Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA's mayoral candidates propose alternatives to sales tax increase

Mayoral Candidates

Photos courtesy of candidates' campaigns

The top mayoral candidates, Wendy Greuel, Kevin James, Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, all oppose the proposed sales tax increase.

A final vote to place a half-cent sales tax on the City of Los Angeles’ spring ballot is scheduled for Tuesday, but the top mayoral candidates have already come out in opposition to the proposal.

The tax increase, backed by council President Herb Wesson, could bring in as much as $215 million a year. Mayoral candidates and current council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry voted no in last week's initial vote.

Fellow candidate Wendy Greuel, L.A.'s City Controller, is also opposed. So is attorney Kevin James, who calls the proposed tax shortsighted — with some pointed words about Wesson's argument that the tax would give officials "breathing room" to come up with long-term solutions.

“I can translate it for you in just a few words – kicking the can farther down the road. That’s what breathing room means,” James said of the proposal. 

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GOP incumbents officially defeated in 3 close Congressional races (map)

Democrat Raul Ruiz unseated Republican incumbent Mary Bono-Mack in a Coachella Valley district that includes Palm Springs.

It’s been nearly two weeks since Californians cast their ballots, but it finally looks as though all 53 of the state’s Congressional races have winners, including three races that had been too close to call.  

All three races went to Democratic challengers.  California’s Secretary of State says absentee and provisional ballots have put emergency room doctor Raul Ruiz more than 7,800 votes ahead of Palm Springs incumbent Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack.

Another physician, Sacramento’s Ami Bera, defeated 17-year incumbent Dan Lungren by 5,600 votes. Bera isn’t surprised Californians voted out the incumbents. He says there's "a real sense of frustration with this last Congress and their inability to address the issues that face our nation." 

Down in San Diego, incumbent GOP Congressman Brian Bilbray has conceded to port commissioner Scott Peters, who is more than 5,000 votes ahead.

The results mean California's Republican delegation has shrunk from 19 members to 15.

Officially, the races won’t be certified until mid-December. But all three Democrats will return to Washington next week for round two of freshman orientation. 

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Maven's Morning Coffee: DWP in the Owens Valley, Villaraigosa with LA Magazine, the numbers on pension reform

Mercer 4443

nixhorizon/Flickr cc

The Los Angeles Times looks at the Department of Water and Power's long dispute with the Owens Valley.

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 Monday, Nov. 19, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

In Rick Orlov's Tipoff column, fallout from the Howard Berman-Brad Sherman race and questions over Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's lame duck status.

Los Angeles Times writer Jim Newton looks at the Department of Water and Power's long dispute with the Owens Valley. "As (DWP General Manager Ron) Nichols puts it, eliminating dust in the Owens Valley is 'an absolute physical impossibility' and certainly not the job of a single water agency. He argues for a compromise that controls excessive dust but also limits the DWP's open-ended responsibility."

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Photos: California's bumper crop of freshman lawmakers learn the ropes on Capitol Hill

Freshman Congress

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Democrats (from left) Scott Peters of San Diego, Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach, Jared Huffman of Humboldt and Gloria Negrete-McLeod of Chino compare notes during orientation week at the Capitol.

Dr. Ami Bera, a Democratic physician from Sacramento, said the Capitol is a "maze" that reminded him of a hospital.

David Valadao, a Republican from the Central Valley, said learning his way around the Capitol was a little "disorienting."

Doug LaMalfa, a Republican farmer from Redding, is aiming for the Agriculture Committee.

Democrat Julia Brownley of Ventura County said endless meetings in countless places made for sore feet.

Teacher Mark Takano, a Democrat from Riverside, is hoping for seat on the House Education Committee.

Democrat Tony Cardenas is moving from L.A. City Hall to the halls of Congress.

Dr. Raul Ruiz is a newly-elected Democrat from the Coachella Valley.


It’s freshman orientation time, Capitol Hill style. Newly-elected members of Congress spent last week in Washington, where there was a lot to learn and not much time to learn it.

It was a busy week for the new House members from California. 

