Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Audit: General Services spent $800K on equipment it rarely used

Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association mayoral debate.

Rebecca Hill/KPCC

Controller Wendy Greuel released an audit Monday that shows the General Services Department spent more than $800,000 on equipment that it didn't use.

Officials with the General Services Department spent more than $800,000 on two pieces of equipment that, once purchased, were rarely used, according to an audit released Monday.

City Controller Wendy Greuel (who is also a mayoral candidate) found GSD spent $518,016 on a mobile lab in 2008. The lab should have been used to test materials on city job sites. Instead, it was driven 402 miles in 5 years – though the warranty covered it for 36,000 miles.

That same year, the department bought a Geoprobe Drill Rig for $329,231 to test soil samples in real time. It went unused for the first 18 months the city owned it, and has only been used sporadically since then, according to the audit.

“It is inexcusable that the Department of General Services spent nearly $850,000 on specialized equipment without a plan to utilize it,” Greuel said in a statement. “The department must take immediate steps to prevent this kind of failure in the future.”


Congress: turn down the helicopter noise

helicopter hearing

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Residents filled a Sherman Oaks middle school cafeteria last year to attend a public hearing hosted by the Federal Aviation Administration on noisy helicopters.

California lawmakers are once again pushing federal aviation officials to regulate helicopters flying over L.A. County neighborhoods. Residents have been complaining for years about the noise.

Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman understands the appeal of seeing movie star homes from the air, but he says with the canyons and the valleys in the L.A. area, the sound is amplified "and we’ve received many, many complaints about the excessive noise from these helicopters."

Waxman has joined California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as House Democrats Brad Sherman and Adam Schiff, in reintroducing a bill requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to set guidelines on flight paths and minimum altitudes for choppers flying over L.A. County. 

Congressman Schiff says it wouldn’t eliminate all helicopter noise — police and emergency responders would be exempt from the restrictions. But he says it would have "the greatest impact on paparazzi that hovers over Lindsey Lohan’s apartment every time she has a court appearance or some of the tours in the Hollywood Hills or the Rose Bowl."

Schiff says he's had several meetings with neighborhood residents that were interrupted by helicopter noise. "They came flying overhead," he says, "and we had to cease the conversation until they left."

Southern California lawmakers have been urging the FAA to do something about helicopters over L.A. County for several years. The FAA is scheduled to release a report on chopper noise in May, but it may include guidelines rather than new rules. The bill would make regulations mandatory, not voluntary.

There is a precedent for helicopter restrictions: New York's Long Island already has chopper rules in place to restrict noise.



Rick Perry airs radio ads to attract California businesses to Texas

Texas A&M v SMU

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Rick Perry attends a game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is airing radio ads in California to convince companies here to relocate to the Lone Star state.

A public-private marketing partnership called TexasOne is paying for the 30-second advertisement that touts Texas's low taxes and industry-friendly regulations along with strict limits on lawsuits.

In the ad, Perry says that he hears "building a business in California is next to impossible." He calls on California businesses to "come check out Texas."

The ads will air in the San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Inland Empire and San Diego media markets for a week.

Perry regularly travels to California to convince companies to move their operations to Texas. The governor likes to brag that Texas has the fastest growing job market in the nation.


Early voting begins for Los Angeles' March 5 primary



Early voting in the March 5 primary begins this week for Los Angeles voters.

Early voting for L.A.'s municipal election has begun.

Registered absentee voters could see ballots arrive in their mailboxes as early as this week. Voters can apply for a mail-in ballot until Feb. 26. The ballots must be received by the City Clerk’s office by 8 p.m. on election day, March 5.

Applications for absentee ballots can be found on the back of the Official Sample Ballot that is sent to all registered voters.

The spring primary includes elections for the mayor’s office, city attorney, controller and half of the Los Angeles City Council. Voters will also be asked to take a position on a half-cent sales tax increase and a slight change in police officers’ pensions. 


Maven's Morning Coffee: LAX air traffic, Villaraigosa stays in LA, the fight for Valley voters

LAX Thanksgiving

Ben Bergman

A report from L.A. County finds LAX officials have not done enough to disperse air traffic throughout the region, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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, Feb. 4 and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


Los Angeles World Airports has only made "token efforts" to disperse commercial traffic to other airports, which is required by a 2006 agreement, according to the Los Angeles Times. Also, the Board of Airport Commissioners will vote tomorrow on a recommendation to move the airport's northern runway 260 feet to the north.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he won't leave for Washington, D.C., or any other job, before his term is up on June 30, reports Politico. Villaraigosa's name has come up as a possible replacement for outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.