Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Update: Dozens arrested outside US Capitol as protesters demand immigration reform

Immigration activist arrested at US Capitol

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Dozens were arrested outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, as protesters pushed for a Congressional vote on immigration reform.

More than a hundred activists from around the country gathered outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday morning, chanting slogans and staging a sit-in to push for immigration reform.

Women wearing red T-shirts sat down in the middle of busy Independence Avenue, just as lawmakers were trying to make their way from their House offices to the House chamber for the final votes of the week. Capitol Police peacefully arrested more than a hundred women, including a number of undocumented immigrants.

Emily Gelbaum, originally from Newport Beach, is with Fair Immigration Reform Movement. She says with Congress returning to work this week after the August recess, "we need to make sure immigration reform is at the top of their list."

Congressman Paul Cook of Big Bear says for members of Congress — and for most of their constituents — recently there's been just one topic. "The last two weeks," he says, "everything has been Syria, Syria, Syria. That's what we've all been focused on." The freshman Republican says immigration has, frankly, fallen off the radar screen.


Maven's Morning Coffee: Mayor Garcetti speaks to labor, airport panel rejects appeal, Roz Wyman honored

Eric Garcetti DWP City Hall

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke to the AFL-CIO Convention this week, a sign that he is rebuilding his ties to labor, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Today is Thursday, Sept. 12, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke at the national AFL-CIO Convention, a sign that he is rebuilding his ties with labor, according to the Los Angeles Times. "By being here today, he obviously is signaling that he wants to work with labor, and he intends to work with labor, and that's a good place to be," said Maria Elena Durazo.

An airport panel rejected a challenge from Culver City, Ontario and San Bernardino County over a plan to move one of LAX's runways 260 feet, reports the Daily Breeze. "Had the commission voted the other way, it could have stalled — at least temporarily — the controversial runway project approved in April by the Los Angeles City Council," according to the newspaper.


As prison plan moves ahead, opponents keep up the protests

Prison Protest

Frank Stoltze

Inmate rights activists rallied in downtown LA against Governor Brown's plan to send prisoners out of state to comply with a federal court order. "This is a moral failure, not just a policy failure," said Rev. Leonard B. Jackson of Justice Not Jails.

A group of Los Angeles area inmate rights activists gathered outside the Reagan State Office Building in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday to rally against Governor Brown’s prison plan, even as the state legislature moved towards approval.

“We will continue to raise strong concerns around any budget raid that will go towards funding prisons at the expense of rebuilding other services and programs, including early child care and education,” said Martin Castro, president and CEO of the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation and chair of the L.A. Child Care Alliance.

Under a compromise between Brown and State Senate Democrats, California will start sending more than 6,000 prison inmates to private facilities out of state at the end of the year unless a federal court lifts an order to reduce overcrowding. If judges agree to postpone or ease their order, Brown will spend more money on rehabilitation programs that could reduce recidivism rates. 


Voters will decide fate of Public Records Act

Barry Allen

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Barry Allen has years of experience requesting public documents from local governments. He civic watchdog group is worried about the fate of the state's Public Records Act.

A proposed constitutional amendment on California's June primary ballot could shift the cost of complying with public records requests, which now rests with the state,  to the local agencies that get the document requests.

The legislature voted Tuesday to put the proposal on the ballot.

Barry Allen isn't all that impressed.  He and members of his civic watchdog group, The Vanguardians, make lots of document requests under the California Public Records Act.

"Actually, we made one to the city of Bell for all of their compensation records, before the L.A. Times did," Allen said.

The city of Bell stonewalled, Allen says. When records finally surfaced showing officials were massively overpaid, several were charged with crimes. That's the power of the Public Records Act.

But Allen worries the law does not go far enough to truly help the public.


4 new DWP commissioners confirmed by LA City Council

DWP Commissioners

Alice Walton/KPCC

L-R, William Funderburk, Mel Levine, Michael Fleming and Jill Banks Barad were unanimously confirmed to the Board of Water and Power Commissioners Wednesday.

Four new members of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners were unanimously confirmed Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council, whose members asked few tough questions on utility rates, renewable energy goals or labor practices. 

The DWP board is the first stop when the utility requests rate hikes. Its recommendations are then passed on to the city council.

DWP officials will release a plan for rate increases by the end of the year. Those rates will have to be reviewed by the new commissioners William Funderburk, Michael Fleming, Mel Levine and Jill Banks Barad, who were nominated by Mayor Eric Garcetti. (Christina Noonan, an appointee of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, will remain on the panel.)

The new commissioners were sworn in just a month after intense negotiations between Los Angeles city officials and the union for DWP workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18. Hundreds of work rules that govern issues such as overtime and sick leave became a sticking point in those negotiations. While two councilmen on Wednesday mentioned the work rules as something the DWP will have to work on in the future, no one asked the appointees for their thoughts on how the work rules should be overhauled.