Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Rookies in California's congressional delegation review State of the Union experience

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.

Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Landov

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.

Tuesday night was the first State of the Union address for more than a dozen new California congressional representatives. It wasn’t quite what most expected.

Republican freshman David Valadao of the Central Valley noticed several things right away: How bright it was in the chamber for all the TV cameras, and how long it took to get everybody on the floor when the cabinet and Supreme Court justices  and other dignitaries arrived.

"It was a process," he said.

Democrat Scott Peters from San Diego says sitting on the House floor is different than it looks on C-Span. "When you watch it on TV, it seems like there’s a lot more activity," he says. But sitting "in the middle of the sea of people, there’s a lot of down time."

Peters says he resisted the temptation to turn on his phone and tweet during the President’s speech. He says he wanted to pay attention to how fellow members reacted to what the President was saying.

The speech itself reminded Long Beach Democratic freshman Alan  Lowenthal of the existentialist writer Albert Camus. The former California State University professor said the President's message echoed Camus' phrase, "in the midst of winter, I found within me an invincible summer."

Last night’s State of the Union address was unusual in one respect: Several rookie California congressional members chose to sit with someone from the other party. Republican Valadao sat with Democrats Eric Swalwell and Juan Vargas; Democrat Janice Hahn sat with Republican Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; Democrat Ami Bera of Sacramento sat with Republican Ed Royce of Fullerton. Bera said it was great.

"It’s a spirit of bipartisanship," said Bera.

He said the President touched on bipartisanship in his speech.

"The challenges that we face are not Democrat vs. Republican," Bera said. "We have to approach these challenges as Americans."

Bera, Hahn and freshman Democrat Jared Huffman are members of the No Labels group, which is trying to foster a spirit of Congressional bipartisanship.

Bera noted there were times during the President’s speech when both Democrats and Republicans actually stood up together to applaud.


LA Area Chamber of Commerce endorses Wendy Greuel for mayor

Wendy Greuel

Wendy Greuel Campaign

City Controller Wendy Greuel has added another significant endorsement to the growing list of backers for her mayoral bid.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed Wendy Greuel for mayor Tuesday, putting the pro-business group on the same side as some of the city’s most powerful unions.

The Chamber joins the Los Angeles Police Protective League, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in backing the city controller for the mayor's office.

“Wendy has a long record of working with the Chamber to champion job creation and build a stronger economy in Los Angeles,” said Gary Toebben, president and CEO of the L.A. Area Chamber.

“She brings a unique combination of political leadership and knowing what it takes to run a successful family-owned business.”

Greuel is running against Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, attorney Kevin James and tech executive Emanuel Pleitez in the March 5 primary.


City Hall union backs Measure A, declines to endorse in mayor's race

Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721, says “the upcoming city elections are critical to the future of Los Angeles."

The union that represents more than 10,000 city workers endorsed a proposed half-cent sales tax increase Tuesday, though the group declined to back a candidate in the mayor’s race.

Members of SEIU Local 721 voted to support Measure A, though a committee for the union urged opposition to the tax when it was proposed last fall. The Los Angeles Times reported that council President Herb Wesson, the architect of the tax, spoke to union members two weeks ago. A spokesman for Wesson was not available to confirm that, while representatives for the union said they decided to back Measure A after studying the impact of the tax. The measure appears on the March 5 ballot. 

“The upcoming city elections are critical to the future of Los Angeles," said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721. "We need champions of working families at City Hall who have a clear vision to move our city forward. Our members believe that these candidates have the energy and ideas to do it.” 


Maven's Morning Coffee: Bell officials take the stand, feds file in Dorner case, former deputy mayor questions city's numbers

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The district attorney has called it "corruption on steroids" and now former Bell city officials are taking to the witness stand to defend themselves.

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, Feb. 12 and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


Two former Bell city officials took to the witness stand Monday to defend themselves in a case the district attorney has called "corruption on steroids," reports the Los Angeles Times. "Prosecutors have depicted the defendants as salary gluttons who put their city on a path toward bankruptcy," according to the newspaper.

Critics of the Los Angeles Police Department say the disciplinary process is stacked in the department's favor, according to KPCC. "LAPD officers on the boards fear they won't be promoted if they go against the department. And the civilian member of the Board of Rights fears not being brought back to hear more cases if they offend the LAPD," according to one attorney who has represented officers.


Wendy Greuel on police plan: it's a goal, not a promise

Wendy Greuel

Wendy Greuel Campaign

Controller Wendy Greuel responded to critics Monday who say her police hiring plan is bunk. "This is a goal," she says.

Monday morning’s Los Angeles Times carried the headline, “Greuel’s budget plan draws ridicule,” and now mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel is defending her proposal to hire more cops and firefighters at a time when the city is facing a multimillion-dollar deficit.

It was just a week ago that the Greuel campaign announced a plan to set aside 20 percent of new revenues to hire 2,000 police officers and 1,000 firefighters and paramedics by 2020. That plan is based on 3 to 5 percent annual growth in revenue, though the city’s top budget official says the figure will be closer to 2.5 percent this spring.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told The Times: “It's not doable. It's not real. It's an arithmetic problem, to quote Bill Clinton, and the arithmetic does not add up."

In a Monday interview with KPCC, Greuel hit back at her critics, though she clarified her stance,  saying she wasn’t making promises but instead setting a target if she is elected.