Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Mickey Kantor tapped to examine LA city deficit

US Trade representative Mickey Kantor (C

ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

LA City Council President Herb Wesson, wants former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, center, to head a panel that would examine the city's finances.

Facing projected deficits totaling nearly a billion dollars over the next five years, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said Wednesday he wants to appoint former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor to head a panel that would examine the city’s books. Kantor, who served under President Bill Clinton, lives in Los Angeles.

“This would be a high level commission that would review the fiscal stability of the city of Los Angeles,” Wesson told KPCC.

Wesson said it's not that he distrusts the budget numbers from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller.

“No, no, no, no,” Wesson said emphatically outside city council chambers. “Sometimes it's just a good thing to have an outside eye.”

Labor union leaders who represent city workers have accused Santana of distorting the city’s financial picture to push an anti-labor agenda. Wesson, who is closely aligned with labor, suggested that Department of Water and Power union chief Brian D’Arcy could sit on the panel.

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Richard Riordan joins Wendy Greuel campaign as economic adviser

Richard Riordan

KPCC

Former Mayor Richard Riordan joined the Wendy Greuel campaign Wednesday as an adviser on economic issues. He endorsed Kevin James in the primary.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013

Richard Riordan endorsed Kevin James in the L.A. mayoral primary, but now he's joining the Wendy Greuel campaign as an adviser on economic issues, her camp announced Wednesday.

In a statement, Greuel called Riordan “a force” in Los Angeles. He served as L.A.'s mayor from 1993 to 2001.

“Los Angeles, the city I love, is in a crisis – we need to bring business and labor together and I know Wendy Greuel is the right candidate for the job,” Riordan said.

Riordan had backed fellow Republican James in the non-partisan primary. At the time, Riordan called James “the only candidate capable of creating real pension reform for the city of Los Angeles.”

The former mayor attempted pension reform last year with a proposed charter amendment that would have moved new city employees to a 401(k)-style retirement system. Riordan dropped that proposal when he was unable to collect enough signatures to get the amendment qualified for the ballot.

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NASA warns sequestration could cut missions

NASA Director Charles Bolden tours JPL in Pasadena

Sanden Totten/KPCC

NASA Director Charles Bolden, right, seen here touring the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, told a Congressional subcommittee that sequestration will temper the agency's ambitions.

Sequestration continues to dominate budget discussions on Capitol Hill. The top man at NASA said Wednesday he may have to cut some programs.

NASA has great plans for Mars in the near future. Administrator Charles Bolden outlined the next two decades for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science. Next year, the probe MAVEN will study the atmosphere of Mars; in 2016, a small lander called Insight begins its mission to drill deep inside the red planet. A similar version of Curiosity will launch in 2020, with plans to put humans on Mars in the 2030s.

But Bolden said sequestration makes planning tough: "That word keeps coming up because that changes everything that we told you."

Bolden said a decade of sequestration means he either has to cut a billion dollars either in planned missions or people – scientists like those who work at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Lab. "And I don’t think we want to do the people," Bolden said.

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Racial politics broached in South LA city council contest

Curren Price

Curren Price campaign website

State Sen. Curren Price told South L.A. ministers that his city council opponent, Ana Cubas, is "committed to dividing the Ninth District along racial lines."

A former member of the Los Angeles City Council is criticizing a South L.A. candidate for accusing his opponent of using race as a tactic in the May 21 runoff campaign.

State Sen. Curren Price, who is African-American, is running against Ana Cubas, a Latina, to represent the Ninth District, which includes much of South Los Angeles.

Speaking to the Baptist Ministers Conference Monday, Price said: “In this campaign we have an opponent who is committed to dividing the Ninth along racial lines." 

Rita Walters, who represented the district from 1991-2001 and has endorsed Cubas, asked Price to retract his comments. 

“I am disturbed that a candidate trying to earn the trust of voters in a district where Latinos and African-Americans have lived side-by-side for decades would utter remarks so clearly aimed at inciting friction between both groups of voters,” Walters said in an open letter.

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Maven's Morning Coffee: Villaraigosa's legacy on public safety, LA to end use of coal, Jose Huizar returns from DC

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Votes Election As He Tries For Second Term

David McNew/Getty Images

KPCC looks at Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's legacy on public safety and who should get credit for a drop in crime.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, public meetings and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

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Today is Wednesday, March 20, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

KPCC looks at who should get credit for Los Angeles' drop in crime. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa "embraced (former Chief Bill) Bratton, who receives a lot of credit for turning the LAPD around and delivering the dramatic drops in crime by introducing new technology and cooperating more with federal agencies," according to the station.

Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel tells the Los Angeles Times that in fact she doesn't want to reopen negotiations on a pension plan approved last year -- she just wants to talk to union leaders. An earlier remark from Greuel that she wanted to begin new labor talks drew concern from one of her backers -- the LA Area Chamber of Commerce. "We want to make sure we are not on opposite sides of this discussion," said the Chamber's Gary Toebben.

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