Politics, government and public life for Southern California

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.


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


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.”


Senate immigration hearing branches out from Boston bombing concerns

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano preparing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Her appearance had ben delayed by the bombings in Boston.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee: "We will learn lessons from this attack [in Boston], just as we have from past instances of terrorism and violent extremism."

Immigration reform and terrorism collided once again at Tuesday's Senate Judiciary hearing.

In her first appearance on Capitol Hill since the Boston Marathon bombings, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Senators, "We will learn lessons from this attack, just as we have from past instances of terrorism and violent extremism." Napolitano added, "We will apply those, we will emerge even stronger."

But the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, brought up a long list of national security concerns — the 9-11 terrorists abusing student visas, and not sufficiently tracking suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev after he traveled to Russia on a trip that had been flagged by authorities there. "If the background checks on the 12 million people who are here illegally are anything like they were like the Boston bomber, we’re in serious trouble," Grassley said.


Maven's Morning Coffee: Wendy Greuel, Eric Garcetti debate, LAT looks at Million Trees plan, and movement in the assessor's case


Maya Sugarman/KPCC

City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel check the time, minutes before a 7 p.m. mayoral debate at USC Health Sciences Campus in Mayer Auditorium on Monday.

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 Tuesday, April 23, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


The mayoral candidates attacked one another Monday evening in a debate hosted by KPCC and NBC 4. Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti accused each other of not having the independence to oversee the Department of Water and Power.

Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel recorded video interviews with the Los Angeles Times.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised to plant 1 million trees in Los Angeles, but ended up with just 400,000. According to the Los Angeles Times editorial board, "In the end, the mayor may have planted only half of what he promised, but it's fair to see this urban forest as half-full, not half-empty."


Video: Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel go on the attack in LA mayoral debate (updated)

LA Mayoral Debate - April 22, 2013

City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel greet each other before a mayoral debate at USC Health Sciences Campus in Mayer Auditorium on Monday, April 22.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013Mayoral candidates Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti attacked one another over questions of integrity Monday during a debate sponsored by KPCC, NBC 4, Telemundo and USC.

Midway through the evening, Greuel brought up an ethics complaint filed against Garcetti by former Controller Rick Tuttle, who is supporting the Greuel campaign. The complaint accuses Garcetti of delaying a 2009 hearing that could have been detrimental to a solar measure supported by the Department of Water and Power union. The controller furthered alleged that Garcetti was too cozy with the utility because he supported rate increases and pay raises for DWP employees.

In response, the councilman noted that the DWP union’s political action committee has supported Greuel to the tune of almost $2 million.

On policy issues, Greuel told the audience she supports the elimination of the gross receipts tax and that, as mayor, she would expand the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.