Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Just how much waste and fraud has Wendy Greuel found as city controller?

Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association mayoral debate.

Rebecca Hill/KPCC

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel answers questions during the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association mayoral debate. Her new TV ad - the first in this contest - raised questions from one of her opponents.

Wendy Greuel’s mayoral campaign released its first television ad Tuesday to promote the work she’s done as L.A. city controller. She says she’s identified $160 million in waste - but it turns out that numbers are a tricky thing.

The 30-second spot is the first TV ad in this year's Los Angeles mayoral campaign – and it immediately drew criticism from one of Greuel’s opponents.

“As city controller, I found $160 million in waste and fraud – your tax dollars squandered,” Greuel says in the ad. “ As mayor, I can stop the waste because I know where it is.”

On her campaign website, Greuel, who was elected controller in 2009, identifies a total of $175 million in what she calls “wasteful spending, fraudulent activity and abuse of city resources.” 

Before the campaign released the ad to the media , Eric Garcetti’s campaign cried foul. A statement from the Garcetti campaign argued that as controller, Greuel found $96.7 million in waste – a figure the controller's own website seems to back up. Statements from 2010, 2011 and 2012 indicated that Greuel's audits identified a total of $96.5 million. So, why the discrepancy with the $175 million figure on her campaign website and the $160 million number in the ad?

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Los Angeles City Council votes for own marijuana measure on May ballot to regulate pot dispensaries

Medical Marijuana

Bear Guerra/KPCC

A third measure to regulate marijuana looks to be headed to Los Angeles' May ballot. The Los Angeles City Council voted 8-4 to back its own proposal.

A divided Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to place its own medical marijuana measure on the May ballot, continuing its efforts to regulate storefront clinics that provide cannabis.

A coalition that includes Americans for Safe Access, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance - which previously qualified its own measure for the ballot - immediately endorsed the measure. While voters may still consider the alliance's ballot item, the coalition hopes Angelenos support the City Hall measure. 

“This initiative ordinance combines the best elements of our earlier version with additional revenues for public services,” said UFCW Local 770 President Rick Icaza.

Eight-hundred to 1,000 dispensaries operate in the city of Los Angeles. The proposed measure would reduce that number to about 130. It would also increase the business tax clinics pay from $50 per $1,000 in sales to $60. It would require clinics to operate at least 1,000 feet from schools and 600 feet from places like parks and libraries.

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With Ray LaHood leaving the cabinet, will Antonio Villaraigosa have a job in the White House?

Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa headed to Washington, D.C.? Ray LaHood's decision to step down as U.S. Transportation Secretary gives teeth to speculation that the mayor could join Obama's White House.

The White House announced Tuesday that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will step down from his cabinet position. With that news, Los Angeles political insiders are wondering whether this could be Antonio Villaraigosa’s big moment.

With the L.A. mayor in the home stretch of his second term, speculation continues as to what Villaraigosa will do next. His name is frequently mentioned for a possible cabinet position with the Obama Administration. Villaraigosa chaired the 2012 Democratic National Convention and spent the better part of the year traveling around the country to campaign for the president. He is a frequent guest on cable news and Sunday morning talk shows. And on July 1, he will be unemployed. 

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, the mayor sounded open to a move to Washington, D.C.

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Maven's Morning Coffee: mayoral debate, extortion convictions, delay in airport contracts

LA Mayors Debate

NBC LA

The top five candidates for Los Angeles mayor participate in their first televised debate, aired on NBC LA, on January 28, 2013 at UCLA.

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 Tuesday, Jan. 29, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

A decision on whether to overrule the Board of Airport Commissioners' vote on three public education contracts was delayed by an L.A. City Council committee, according to the Daily News.

Former labor leader Tyrone Freeman was convicted on federal charges of taking money from his union members, reports the Los Angeles Times. "The government's case against Freeman centered on an alleged scheme in which he was accused of boosting his salary by illegally directing Local 6434 money to the affiliated organization he led, California United Homecare Workers," according to The Times.

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LA mayoral race 2013: Candidates for Los Angeles mayor are cautious during live TV debate

LA Mayors Debate

NBC LA

The top five candidates for Los Angeles mayor participate in their first televised debate, aired on NBC LA, on January 28, 2013 at UCLA.

The top five candidates for Los Angeles mayor faced off Monday night in a debate focused on the city budget deficit, jobs and the economy. The televised event was an opportunity for the candidates to reach a much wider audience than previous community forums.

None of the candidates stood out – or stumbled.

RELATED: Stakes high for candidates in televised LA Mayoral debate

“As mayor, I am going to get this economy back on track,” City Councilman Eric Garcetti said. “That is the way to balance our budget.”

Garcetti, like the rest of the candidates, opposes a half- cent sales tax hike on the March ballot – a tax the city administrative officer has said is desperately needed. L.A. faces a projected $200 to $320 million deficit annually over the next five years.

“We can’t tax and cut our way out of this,” Garcetti said.

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