Republican Doug LaMalfa from Redding said going to the House floor was "pretty cool." Ventura Democrat Julia Brownley said there were a lot of meetings in a lot of different locations, which resulted in sore feet, "But it's all been great and very exciting." 

L.A. Democrat Tony Cardenas said they received ethics training early in the week, but he had more questions after the session than he did before he walked in the door.

Mark Takano, a Democrat from Riverside, had his priorities in order: he found out where he could get his dry cleaning done in the Longworth House Office Building for about a fourth of the price they charge at the hotel where the newbies were put up.

David Valadao, a Republican representing Hanford in the Central Valley, said the hardest part has been remembering names and faces. He noted when he was a lawmaker in Sacramento, it was easier: just 80 members. And as the minority party, his Republican caucus "just had 27 at the time."

California is sending a bumper crop of 14 freshmen to Capitol Hill. They were feted at a dinner in the grand Statuary Hall of the Capitol by Speaker John Boehner, had their I.D. pictures taken, and staked out their preference for committees.

Cardenas wants Energy and Commerce, since he's an engineer. Takano, a teacher, is leaning toward Education and the Workforce. LaMalfa pointed out that he's a farmer in his "real life," so the Agriculture Committee would be "a natural." But LaMalfa said he already knows this much: "Freshmen don't walk in here and start dictating where they go."

Nevertheless, Democrats Alan Lowenthal from Long Beach and Jared Huffman from Humboldt are both requesting Transportation and Infrastructure. Their party is the minority in the House, which means fewer seats on plum committees like those they're seeking. 

But Cardenas isn’t discouraged: "The way it works around here, they say if you don’t get what you ask for, and they give you a different committee, apparently you still get to reserve a right to be on it when a slot opens up in the future."

Brownley also wants one of those rare Transportation seats. She spent an afternoon making her case to the top Democrat on that committee, Nick Rahall of West Virginia.

It’s not just the protocol new freshmen have to learn. There’s also the physical lay of the land.  Just ask Valadao and Sacramento Democrat Dr. Ami Bera. Valadao said he got "a little disoriented" in the Capitol. Bera said it's a "maze" of a building and compared it to a hospital.

Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod of Chino also got a little confused when she stepped into a bathroom: "I walked in and [thought], Why are there urinals here?" She double-checked the door, saw the men's room sign and walked right back out.

But these 14 new members have worries off the Hill as well.  Their top concern is housing, whether they'll need a roommate, or a car. Dr. Raul Ruiz of the Coachella Valley said he's thinking about the East Coast winter weather, which he experienced during his college days at Harvard: "I’m starting to think of which clothing that I have that are remnants from my time in Boston that will keep me warm here in D.C."

Scott Peters, a Democrat from San Diego, broached another matter that crosses party lines: "One of the longer commutes in Congress." Peters wondered how he'll make a bi-coastal lifestyle work. LaMalfa said the challenge is whether to "move your family back to this place and then just go home for district business and then try to get back and be here? Or is there enough days that they’re home, you should just stay here and hustle back and forth on the weekends?"

The freshmen will have time to think about logistics while they’re home for Thanksgiving. They’ll be back at work at their temporary cubicles in the basement of the Rayburn Building at the end of the month, picking lottery numbers for office space and learning more about the way things work in D.C. 

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Labor opposes proposed increase in Los Angeles city sales tax

SEIU Local 721

Alice Walton/KPCC

SEIU Local 721 opposed the city's efforts to change its pension system. Now, the labor group is opposing the Los Angeles City Council's plan to increase the city sales tax.

A union representing Los Angeles city workers has joined the top mayoral candidates in opposing a plan to increase the city sales tax a half percent.

A committee of SEIU Local 721 unanimously voted to oppose the measure that is expected to appear on the March 5, 2013 ballot. The Los Angeles City Council will take a final vote on Tuesday to send the proposed increase to voters.

“The proposed half-cent sales tax is a regressive tax that would hurt middle class workers in Los Angeles," said SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover. "Our members decided they just couldn’t support it."

“The city council ignored other revenue raising measures, and did so by relying on polls generated by real estate industry lobbyists. Neither council President [Herb] Wesson, nor the council as a whole has studied this measure independently or discussed it with city workers.”

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