just be sending a message to the board that the Legislature is not happy with the performance of the executive officer.” California has been regulating what is sometimes called “oriental medicine” since 1972, and is now home to a third of the nation’s licensed acupuncturists, according to a board presentation in December. After the Legislature’s sunset review process went dormant in the mid-2000s, the board went without a rigorous evaluation until 2012. At that point, the legislative committee said most of the issues it identified were ones that the Legislature had “struggled with for almost 14 years.” The former executive officer resigned in June 2012.
Report lists California 40th for children's wellness
California is near the bottom of the nation for child well-being in a new report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Children Now. While disappointing, health experts said the 40th overall ranking is not surprising. The state had scores as low as 43rd for families and communities and 48th in economic well-being for its children. Child health was roughly near the middle at 26th. The measure was a slight improvement from last year when California placed 41st, but advocates are still concerned. "Big picture, ranking 40th nationally on children's well-being is just not acceptable," said Jessica Mindnich, a researcher for Sacramento-based child advocacy group Children Now. "We have more children than any other state in this country, so when kids in California aren't doing well, that has significant implications for kids nationally." Mindnich said the recession hit California really hard, causing child poverty rates to continue to rise and placing stressors on all the other connected factors for well-being. At the same time, the state had to cut back, so it dismantled many safety-net programs that supported children. "Our kids are vulnerable," she said.
Los Angeles Times
Most of Allergan's 1,500 job cuts will be in Southern California
Most of the 1,500 job cuts that Botox maker Allergan Inc. announced Monday morning will be made in Southern California, the company’s chief executive said. Allergan plans to eliminate 650 research and development jobs, the bulk of them at its sprawling Irvine campus, Allergan chief David E.I. Pyott said in an interview with The Times. The company will also close facilities in Santa Barbara (300 employees) and Carlsbad (100 employees), Pyott said. “Sadly, I have to say, it will be quite a big effect on Southern California,” Pyott said. “Clearly there’s a big impact in Irvine.” The cuts are intended to increase profits and make Allergan more appealing to investors as it attempts to fend off a $53 billion takeover attempt by Canadian rival Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. “Hopefully, at the end of the day, this will put more value on the table than the other side,” Pyott said. Valeant has vowed to slash research spending at Allergan if it acquires the company, a move that it said would significantly improve its profitability. Pyott said that the 1,500 jobs he intends to eliminate pale compared with the 5,000 jobs he said Valeant would cut if it acquired the company. The job cuts, announced Monday as part of a restructuring effort, account for about 13% of Allergan's global workforce. In addition, the Irvine-based maker of Botox plans to eliminate about 250 vacant positions. Valeant is backed by activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management is Allergan's top shareholder. The protracted takeover attempt has sparked concerns among Allergan employees, Irvine merchants and the city’s mayor over potential job losses. Of Allergan’s 11,000-plus global work force, about 2,300 employees are based at its Irvine headquarters.
Jerry Brown signs bill limiting full-contact football practice in California
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation limiting full-contact football practice for California teenagers, his office announced Monday. The legislation comes amid increasing concern about brain injuries in football. Assembly Bill 2127, by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, prohibits middle school and high school football teams from holding full-contact practices during the off-season and limits them to no more than two full-contact practices per week during the preseason and regular season. Nineteen other states have banned full-contact high school football practices in the off-season, according to a legislative analysis. Brown signed the bill without comment, one of 23 measures the Democratic governor announced signing Monday.
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory's neural implants may hold key to unlocking brain's mysteries
Deep inside Lawrence Livermore Laboratory's Center for Bioengineering, scientist Sat Pannu and his research team are hard at work crafting spaghetti noodle-sized devices with a mundane appearance but an audacious goal: To rewire damaged human brains. Fitted with dozens of tiny microelectrodes, each of these brain implants is intended to monitor the electrical activity of brains devastated by physical injury or mental illness -- and provide the precise stimuli to help minds compensate for what they've lost. It sounds fanciful, like something out of Hollywood. But building on technology more than a decade in the making, center director Pannu and his associates envision a time, not too many years away, when advanced, so-called deep-brain stimulation implants combat the ravages of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, even chronic pain or addiction. "This technology allows us to interface with the brain using hundreds, if not thousands, of electrodes," Pannu said. "If you had these devices implanted in the brain, you could record (neural activity) and see how therapies are working in real time." Pannu's $5.6 million project -- which is in the early stages of animal testing -- is part of an array of brain research underway at Lawrence Livermore, all of it linked to the implant technology. Members of the team have found success with artificial retinal implants, which are already giving some blind people crude, but functional, vision. Last week, Pannu's Neural Technology group got a $2.5 million grant for a "neuroprosthetic" project that hopes to combine neural implants with tiny computers to help restore lost memory function. The work is being driven by a Defense Department interested in treating the rash of brain injuries emerging from modern warfare, and President Barack Obama's Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative, which aims to map the brain's neurons to help target effective treatments.
Soaking up Spanish
Singing in Spanish and bouncing around her classroom in an animated style, Socorro Nelson belted out a simple verse to teach some new words: “Soy una pizza con mucho queso.” The reply in Spanish from 11 students came in a mix of motley accents: I am a pizza with lots of cheese. Nelson is a kindergarten teacher at the bilingual Cali Calmécac Language Academy in Windsor. But these weren’t her usual pupils. They were local teachers, librarians and other professionals taking part in the weeklong Spanish Language Immersion Institute at the Sonoma County Office of Education. With the Latino population on the rise in the county and schools, local government employees, nurses and educators are looking for ways to learn the language to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community. “A lot of the teachers have told me that many of the students that they are getting in their classrooms speak very little English,” Nelson said. “That’s why they are trying to acquire the basic Spanish, so they can help the students — (and) feed the needs of the growing Hispanic community that we have in Sonoma County.” The program is among several that are trying to boost Spanish literacy in the county. They include the Petaluma-based language school Colors of Spanish and classes at Santa Rosa Junior College that frequently draw educators. Guadalupe Tausch, founder of Colors of Spanish, said those who learn a new tongue are more receptive to new ideas and cultures. “People also earn more money,” she added. She offers 10-week Spanish classes for adults at her school. Many of her students are doctors, nurses and technicians in the medical field who often get patients who don’t speak English, Tausch said. “Learning a second language is a privilege,” Tausch said. “But it’s something you have to work hard at every day.”
Los Angeles Times
Psychopaths with guns and badges...
Santa Barbara cop placed on leave for video about running over bicyclists
A reserve officer with the Santa Paula Police Department who made a YouTube video joking about running over bicyclists apologized Saturday. The video, published Friday, unleashed a barrage of criticism on the department's Facebook page. Police Chief Steve McLean said "it's embarrassing, and I understand why people are upset." McLean, who became chief a year ago after 32 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "I understand what she was trying to do, to be funny.... But I was horrified with what she said and what she did, and they do not reflect my views or the views of the department." The video shows officer Laura Weintraub riding in a car providing commentary on bicyclists she passes on the road. "I hate bicyclists, every single one of them," she says, looking into the camera and smiling. Lamenting the dearth of cyclists on the road, she says, "I'm hoping we'll run over some soon -- or run into some soon, so I can actually make this video for you." Later spotting a rider on the shoulder, she says, "Looking good in that spandex, buddy -- no one ever said." The video ends with a still shot of a car smashing into a bunch of cyclists, captioned "Like you've never thought of it." "I will never cycle in your county and I hope others won't as well," Shana Buterbaugh posted on the department's Facebook page. "Meet Laura Weintraub, horrible person, incompetent videographer, and utter moron," said a Twitter poster with the handle bikesnobNYC who linked to the video. Weintraub, in her Facebook apology, said she had taken down the video, but it was quickly reposted Saturday by others. McLean said critics had taken a post he made weeks earlier about grabbing a cold beer after a hard day and twisted it to appear to be his commentary on the video. "That's why a lot of people are bashing me," he said. "Some idiot out there took a statement that had nothing to do with anything and applied it here." McLean also denied accusations that he removed critical posts, saying it was the work of a volunteer or administrator.
More free money for farmers
Cap-and-trade could aid preservation of California farmland
Abandoning the farm that he had worked for three decades, and that his wife’s family had owned for over a century, was never an option for Dan Port. Port and his family had continued to squeeze a profit out of their 180 acres near the small town of Ione, raising grass-fed beef to sell through farmers markets. Determined as he was to keep the farm running, Port said he recognized the constant pressure on farmers to give their land over to developers. So Port embraced a novel approach: in exchange for a payment from state bond money worth about half the value of his land, he agreed to an easement requiring the property to remain farmland. He has since reinvested the money in improvements like fixing up an ancient barn. More money of the type Port tapped into will soon be available, per an obscure section of this year’s budget agreement that will offer millions to protect California farmland from the forces of urbanization. In signing this year’s budget, Gov. Jerry Brown dedicated $832 million from California’s burgeoning cap-and-trade program to affordable housing and mass transit, including his embattled high-speed rail project. Also tucked into the legislation are directions to set aside agricultural land on the periphery of cities. It is meant to shield farmland from urban development, allocating a new source of money for a decades-old concept. Proponents believe the idea meshes with a broader vision for urban planning: a California where more people live in compact urban centers, commuting without relying on cars that percolate greenhouse gases into the air.
Death-penalty ruling won't alter election
Violent crime rates are at near-record lows...that has blunted GOP efforts to make hay out of crime
No single issue has dogged Gov. Jerry Brown more throughout his long political career than capital punishment, so it seems fitting that it would rear its head as Brown wages his final campaign for the state’s highest office. The death penalty, though, is unlikely to resonate much with the voting public these days. On Wednesday, a federal judge declared California’s death-penalty system unconstitutional and vacated a condemned man’s death sentence because of the “inordinate and unpredictable” delays between sentencing and execution. Only 13 of the 900 people sentenced to death in California since 1978 have been put to death, the court noted. It takes around 25 years to review the cases, which the judge said is a broken promise by the state to carry out the sentence. Some blame rests with the inmates as they file appeal after appeal, but Judge Cormac Carney, a George W. Bush appointee, mainly blamed state officials. There are other serious questions about the penalty, such as whether innocent people languish on death row. But Carney didn’t raise them. Instead, he found the punishment unconstitutional because it is irrational: “life in prison, with the remote possibility of death.” The governor’s office had no statement in response to the decision, which is too bad given that it might clarify his latest thinking on the issue. Brown had long been against capital punishment, but has lived up to his vow to uphold the law as governor and attorney general.
