Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Mayor Garcetti's appointments to Metro board include Westside, Valley councilmen

metro bus busses mta

Photo by Metro Transportation Library and Archive via Flickr Creative Commons

Mayor Eric Garcetti named Jackie Dupont-Walker and L.A. City Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Mike Bonin to the Board of Directors of Metro, which oversees the buses, light rail lines and subways of Los Angeles County.

One of the perks that comes with being mayor of Los Angeles is a seat on the Metro Board of Directors — and the authority to make three appointments to the transit agency. Mayor Eric Garcetti flexed some of his political muscle Thursday by naming two city councilmen and a nonprofit leader to the board. 

Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Mike Bonin and Jackie Dupont-Walker, president of the USC Master Plan Advisory Committee and president of the Ward Economic Development Corp., will join the 13-member board. Dupont-Walker was also Garcetti's appointee to the city's 2011 Redistricting Commission. 

Metro oversees the buses, light rail lines and subways of Los Angeles County, along with a $5 billion budget. 

"I want to make sure we're careful and strategic with our transportation dollars," Garcetti said in a statement. "That's the only way we're going to make a real difference in the traffic congestion that costs us billions of dollars in lost productivity and billions of hours in time away from our lives." 


Proposed high speed train to Vegas going nowhere fast

XpressWest high speed rail


A digital rendering of XpressWest's proposed high speed train that would run from Victorville to Las Vegas.

You can cancel that high speed train trip to Las Vegas — at last for now. The Department of Transportation has decided to "suspend further consideration" of a $5 billion federal loan application from a private company that wants to link Southern California with the gambling and entertainment mecca.

The Department of Transportation put the XpressWest high speed train project on pause because the company couldn't come up with enough U.S. manufacturers for rail cars and tracks. The department prioritizes projects that use American-made products.

The XpressWest train would take passengers to Las Vegas from Victorville — a connection point with California's proposed high speed train running from Southern California to the Bay Area.

Both projects are subject to a "Made in the U.S." standard.


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.

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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."