Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Do Sheriff Baca's jails need a federal consent decree?

Grant Slater/KPCC

The federal government has launched a civil rights investigation into the LA County jail system. Some worry formal federal oversight could cost the county hundreds of million of dollars. "We don’t have limitless cash here," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.

After Angelenos rioted in 1992 following the acquittals of  the LAPD officers involved in the Rodney King beating, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The law allows the US Department of Justice to file lawsuits against local law enforcement agencies for a "pattern or practice" of civil rights violations and force them to change through consent decrees overseen by a federal judge.

When the DOJ opened a "pattern and practice" investigation into Los Angeles County lockups earlier this month, jail watchdogs cheered.

"On their own, the Sheriff’s Department is not going to rehabilitate itself," said Mary Sutton of Critical Resistance. "We need to get the thugs out of the LA county jail system."

That’s strong language. But some longtime allies of Sheriff Lee Baca, who oversees the jails, also say federal intervention is necessary.


SoCal Democrat and Republican agree on one thing: Congress is broken

Rep. Paul Cook (R-Barstow)

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Rep. Paul Cook (R-Big Bear) says political brinkmanship hurts Congress.

People have complained for years about political dysfunction in Sacramento. Now a couple of onetime state lawmakers are complaining about the dysfunction in their new legislative body: the U.S. Congress.

Even in a town known for gridlock, the bottlenecks in Washington these days have gotten pretty ugly. On Friday the GOP-controlled house voted almost entirely along party lines to avoid a looming government shutdown only if it's part of a bill to gut President Obama's healthcare law.

Democrats reject the Obamacare cuts and have added demands of their own: They want any stop-gap funding measure to roll back the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

The competing demands have led to an impasse that's likely to edge the federal government once again to the fiscal brink.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, a Long Beach Democrat, says both sides know "that both of these things aren't going to happen when we get to the end." He calls the partisan stalemate "Kabuki dance or posturing." 


Mayor Eric Garcetti sets up shop — in a parking spot

Eric Garcetti

Alice Walton/KPCC

Mayor Eric Garcetti meets with Arcelia Gonzalez on a street in Boyle Heights. Gonzalez complained that the roots of a city-owned tree broke a pipe at her family's restaurant.

Mayor's Office

Alice Walton/KPCC

The Mayor's Office set up a temporary office in two Boyle Heights parking spots Friday as part of Park(ing) Day.

Parking Day

Alice Walton/KPCC

The Mayor's Office brought in grass and wireless Internet to create a "pop up" office in Boyle Heights.

That's right. Mayor Eric Garcetti spent Friday morning meeting with Angelenos in a temporary office erected in two parking spots in Boyle Heights. 

The Mayor's Office brought in sod, Wi-Fi, a couch -- even an end table and lamp -- to create a pop up office where Garcetti and his constituent representatives could meet with folks and hear their complaints about City Hall. 

"You can't just do this behind closed doors," Garcetti said. "There's eight doors between the public and me at City Hall. I wanted to have no doors today."

(There are not just eight doors. Visitors also have to show photo ID and go through a metal detector.)

During the curbside chat, the mayor met Arcelia Gonzalez, whose family owns a restaurant on First Street. A year ago, Gonzalez filed a complaint with the city after the roots of a city-owned Ficus tree broke one of her pipes. That led to floods every time it rained. Gonzalez explained she hadn't received any word from the city in the past 11 months. Garcetti told her she would have a response by next Wednesday. And if she doesn't hear back?


Maven's Morning Coffee: DWP spending questioned, FPPC creates new rule for blogs, former Assembly Speaker engaged

Molly Peterson/KPCC

DWP General Manager Ron Nichols is facing questions about the utility's spending on two nonprofits dedicated to improving relations between the utility and its union. At least $40 million in ratepayer money has gone to the two groups, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

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Today is Friday, Sept. 20, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


The Department of Water and Power has directed $40 million to two nonprofit organizations that promote "mutual trust" between the utility and the union that represents most of its employees, reports the Los Angeles Times. The Joint Safety Institute was created in 2000 by then-DWP General Manager David Freeman. "I think it was a good idea then, it resulted in embedding a safety culture," he says.

A proposal to create a Los Angeles city-operated public health department will appear on the June ballot, reports the Daily News. It's estimated it would cost $300 million a year for the city to run its own health department. The measure is sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.


Showdown in Congress on Obamacare and automatic budget cuts

Stormy days ahead in Congress as lawmakers tackle budget deadline

Call it DC deja-vu.

The U.S. is lurching toward a shutdown of the federal government at the end of the month unless Congress can agree on a temporary funding measure. Prospects for a bipartisan resolution are dim as Democrats and Republicans spar over healthcare and automatic budget cuts.

The GOP-led House has voted 40 times to take apart the Affordable Care Act. And 40 times, the Democratically-led Senate has ignored it. Now, a provision to defund Obamacare has been attached to a temporary funding bill that will keep the government running for a few months.

Republican Congressman John Campbell of Irvine says he'll vote for the bill even though it's likely the Senate will strip out the healthcare portion of it. "What it does provide is it provides a motivation," he says, " a deadline if you will, to make some kind of agreement."

The question is what happens when the Senate version comes back.