Pérez calls off recount in California controller’s race
Assemblyman John A. Pérez abandoned his recount in the California controller’s race Friday, ending an effort to overcome a narrow third-place finish after picking up only a handful of votes amid increasing impatience from Democratic activists and others worried about its impact on the fall election. Perez called off the recount a week after it started. Election workers had finished hand recounts in less than a tenth of the more than 4,100 precincts in 15 counties listed in Pérez’s July 6 filing for what would have been the largest recount in state history. “While I strongly believe that completing this process would result in me advancing to the General Election, it is clear that there are significant deficiencies in the process itself which make continuing the recount problematic,” Pérez said in a statement Friday. “Even in the effort so far, we have found uncounted ballots, but there is simply not enough time to see this process through to the end, given the fact that counties must begin printing ballots in the next few weeks in order to ensure that overseas and military voters can receive their ballots in a timely manner.” Pérez, D-Los Angeles, finished 481 votes behind Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, also a Democrat, for second place and a slot in the Nov. 4 general election against Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican who finished first in the balloting.
Los Angeles Times
Guns: You got'em, we'll grab'em...
Jerry Brown signs a pair of gun bills
Gov. Jerry Brown signed two gun-related measures into law Friday, including one bill to make single-shot pistols subject to the state's handgun safety requirements. Most guns sold in California must comply with the state's safe handgun requirements -- including having certain safety devices or meeting specified firing tests -- but the law had exempted handguns that hold a single bullet. Gun control groups say semiautomatic handguns, which are subject to safety requirements, can temporarily be configured as single-shot pistols and then changed back. They advocated for Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's (D-Sacramento) measure to close the exemption for single-shot handguns. “Gun dealers in California have been skirting the law and selling handguns without child safety features, putting profits over the safety of Californians,” said Nick and Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chairs of the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “We applaud Gov. Brown and the California Legislature for taking action to make new handguns sold in the state safer.” The California Assn. of Federal Firearms Licensees opposed the measure. In a letter to Brown last week, the group's president, Brandon Combs, said the "clear intent" of the bill, AB 1964, is to "eliminate even more firearms in common use for lawful purposes from the non-peace officer (i.e., 'regular person') marketplace." Also on Friday, Brown signed a measure to speed up communication between the courts and the state Department of Justice when a person is deemed to be prohibited from possessing a gun. The bill, by Assemblyman K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), requires courts to report to the state Justice Department within one business day when a person becomes barred from having a firearm, either due to certain felony or misdemeanor convictions or for mental health reasons.
California medical fraud included fake spinal screws, lawsuit alleges
Bribed surgeons implanted counterfeit spinal hardware into the backs of potentially thousands of patients as part of a vast scheme overseen by Michael D. Drobot, the former hospital executive who as part of a plea deal admitted to bribing indicted California state Sen. Ron Calderon, according to a new lawsuit. The federal case against Calderon, who has been suspended from the state Senate, includes charges that the Montebello Democrat accepted money to try to preserve workers’ compensation rules that helped Drobot. In the years leading up to being indicted for fraud, Drobot was a prolific donor to California Democrats. While Calderon’s case remains unresolved, Drobot has struck a plea deal in which he admitted to funneling bribes to Calderon. He also acknowledged overstating the price of medical implants for which he sought reimbursements and paying kickbacks to doctors and marketers who brought patients to Drobot’s hospitals.
Orange County Register
Scammed politicos to get back $4 million...
You get swindled, you lose - Pols get swindled, they get paid back
Prominent California politicians swindled of $8 million by Democratic campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee will get back about half that money under a settlement reached this week with Durkee’s bank. First California Bank agreed to pay $4 million to the campaigns of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Reps. Loretta Sanchez, Linda Sanchez and Susan Davis, as well as state Sen. Lou Correa. Wylie Aitken, one of the attorneys representing the politicians, said the bank was aware that Durkee was illegally transferring money among accounts of state and federal clients. Aitken also alleged the bank knew she was writing checks from the accounts that could not be covered. He said the behavior “should have raised countless red flags to the First California Bank leadership and staff.” Durkee, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2012 and at that time had less than $100,000 in her liquidated property, leading victims to look to First California. “She obviously looted the accounts and there is no money left. So this (settlement) is a good situation,” Aitken said. “It’s really the donors who got looted. It’s really a victory for people who participated in democracy.” Attorneys for First California could not be reached for comment.
San Francisco Chronicle
49ers star to do no jail time for guns, DUI violations
Meanwhile California prisons continue to fill with poor young black men
A Santa Clara County judge Friday sentenced San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith to jail time, fines and probation for illegal possession of assault weapons and drunken driving, but the football star will spend no actual time behind bars. Superior Court Judge Daniel Nishigaya ordered Smith to serve 12 days in jail and three years probation - but he was given credit for one day served and will be allowed to serve his sentence on consecutive once-a-week work days starting July 28. This effectively keeps him from serving any jail time. Smith also was sentenced, for the weapons charges, to 235 hours community service, a $2,000 fine and a prohibition on possessing guns or ammunition for three years. Smith, 24, could have received up to four years and four months behind bars, but Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Brian Buckelew said he thought the sentence as handed down was fair. Some of the weapons and DUI counts were originally filed as felonies, but Nishigaya reduced them all to misdemeanors.
Cop frenzy...did it lead to hostage's death?
Stockton police describe violent chase that ended with one hostage, two suspects dead
It was a police chase of unprecedented proportions, even for this violence-plagued city. For more than an hour Wednesday afternoon, a growing cavalcade of Stockton police officers pursued a single sport-utility vehicle throughout the streets and highways of northern San Joaquin County, undeterred by what authorities described as a barrage of gunfire from as many as four firearms held by the suspects. The stakes were high. Inside the Ford Explorer were three, then two, then a final hostage held against her will by three suspected bank robbers. According to the police account, dozens of officers and untold bystanders stood at risk as stray rounds pierced homes, parked cars and patrol cruisers. The danger only seemed to grow with every minute. About 67 of them passed before the gunfire ceased and the sirens were silenced, revealing among the worst possible outcomes: The final hostage was dead, along with two fatally injured captors. It is not yet clear when the woman, identified by family and friends in social media as Misty Holt-Singh, was fatally injured or by whom. The fallout from Wednesday’s violence continued to reverberate. A stoic police chief defended his officers’ actions in a situation that was far from textbook. Off-duty officers were called in, overtime was accruing and backup from neighboring agencies was enlisted after more than two dozen officers involved in the shootings were placed on paid administrative leave. Families and friends mourned. And a community so long besieged by street violence tried to fathom the latest Stockton tragedy.
San Francisco Chronicle
More on Stockton's cop frenzy...
Police "poured return fire into the SUV", bank customer who had been a hostage was killed
Officers swarmed to the bank as the gunmen took three women hostage, two of them bank employees and the third a customer, said Stockton police Chief Eric Jones. Dozens of law enforcement officers joined in the chase as the SUV sped through Stockton, Lodi and Acampo, barreling along Interstate 5, Highway 99 and several neighborhood streets before heading back to Stockton. Bullets hit homes, other cars and at least 14 law-enforcement vehicles. About an hour into the chase, the second bank-employee hostage was thrown or jumped from the vehicle that was traveling around 50 mph, police said. She was not identified and was expected to survive. Minutes later, the SUV was finally disabled after its tires were shot out by officers...police poured return fire into the SUV. The bank customer, who had been taken hostage was killed.
Los Angeles Times
Kashkari v. Schwarzenegger: GOP Clown Show continues
Kashkari criticizes Schwarzenegger, says he 'needed to be loved'
GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari typically aims his barbs at incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democrat he is taking on in the fall. But Thursday, the former U.S. Treasury official slashed at Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last Republican to hold the state's highest post, as incapable of reforming the state because "he needed to be loved." Asked by an audience member how he would accomplish his goals to reshape the state as governor where Schwarzenegger had failed, Kashkari noted that the movie-star-turned-politician went to war with public employee unions when he tried to get voters to approve four ballot measures in 2005. "He took on the cops, the teachers, the firefighters, all the big unions. And they came out, they locked arms and they just defeated him across the board," Kashkari told hundreds of people gathered at the waterfront Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach for a self-storage facility owners convention. "Once that happened, Gov. Schwarzenegger had a symptom that so many in Hollywood have — he needed to be loved. And once you need to be loved, you're never going to do really hard things because doing hard things means you're going to make some people mad at you." A representative for Schwarzenegger blasted Kashkari's remarks, saying he doesn't know what he's talking about, and highlighted the first-time candidate's lack of experience.
Pérez recount prompts frustration, November fears from some Democrats
An email to Democratic donors Thursday urged people to help Betty Yee, the Democrat who narrowly claimed second place in last month’s primary for state controller, but who now “is losing valuable fundraising time” because of “an arduous recount.” The plea notably came from Hilary Crosby, the controller of the California Democratic Party, on party letterhead. And it never mentions the man seeking the recount, Assemblyman John A. Pérez, a party stalwart and former Assembly speaker. It’s the latest sign of impatience with Pérez in some Democratic circles as the controller’s recount, now in its sixth day, continues to a third county next week. Some activists worry that the recount will undermine the party’s chances in November against Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, for an office that historically has been a fall battleground. There also is frustration with Pérez taking full advantage of California law that allows candidates to pay for recounts in places of their choosing. Pérez has sought hand recounts in thousands of precincts where he did particularly well and which, in some counties, had disproportionately large Latino populations as of the most recent census. “I just don’t think we can be divided,” said Becky Curry, the chairwoman of the Lake County Democratic Party, who earlier this week co-wrote a column in The Sacramento Bee urging Pérez to call off the recount. “I know a lot of people support former Speaker Pérez. But Betty went through the process, and she got the most votes.” Pérez supporters dismiss what they call unfair criticism by Yee supporters. Pérez, they note, is doing what Yee or any other candidate would do if they lost by one-hundredth of a percent – 481 votes out of more than 4 million cast in the controller’s contest last month. Eric C. Bauman, a vice-chairman of the California Democratic Party, said Pérez critics “need to take a deep breath.” “The reality is, he has the right to see if he actually won the race or not,” Bauman said of Pérez. “It’s unfortunate that some party leaders have said it’s over and we’re going to push to a conclusion and not letting it come to its rightful end.”
