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Maven's Morning Coffee: 911 system fails, DWP wants its new contract, Whittier sued over elections
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 Wednesday, Aug. 7, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:
Los Angeles' 911 system went down repeatedly in the month of July, reports the Los Angeles Times. "Our general dispatch system, both in the human architecture, the technological architecture and the systems themselves, needs a serious upgrade," says Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The head of the union representing Department of Water and Power employees wants the city to approve a new contract by Friday, according to the Daily News. Mayor Eric Garcetti has publicly said he does not like the deal that is on the table, and council President Herb Wesson told the newspaper he needs more time to brief the new council members on the proposal.
LA City Council approves safety review of Venice Beach
In response to this weekend's fatal crash, the city council Tuesday ordered city staff to issue a report on public safety at the Venice Beach Boardwalk within two weeks.
The motion, introduced by Westside Councilman Mike Bonin, states that the city will look into ways of controlling non-governmental vehicle access to the boardwalk. It was unanimously approved. Driving on the boardwalk is already illegal and cars are kept off by physical barriers.
“We learned [Saturday] night that as many as 15 or 20 times a day, people drive on Ocean Front Walk putting life and property at risk,” Bonin said. “There are almost 30 streets that run directly into Ocean Front Walk and almost none of them prohibit vehicular access. That is a huge risk.”
On Saturday, a vehicle drove onto the pedestrian-only boardwalk, hitting and killing a woman visiting from Italy and injuring 16 other people.
Whittier Latinos sue city to force district elections
Three Whittier residents have sued the city over its at-large elections, demanding it change over to a district election system.
They say elections in which all voters choose all five council members are keeping Whittier's 67 percent Latino majority from selecting council members they prefer. Only one Latino, a popular high school football coach, has ever won a Whittier council election.
Attorney Miguel Garcia, homemaker Lisa Lopez and Whittier College student Jafet Diego filed suit, demanding the city switch to district elections.
Under the California Voting Rights Act, the city must abandon its at-large system if voting patterns are polarized — that is, if Latinos mostly vote for one candidate and whites for another.
The Whittier Latino Coalition agreed a few weeks ago to hold off on a lawsuit. But Coalition spokesman Louis Reyes said they decided to proceed with the action after the city hired the same lawyers that represent Anaheim and other cities that are fighting district elections.
Courage Campaign founder appointed deputy chief of staff to Garcetti
Rick Jacobs, founder of the Courage Campaign, a nonprofit focused on progressive causes, was named by Mayor Eric Garcetti as his Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations on Tuesday.
Jacobs was co-director of a political action committee that raised and spent $2.2 million for Garcetti in the May 21 mayoral runoff.
In a memo sent to reporters after the May 21 election, Jacobs credited the PAC with solidifying Garcetti's victory over Wendy Greuel.
"In an election that saw record spending and low turnout, we believe our highly professional grassroots campaign helped make the difference for Garcetti," Jacobs wrote.
As the deputy chief of staff for operations, Jacobs will be responsible for external relations, communications, scheduling and protocol.
Garcetti said in a statement: "Rick brings a fresh, outsider's perspective to City Hall. His depth of corporate, non-profit, and political experience will help us make city government work better, and I'm proud to have him on our team."
Councilman describes colleague's reaction to Venice hit-and-run
Members of the Los Angeles City Council were gathered Saturday evening at the Hansen Dam Ranger Station for the community swearing-in of Councilman Felipe Fuentes — just about the time a driver allegedly plowed through a group of people gathered on the Venice Beach boardwalk.
Councilman Mitch Englander spoke at Tuesday's council meeting about the incident and the response of his colleague, Mike Bonin, who represents the Venice neighborhood.
"All of the sudden it was like a movie where you look down and every single council member, their phones are going off and everybody is in shock," Englander recalled. "You saw Mike bolt out and run toward the car and just take off to go down to the incident."
"We all share, Mike, in what you've been going through," said Englander after the city council approved the concept of a Venice Beach Public Safety Needs Assessment.