Politics, government and public life for Southern California

A Democrat and a Republican walked into a room...

California Republican Jeff Denham, left, and Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas held a bipartisan forum on immigration.

Earlier this summer, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill. The House hasn't voted on any immigration bill and that chamber's bipartisan "Gang of Seven" has yet to introduce a comprehensive plan. 

But as Congress prepares to adjourn for the rest of August, a freshman Democrat and a sophomore Republican — both Congressmen from California —  sat down in a public forum Thursday to talk about the economic benefits of immigration.

It wasn't a formal hearing. But it was the only public discussion of immigration in a Capitol Hill hearing room all week. Turlock Republican Jeff Denham, whose father-in-law is a legal Mexican immigrant, indirectly criticized fellow House GOP members who only want to talk about border security. "If we could just shut down the border completely," he said, "what does that do to our economy?"


Maven's Morning Coffee: DWP changes up sick policy, San Bernardino after bankruptcy, offensive comments in Lancaster

Molly Peterson/KPCC

LADWP general manager Ron Nichols will now require doctor's notes from employees who are out for more than two days in a row. The change follows a Los Angeles Times story on workers who exploit the utility's sick leave.

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, Aug. 1, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


President Obama will be in Los Angeles next week for an appearance on "The Tonight Show," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Department of Water and Power is changing its sick policy and requiring employees to give a doctor's note if they are out sick two days in a row, reports KPCC. The new requirement is intended to reduce the number of employees who abuse the utility's sick leave.

KPCC looks at San Bernardino one year after it filed bankruptcy.


San Bernardino city leaders still sparring a year after declaring bankruptcy

San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris

Sharon McNary/KPCC

San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris at the entryway to Wildwood Park that he maintains as a volunteer.

Office of City Attorney James Penman

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Office of San Bernardino City Attorney James Penman

Diane Koster

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Diane Koster volunteers to help clean the dog run at Wildwood Park, and admires the roses that Mayor Pat Morris' wife maintains, also as a volunteer.

It's been a year since San Bernardino filed for bankruptcy to restructure its $45 million deficit. City leaders say that, since then, they've slashed non-emergency services to the bare essentials to keep fire and police services intact for the city of 213,000.

But the roses in the curbside garden at Wildwood Park are nicely pruned, and the cactus and succulents are thriving amid the redwood mulch next to the park's driveway. That's because Mayor Pat Morris, his wife Sally and a small cadre of other volunteers donate the labor to care for them.

"We've got about 500 acres of park in this city with a crew of no more than 13 workers to maintain [them]. It is a tragic stretch of resources," Morris said, reaching down to grab a few errant twigs among the cacti.

"We began to ask people to step up and volunteer. I mean, that's the great American tradition," he said.


Members of Congress receive skimpy sexual harassment training

The U.S. Capitol

Alex Brandon/AP

Sexual harassment training is not required on an ongoing basis for lawmakers on Capitol Hill

If you work as a supervisor for a private company in California, it’s likely you’ve had several hours of training on how to identify and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. 

That’s not the case in Congress. 

The spotlight is now on human resource practices on Capitol Hill because most of the allegations of sexual harassment aimed at San Diego Mayor Bob Filner occurred when he was serving in Congress. But those elected officials receive a minimal amount of training around sexual harassment.

New members of Congress attend an orientation on how to hire a staff, set up a website and how to negotiate ethics rules. Sexual harassment is mentioned in general terms, but no specific training is mandated for lawmakers. And members who are re-elected may never hear it again.

L.A. Democrat Lucille Roybal-Allard has served in Congress for two decades. She says all members should get sexual harassment training, but particularly her male colleagues who don't "understand the difference between certain actions that they may consider — for lack of a better way of putting it — a friendly gesture, which from the standpoint of a woman would make them uncomfortable or feel like harassment."


Attorneys seek limited isolation for mentally ill inmates

California Health Care Facility (CHCF)

Julie Small/KPCC

The California Health Care Facility in Stockton (seen here under construction) will soon be open and is expected to house some mentally ill inmates currently kept in prison isolation units.

This year Gov. Jerry Brown asked a judge to dismiss a decades-old lawsuit that established federal oversight of mental health care in California prisons. But U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton rejected the motion, and the governor’s move blew the case wide open.

In one of the related issues, attorneys for inmates are now seeking to limit the amount of time prison officials can keep mentally ill inmates in isolation units.

California prison officials use Security Housing Units and what's called "administrative segregation" to keep tight control of hard-core inmates, including those whom they identify as prison gang leaders or accomplices.

But more than 3,000 of the men and women who are isolated also suffer from mental disorders.

An attorney for some of those inmates, Michael Bien, said at a Wednesday court hearing in Sacramento that the isolation exacerbates their conditions and may contribute to the high suicide rate in California’s prisons.