Politics, government and public life for Southern California

New audit from Wendy Greuel focuses on mileage reimbursement

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Dennis Zine (her potential successor) speak about an audit of the city's mileage reimbursement policies.

L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel summoned reporters to her third floor office Tuesday for her latest indictment of how Los Angeles operates.

“There is troubling evidence that the city regularly overpays mileage reimbursements by hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Greuel said.  “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The controller’s number crunchers looked at a sampling of three years of mileage reimbursements by city workers who use their own cars. It found more than $325,000 “was wasted due to overpayments and lack of oversight.”

But that's not a big number in a city with a $7 billion dollar budget.  And it's unclear how much was fraud.

The city paid one Bureau of Street Services worker $30,252.  Auditors found only $2,156 worth of mileage receipts.  It’s unclear whether the paperwork was never filed, lost or the worker defrauded the city.


House passes DNA bill, but Senate may run out of time

Senate Impeachment Committee Begins Hearing For District Judge Porteous

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) says "Katie's Law" is designed to catch suspects who are falling through investigative cracks.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed “Katie’s Law.” It’s named for a college student who was raped and murdered by a man who had been arrested numerous times, but not tied to her crime for several years because his DNA hadn’t been collected. The measure’s sponsor is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank, a former U.S. Attorney.

California already collects DNA from anyone arrested for a felony. Schiff says about half the states in the nation don’t.

"In those cases where it hasn’t been used," says Schiff, "people have gone on and murdered others or raped others and it’s just appalling that when we could take them off the street, when we could identify these people, that we don’t do it."

The bill provides funds to states for DNA collection kits to gather samples from those arrested for murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary and aggravated assault. It uses money already set aside to help reduce a backlog of DNA cases.

Schiff says that backlog has been greatly reduced.  A regional DNA lab — funded by $1.5 million in federal dollars — just opened in Glendale to serve the Foothill communities and take the strain off L.A. County labs.

A Senate version of Katie’s Law still awaits a floor vote. If it isn’t taken up before the end of the year, Schiff’s bill will have to be re-introduced in the new Congress. 


Maven's Morning Coffee: campaigns and social media, Howard Berman's future, the Children's Museum as a money pit?

twitter bird

More than every before, political campaigns are using social media to gather data on potential voters, reports KPCC.

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, Dec. 18, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


A Daily News editorial calls the Children's Museum in the San Fernando Valley a money pit now that the L.A. City Council has agreed to put DWP and sanitation funds into the project. "If the City Council truly wants to open the doors to this museum, then it should shift the burden from taxpayers and place it in the hands of a capable outsider -- preferably a group with fundraising experience and money management skills," according to the newspaper.


Campaigns mine Twitter, Facebook & other social media profiles for votes

Joe Green, president and co-founder of NationBuilder

Courtesy of Joe Green

Joe Green is president and co-founder of NationBuilder, a company that helps campaigns and organizations connect with voters using social media and voter registration records.

So, you clicked "like" on that Facebook ad showing Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom and his dog? Guess what? You "opted in" to his 50th District Assembly campaign and very likely began  receiving Facebook updates.

There's been a lot of hand-wringing lately about how companies mine the personal information of social media users to deliver targeted advertising. That strategy is now increasingly being used by political campaigns.

These new political tactics marry the social media platforms you love — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — with public voter data to tailor campaign messages.

Colin Delany, founder and editor of e.politics, a blog about social media campaign tactics, says the strategy is fairly simple: "The most important thing a campaign can do on social media is get its supporters active on social media."

That's where NationBuilder comes in. The L.A. company works to economically turn your social media activity into votes.

"We power your web site, and your data base and all your communication channels: e-mail, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter,  canvassing, phone banking," said Joe Green, co-founder and president of NationBuilder. "It's not about having a separate online strategy and offline strategy, its about having a single, integrated communication strategy."

Green is steeped in both politics and social media. At Santa Monica High, he was student rep to the local school board. He then studied politics at Harvard, where he roomed with Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. That relationship would lead to a Facebook app for advocacy groups called Causes, which Green founded.

Green talked about NationBuilder from the company's office overlooking Pershing Square in downtown L.A. It's in a scruffy old building now occupied by creative firms. The second-floor windows look down over the Metro station and, as Green spoke, drummers from what's left of the Occupy movement could be heard from across the street.

"We think Nationbuilder is good for democracy because it helps winning be about not how much money you spent or how many TV ads you put up, but how well you communicate with voters," Green said.


Maven's Morning Coffee: mayoral candidates debate, sales tax measure divides City Hall, DA reassigns former political rival

Mayoral Candidates

Photos courtesy of candidates' campaigns

The top four mayoral candidates, in order from left to right: Wendy Greuel, Kevin James, Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, participated in their first televised debate this weekend.

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


In Rick Orlov's Tipoff column, the proposed sales tax increase divides City Hall, candidates fundraise during the holidays, and mayoral candidates list their "biggest weaknesses."

A Los Angeles Times editorial urges Angelenos to pay attend to the March 5 election. "Knowing who we as a city are and where we want to go, we can better make demands of those who seek to lead our government," according to the newspaper.

ABC 7 broadcast the first televised debate between the top four mayoral candidates.