Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Nuclear Regulatory Commission coming west for San Onofre update

Allison MacFarlane is the newly-confirmed chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is coming to Southern California next month for a public meeting about the next steps in de-commissioning the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Regulating what happens to nuclear fuel at facilities such as San Onofre is part of the NRC's purview, says agency chairwoman Allison Macfarlane, whose appointment to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was confirmed late last month.

Macfarlane is an expert on that side of the nuclear energy equation. She got her PhD in geology from MIT and has researched environmental policy and security issues related to nuclear energy. She also served on a presidential commission that looked at strategies for dealing with nuclear waste.

Step one, Macfarlane says, is moving spent fuel into a pool. She says it's "like a swimming pool, but 30-40 feet deep." About 200 fuel rods — 12-feet high, each about the diameter of a quarter — are bundled together and held in racks at the bottom of those pools. The water provides both cooling and protection from radioactivity.


Poll: Mamas don't want their babies to grow up to be politicians

House GOP Leadership Hold News Conference On Immigration

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter is an exception to the Gallup Poll findings. His son inherited his Congressional seat.

Willie Nelson may have cautioned mothers about allowing their children to grow up to be cowboys, but Americans have made it clear in a new Gallup poll — by a two-to-one margin — they don't want their babies to grow up to be politicians.

Gallup has been asking about sons going into politics since 1944. (Questions about daughters were added much later.) Except for 1965 when 36% of Americans thought a political career was a good idea, fewer than one in three parents have ever favored their child running for office. This latest poll shows 64% say "no way." Just 31% say they'd like to see politics as their child's life's work.

Non-white parents are the strongest supporters of a child's political career, with more than 40% favoring a son or daughter's campaign. Gallup says this isn't a reaction to America's first black president; similar answers were found when both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were president.


Special elections set for Asssembly, Senate seats are costly, draw few voters

Legislature Special Elections

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

State Sen. Norma Torres won her race for the 32nd Senate District seat in May after a special election costing Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties $2.4 million. Photo from Feb. 16, 2012, before the election.

Governor Jerry Brown has called for special elections on Sept. 17 to choose replacements for two state legislators who recently won spots on the L-A City Council.

Voters will cast primary votes in the 45th Assembly District in the San Fernando Valley and the 26th Senate District race in Culver City and Ladera Heights. If a runoff is needed, the top two candidates will face off Nov. 19.

As state legislators leave office mid-term after winning seats in Congress, L-A City Council or other elective office, their spots are filled by primary and, if necessary, runoff elections. Already, a dozen special elections have been scheduled in 2013, the most in ten years, according to the Secretary of State's office.

The elections are a by-product of California's term limits that send politicians hopping from seat to seat.


LA's black political leaders negotiate shifting demographics 40 years after Tom Bradley's election

Aja Brown

Frank Stoltze

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

Forty years ago this week, Los Angeles elected its first black mayor, Tom Bradley. He served for two decades – ushering in a new era of African-American political power in Los Angeles. Today, changing demographics mean black leaders must pursue new strategies.

Aja Brown is well aware of that. She is Compton’s newly elected mayor.

Brown, 31, was born in Compton, but grew up in Altadena - her mother moved the family away after her grandmother was murdered. The tragedy didn’t stop Brown from moving back to Compton and going to work as an urban planner for a city undergoing big changes.

“Our community is very diverse,” Brown said recently as she sat outside a Starbucks on Artesia Blvd. “We have our first Latino council member this year.”

Latinos now comprise 60 percent of Compton’s population – a challenge for black political leaders like Brown.  She says the makeup of her family helps her understand the importance of inclusiveness.


40 years later: Remembering the pivotal election of Tom Bradley

Bradley and Ali

Los Angele Public Library Archives

Mayor Tom Bradley pretends to hit boxer Muhammad Ali during the 1984 Olympics.

Tom Bradley

Los Angeles Public Library Archives

Mayor Tom Bradley.

Tom Bradley

Los Angeles Public Library Archives

Tom Bradley campaigns for mayor in 1973.

City Councilman Tom Bradley, 1971.

Tom Bradley and Sam Yorty

Los Angeles Public Library Archives

City Councilman Tom Bradley debates incumbent Mayor Sam Yorty in 1973.

Tom Bradley

Los Angeles Public Library Archives

LAPD Lt. Tom Bradley. The department would not allow African-Americans to rise above the rank of lieutenant in the early 1960s, so Bradley left to practice law. He successfully ran for city council in 1963.

Mayor Tom Bradley at the opening of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He was a college track star at UCLA.

Tom Bradley in his UCLA football uniform.

Eric Garcetti picked up where Antonio Villaraigosa left off, becoming mayor of Los Angeles by assembling a strong multi-ethnic coalition of supporters. But, they weren't the first to do so.

Forty years ago this week, Tom Bradley took office as LA's first African-American mayor after a transformational election. His quest to lead LA began four years earlier in what became a nasty contest against an entrenched incumbent.

The TV news footage from the time is grainy, but the words are clear. It is 1969, and two-term incumbent Mayor Sam Yorty is fighting for his political life against an African-American city councilman seeking to oust him from office.

“Militants are being very quiet right now,” Yorty warned. “They’re kind of lying back and waiting. They don’t want to jeopardize Bradley’s chances.”