Los Angeles Times
Voter fraud alleged in 'Six Californias' petition drive
Opponents file fraud complaint on initiative to split California into six states
Opponents of a proposal to split California into six states lodged a complaint Thursday alleging "several instances" of fraud during the circulation of petitions to put the measure on the 2016 state ballot. In a letter to Secretary of State Debra Bowen, attorneys for One California, a bipartisan group opposing the six-states measure, asked for an investigation into reports that petition circulators had "blatantly misrepresented" the initiative's purpose. The letter cited one instance in which a signature gatherer reportedly told a potential signer that the measure was to oppose the division of California instead describing its true intent, which is to break up the state. In another instance, a signature gatherer is accused of falsely saying the state attorney general supports the "Six Californias" initiative. The complaint letter included a copy of an online news story that contained the allegations of misrepresentation by signature-gatherers. Silicon Valley multimillionaire Timothy Draper earlier this week filed the first of what he said would be 1.3 million petition signatures, more than enough to get the measure on the 2016 state ballot, he said. Neither Draper nor his representatives in the Six Californias campaign could be reached immediately Thursday for comment.
Los Angeles Times
Parking ticket scam...?
Judge calls into question how L.A. handles parking ticket challenges
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has called into question the way L.A. handles parking tickets, saying city employees should review challenges to tickets instead of outsourcing the task to a private company. City workers issue parking tickets, but Los Angeles hires Xerox to process the citations. Xerox, in turn, uses a subcontractor -- PRWT Services -- to review challenges to the tickets. That initial review is the first step for drivers who want to contest their tickets. The arrangement was challenged in a lawsuit filed by Cody Weiss, whose request for a review and reconsideration of a parking ticket was rejected. Weiss claimed he was wrongly cited for remaining in a space for more than two hours, when he had moved his car during that period. His attorney Caleb Marker said Thursday that Xerox and its subcontractor had an "inherent conflict of interest" between judging challenges and processing paperwork for each case. In the legal complaint, Marker alleged that PRWT workers had roughly three minutes to review each ticket challenge because employees were required to process "20 pieces of correspondence per hour," including initial reviews of ticket challenges. In a tentative decision, Judge James Chalfant did not address Weiss' claim that he was wrongly ticketed. Rather, citing state law, he found that the city improperly passed off ticket reviews to Xerox and its subcontractor. The city must "conduct the initial review, and it may not delegate that task to its processing agency, Xerox," the tentative decision stated. Marker said the tentative ruling means "the city is going to have to change the way it does business." He said Xerox can still handle some parts of parking ticket processing, but the city itself must review challenges to parking citations.
Hideous CHP strategy -- vilify the victim
CHP seizes medical records of woman seen punched
California Highway Patrol investigators have seized the medical records of a woman seen on video being repeatedly punched by one of its officers on the side of a Los Angeles freeway. Chris Arevalo, executive administrator for psychiatric services at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, confirmed that the CHP served the search warrant Tuesday for Marlene Pinnock's records. Pinnock's attorney, Caree Harper, said she was notified by Arevalo on Wednesday and told the search warrant was for "property or things that are evidence that tend to show that a felony has been committed or tends to show that a particular person has committed a felony." Harper said the CHP took files that included statements to her doctor about how she was feeling and references to her attorney. She said she was outraged by the violation of doctor-patient privacy and attorney-client privilege. Harper has said she plans to file a federal lawsuit alleging civil rights violations and will hold a news conference Thursday. "She suffered a traumatic head injury," Harper said. "How can you give away files about someone injured ... to the very people who beat her?" The now-viral video shot July 1 by a passing driver shows Pinnock, 51, being repeatedly punched as she's straddled by the officer. The officer, who has 1 1/2 years on the job, hasn't been identified and is on desk duty pending completion of the internal investigation. The incident has drawn outrage from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who called it police brutality and demanded the officer be fired, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Los Angeles Times
Another day of vicious brutality (and a cover-up) for the LAPD
LAPD investigating officer videotaped punching, kicking female in jail
Los Angeles police officials are investigating a male officer videotaped punching and kicking a female suspect in a jail holding cell, according to two LAPD officials with knowledge of the incident. The altercation occurred in the jail at the LAPD's Van Nuys station in either February or March, according to one of the officials, who requested anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. An investigator reviewed a video of the beating from a security camera that seemed to contradict the officer's account of why he needed to use force on the suspect, the source said. Citing the ongoing investigation, the official declined to detail what the video showed or what the officer claims occurred. The officer delivered multiple kicks and punches until other officers entered the holding cell, according to the official. It was not immediately known whether the woman required medical attention afterward. Word of the investigation comes on the same day that prosecutors announced assault charges against another LAPD officer, who is accused of striking a man repeatedly in the legs with a baton as he was on his knees trying to surrender.
Los Angeles Times
Bush-bot federal judge rules California death penalty unconstitutional
Incompetent state government can't even get executions right
In an indictment of California's death penalty, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that decades-long delays and uncertainty about whether condemned inmates will ever be executed violate the constitution's ban on cruel or unusual punishment. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, was unprecedented and likely to further inflame the debate over the state's death penalty. Several prominent judges have excoriated California's death penalty for its dysfunction, but Carney was the first to rule the delays amounted to a constitutional violation and left the system without any legitimate purpose. For decades, California's inmates have argued that the death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and courts have routinely dismissed the claim. But Carney focused on how the state enforces the death penalty and ordered lawyers to present written arguments on it. California's system, "where so many are sentenced to death but only a random few are actually executed, would offend the most fundamental of constitutional protections — that the government shall not be permitted to arbitrarily inflict the ultimate punishment of death," wrote Carney, who serves in Orange County. Carney noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed.
Jerry Brown puts advisory question on ballot without his signature
Gov. Jerry Brown will allow the placement of an advisory question on the November ballot asking whether Congress should amend the Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision, but he did so only grudgingly. Brown’s office announced Wednesday that the Democratic governor would allow legislation placing the question on the ballot to become law without his signature. In a letter to lawmakers the previous day, Brown criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark campaign finance case but said “we should not make it a habit to clutter our ballots with nonbinding measures as citizens rightfully assume that their votes are meant to have legal effect.” Brown’s Department of Finance had opposed the legislation, Senate Bill 1272, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, citing the cost of printing and mailing additional ballot pages. He wrote that he was willing to put the measure on the ballot, despite his reservations, “given the Legislature’s commitment on this issue.”
Investigation says state managers manipulated system, lied, to cover illegal promotion
The State Personnel Board’s more aggressive pursuit of hiring shenanigans and promotion miscues in state government may be bearing fruit: A new report says a state personnel officer manipulated the civil service system to promote an unqualified employee and a manager displayed “blatant dishonesty” to mislead an investigator. Although Tyra Gilmer and Monica Rea have transferred from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, both still face discipline. They could lose their jobs. The investigation released this week follows a January lambasting of the department for promoting Angelina Endsley into a job for which she had neither the education nor experience. Endsley applied for the position believing she was qualified, the State Personnel Board decided, but Fair Employment officials knew better. So the board ordered a deeper investigation to find out who did what and when. It was the first time in memory that a personnel investigation called out a department for acting in bad faith and not merely bad judgment, and a sign that a 2-year-old auditing program is cutting teeth. Administrative Law Judge Bruce Monfross’ report says that Gilmer, a personnel officer at the civil rights watchdog department, essentially picked who won a prized discrimination-investigator job by using a candidate list that included Endsley but excluded far more qualified applicants. When questions arose about Endsley’s qualifications, Gilmer went to Rea and the department’s attorney, Tim Muscat, to get their opinion. She should have checked with personnel experts, the report says.
Los Angeles Times
Billionaire makes final push to bar public access to Martin's Beach
Vinod Khosla kicks neighbors off public beach, tells Coastal Commission to piss off!
A San Mateo County Superior Court judge heard closing arguments Wednesday in the latest battle over access through private land to a beloved beach — one that could lead to the U.S. Supreme Court. Among the questions raised that are likely to be further contested: whether a private property owner can be compelled to provide public beach access just because his predecessor did, and whether the California Coastal Commission is within constitutional bounds when it negotiates for such access in exchange for coastal development permits. The case involves Martin's Beach, south of Half Moon Bay, which for decades was visited by thousands of locals who picnicked, surfed and fished for smelt in its protective cove. The former owners granted beachgoers their only way to the beach by land — via a dirt road — and charged a small fee for parking. But two years after billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla acquired the parcels in 2008 his manager locked the gate, painted over a sign that had beckoned Highway 1 travelers and posted security guards to ward off trespassers. He did so despite being told by county planning officials, the Coastal Commission and a different San Mateo County Superior Court in 2009 that he needed to seek a coastal development permit if any of his actions were to change the "intensity of use" of the water or access to it. The judge in that proceeding also told him he could not challenge the access issue in court until he had sought the permit. The nonprofit Surfrider Foundation sued last year on narrow grounds, contending that Khosla intentionally flouted that administrative process. The foundation is asking that the co-founder of Sun Microsystems known for his alternative energy investments be fined the maximum of $15,000 a day dating back to the October 2010 gate closure — an amount that would total about $20 million.
Crime rampant in Lib-topia
San Jose: Trail attack starts busy 24 hours for police amid mid-year increase in violent crime
A man was hospitalized after likely being stabbed by a hostile group he encountered on a walking trail downtown early Monday, but that was just the start for police. The next 24 hours in the city would see a suspected baseball bat melee -- also downtown -- an armed robbery, an armed home-invasion robbery and a car stop that yielded two suspected felons carrying assault-rifle ammunition and meth and led to the discovery of a storage locker filled with allegedly stolen property. It was categorized as a "busy" span for the San Jose Police Department, said police spokesman Officer Albert Morales. It also comes amid mid-year figures that show an approximately 4 percent increase in violent crime compared with the first six months of 2013. While homicides are down from 24 to 19 through the end of June, that was offset by upticks in robberies -- up 7 percent -- rapes, and aggravated assaults. "That is obviously a cause for concern," Morales said. Property crimes are down 9 percent, but that is tempered by the fact that the city saw a 30-percent spike two years ago; so while an improvement, it could just as easily be viewed as a leveling off from the meteoric rise in 2012.
