Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Maven's Morning Coffee: costly sick days for DWP, voting rights in Palmdale, proposal to eliminate sidewalk fees

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KPCC

The Department of Water and Power has paid out more than $35 million in three years for employees' extra sick days.

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.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Friday, July 26, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:

Headlines

The Department of Water and Power has paid out more than $35 million since 2010 in extra sick days for employees, according to the Los Angeles Times. In fact, DWP employees can take off an unlimited number of sick days. "You'd expect a work ethic in a group like that. Of course, there are always people who abuse," said Fred Pickel, the ratepayer advocate.

The Times also reports that the union that represents DWP workers is looking for a contract that would forgo raises until 2016 and then give employees a 4 percent raise. "It's not good enough. Period. Mayor (Eric) Garcetti was elected with a clear mandate to bring real reform to the DWP, and that includes pensions, healthcare and salaries," according to a mayoral spokesman.

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Court finds Palmdale's at-large elections violate Voting Rights Act

City of Palmdale

City of Palmdale

The mayor of Palmdale says the city will appeal a court ruling that found at-large elections are keeping African-American and Latino residents from having fair representation.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has found the city of Palmdale's at-large elections have led to racial polarization. 

According to the court opinion issued Thursday, the city of Palmdale violated the California Voting Rights Act by continuing to hold at-large elections that disenfranchised African-American and Latino residents. More than half of Palmdale's population is Latino, yet of the city's five council members, just one is Latino. And the city has never had an African-American representative, even though blacks makes up 15 percent of Palmdale's population.

"Nobody likes to give up power. Nobody likes to share power. That's just a human condition," said R. Rex Parris, one of the attorneys who brought the case against Palmdale. He grew up in Palmdale and is now the mayor of nearby Lancaster.

"When you have diverse [cities] such as Lancaster and Palmdale, to bar minority representation in any fashion can only lead to more and more strife and more and more bad decisions," Parris said. 

But Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford disagrees. He said Palmdale is an integrated city, and believes the appointed city commissions represent its diversity. Ledford believes the wave of lawsuits challenging cities with at-large elections is motivated by one thing: money.

"I think you look at the 20-year history, you see very little strife or conflict," Ledford said. "But now I believe — and this applies to all cities in California — we are under siege by these trial lawyers because this is a payday. This isn't about voting rights, this is about green. It's not about black, white or brown. It's about green."

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

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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.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

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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