Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Public Utilities Commission blasted in state audit

The State Department of Finance says the staff of California’s Public Utilities Commission has been misreporting the balance in special funds the agency manages. That’s the finding of a state audit that blamed "general confusion and lack of knowledge" for the mistakes. 

The PUC manages 14 special funds that use monthly fees from consumers to pay for special programs like the Universal Lifeline telephone service for low-income Californians.   It turns out that in 2011, agency staff miscalculated how much those funds held.

"It created the appearance that there were more funds than there really were,"  said David Botelho, who heads the audit team at the Department of Finance.

The audit was launched after discrepancies of nearly a half-billion dollars were found between what the utilities agency reported to the Finance Department and what it reported to the state controller. The Universal Lifeline Account showed the largest difference — $158 million.

Read More...

Mayors Villaraigosa and Bloomberg to talk gun control Friday — separately (UPDATED)

LA Mayor Villraigosa Discusses Immigration Reform In Washington

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa included comments on gun control in his speech earlier this week at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

UPDATE: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will not appear with NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a Friday press conference as originally scheduled. A Villaraigosa spokesman gave no reason for the change of plans. L.A.'s mayor will discuss gun control on two cable news channels Friday.

ORIGINAL STORY: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa teams up with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting Friday in Washington to target gun violence. The mayors say they will keep the pressure on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban and other gun control measures.

Villaraigosa also wants stronger background checks, data bases for the mentally ill, and Congressional approval of a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Earlier this week, at the National Press Club, Villaraigosa attacked members of Congress and others who use the Constitution as an excuse not to act, saying: "They use the Second Amendment to defend the unconscionable, to defend what’s wrong, to defend what doesn’t make sense to the vast majority of us. And that’s the challenge."

Vice-President Joe Biden on Thursday asked the Conference of Mayors for help with the White House gun proposals.

Both California and New York already have an assault weapons ban. Villaraigosa co-authored California’s law when he was Assembly Speaker. Bloomberg has put up millions of his own dollars to support political candidates willing to tackle gun control issues. 

Read More...

California high-speed rail pairs with Amtrak for cost and clout

HighSpeedRail.KF.011713

Kitty Felde/KPCC

California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, and Amtrak President Joe Boardman. (L-R) Photo credit: Kitty Felde/KPCC

California’s high speed rail czar is in Washington, D.C. this week to mend political fences - and to find partners who can help make it tougher to derail California’s cut of new federal rail funding.

He may have made progress with both.

Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, met this week with Republican Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Fresno), the new head of the House transportation subcommittee that oversees railroads.

Morales says Denham, a long time critic of California's high speed rail project, has questions and concerns - and he says it's the California High-Speed Rail Authority's responsibility to answer them.

"We’re confident we can do that," says Morales. He described his meeting with Denham as a "good step."

Morales also announced California is partnering with Amtrak to shop for locomotives and passenger cars - what railroad types call "train sets." These "train sets" will be a complete set of cars, and the high-speed version will have the power to run the train embedded in each car.

Read More...

LAPD union decides to sit out the city attorney race ... for now

Mercer 1891

Los Angeles City Attorney's Office

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich failed to secure an endorsement from the Police Protective League, which helped him win the office in 2009.

The powerful union that represents rank-and-file Los Angeles police officers has declined to endorse a candidate in the race for city attorney during the primary election.

“We are not getting in yet,” said Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. “We will probably stay out until the general election.”

The decision may most affect Greg Smith, an attorney who often represents police officers in claims against the city.  Smith enjoys a close relationship with the union, and was hoping its endorsement would propel him into a runoff with one of the other two better-known candidates – incumbent City Attorney Carmen Trutanich or former State Assemblyman Mike Feuer.

Smith was unable to secure the necessary six votes from the nine-member union board. But the union also declined to support Trutanich, who they helped win the office in 2009 with more than $700,000 in independent expenditures.

Read More...

Maven's Morning Coffee: mayoral race roundup, drama on the Metro board, Jerry Brown discusses state's finances

Mayoral Candidates

Photos courtesy of candidates' campaigns

The top mayoral candidates debated in Sherman Oaks Wednesday. The feisty debate focused on Wendy Greuel. Meanwhile, a new poll from ABC 7 finds Eric Garcetti in the lead.

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 Thursday, Jan. 17, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

The LA Weekly questions what the mayoral candidates have done for renters' rights. "(Wendy) Greuel, (Eric) Garcetti and (Jan) Perry have eagerly publicized 'affordable housing' projects they backed, even as many projects fell short of replacing affordable units quietly lost to city-subsidized gentrification and luxury developments they embraced," according to the piece.

A new poll from ABC 7 finds Eric Garcetti leading in the mayor's race. At the same time, one in five voters remain undecided.

Read More...