California adopts $500 criminal penalty for water waste
It will now be considered a criminal act to waste water in California. On Tuesday, amid evidence that existing conservation measures are not working, the State Water Resources Control Board took the unprecedented step of declaring certain types of water waste a criminal infraction similar to a speeding violation. Water use deemed excessive – such as allowing landscape watering to spill into streets, and hosing off sidewalks and driveways – can be subject to fines of $500 per day. Californians as a whole have failed to conserve water during the worst drought in a generation, according to data reviewed by the board at its meeting Tuesday in Sacramento. Residential and business water use in California rose 1 percent in May compared to a three-year average of the same month from 2011 to 2013, according to a recent survey of 276 water agencies. Those agencies represent about two-thirds of all urban water users in the state. That is a long way from the 20 percent conservation target Gov. Jerry Brown set in his emergency drought proclamation in January. Officials acknowledge conservation may have improved since May, as the severity of the drought has come to broader public attention and more water agencies adopted conservation measures. Even so, as a result of these findings and the ongoing drought, the water board unanimously adopted mandatory statewide conservation rules that now apply to every municipal water agency in the state. The measure requires water agencies to impose mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering, according to their existing regulations, if they have not already done so. For agencies that do not have such regulations on their books, the measure requires agencies to limit outdoor watering to two days per week.
UC Davis study finds drought will cost California billions
California’s dogged drought will cost the state’s economy $2.2 billion and an estimated 17,100 jobs, but consumers will largely be spared higher prices, according to a major study released Tuesday. The pain is not felt equally, experts at the University of California, Davis warn, and there could be more over the horizon as precious groundwater levels fall in what the study calls the “greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture.” “On average, it’s not so bad,” said Richard Howitt, an emeritus professor of agricultural economics at U.C. Davis, “but in certain parts of the Central Valley, it’s extremely bad.” Howitt cited, in particular, the “pockets of pain and poverty” in the Tulare Basin in the valley’s southern reaches. The overall socioeconomic impacts are “likely to be significantly higher” than those in the state’s 2009 drought, analysts say, because water deliveries are lower. Statewide, all told, an estimated 428,000 acres of irrigated cropland have gone out of production, amounting to 5 percent of the state’s total. Because growers are diverting scarce water supplies to high-value crops, the analysts say that most of the fallowing has affected feed and other annual crops. Less than 13 percent of the Central Valley’s fallowed land had been planted in higher-value crops like nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Tim Draper submits signatures in bid to split California into six states
Tim Draper began submitting signatures Tuesday for his ballot measure to split California into six states, likely destining the initiative, once widely laughed off, for the November 2016 ballot. Draper, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, said his campaign will deliver 1.3 million signatures to elections offices around the state this week. Slightly more than 800,000 valid voter signatures are needed to qualify for the ballot. Even if its ultimate chances are dim – redrawing state lines would require an act of Congress – the idea stands to remain in public view for at least another two years. The measure would also have some practical implications short of creating new states. If passed, the measure would create a layer of government within each region and would give charter counties more autonomy on tax and development issues. “Nobody took it seriously,” Steve Maviglio, a political consultant working against the initiative, said of initial reaction to Draper’s initiative. Now, he said, “you’ve got to.” Draper has self-funded his campaign, pouring $4.9 million into the effort so far. Asked if he would fund the campaign himself going forward, Draper said, “Gosh, I hope not.” But outside the elections office, when he was asked who would pay the salaries of campaign consultants, Draper said he would “continue to support the campaign.”
State watchdog launches review of Sacramento County supervisor
California’s political watchdog agency has begun reviewing votes by Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters to determine whether she violated state law by approving projects at Mather Field near her commercial property. The state Fair Political Practices Commission launched the review in response to a Sunday article in The Sacramento Bee, said Gary Winuk, chief of the commission’s enforcement division. Since becoming a county supervisor in 2005, Peters has voted for dozens of improvements at Mather Field despite having an ownership interest in two office buildings and land at the former air base. The commission should decide within a week whether to open a formal investigation of Peters, Winuk said. She faces a civil fine of up to $5,000 for each violation if regulators determine she has violated the Political Reform Act. Peters has a financial stake in 17 acres of land and two large office buildings across the street from county-operated Mather Airport. Sutter Health, Xerox and the California Emergency Management Agency are tenants in her buildings. As a supervisor, she has approved plans for $75 million in improvements for runways, buildings and technology at the airport, and she has voted to authorize $25 million in funding for streets, drainage and other infrastructure at Mather. The state Emergency Management Agency chose to locate at Mather in part because of the airport, which it uses to fly to disasters across the state, and Peters’ property firm uses the airport’s “superior facilities” as a selling point in promoting the land to potential buyers. State law assumes that a conflict of interest exists when an elected official owns property within 500 feet of a public project unless no financial gain can be proved.
Susan Peters should have avoided airport conflict
When you’re an elected official, you sometimes have to bend over backward to keep the public’s trust, especially when it comes to money matters. That brings us to the case of Susan Peters, the Sacramento County supervisor whose support for taxpayer-funded projects at Mather Field have come into question because she has a financial stake in land and office buildings nearby. While interpretation of the conflict-of-interest rules can get complicated, it’s awfully difficult to argue that Peters did not receive any discernible benefits from the taxpayer spending at Mather.
Did cop on cell phone run down and kill old man...?
Family of cyclist killed by deputy’s car in Calabasas to file suit against Los Angeles County
Lawyers representing the family of cyclist Milton Olin Jr., who was fatally struck by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car in Calabasas in December, plan to file a lawsuit against the county Wednesday in an effort to uncover information about the incident, attorneys said. Olin, a prominent entertainment industry attorney, was cycling in the same direction as the marked black-and-white in the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway when the car struck him in the bicycle lane about 1:05 p.m. on Dec. 8, according to sheriff’s officials. The 65-year-old former Napster executive from Woodland Hills was pronounced dead at the scene, and Deputy Andrew Wood was treated at a hospital for minor injuries. The Sheriff’s Department Traffic Services Detail investigated the case and forwarded its findings to the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office in May. The D.A.’s Office has yet to make a decision on whether to file charges against Wood. “This accident should have never happened,” attorney Bruce Broillet said in a statement. “The negligence of a sheriff’s deputy caused this terrible tragedy.” Witnesses said the patrol car “failed to negotiate the left curve in the roadway and proceeded straight into the bicycle lane,” according to an investigator’s report filed in May in Los Angeles Superior Court, adding they did not see any brake lights on the radio car until after they saw Olin’s body in the air. “It appears that Deputy Wood may have been distracted by using his cellular telephone or viewing and/or using the mobile digital computer (MDC) in his radio car at the time of the collision,” Detective Russell A. Townsley said in an affidavit in support of a search warrant for the cellphone records.
Oakland PD's Quan crash cover-up falling apart...?
In reversal, police can't say if Oakland Mayor Jean Quan used phone during crash
In a sudden reversal, police said Tuesday they were wrong to publicly rule out the possibility that Mayor Jean Quan was on her cellphone at the time of her June car crash. It turned out that investigators were unable to determine if Quan was using her phone, just as they were unable to determine which driver was at fault for the crash. Police said a department spokesman late Friday issued a statement that "ruled out" the use of a cellphone by either driver because he mistakenly referenced a report provided by the officer who responded to the crash rather than the investigators' report. "We're accepting (this mistake); we're owning it," police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. "We all understand and agree that when you go into the report, the investigator determines that he was unable to determine if the cellphone was used." Officer Frank Bonifacio sent out the incorrect statement Friday. The June 8 crash at the intersection of 26th and Market streets generated a lot of negative attention for the mayor because it came less than a week after television reports showing her using her cellphone while driving. The other driver, Lakisha Lovely, told police in writing the accident occurred at approximately 5:32 p.m. Her stepson, who was in the car with her, told police 5:30 p.m. Phone records show Quan made calls at 5:29 p.m. and 5:31 p.m. She originally said the accident occurred at about 5:30 p.m. But she crossed out that time in her written statement and changed it to 5:25 p.m. -- three minutes after she used her phone to access the Internet.
Orange County Register
Another lie from the police...
Full $1 million Dorner reward won't be paid
L.A. isn’t making good on pledge...neither are police unions
The entire $1 million reward offered for the capture of fugitive homicide suspect Christopher Dorner will not be paid out because some donors canceled their pledges when the terms – arrest and conviction – were not met, the Los Angeles mayor’s office said. That was disappointing news to the recipients – all Inland residents at the time the reward was posted in February 2013 – who said the city had promised to make up the difference and pay the full $1 million. Instead, about $886,000 was paid out, according to the city. Vicki Curry, spokeswoman for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, said Garcetti pressed those donors this year for their money. Among them, the city of Riverside had offered $100,000, the Peace Officers Research Association of California had committed $50,000 and the Los Angeles Police Protective League had put up an undisclosed amount.
Now the government can send you to the Cuckoo's Nest
Los Angeles County approves court-ordered mental health care
A law that allows court-ordered outpatient care for those with severe mental illnesses was adopted Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Don Knabe absent, now means the county’s Department of Mental Health can move forward with an assisted outpatient treatment program and conduct community outreach to identify chronic mentally ill individuals in need of treatment. The vote also approves funding for more slots in existing mental health treatment programs. About $10 million in state mental health and federal funds will be used to expand the program. But opponents of the law have raised concerns about civil liberty violations among those who are most vulnerable, while those in support have said there are cost savings to the program.
CHP boss calls for more training in wake of beating
Feckless Commissioner Joseph Farrow continues to defend brutal, sadistic, psychopath cop
California’s Highway Patrol officers need far more training on how to handle mentally ill citizens, the department’s top officer said Monday. “The need for more (training) has been exposed,” CHP Commissioner Joseph Farrow said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board. His remarks came two weeks after a unnamed officer was captured on video repeatedly striking a 51-year-old woman by the side of a Southern California freeway. A passerby’s recording of the incident went viral and drew comparisons the 1991 Rodney King beating. A number of civil rights groups and Rep. Maxine Waters have accused the unnamed patrolman of using excessive force on an African-American person who may have been confused or mentally ill. Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, president of the Los Angeles branch of NAACP, said she doubted inadequate training contributed to the confrontation between the officer and Marlene Pinnock, who was walking barefoot and reportedly veering in and out of traffic on Interstate 10 before the confrontation. “Some things you can’t train,” Hadley-Hempstead said Monday afternoon. “The officer seemed so comfortable beating that lady. It sickens my soul.” The patrolman in the video had received 12 total hours of training related to dealing with mentally ill people, Farrow said, including six cadet academy hours mandated by a commission that sets California’s peace officer training standards. The academy runs 1,000 hours. All CHP officers took another six hours of training between July 1, 2013 and June 30 as part of a departmentwide refresher on the subject. The officer in the video took his refresher training “in April or May,” said Farrow, who wants to increase training for handling mentally ill contacts to 40 hours for the department’s 7,300 uniformed employees. The NAACP and other groups are skeptical that the CHP can police itself and have called for an independent investigation. “(The officer) has done a disservice to the Highway Patrol, to black women and to people in general,” Hadley-Hempstead said. “That day should have been his last day as a Highway Patrol officer.”
