Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Feinstein wants Yosemite to grow to John Muir's boundary lines

Yosemite National Park

Stephanie O'Neill/KPCC

California Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to expand the boundaries of Yosemite National Park.

Feeling a little crowded these days when you visit Yosemite National Park? California lawmakers want to expand the park to protect habitat.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced a bill that expands Yosemite by about 1,600 acres on the park's western border. The proposed new boundary would include acreage that conservationist John Muir first proposed more than a century ago.

The bill, co-sponsored by fellow California Democrat Barbara Boxer and introduced in the House of Representatives by Jim Costa of Fresno, would allow the National Park Service to buy land from willing sellers. It would include nearly 800 acres already purchased by the conservation group Pacific Forest Trust.

"Yosemite’s popularity is also its greatest challenge,"  Feinstein said.

She said new development in the western lands adjoining the park would "increase the threat of fire, habitat fragmentation and degradation of creeks that flow into the park."

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Maven's Morning Coffee: charges for county assessor, a legal fight in Ontario, and a closer look at the DWP union

Noguez mugshot

LA County Sheriff's Dept.

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez is facing more felony counts in an alleged bribery scandal.

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.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Wednesday, April 24, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

KPCC takes a closer look at the men and women whose paychecks help fund the Department of Water and Power union. "Donors to Working Californians are mainly individual union members; the locals that have put up the most money for the PAC are Locals 11 and 18 of the  International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and unions representing other DWP workers, such as pipefitters and plumbers," according to the station.

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LA mayor's race: City worker unions power the pro-Wendy Greuel Working Californians PAC

MAYORALDEBATE - 4

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel chat before their April 22 mayoral debate.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013A political action committee backed by city labor unions has collected $2.7 million in support of Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, making it the biggest independent PAC in the race.

Mayoral candidates Greuel and Eric Garcetti attacked one another over questions of integrity Monday during a debate sponsored by KPCC, NBC 4, Telemundo and USC.

At $2.7 million collected and counting, Working Californians to Elect Wendy Greuel for Mayor 2013 is the biggest independent political action committee in the mayor's race. A senior official describes it as a coalition of labor, business, and philanthropists, but city unions — particularly those representing Department of Water and Power workers — have given the lion's share of the PAC's money.

Attacking the PAC has become part of Councilman Garcetti's campaign mantra: "I don't have $3 million from a super PAC led by the DWP union supporting my campaign," he said in Monday's debate.

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Can California do more for veterans stuck waiting for federal benefits?

California has the nation’s largest population of military veterans, and 60,000 of them are expected to wait well over a year for federal benefits. 

The Veteran’s Administration has blamed delays on a backlog of more than 800,000 claims nationwide that could take up to two years to whittle down. The problem was the focus of a Little Hoover Commission hearing in Sacramento Tuesday on what more California can do to help its veterans. 

Keith Boylan, Deputy Secretary of CalVet, said the problem isn't that the state lacks resources, but that it's doing its job too well. "That’s been done so effectively that the number of claims going to the VA are more than they can handle," he said.

The state agency helps servicemen and women reintegrate into civilian life. As part of that mission, Boylan said they readily file claims with the VA for everything from physical injuries to post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Wendy Greuel attacks Eric Garcetti for accepting campaign donations from former convict

MAYORALDEBATE - 8

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

City Controller Wendy Greuel says Eric Garcetti's campaign has accepted thousands of dollars from a developer who served time for financial crimes back in the 1990s.

Accusation. Rebuttal. Counter-rebuttal. That was the theme of L.A.'s mayoral campaign on Tuesday.

Wendy Greuel summoned reporters to her Boyle Heights field office to divulge that Eric Garcetti's campaign has accepted donations from a man convicted and sentenced to prison for financial crimes. 

The donations came from Juri Ripinsky, who — back in the '90s — was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering for defrauding the Independence Bank of Encino. He was released from prison in 1998. 

According to the Ethics Commission, Ripinsky has given Garcetti's campaign $2,600 in the primary and general elections and hosted a fundraiser in May of 2012. The campaign has received a total of $9,200 from members of the Ripinsky family. 

"We know that Mr. Garcetti likes to play by his own rules, and he’s broken a lot of them," Greuel said. "I'm not sure what's more incredible — the fact that Eric Garcetti took thousands of dollars from a convicted felon at a polo match or that he's been championing this convicted felon's development project before the City Council.”

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