Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Speculation on new jobs for former members of Congress


Grant Slater/KPCC

Democratic Representative Howard Berman leaves office next month. He's rumored to be headed back to Sacramento where he once served in the legislature. But Berman won't say what his plans are.

The new year is a time for new beginnings – no more so than for more than a dozen former California members of Congress. Some have new jobs nailed down, but for the rest: let the speculation begin!

Democrat Bob Filner already started his new job. The former Congressman resigned the day he was sworn in as the new mayor of San Diego.

Palm Springs Republican Mary Bono Mack is still on the clock until Congress officially adjourns. Rumors abound that she’ll join her husband Connie Mack, who lost his bid for Senate from Florida, on cable TV. The pair has shown up nearly half a dozen times on CNN in recent weeks.

Some political watchers think longtime Sherman Oaks Democrat Howard Berman is the perfect man to return to state politics, perhaps becoming the Assembly’s new speaker. Berman, who served 30 years in Congress and another decade in Sacramento, was amused.


City employees line up for their annual picture with Mayor and Santa

City Hall Christmas Tree

Alice Walton/KPCC

It's an annual tradition at City Hall for the mayor to take pictures with city workers against the backdrop of the Christmas tree.

In the spirit of the holidays, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spent a recent morning at City Hall standing in front of a Christmas tree to take pictures with city employees and their families.

Hundreds of workers lined up near the rotunda to snap a photo with the mayor and Santa Claus. One person waiting was Isabelle Sanchez of the City Clerk’s Elections Division. This was her first time meeting the mayor.

“I'm very excited. I just saw him right now because I passed by and it's nerve-racking but I'm looking forward to it,” Sanchez said. 

Another woman in line was Jameea Jones. She took off work and brought her three children to the event. Though her daughters were more excited about seeing Santa, Jones felt it was important for them to see the outgoing mayor.

“I think when they see his face they'll get it because they've seen his face on TV before so, I want to see the reaction,” she said. 


Congresswoman Judy Chu wants tougher hazing language

Mercer 561

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Congresswoman Judy Chu hopes to include stronger language against military hazing in the defense appropriation bill.

Washington hasn't steered clear of the fiscal cliff, but the House of Representatives this week did approve a $633-billion defense bill. The bill contains language designed to address hazing in the military. But one Southland lawmaker says it doesn’t go far enough.

Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu of El Monte knows the effect of military hazing: her nephew committed suicide in Afghanistan after hazing from his Marine mates.

Chu pushed for strong language in the defense authorization bill, but it got diluted as the compromise bill came back from the Senate. Chu says she’s disappointed that the military is required to make a one-time only report to Congress, with no permanent database of hazing incidents, and no independent study from the Government Accountability Office. She calls the GAO study "essential, because I think that there has to be a voice outside of the military that can look at hazing as a crime and determine its consequences and determine why there’s nothing being done about it."

Chu wants data broken out along race and gender to determine whether women and minorities are prime targets for military hazing.

The Senate also approved the Defense bill late Friday afternoon. 



NRA bashing from California's Congressional Democrats

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Friday that the NRA's proposal "is really nothing more than a distraction."

After the National Rifle Association called Friday for armed police officers at every local school, California members of Congress were swift to react to the proposal.

Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein didn’t dismiss the NRA proposal out of hand. "If school districts want to hire armed security guards," she said, "I support that. It’s a decision each school district should make." Feinstein added that one-in-three public schools in America already have armed security on staff.

Feinstein again called for a renewal of her assault weapons ban. "The NRA’s blanket call to arm our schools is really nothing more than a distraction," she said. "It’s a delay tactic."

Democrats on the House side were equally critical. Grace Napolitano of Norwalk said it was "just like the NRA. Sell more guns. Arm everybody." West L.A.'s Henry Waxman sait it was "very cynical for the NRA to blame everybody but themselves for the gun disasters, the killing that we’ve been seeing in recent years." And Janice Hahn of Carson said the NRA’s solution "is so out of touch with reality and so out of touch with what the American people want right now."

Hahn supports the assault weapons ban, but wants to do something about the guns already out there. She sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asking that $200 million in any fiscal cliff deal be set aside to buy back assault weapons: "I want to get the ones that are already out there and get them off the streets."

Waxman also supports Feinstein’s assault weapons ban, and a ban on magazine clips for those weapons. He also suggests a look at our culture’s “glorification of violence” and an examination of our mental health system.

Mental health is the top issue for Congresswoman Napolitano. She says families need education to help identify those with mental health problems and the resources to treat them. She says families should be able "to have the funding to pay for the expensive psychiatric treatment for those who need it."

Most Republican House members have been silent on the issue, but Congressman Buck McKeon of Santa Clarita issued a statement saying there should be a “thorough dissection of our country’s mental health and family services.” He also suggests looking at “problematic” enforcement issues with current gun laws.

And a spokesman for Irvine’s John Campbell says the Congressman doesn’t support a “single solution approach to solving what is clearly a multi-faceted problem,” but does believe we should have a national debate about the root causes of the violence at Newtown.


Maven's Morning Coffee: DA declines Andrea Alarcon case, the meaning of Henry's Tacos, and it's the end of the world

Exterior view of Los Angeles City Hall

California Historical Society/USC Digital Archives

The District Attorney's Office will not prosecute Andrea Alarcon, president of the Board of Public Works, on child endangerment charges.

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.

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Today is Friday, Dec. 21, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


The Los Angeles Times looks at what's made Henry's Tacos a San Fernando Valley landmark, at least for its customers. "Food stands like Henry's Tacos began popping up around Los Angeles in the 1940s and became popular quick-lunch destinations in a city with a mild climate. Many have closed in this era of the drive-through," according to the piece.

The District Attorney's Office says it will not prosecute Andrea Alarcon, president of the Board of Public Works, in a child endangerment case, according to the Daily News. The case was referred to the City Attorney's Office for review.