Six Californias measure seems headed for 2016 ballot
Once easily mistaken for political satire, venture capitalist Tim Draper's "Six Californias" ballot measure to tear the Golden State asunder seems bound for the November 2016 ballot. While it's sure to become fodder for late-night talk show hosts, the measure still faces tremendous hurdles, not the least of which is money: Draper so far is the only contributor. And even if California voters approve the measure, splitting the state still would require action by Congress.
Cops continue to shake-down taxpayers...
Los Angeles considers next step after rejected LAPD contract
With the overwhelming rejection of the proposed one-year contract offered to Los Angeles Police Department officers this past weekend, city officials Monday were trying to determine the next step to take in new negotiations with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, as well as determine the impact of those continuing talks on other unions. Aides to Mayor Eric Garcetti has said his goal is to have a contract he considers “fiscally responsible,” though he would not comment further on the issue. The Executive Employee Relations Committee, which determines the city’s bargaining position, will meet when the City Council returns from its recess to determine what it can bring to additional discussions. City Council President Herb Wesson issued a statement that he is prepared to keep negotiating with the Protective League when the union is ready to get back to the table. The initial proposal called for no salary increase but the start of cash payouts for overtime. City leaders had hoped the plan to compensate for overtime retroactively and authorize $70 million in overtime this year would offset the rank-and-file’s desire for a pay raise. But Protective League President Tyler Izen said the lack of any raise was a deal breaker for the officers. “The city absolutely refused to provide any cost-of-living adjustment,” he said. “I mean, that was it. Our members have sacrificed for five years now. “They just think that when times were tough, they sacrificed, and now times are getting better, and we believe, rightfully so, that we’re entitled to see some change in that.”
Orange County Register
Prominent Orange County lawyer charged in blackmail attempt of Saudi sheikh
Joseph Cavallo, convicted in 2007 for his part in a bail bonds scheme, is back in court in Los Angeles County
Orange County attorney Joseph Cavallo, once part of former sheriff Mike Carona’s inner circle and convicted in a 2007 bail scam, is in trouble again. Cavallo, Irvine attorney Emanuel Hudson and German national Leyla Ors are accused in Los Angeles County of attempting to blackmail one of the wealthiest men in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Monsur Albalwi. Cavallo, 58, Hudson, 58, and Ors, 33, are charged with attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to receive a bribe and conspiracy to obstruct justice. In addition, Ors is charged with one count of offering to receive a bribe by a witness. If convicted, the defendants could each face up to four years in state prison. The charges against Cavallo come more than three years after he won back his ability to practice law following the bail scam – in which he illegally used bail agents to drum up business for his law firm. Cavallo first earned notoriety as a legal confidante to Carona, who is in federal prison on a charge of jury tampering.
Los Angeles Times
Citigroup to pay $7 billion to settle subprime mortgage investigation
Giveback represents merely a small fraction of what they were able to suck out of the pockets of consumers
Citigroup Inc. said Monday it has agreed to pay $7 billion to settle federal and state investigations into the sale of defective mortgage investments during the subprime housing boom. California is among several states that will share in the settlement, one of the largest to come from probes into the role of Wall Street banks in helping trigger the 2008 financial crisis. Citi will pay California $102.7 million to offset losses of its public pension funds on mortgage bonds purchased from Citi and its affiliates. Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris' office said California also is guaranteed at least $90 million in consumer relief, the most of any state. Citigroup, the nation’s third-largest bank by assets, said it would pay $4.5 billion in fines and $2.5 billion in consumer relief. The consumer relief will come from principal reductions and other assistance for struggling borrowers as well as financing the bank will provide for building and preserving affordable rental housing, Citigroup said.
Internet Companies Want More Influence In California Legislature
The Internet has come a long way from the days of dial-up connections. Online companies now make up a significant portion of the global economy. And Internet businesses are also the focus of an increasing amount of legislation. Now those companies say they want a voice in how that legislation is written. Old and new ways of living clashed at the California Capitol this legislative session. Drivers from the Internet based ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft flooded a committee hearing to protest proposed regulations for their industry. Traditional taxi drivers gathered to support the tougher rules. Senator Alex Padilla noted the discussion was one that wouldn’t have happened a few years ago. “The wonderful challenge that we have on complex issues like this is, in large part, driven by technology and innovation and things that 50 years ago people wouldn’t have imagined, forcing important public policy questions," he says. Those policy questions are being debated more frequently and Robert Callahan wants to have a role in answering them. Callahan is the Executive Director of the California branch of The Internet Association. That’s a relatively new lobbying group that represents many large Internet companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Twitter, Yahoo, Yelp, Uber and Lyft. The Association lobbies on issues at the federal level in Washington DC and just opened a California office, its only state branch. Callahan says there’s plenty to work on.
Los Angeles Times
L.A. teachers union leader Caputo-Pearl links activism to strike
The new leader of the Los Angeles teachers union signaled a more militant stance toward the school district, including the possibility of a strike, at a national teachers union convention held downtown this weekend. Alex Caputo-Pearl, who took office July 1, characterized a work stoppage as a potentially effective part of broader social action to benefit students as well as their instructors. His remarks drew cheers at the weekend convention of the American Federation of Teachers; in an interview, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy also sought to reach teachers, urging them to agree to terms similar to those achieved by other employee unions in the nation’s second-largest school system. Caputo-Pearl, 45, spoke at a Saturday-night panel with other teachers union leaders, including Michael Mulgrew from New York City and Karen Lewis from Chicago. Lewis, who sat to the right of Caputo-Pearl, led Chicago teachers on a 2012 strike, an experience for which she was celebrated at the convention. The new L.A. union leader framed his remarks around defining “social movement unionism,” which he said is “explicit about fighting for racial and social justice. It’s explicit in fighting against privatization. It’s explicit in taking people on who need to be taken on, including a lot of Democrats.” He added: “It’s a unionism that is willing to strike. It’s a unionism that is willing to build to a strike and strike if that’s what we need to do.” Caputo-Pearl added that he’d already advised members by letter to begin putting aside savings for a possible strike. He also announced a major internal reorganization within United Teachers Los Angeles and signaled his intention to seek higher member dues to make the union a more effective political force. UTLA is seeking a 17.6% raise over “multiple years.”
Los Angeles Times
Cops to Garcetti: Bad cops stay, and give us more money!
L.A. police officers vote to reject one-year contract extension
Voicing their frustration over issues surrounding pay and discipline, Los Angeles police officers have rejected a proposed one-year contract extension that avoided raises for most workers. Officials with the Police Protective League, the union that represents 9,900 rank-and-file cops, said Saturday that a majority of those who cast ballots over the last week voted against the contract, which had been reached with Mayor Eric Garcetti and city negotiators. Union officials declined to release the vote tally. "There is a deep-seated frustration and anger among the officers caused by their low pay, working conditions, a disciplinary system that is viewed as biased and unfair, and their perception that management is unreceptive to their problems," union President Tyler Izen said in a statement. Union officials spent the last week trying to sell the contract to police officers in a series of closed-door meetings. But it was a tough sell. The agreement dramatically hiked the amount of cash available to pay officers for overtime, from $15 million last year to $70 million starting July 1, but gave no raises to most officers.
California gains in economic rankings, but it’s a mixed bag
Were California a nation, we learned last week, its $2.2 trillion economy could claim eighth place in international economic standings, having bypassed Italy and Russia in the last year. The news symbolizes to many, particularly those in politics, that California has completely weathered the worst recession since the Great Depression and is once again leading the nation, if not the world, in economic progress. That interpretation, however, does not comport with the decidedly mixed bag of what’s really happening in our economy. For one thing, California leaped over Italy and Russia – and may be poised to rise another notch or two – not so much because of outstanding growth in the state’s output of goods and services, but because its rivals’ economies have been sputtering. We have not produced enough jobs to cover labor force growth during the last half-decade, too many new jobs are low-paying or part-time, and our jobless rate is still the nation’s fifth-highest. Moreover, our recovery has been very spotty, concentrated in a few regions – the San Francisco Bay Area, most obviously – with booming technology sectors. Inland California continues to feel the recession’s effects with double-digit unemployment rates common, topped by 21 percent in Imperial County.
Billionaire Tom Steyer is becoming the liberal who conservatives love to hate
You might think last week didn’t start out happy for Tom Steyer, the San Francisco billionaire who is spending his money and time trying to save the earth by fighting climate change. The front page of the Monday New York Times described Steyer in so many words as being a hypocrite for having run a hedge fund that “pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into companies that operate coal mines and coal-fire power plants,” including an especially nasty 4,000-acre Australian coal mine. It didn’t get much better the next day when a Wall Street Journal columnist piled on with an opening line that read: “Tom Steyer ruined the planet before he offered to save it.” Investors Business Daily and newspapers in Montana chimed in, too, alleging he essentially is buying off Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other politicians by opening his checkbook wide to help Democrats who, like Steyer, are convinced of the threat of climate change. To bring about political change, Steyer is employing that old-fashioned red-blooded billionaire technique of spending money. Although a budget of $100 million has been widely reported, Steyer won’t specify how much he intends to spend to elect climate-change allies this year, except to say he has not met a political consultant who knows how to spell the word “budget.”
|Contra Costa Times
Time to step back and compromise on Chevron refinery upgrades
Five years after a judge halted work on Chevron's modernization project at its Richmond refinery because of inadequate environmental review, a divided City Council is poised to vote night on a scaled-back alternative. More work has gone into preparation of this plan and the analysis of its effects. But the gap between environmentalists and the oil company remains. Chevron should take a holistic approach. Furthermore, the company should look for opportunities to reduce pollution locally before mitigating environmental effects with improvements elsewhere. When Chevron officials say "trust us," they forget that we once did.
