Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Maven's Morning Coffee: LA's use of technology, Metro chief in DC, another look at broken parking meters

Mercer 10895

Brian Watt/KPCC

The Jewish Journal sat down to talk with Controller Ron Galperin about how he plans to use big data sets to help the city of Los Angeles.

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 Thursday, July 25, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:

Headlines

The Jewish Journal talks to newly elected Controller Ron Galperin about his plans to use data and technology in elected office. "There is an incredible opportunity … we are seeing this in other local governments as well as in the private sector. How do you take that data and learn from it?” Galperin says.

California Forward looks at the incredibly low turnout in the Los Angeles City Council's special election. "People don’t vote because they did not know there was even an election – very likely the case with the Special Election for District 6," says Common Cause's Kathay Feng.

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Tracking the money flow between Central Basin Water District and Tom Calderon

Lawmaker Searched Water Districts

Damian Dovarganes/AP

The offices of the Central Basin Municipal Water District in Los Angeles County are seen in Commerce, Calif., in a Wednesday, June 12, 2013 photo. The state has hundreds of local water districts, which often deal with millions of dollars but operate as quasi-government entities with very little oversight or public scrutiny.

Current members of the Central Basin Municipal Water District Board of Directors (from left): James Roybal (president), Robert Apodaca (vice president), Art Chacon, Leticia Vasquez, Phillip Hawkins.


Southern California has dozens of small public agencies that don’t get much attention. The Central Basin Municipal Water District is one of them, but it made headlines last month after getting a federal subpoena in connection with an investigation into State Senator Ron Calderon.

Federal officials have also sought to speak with his brother, political consultant Tom Calderon, who shares a long relationship with the Commerce-based water agency.

Current members of the Central Basin Municipal Water District Board of Directors (from left): James Roybal (president), Robert Apodaca (vice president), Art Chacon, Leticia Vasquez, Phillip Hawkins.Tom Calderon left the state Assembly just over a decade ago and started a political consulting business. One of his first clients was the Central Basin District, which serves a broad expanse of Southeast L.A. County. Over the past several years, Calderon donated $26,000 to board candidates at the district.

RELATED: Central Basin Municipal Water District suing contractor for overbilling nearly $1 million

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LA gets the bragging rights on snagging federal transportation dollars

MTA CEO Arthur Leahy

Kitty Felde/KPCC

LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Arthur Leahy does not apologize for going after federal transportation dollars.

Last year’s multi-year transportation bill includes a billion dollars a year in new loans. Today, transportation officials from around the country asked Congress: Where’s the money? But Southern California need not worry: transit projects here are sitting pretty.

Texas officials complained to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the Department of Transportation is taking too long to hand out the money, applications are overly complicated, and the new lower matching fund level set by Congress isn’t being used.

James Bass, the top money man at the Texas Department of  Transportation, told the committee chair, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, that federal transportation officials demand a “compelling argument” to alter the previous two-thirds matching funds requirement. Boxer replied: "A good compelling argument is what we said."

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LA City Councilwoman-elect Nury Martinez named caretaker for district

Nury Martinez

Nury Martinez Campaign

Nury Martinez finished well behind Cindy Montañez in the primary, but stormed back to win Tuesday's general election for a vacant San Fernando Valley City Council seat.

One day after her comeback victory, Councilwoman-elect Nury Martinez was named the official caretaker of the Los Angeles City Council's Sixth District while she waits to be sworn into office. 

The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 to name Martinez the chief deputy of the San Fernando Valley's Sixth District pending certification of her win over Cindy Montañez. Unofficial results from the City Clerk's office show Martinez winning the district with 54 percent of the vote. 

It was a stunning loss for Montañez, who placed first in the May primary with 43 percent of the vote in a field of six opponents. In that race, Montanez received 7,241 votes, yet in yesterday's runoff she received just 4,093 votes. Her defeat came even with a fundraising advantage —  $535,000 compared to Martinez's $290,000. 

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Inland Empire runoff for California Assembly seat threatens Democratic supermajority

Voting booth

Sharon McNary/KPCC

A typical voting booth and machine used throughout Los Angeles County.

In a nine-candidate primary to fill the vacant 52nd Assembly District seat, Ontario Mayor Paul Leon and Pomona City Councilman Freddie Rodriguez emerged as the top two candidates.

They will face off in a special election on Sept. 24 in an unusual runoff: A nonpartisan versus a Democrat. The election will be closely watched because the Democratic supermajority in the Assembly could be affected by the outcome.

In Tuesday's election, Leon recently dropped his Republican registration to run in the assembly race as a nonpartisan candidate. He received 25.1 percent of the primary vote. Rodriguez is a Democrat who secured the endorsement of the California Democratic Party with the support of Sen. Norma Torres. He pulled in 21.6 percent of the vote.

As predicted, turnout in the election was low, with just 8.1 percent of voters in the Los Angeles County portion of the district casting ballots and 9.2 percent on the San Bernardino County side.

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