Politics, government and public life for Southern California

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.


California Democrats invite victims of gun violence to State of the Union

Christopher McDonnell, the father of slain Newtown elementary student Grace McDonnell, will be a guest of Congresswoman Gloria Negrete-McLeod at Tuesday's State of the Union address.

It's become customary for the President to invite particular guests to the State of the Union address to highlight his agenda for the coming year. Now, two Californians in Congress are doing the same thing to highlight the push for measures to prevent gun violence.

Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein is author of the Senate bill that would ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. She's invited Josh Stepakoff to attend Tuesday’s State of the Union address. In 1999, when Stepakoff was 6, he was one of five people shot at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills. The gunman was a white supremacist who was armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle.

Stepakoff is now a 20-year-old student at Cal State Northridge and  a member of the board of Women Against Gun Violence. Feinstein says it's "important for members of Congress to see the faces behind these tragedies of gun violence.” She says assault weapons "designed for the theater of war have no place in our society."


Villaraigosa backs Measure A on March ballot to increase sales tax

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck appeared at a press conference Monday in support of Measure A, which would increase the city's sales tax. Without it, the LAPD could lose 200 to 500 officers, according to the city's top budget official.

A proposed half-cent sales tax increase that city leaders say will generate $100 million in its first year was endorsed Monday by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. 

The mayor’s backing comes months after he said the Los Angeles City Council needed to do more to cut costs and raise revenues.

“We cut a third of the L.A. civilian General Fund budget,” said Villaraigosa at a Monday morning press conference. “We’ve had consolidations of departments, we found efficiencies. We’ve done everything that we can.

“The fact of the matter is, when you look at the kinds of tough decisions that we’ve made … I can now support a sales tax increase,” he said.

The tax increase, if approved on the March 5 ballot, would take effect in October. It would bring in an estimated $100 million in its first year and $200 million a year going forward. Without the tax increase, the size of the Los Angeles Police Department could drop by 200 to 500 officers, according to a report released last week by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.