Political activists increasingly turn to courts for their causes
The passage of Proposition 13 – California’s landmark property tax limit – in 1978 marked a major, even radical, change in how the state makes public policy. Ballot measures, some from the political right and some from the left, proliferated during the ensuing decades as the Capitol’s policymaking role diminished. The governor and the Legislature became subsidiary and reactive to what was happening in the initiative arena, even to the point that politicians themselves began using the ballot. That syndrome hit a high – or low – point in 2005 when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, declaring it to be a “year of reform,” tried, but failed, to win voter approval for four far-reaching ballot measures. Ever since then, the number and scope of ballot measures have declined. Only occasionally, most notably with the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in 2008, have ballot measures represented major policy issues. More often, they have been relatively narrow efforts by specific interest groups. If ballot measures filled the vacuum created by legislative dysfunction in the decades since 1978, what now is filling the void that their fading presence leaves? The courts.
Raoul Lowery Contreras
Ethnic political hacks snub their own
In 2012, Marine Col. Rocky Chavez, a former acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs under Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Jerry Brown (D) and elected Oceanside city councilman, was overwhelmingly elected to the State Assembly, having carried every precinct in the district. He was and is totally issue-oriented. He finds much common ground with others who share his concerns about education and immigration and joined several bipartisan efforts in the Assembly on a resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform, on allowing an illegal alien to practice law and other efforts found lacking in general Republican support. When he arrived in the state capitol, he mentioned to Democratic colleagues that he would like to be involved in the Latino Legislative Caucus so he could work with its members on bipartisan issues. He never heard back from the group.
For bullet train, hopeful headlines but old trouble
Backers of the bullet train have been shouting “all aboard” again, trying to encourage a rush of support for Gov. Jerry Brown’s $68 billion project to link the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas at 200 mph. Their fans in the California Legislature pushed through a plan to use cap-and-trade revenue, meant to combat greenhouse-gas emissions, to help fund the high-speed-rail project. Saying that cap-and-trade will provide just the sort of stable funding stream that makes the bullet train viable, they were able to wangle murmurs of interest from private investors from the United States and Europe, winning some positive headlines. And while all of this was going on, they made a move to build political support here in L.A. County by floating a plan to move up construction of a segment between Burbank and Palmdale. So, amid these small indications that the bullet train is heading in the right direction, is it time to jump on board No. We recommend staying in the station — and keeping a close eye on your valuables.
Brown’s appointees will nudge state Supreme Court leftward
The U.S. Supreme Court has undergone very obvious ideological cycles – depending on who happened to be in the White House when vacancies occurred. Currently, the court has what might be called a 4-4-1 lineup, with four conservatives appointed by Republican presidents, four liberals appointed by Democrats and one GOP-appointed swing vote in Sacramento’s Anthony Kennedy. California’s Supreme Court, arguably the nation’s most influential state court, has been no less prone to such swings. And with two appointments already and at least one more coming during his second governorship, Jerry Brown may be nudging it leftward – albeit not as far as his father Pat Brown did, nor as far as Brown 1.0 attempted to do.
Citizen cellphone videos help monitor police
A California Highway Patrol officer straddles a woman near an exit ramp on Interstate 10 in Los Angeles. He is punching her in the face -- pummeling her like a boxer while she writhes on her back, trying to fend off the blows. Chances are we would have never known anything about this July 1 incident, which has now been all over the news, were it not for the fact that a man named David Diaz happened to be driving by moments earlier. Diaz, who was in a car with three other people, stopped when he saw a CHP officer attempting to arrest a woman walking on the freeway. He turned on his cellphone and captured the officer as he started punching the woman in full view of passers-by. Diaz uploaded the video to YouTube. It went viral. You can't watch the clip of the beating -- the relentlessness of the blows -- and not be sickened. "This is a grown man punching to the point where she could have died out there," Diaz later told KNBC 4. Oakland attorney John Burris is a member of the legal team representing Marlene Pinnock, 51, who has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the CHP. Burris, who represented Rodney King and Oscar Grant's family in civil suits where citizen video of police actions played a major role, said Diaz's cellphone video will be a key piece of evidence. Regardless of what may have occurred in the moments before the beating, Burris says, "The video shows that he (the officer) was throwing punch after punch at her while she was in a subservient position." The video is exhibit A for why citizens should have a right to videotape the police going about their official duties in public places. Given the value of citizen-produced video in helping to hold police officers accountable, the right to videotape the police is worth fighting for.
Shootout for Los Angeles County board may be most interesting race
In an otherwise lackluster campaign season, California’s most interesting political duel may be one for a rare vacancy on the five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. It’s interesting because a supervisor’s seat in a county that’s more populous (10 million-plus) than all but eight states is a powerful political prize. And it’s interesting because of the two candidates who survived the June primary. A few decades ago, when all members were white men, the board was known colloquially as the “five little kings.” It’s more diverse these days, and its five seats have been carefully apportioned by the board itself – one African American seat, one Latino seat, one Jewish seat (all Democratic) and two Republican seats. Latino activists believe that with half of the county’s population, they should have another seat.
State Fair shows California’s youthful talent, but for how long?
When you get past stands selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs and ignore booths peddling the latest kitchen gadgets, not to mention seemingly dozens of liquor purveyors, there are a couple of spots at the State Fair that should bolster your faith in California’s future. One is in the fairgrounds’ southeastern corner, where hundreds of youngsters from 4-H and Future Farmers clubs tend their livestock. The other is across the fairgrounds in a block of concrete exhibit buildings, where machines, instruments and other devices, designed and built by students enrolled in what used to be called “vocational education,” are on display. The exhibits would be impressive were they the handiwork of adult professionals. The designs are clever, the workmanship is precise, and the time students devote to their projects is immense. These are the kids who will design, build and maintain our houses, our cars, our electronic devices and the other products we will use later in the century, and in doing so will keep California’s economy functioning – maybe.
Los Angeles Times
Punished for saving water
Talk about mixed messages: While Gov. Jerry Brown is warning that California faces its worst drought since record-keeping began and regulators have approved fines of up to $500 for wasting water, some Southern California cities are continuing to issue warnings and citations to residents who let their lawns go brown. It's tone deaf and irresponsible to preach conservation and then slap people with penalties when they actually conserve water.
Democrats place pointless advisory measure on ballot, but why?
The Legislature’s Democrats voted to place an advisory measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, asking voters whether Congress should pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s highly controversial ruling removing barriers on corporate contributions in federal campaigns. This week, Gov. Jerry Brown allowed the measure, Senate Bill 1272, to become law without his signature. It’s a dicey situation in several respects.
Overwatering is a crime – except for state’s biggest water user
California hasn’t quite come to threatening unrepentant water wasters with time in the big house. But emergency rules adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board Tuesday do take the state a lot closer to criminalizing the squandering of a precious resource. It’s an unpleasant but necessary measure. As a study by UC Davis makes clear, the ongoing drought hurts the state’s economy. It’s a pain that trickles down to all of us, even those already doing their part to cut back. But it is frustrating that agriculture has been let off the hook. It’s unfair to put the entire conservation onus on residents, who have done so much. In fact, the ag industry has put an even greater burden on the state’s dwindling water supplies by overdrafting groundwater to sustain water-sucking permanent crops like almonds and growing alfalfa for export. Many water-conscious farmers have adopted voluntary conservation measures and should be commended, but they are the exceptions.
State has done two big deals with Leon Black, and both resulted in scandal
Two state agencies have done multibillion-dollar deals with high-flying investment banker Leon Black, and both have resulted in scandals, two decades apart. Black was a top aide to junk bond king Michael Milken in floating billions of dollars of high-interest corporate debt during the 1980s, but survived the legal bloodbath that sent Milken to prison. After Milken’s 1989 downfall, Black struck out on his own, and soon signed up some French investors seeking to purchase a multibillion-dollar portfolio of junk bonds held by Executive Life Insurance that Black had helped assemble. In 1991, just weeks after becoming California’s first elected insurance commissioner, John Garamendi seized Executive Life, contending that its junk bond portfolio was too risky to support payments to more than 300,000 retirees and annuitants.
It’s open season in Capitol for rent-seekers
Economist Anne Osborn Krueger coined the term “rent-seeking” in 1974, the year in which Jerry Brown was first elected governor. There is a connection between those two events. “Rent-seekers” came to mean those who use government to enhance their ostensibly private investments. With countless billions of dollars floating around, rent-seekers have proliferated and none has benefited more than Elon Musk. The sky’s the limit for rent-seekers these days.
Is it a crime to be a career politician?
The district attorney’s case against former Councilman Richard Alarcón is taking an odd twist. Rather than rely solely on whether or not he lives within the boundaries of his council district, the office is arguing that his main offense is being a “career politician.” During the trial last week, Deputy District Attorney Michele Gilmer repeatedly invoked the term, saying Alarcón was someone who moved from Los Angeles to Sacramento and back again whenever a more favorable political office opened up. But if he is to be convicted of that, what do we do about other politicians? Look at Gov. Jerry Brown, who began his career on the Los Angeles Community College board, then took a series of state jobs in Sacramento — including secretary of state and governor — then served as Oakland mayor, before returning to Sacramento as attorney general and, again, governor. City Hall now has eight elected officials who have come down from Sacramento, starting with City Attorney Mike Feuer and Council President Herb Wesson. Some came after their time in state office ended, but others left midterm when a city job became vacant.
Stockton bankruptcy judge seeks fnal answer on pension status
Ever since Stockton filed for bankruptcy two years ago, Judge Christopher Klein has strongly hinted that he’s willing – perhaps even eager – to declare that city employee pension obligations are debts that could be trimmed along with those of more conventional creditors.
Pension reform comes at a price
Finally, Sacramento police officers will start paying into their own pension accounts – a positive step for the city’s financial stability. The new contract ends a yearlong standoff with City Hall and brings police in line with the city’s other major employee unions. But the deal demonstrates yet again that significant savings from pension reform in California won’t come quickly or easily, and that powerful public safety unions can extract costly trade-offs.
Overtime pay should be the exception, not the rule
When Richmond Fire Capt. Angel Bobo collected $279,105 in overtime last year, boosting his total salary to $426,303, alarm bells should have gone off. Even after taking vacation, he had been on the job about 6,500 hours in 2013, or roughly three of every four hours, night and day, for the year. Sure, firefighters, unlike most workers, can sleep while at work, but those numbers are way beyond the pale. No public sector employees should be collecting that much overtime, nor working that many hours -- especially not police and firefighters who should be well-rested to make life-and-death decisions.
