Politics, government and public life for Southern California

House committee restores money for JPL's Mars programs

Artist's Concept of Mars 2020 Rover, Annotated


Planning for NASA's 2020 Mars rover envisions a basic structure that capitalizes on re-using the design and engineering work done for the NASA rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012.

The House Appropriations Committee sent a scathing message to the White House Thursday, accusing the administration of "damaging and disproportionate" cuts to NASA's planetary science budget. The committee voted to restore $100 million in funding that will directly benefit Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Lab. 

The Obama administration recommended $1.2 billion dollars for planetary science. Not enough, said the House Appropriations Committee. The reduced amount would, according to a committee statement, "drive uniquely qualified and promising talent out of the field, perhaps permanently."

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank said it was necessary to use strong language to reiterate that Capitol Hill supports planetary science: "We want to go forward with the Mars 2020 mission, we want to go forward with the mission to Europa, we want to continue America's leadership in planetary science and they need to stop sending us these inadequate proposals."

Planetary science is the bread-and-butter of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL wouldn't comment on which projects would be directly affected by the funding, but $288 million of the overall NASA budget is designated for exploration of Mars — including the 2020 Rover.


Maven's Morning Coffee: Compton's new mayor, a proposed boycott of Florida, and why don't more Angelenos vote?

Aja Brown

Frank Stoltze

Newly elected Compton Mayor Aja Brown faces changing demographics in her city.

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 18, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


The LA Weekly profiles newly elected Compton mayor Aja Brown. "Brown, who took office on July 2, is like no mayor Compton has seen before — nor, for that matter, any city in L.A.’s tattered old southeast suburbs," according to the Weekly.

The Washington DC-based Police Foundation is reviewing law enforcement's response to the crime spree of Christopher Dorner, reports the Daily News. "Good, bad or ugly, we want to know what we did right, what we did wrong, and what we can do better in the future," said LAPD Commander Andy Smith.


How can Los Angeles get its voters to the polls? (map)

David McNew/Getty Images

Voter turnout in the city's most recent election was just 23 percent — the lowest for a competitive mayoral race in Los Angeles.

KPCC has embarked on a series called Project Citizen, which looks at the rights, responsibilities, traditions and privileges that come with being a citizen. Among them is the right to vote. But fewer than one in four Angelenos voted in the May 21 election for mayor. That was an all-time low for the city, which is causing concerned parties to look at how to boost participation in local government. (Explore L.A. voter turnout in our interactive map.)

Every four years, when it's time to elect a president or governor, Ben Calderwood is at the polls. The freelance writer is a consistent voter — except when it comes to the local ballot.  

"They're the only elections that I really don't pay that much attention to," says Calderwood matter-of-factly, sitting at the kitchen table in in his West L.A. apartment. "So it's my final voting frontier."


Can California Secretary of State hopeful Pete Peterson help the state Republican Party?

Pete Peterson

Frank Stoltze

Pete Peterson is a Republican candidate for California Secretary of State in 2014.

Pete Peterson is a Republican who supports abortion rights, backs gay marriage and endorses an immigration reform plan that includes a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. In fact, he points out California’s state constitution was written in English and Spanish in 1849.

The next Secretary of State likely won’t deal with any of these issues. But Democrats repeatedly have used them to sink Republican candidates in socially liberal California. Right now, the GOP holds no statewide office. Less than 30 percent of voters statewide are registered as Republican.

So maybe Peterson can help lift a sinking party. He’s taking an interesting approach to his first run for office.

“More than Secretary of State, I am running to be California’s first ‘Chief Engagement Officer,’” Peterson told a Sacramento news conference Wednesday.


Assembly Speaker pushes California agenda in DC

John Perez Doug LaMalfa

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Reunion on Capitol Hill: California Assembly Speaker John Pérez trades business cards with former Sacramento colleague and current GOP Congressman Doug LaMalfa of Redding.

The California legislature is in recess, so Assembly Speaker John Pérez headed east this week to meet with his Capitol Hill compadres. Pérez talked up California's recovery and other particular interests.

Politicos come to Washington for money or regulation issues. Standing outside the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, with whom he'd just met, Pérez put it this way: "This is a great opportunity for us to continue to partner on California initiatives where there's a federal overlap."

Pérez told a House Democratic luncheon that California is back — but it'll take cooperation and partnership to keep up economic growth. He's continuing talks with the Department of Education about the extra $2 billion California received this year for K-12 funding. He also outlined for Democratic lawmakers how the state is implementing the Affordable Care Act.