Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Congressman Henry Waxman to hold gun violence forum after Santa Monica shootings

Santa Monica Shooting

Grant Slater/KPCC

Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wants to explore gun violence and community healing in the wake of the shooting spree in Santa Monica on June 7 that left six people dead.

Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) convenes a forum on gun violence Monday in the wake of the shooting spree near Santa Monica College that left six people dead. The forum begins at 10 a.m. at Santa Monica City Hall and is entitled “Gun Violence, Mental Health and Community Recovery.” 

Waxman, who represents Santa Monica, has invited the head of the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Pamela Hyde. The agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Other panelists include Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, the chair of Santa Monica College Nancy Greenstein, and the head of the LA Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Suzanne Verge.

Here’s an excerpt from a memo, provided to Waxman in preparation for the forum, about some of the topics that may be discussed:

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Rep. Schiff wants more transparency at secret FISA courts

Activists Groups Protest NSA Surveillance Program

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Protesters rally outside the U.S. Capitol against the NSA's recently detailed surveillance programs

Edward Snowden’s leaks about electronic spying on Americans by the U.S. government has brought attention to the secret court that grants permission for the practice. One local Congressman has a bipartisan bill to make those courts more transparent.

When intelligence agencies want a wiretap, they have to make a case to one of the 11 judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance – or FISA - court. Since September 11, 2001, that data includes phone records and websites surfed by both foreigners and Americans.

Burbank Democrat Adam Schiff has introduced a measure that would make the court more transparent by requiring it to declassify its interpretation of law. He says the court makes some very important decisions, "some of them deep constitutional issues, and I think it would help inform the public debate and I think we can do it in a way that doesn’t compromise national  security."

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Immigration: now it's all about Congress repeating the talking points (Update)

 John Boehner

Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner focuses on immigrants who overstay visas — a GOP talking point.

House Republicans made it clear this week that no immigration legislation will come to the floor until after the August recess — and a path to citizenship isn't likely to be part of any bill its members put forward.

That's in conflict with the bipartisan bill being crafted by the so-called "Gang of 7." One of its members, L.A. Democrat Xavier Becerra, said Friday their bill will definitely include a path to citizenship.

Until that gets resolved — and it may be a while — it's now "spin" time for both parties.

Or, as Yogi Berra once said, "It's déjà vu all over again."

For Democrats such as L.A. Congressman Tony Cardenas, the message is aimed at House GOP members, reminding them that a lot of other Republicans support immigration reform. "As they call them," he says, "the 3 Bs."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi explains: "Badges — the law enforcement community; the Business community; the Bible folks. Many of those are Republicans." And, Democrats say, many support a path to citizenship.

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Prison hunger strike numbers continue to drop

Solano Prison

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / EPA

The State Department of Corrections won't say how many inmates at each prison facility are participating in the hunger strike.

The number of California inmates participating in a mass hunger strike continues to drop, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Friday is the fifth day of the strike, which is in protest of the regular use of long-term isolation to diminish the power of prison gang members.

The number of hunger strikers now stands at 7,664, down from 12,000 on Thursday and nearly 29,000 participants on Monday, when the action started. Even at the reduced number, the strike remains the largest in the state's history. A four-week hunger strike in July 2011 involved 6,500 inmates at its peak.

The strike has ramifications for prison operations, and now that the state has officially recognized the hunger strike, they will begin monitoring inmates’ health.

Participants come from 24 state prisons and one out-of-state contract facility. Corrections department officials will not state how many inmates are on strike in each prison, citing inmate safety concerns. However, according a statement by the department, visiting at the prisons will not be affected by the strike. 

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Mayor Garcetti appoints supporters to coveted Public Works Commission

Kevin James and Eric Garcetti

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Kevin James, left, is the second of Eric Garcetti's former rivals-turned-backers to get a post in the new mayor's administration.

A former mayoral candidate and a longtime aide to former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be appointed to the Board of Public Works, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday. 

One of the designees, attorney Kevin James, is the second of Garcetti's former rivals-turned-backers to get a job in the new mayor's administration.  Former Councilwoman Jan Perry was recently tapped to lead the newly created Economic Development Department. 

The Board of Public Works oversees construction of public projects, as well as the departments responsible for sanitation, graffiti removal and street maintenance. It is the only paid commission in the city; its members receive an annual salary of $138,000 and their appointments are subject to approval by the city council. 

The other appointees include: Matt Szabo, a former deputy mayor to Villaraigosa; Barbara Romero of the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority; former Assemblyman Mike Davis; and Monica Rodriguez, an executive with the California Association of Realtors. Szabo and Davis made unsuccessful runs for city council in the recent municipal election. 

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