Bomber subsidy bill puts liberal legislators on the spot
If you are a liberal Democrat, two of your likely ideological tenets are ending tax breaks and subsidies for corporations and reducing spending on nuclear arms to free up money for health, social and educational services. Assembly Bill 2389 violated both.
California Legislature financial reforms fall way short
Sadly, no one in the room is surprised that the California Legislature conveniently lost interest in enacting significant reforms that might impede its members' access to campaign money. No less an expert than former Golden State political powerhouse Jesse Unruh told us years ago that money was the "mother's milk of politics." He certainly knew whereof he spoke.
CalPERS ‘victory’ a warning to uppity cities
The nation’s largest pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, has racked up another victory in its effort to halt any effort by municipalities to get out from under their crushing pension obligations.
Perez’s recount sends politics into uncharted territory
California politics is meandering into uncharted procedural and legal territory with former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez’s go-for-broke decision to seek a vote recount in his duel with Board of Equalization member Betty Yee for a spot on the November state controller ballot. Pérez spent relatively little on his campaign to win a spot on the ballot but now must put up a lot of money for the recount – leading one to believe that if he had spent a bit more on the primary, he might not be facing his current dilemma.
A mushroom bill on home care workers may backfire
At any given moment, dozens of comatose bills float around the Legislature – vessels to be filled with whatever the powers-that-be want to enact quickly and semi-clandestinely. They often pop up as “trailer bills,” so named because they supposedly implement the state budget. But it’s a common – albeit unethical – practice for legislators to load them up with stuff that has little or nothing to do with the budget and get them passed quickly before opposition develops. This year was no exception as new issues surfaced in budget trailer bills.
They are children, for heaven’s sake...
Immigrant children deserve our compassion, not jeers and taunts
There is only one correct way to view the estimated 52,000 unaccompanied minors who have streamed through the United States-Mexico border over the past year and who are now crowding federal detention facilities: children fleeing desperate, dangerous places who need our help. Instead, they have become political pawns to the anti-immigration forces who are intent on demonizing the children as a way to push their own agenda. It was an unflattering picture of America.
Is mob rule now the American way?
It’s a good time to ask once again, what kind of country are we? In between parades and barbecues, Americans can show their patriotism by being on their best behavior. This didn’t happen the other day in Murrieta. In that city about 90 miles north of San Diego, an angry mob holding placards and shaking fists terrorized a busload of about 140 children and mothers, while chanting “USA, USA.”
Legislators approve a subsidy 'jam job'
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 6-0 on Thursday to provide a $420 million subsidy to a defense contractor even though Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, complained that it was a “jam job” and compared the experience to buying a used car from a salesman who is hiding information. He vowed not to let it happen again. The real question is why the committee — Democrats and Republicans alike — let it happen at all. (And it later was approved by the full Senate and Assembly, and sent to the governor.)
Easy loans a source of college problems
Whenever educational issues are debated in the state Capitol, legislators operate from an unchallenged assumption: more government aid will lead to better opportunities for students. But the plight of a well-known Santa Ana-based private college system shows the reverse may often be true.
Facebook on its mood manipulation study: Another non-apology apology
There may be no company on Earth more experienced at saying "we're sorry, but not really" than Facebook. The latest example concerns the company's now-infamous 2012 psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users, which broke into public consciousness over the weekend when its researchers published their findings in a scientific journal. Speaking in New Delhi, according to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the following: We never meant to upset you. This apology deserves a score of 0.0. What has people upset isn't how Facebook "communicated" the study--it never communicated anything about it until now, two and a half years after the secret study was conducted. As for claiming "we never meant to upset you," arguably the study was designed to upset users--the company manipulated posts in their news feeds to raise and lower their moods. Sandberg's statement falls right into line with the company's habit of mistreating or misleading its users and apologizing, lamely, only after it gets caught. Its strategy is always to plead "guilty, with an explanation."
Should California subsidize new Air Force bomber?
The U.S. Air Force apparently wants to develop a new high-tech strategic bomber – but the scope of the project, or even whether it materializes, is a bit hush-hush. If a new bomber flies, it apparently will be a bidding competition between a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin on one side and Northrop Grumman on the other – but even that is a bit fuzzy. The aerospace giants brought their dogfight to the Capitol on Tuesday as a Senate committee considered – and changed – a bill that would provide as much as $420 million in state subsidies to the Boeing-Lockheed Martin combo. Subsidies for manufacturing significant portions of the “advanced strategic aircraft” in California have kicked around the Capitol for months. But suddenly, last week, the Assembly passed a newly drafted measure that would provide tax credits for California jobs created by a “major first-tier subcontractor” – a term that, as defined, applies only to Lockheed Martin, Boeing’s junior partner. The Finance and Governance Committee’s staff suggested in its analysis of AB 2389 that if it’s enacted “without complete and verified information,” legislators “should expect other firms to threaten to shift employment out of California unless the Legislature grants them significant tax benefits outside the usual process …” Indeed they should.
Justices set stage for further rollback of mandatory dues
Forget the Hobby Lobby ruling. The most significant U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday arguably was Harris v. Quinn, where the court found that laws forcing home health-care workers to pay union dues violate the First Amendment. The 5-4 ruling in an Illinois case likely will have much impact in California.
Thomas D. Elias
Early inmate releases a hazard for Gov. Brown
From early in his career, Gov. Jerry Brown has had a proclivity for dismissing problems with wisecracks or aphorisms. He’s done the same thing lately as companies like Toyota and Occidental Petroleum announced they were moving headquarters and thousands of jobs out of state, noting that those firms and their jobs are just a tiny fraction of the California economy. Now, with the state beginning to release some nonviolent prisoners to comply with a federal court order demanding that prison crowding be reduced, Brown told a reporter that “The U.S. Supreme Court ordered us to release thousands of prisoners.” The releases, he said, “are a creative solution.” Which means that if he doesn’t want political trouble either this fall or in a future term as governor, Brown needs to come up with a more creative solution to the overcrowding issue. Or else he will get at least some of the blame for any new crime increase that might come.
California courts sought stability, found instability
When the Legislature and then-Gov. Pete Wilson agreed in 1997 that the state would assume the entire cost of financing California’s largest-in-the-nation court system, judges rejoiced. What seemed like a good idea at the time, however, has become a classic example of how political decisions often carry unintended consequences. Some of the court system’s problems are self-inflicted. The shift to state support was supposed to bring financial stability to the courts but instead has brought much higher instability. It wasn’t the first time a sweeping policy backfired: The disastrous 1996 energy “deregulation” scheme is another classic example. And it won’t be the last. Meanwhile, the Legislature is on the verge of passing a bill – pushed by unions and opposed by judges – that would make the court system’s financial travails even worse.
Whom do we hold accountable for vital services?
Who ensures that California has an adequate supply of reasonably priced electric power? Who oversees Californians’ access to health care, now the state’s largest single economic activity? Who’s responsible for collecting $200 billion a year in state and local sales, income, excise and property taxes? ho controls resources for the nation’s largest court system to resolve criminal and civil conflicts? Who controls the flow of that most precious commodity, water? In other words, whom do we hold politically accountable for the public and private services that are utterly vital to our personal, collective, social and economic well-being? Don’t know? Don’t feel ignorant because, really, no one knows. Jurisdiction for these and many other aspects of modern life have been diffused among so many agencies that even the most astute observer can be flummoxed. So who’s accountable for outcomes? Seemingly everyone, and therefore no one.
Cheap politics revives a bitter old debate
Senate resolution denounces Pete Wilson for 1994's Proposition 187
Poet Khalil Gibran wrote that “The real test of good manners is to be able to put up with bad manners pleasantly.” And so on Monday, Senate Republicans stoically endured one of the rudest and most gratuitous floor debates this year, as Democrats brought up a resolution dealing with a long-dead statewide initiative. Senate Resolution 51, which passed on a 24-7 party line vote, marked the 20th anniversary of Proposition 187’s qualification for the ballot “as a day to celebrate California’s diversity and a united future.” Really, it turned into a chance for the Democratic leadership to unleash politically tinged rhetoric under the guise of a state proclamation. Democratic senators — including those who often prattle about civility and ethnic harmony — decided to rehash that ugly, old debate for no practical purpose.
Legislators lack direction for a water fix
Few issues are more important to the future of California than providing a reliable source of water for the state’s growing population. But despite the sense of urgency caused by this year’s particularly severe drought, legislators still aren’t sure exactly what to do about the problem.
Los Angeles Times
Have police departments gone too far with SWAT units?
The ACLU study looked at a tiny fraction of police agencies, so its conclusions should be treated with caution. Still, the routine use of SWAT units to serve warrants has been documented elsewhere and constitutes a worrisome example of mission creep: If police departments have the units, they tend to use them, even in scenarios for which they were not initially envisioned. Militarized teams were deployed about 3,000 times a year in the 1980s; by the mid-2000s, annual deployments reached 45,000.
Latinos have paid price for broken criminal justice system
Criminal justice reform is no longer optional in California. Overflowing prisons, budget-busting costs and federal court orders have seen to that. Now an equally unstoppable force is emerging to shape solutions – the state’s growing Latino population. Immigration tops media coverage of Latino concerns for good reason, but California’s search for alternatives to mass incarceration puts Latinos at the center of a decision-making process that cannot be postponed. Latinos have paid disproportionate costs for the dysfunction. They’ll have to play a disproportionate role in any fix. Compared with whites, Latinos are more likely to be murdered, killed by strangers and shot. They get burglarized more often and are more likely to experience multiple crimes. Research also reveals a pattern of cumulative disadvantage in the justice system, in which Latinos face unequal treatment at every stage, from unjustified police stops to harsher sentencing.
California politicians trying to draft a new water bond
With the state budget behind them, the Capitol’s politicians are turning to water, always California’s most divisive political issue – but particularly so during a very severe drought, as a state Senate debate and vote demonstrated Monday. They are trying – some harder than others – to write a new water bond to replace an $11.1 billion proposal placed on the ballot in 2009 but already postponed twice and widely believed to face voter rejection. Six would-be successors are floating around the Capitol while private negotiations among politicians and myriad stakeholders seek a magic mix that could win two-thirds legislative votes and stand a decent chance of voter approval. The many moving parts demonstrate anew what decades of water politics have proved – any change that gains support from one set of interests often raises opposition from others.
