The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy

Dodgers hire 'Moneyball' protege Farhan Zaidi as general manager

Farhan Zaidi, seen in a screenshot from

Just weeks after the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Andrew Friedman, a Bear Stearns analyst turned baseball wunderkind, as president of baseball operations, the team kept their offseason going and announced an even more intriguing hire Thursday: Farhan Zaidi.

Zaidi will be the Dodgers' new general manager, replacing Ned Colletti, who was removed after the Dodgers failed to advance beyond the Division Series in this year's playoffs. Colletti was given the title of special advisor to the president and CEO.

Colletti is an old-school baseball guy who grew up in Chicago and wears cowboy boots on the field. Zaidi is Muslim, grew up in the Philippines, went to MIT for undergrad and got a Ph.D. in behavioral economics from Berkeley.

According to a profile in the San Francisco Chronicle, Zaidi decided he wanted to go into baseball after reading Michael Lewis's book about Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, "Moneyball." The book described, with certain liberties, how Beane took advantage of advanced metrics to assemble a winning team on the cheap.


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Shipping companies accuse Longshore Workers Union of slowing down ports of L.A., Long Beach

For the last six months, the ILWU and the shipping association representing terminal operators and carriers have been negotiating a new labor contract to cover workers at 29 West Coast ports.
Photo by John Harvey via Flickr Creative Commons

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) is accusing the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) of contributing to the congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. 

In a statement, the PMA said the ILWU is refusing to dispatch hundreds of workers qualified to move containers in terminal yards in the Southern California port complex:

On short notice, the Union informed the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) that starting Monday, November 3rd, it would not dispatch qualified ILWU members, most of whom have significant experience operating yard cranes in the terminal, placing cargo containers on trucks and rail cars for delivery to customers.

The ILWU would not address the specific allegations, but acknowledged some "worker frustration." ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees repeated a response to similar allegations by the PMA earlier in the week, explaining that congestion at the key ports is the result of three factors: shortage of truck drivers, truck chassis, and rail car capacity to haul cargo away from the docks. "The employers have delayed dealing with these problems," Merrilees said.


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Election 2014: LA business groups brace for labor-friendly Board of Supervisors with addition of Kuehl

Supervisor-elect Sheila Kuehl stands in her home office, where she hangs family photographs and TV Guide covers from her acting career.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

As much as was possible for two liberal-leaning Democrats to distinguish themselves from one another in the race to succeed Zev Yaroslavsky on the powerful Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl stood out as the labor candidate and Bobby Shriver as pro-business. With Kuehl's victory - it seems labor will have another champion and that has raised concern among business interests.

Leading up to the election, the differences between Kuehl and Shriver were reflected in their fundraising totals, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. 

The Times found that union-affiliated donors contributed $2.1 million to help elect Kuehl, a former state senator endorsed by major county labor groups. That's nine times the amount of labor-related donations supporting Shriver's supervisorial bid.

Former Santa Monica Councilman Shriver and committees supporting him have taken in about $1 million from individuals and companies associated with the real estate, financial services and construction industries. That's more than four times the comparable donations received by Kuehl.


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If there's trouble in Tacoma, could it spread to Ports of LA and Long Beach?

Stacked up port shipping containers
Photo by Greg Bishop via Flickr Creative Commons

The association that represents shipping companies at 29 West Coast ports is accusing the union representing dockworkers of deliberately slowing down work at two Pacific Northwest ports. The union's response: it's a "boldface lie." Tensions appear to be rising in the midst of a long running contract negotiation that affects major ports all along the West Coast.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been negotiating a new labor contract for the past six months. Throughout the talks, the two sides have worked jointly to reassure those who depend on the ports that neither wants a strike or a lock-out.   

When the old labor contract covering 20,000 dockworkers expired on July 1st, cargo kept moving, and the two sides issued a joint statement saying normal operations would continue until a deal was done.  But on Monday, the union and the shipping association issued dueling statements regarding events at ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. 


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LA's Internet speed, cost ranked among worst major cities worldwide

The newly-released report from New America's Open Technology Institute did note improvements in L.A., but those gains tended to be for the most expensive Internet plans that fewer people use.
Igor Stevanovic/iStockphoto

When I called up Nick Russo, Policy Program Associate at New America's Open Technology Institute, I told him I had trouble viewing the report he co-wrote, "The Cost of Connectivity 2014." For the third year in a row, it documents that most U.S. cities have far slower Internet speeds than major cities in Europe and Asia. When I clicked to download the study, my Time Warner Cable Internet cut out, as it's wont to do - several times a day.

"I feel your pain," Russo told me from his Washington, D.C. office. "We're in the same boat over here."

Russo told me I would probably have better luck accessing the Internet in American cities that have invested in publicly-owned fiber optic networks, like Bristol, Virginia, Lafayette, Louisiana, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"You pay $300 dollars for 500 megabits in L.A. and you pay $70 for 1000 megabits per second in Chattanooga," Russo said. He thinks Internet access in Los Angeles is pricey and slow because there's a lack of competition among providers; and L.A. is hardly alone among major U.S. cities with subpar data speeds. Russo predicts there will be even less choice for customers nationwide if Time Warner and Comcast complete their $45 billion merger.


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