Politics, government and public life for Southern California

NASA proposes $200 million cuts to planetary science; JPL could suffer

The rover Curiosity and other NASA spacecraft at Mars are now in a radio blackout, as the sun is interfering with transmissions. Curiosity took this self-portrait by combining 66 exposures in February.


The rover Curiosity on Mars took this self-portrait by combining 66 exposures in February.

To meet a 1 percent overall budget cut, NASA is proposing a $200 million cut to planetary science programs next fiscal year. That could be an ominous sign for Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Lab, the brains behind the successul Mars rover missions.

The agency said it shouldn't have to reduce programs as a result. But members of Congress told the head of NASA today they’re concerned the space agency is trying to take on too much without the funds to back it up. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, said it sounds like NASA is "going to raid" planetary science "and seriously degrade Mars missions." Schiff, whose district includes JPL, said Congress told NASA it didn't want to see cuts to planetary science.

"They’re just not listening," he said.

NASA head Charles Bolden told lawmakers NASA had to make "some pretty tough choices."


Eric Garcetti goes 'back to basics' with TV ad

Los Angeles City Council President Eric

Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles City Councilman and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti.

In his first television ad of the runoff campaign, L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti says he'll be a "back to basics" mayor, while highlighting his work in the 13th council district. 

"While my opponent is running attack ads, I'm running on my record of solving problems and creating jobs to revitalize neighborhoods like Hollywood and Silver Lake and push my district to be number one in jobs growth," Garcetti says in the ad.

The councilman is referring to a 2012 study by the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce that found his district leads in job creation, though that ranking came in part because of redistricting. 

"Voters have a clear choice: my campaign based on proven results on job creation and problem solving, or Ms. Greuel's campaign based on false attacks," he says.

The Greuel campaign released three televisions ads last week. The first focused on gun violence, and the second featured some of her high-profile supporters -- Sen. Barbara Boxer, former Mayor Richard Riordan and former NBA star Magic Johnson. The third commercial accused Garcetti of profiting from a decision to convert billboards into digital signs. 


New trash regulations for apartments, businesses move forward at LA City Council

San Francisco Passes Toughest Recycling Law In U.S.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

New guidelines for trash collection and recycling were approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council. By 2017, a new system will be in place to pick up garbage at the city's apartment buildings and businesses.

By 2017, a new system will be in place to collect trash at city apartment buildings and businesses in Los Angeles. On Wednesday, the L.A. City Council approved a set of guidelines to govern that system. 

The Bureau of Sanitation is responsible for single-family homes, but private trash haulers pick up garbage at multifamily and commercial locations. The city is in the process of implementing an exclusive franchise system, which will divide Los Angeles into 11 zones, each with one waste hauler. Supporters say the new system will reduce pollution and force companies to implement higher safety and recycling standards. 

"With this plan we are hoping to increase competition, increase recycling, improve working conditions and build a fairer system," said Councilman Jose Huizar, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee. 


Californians in Congress create Sikh Caucus, observe Armenian Genocide


U.S. Rep. Judy Chu is one of two California representatives to Congress that have formed a Sikh Caucus.

A pair of California House members have announced the formation of a new group to acknowledge a large religious group in California: the Sikh Caucus.

Nearly 40 percent of the nation's estimated Sikh population --an estimated 250,000 -- live in California. Early immigrants worked on the railroad and farms in California's Central Valley. The first Sikh Temple built in California, Gurdwara, opened in 1912. 

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, will co-chair the new caucus, an informal group created to educate members of Congress and the general public about American Sikh issues.

“More than a decade after 9/11, too many Sikhs across America face discrimination, bullying, and even bias-motivated violence from misguided individuals associating them with the terrorist attacks,” Chu said Wednesday. “This caucus will be the voice for American Sikhs in the House of Representatives."


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."