Plastic bag ban scam nails consumers, enriches grocers
When municipal officials started to impose bans on lightweight plastic shopping bags, it seemed like the latest attempt to inflict a little pain on consumers — a mostly symbolic effort to make us feel like we were “doing something” to save the planet. But as a statewide plastic-bag bill advances in the Assembly, it’s clear it also largely is about money — about protecting some industries and trying to shift around the costs of waste disposal and cleanup.
PUC under Peevey just keeps getting worse
The California Public Utilities Commission is a disaster. The degree of incompetence is so high, it's hard to find anything the PUC does well under President Michael Peevey's leadership. Gov. Jerry Brown has refused to remove Peevey, but he's got to find a new leader for this critically important regulatory body when Peevey's term expires at the end of the year. If Brown renominates Peevey, the state Senate should refuse to confirm him.
Low primary voter turnout foretells November, could hurt Democrats
Although election officials are still counting votes from the June 3 primary election – and a few contests are still in doubt – the lukewarm tenor of the Nov. 4 general election is evident, and that could be bad news for California’s dominant Democrats.
Ignored issues undercut Legislature’s better image
Approval ratings of the California Legislature, as measured in periodic polling, were in the teens a few years ago but have since improved. A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California says that 40 percent of all adults – but just 29 percent of likely voters – like the Legislature’s performance. A couple of balanced budgets probably account for the Legislature’s better public standing. However, the next time you hear someone crow about what a bang-up job the Legislature is doing, consider these glaring shortcomings.
Californians should wise up about our stupid tax code
Are California taxes too low or too high? Fair or unfair? Whatever. Most important, our code is stupid. You'd think rival states such as Nevada, Texas or Florida designed our tax code to undermine us. Our tax situation is absurd. It is time to start over. And now is the moment to do it. We have solid Democratic and reasonably functional legislative majorities, and a powerful and remarkably sensible governor, plus the potential to get even the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce on board. The solution is a straightforward and standard prescription in economics. California should tax primarily what can never escape its borders: its real estate. And we should abandon state income and sales taxes.
Four reasons why the bad guys lost
I do not mean to overstate the case. But we can pat ourselves gently on the back after last Tuesday's primary election. There were signs -- tentative but clear -- that voters sniffed out the fools and pretenders and chose a better class of candidate. Voters remain busy, and they don't always follow the ins and outs of a campaign. But it's becoming harder to remain blissfully ignorant of the warts of our elected officials.
Is debate over Internet gambling about morals or market share?
My favorite way to explain the regulatory process, at least when it comes to regulating vices, harkens back to Prohibition. The two groups that lobbied most heavily to keep alcoholic-beverage sales illegal were the “Baptists and the bootleggers” — the former for moral reasons and the latter for financial ones. A similarly odd alliance has emerged as the California Legislature moves forward on a bid to legalize online poker. Various groups, from online poker companies to Indian casinos to a billionaire owner of a Las Vegas casino company, have been taking positions that they say are based on protecting the public.
Election indicates GOP may be coming back
It’s risky – perhaps even foolhardy – to read much into the results of an abysmally low turnout primary election. With that caveat, however, it appears that the California Republican Party, which has been on the brink of utter irrelevance, may be making at least a mild comeback. Three of its candidates for statewide office present a new, more moderate and more inclusive face to voters, with banker Neel Kashkari’s defeat of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly the most obvious example.
David Evans and his smart daughter impress the pros
Just about the time you think you understand California politics, David Evans comes along, with his daughter, Kistie. Evans is the California City accountant who spent $600 on his campaign for state controller. As of election day, Evans was in a dead heat with former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, the goliath who spent $2 million and is the choice of much of organized labor, for the second spot in the top-two primary. “It is not rocket science,” Evans told me by phone Wednesday. “I don’t profess to be the smartest political guru. But I did pretty well on $600.” He spent that princely sum on his ballot statement, which reads, in full: “Most qualified for Controller.” That’s it. He listed his email address in the official voter information guide. His personal email. And his phone number. Not his campaign headquarters number. He doesn’t have a headquarters. His sent his own number to 17.7 million registered voters in California. And he answers it himself, “Hullo.” Wise pundits offer plenty of reasons why Evans amassed 636,109 votes on election day, to Pérez’s 638,545 votes and 632,109 votes for Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, another Democrat who spent $600,000. The three trail Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, but not by a great deal.
Jungle primary leads to tame results
Economists use a term called “rational ignorance” to describe a sobering political reality: Voters often pay minimal attention to the choices that appear on the ballot because they find it’s not worth the time to do lots of research given the low chance of any single vote having much influence. That’s especially so when there’s little at stake in the races. Perhaps this theory explains the projected statewide turnout near the record low of 28.2 percent from Tuesday’s primary election yawner. The top spot in the governor’s race was a foregone conclusion. Second place was more notable — with Neel Kashkari defeating Tim Donnelly — but mainly to political junkies and GOP leaders, who are trying to figure out a way to remain relevant in this increasingly Democratic state.
Top-two primary gives business interests an opening
Professional politicians clearly dislike California’s still-new “top-two” primary election system, which was forced on them by voters. Placing all candidates on the same primary ballot, with the two top finishers facing each other in a November runoff, makes outcomes less predictable by broadening the universe of voters who can cast ballots. If there’s anything political pros dislike, it’s uncertainty. Amateur ideologues who dominated closed primaries, but now wield less influence, also aren’t happy. The top-two system was sold to voters as a reform to reduce ideological polarization in a dysfunctional Legislature by allowing pragmatists and centrists – with appeal to a more homogenous voter pool – to win seats. California’s business community, which supported the top-two system, wanted to sand off the Legislature’s ideological corners – especially those of the Capitol’s dominant Democrats. Business interests wage perennial political war with liberal groups – unions, environmentalists, consumer advocates and personal injury lawyers – over the latter’s legislative agenda. Electing more centrist Democrats, executives believed, would make it easier for their lobbyists to win bill battles. The 2012 elections were the top-two system’s first test and outcomes appeared, in the main, to meet business expectations.
New progressive cry: Power to legislators
Few things have defined California’s politics more than the three election reforms championed by the state’s 23rd governor – the initiative, the referendum and the recall. Hiram Johnson’s system of direct democracy, used early and often in California since 1911, was designed to place power in the hands of “the people.” That era’s “progressives” believed voters needed the power to circumvent legislators, who were beholden to railroad barons and other special interests. Johnson said the reforms “may prevent the misuse of the power temporarily centralized in the Legislature” and will help control “weak officials.” Today’s Legislature is dominated by officials who also call themselves progressives, yet many of them have become increasingly leery of direct democracy. They routinely propose bills to rein in the use of the initiative in particular.
‘Save or spend’ is the main issue in budget negotiations
It’s been nearly a decade since the Capitol’s politicians last had a substantial amount of extra money to spend. During the mid-2000s, a short-lived housing boom poured billions of extra dollars into the state’s coffers, and politicians pumped them out as fast as they came in. General fund spending exploded by nearly 30 percent in three years. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was an eager spender to overcome declining popularity as he sought re-election in 2006. Schwarzenegger used the windfall to placate interest groups – unions, particularly – that had whipped him a year earlier on ballot measures, even though the revenue jolt, everyone knew, was temporary. Within two years, the economy was in free fall, revenues were plummeting, and the state had begun to run up massive budget deficits. It was not the first time that Capitol politicians had squandered a short-term spurt of revenues. But would it be the last?
Los Angeles Times
How California's Supreme Court called the police unions' bluff
Last week's ruling by the California Supreme Court requiring police agencies to make public the names of officers involved in most shootings was a clear victory for public scrutiny and police accountability, both important mainstays of a functioning democracy. The ruling, which held that the Public Records Act does not exempt the names of officers in shootings, has been welcomed by advocates of open government, and clearly demonstrates this court's embrace of the public's role in supervising its representatives.
What’s at stake in this primary election?
It’s a pretty strange election when the most interesting contest is between two Republicans vying for the right to be buried in a Jerry Brown landslide. The duel between Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the darling of the Republican right, and Neel Kashkari, a moderate whom the GOP establishment hopes will eke out a win, gets a lot of media attention simply because there’s not much else to stir interest. Apparently voters agree with that appraisal because the voting that started a month ago and ends on Tuesday is likely to be among the lowest turnouts for a statewide election in memory.
State policies exacerbate poverty by raising living costs
CNN, the television news network, offers a handy website calculator that allows a user to compare the cost-of-living differentials among the nation’s towns and cities. It reveals, for instance, that someone contemplating a move from Austin, the capital of Texas, to Sacramento would have to pay 22 percent more for otherwise identical basics such as groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care. And that doesn’t take into account California’s substantially higher taxes. Using CNN’s calculator to make various comparisons essentially confirms what most Californians already know – this is a relatively expensive place in which to live. It’s the reason, for instance, that the Census Bureau, using an alternative method of calculating poverty that includes cost of living, determined that California has the nation’s highest rate with nearly a quarter of its 38 million residents impoverished. Liberal legislators propose all sorts of remedies, ranging from increasing the minimum wage and welfare benefits to raising taxes on the wealthy. However, they never examine how their own policies may be contributing to the syndrome by raising the costs of living. Restrictive land-use policies are certainly a factor in high housing costs, while green-energy mandates are raising utility rates sharply and soon will push gasoline prices, already among the nation’s highest, even higher. Moreover, as basic living costs rise, they put upward pressure on wages in all sectors, which translate into higher costs for other services and commodities. It’s fine to talk about government programs to help the poor, but wouldn’t it be better to alleviate the high living costs they face every day, and to create an economic climate that would give them more opportunities to climb the ladder through better jobs? Or at the very least, not consciously push their living costs even higher?
Environmentalists Cheer California's Latest Plan to Sink Its Economy
Environmentalists are gleeful at the news reported last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration that the amount of recoverable oil from California's Monterey Shale formation — predicted to be the nation's largest reserve of oil — is a whopping 96-percent below original production estimates.
Fixing the DWP starts with culture shift
Fixing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will take no less than a change in its culture, its attitude, its habit of telling customers what they should want and to hell with what they do want.
Prop. 13 fight not just about a loophole
Initiative's die-hard critics want to gut commercial-property limits
The proposition’s critics have long complained about a loophole in the measure — actually, a loophole in subsequent legislation implementing the proposition — that lets certain businesses pay artificially low property taxes. Proposition 13 reassesses properties at their full-market value after they are sold. Some businesses figured out a way to avoid reassessment.
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