Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Labor opposes proposed increase in Los Angeles city sales tax

SEIU Local 721 opposed the city's efforts to change its pension system. Now, the labor group is opposing the Los Angeles City Council's plan to increase the city sales tax.
Alice Walton/KPCC

A union representing Los Angeles city workers has joined the top mayoral candidates in opposing a plan to increase the city sales tax a half percent.

A committee of SEIU Local 721 unanimously voted to oppose the measure that is expected to appear on the March 5, 2013 ballot. The Los Angeles City Council will take a final vote on Tuesday to send the proposed increase to voters.

“The proposed half-cent sales tax is a regressive tax that would hurt middle class workers in Los Angeles," said SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover. "Our members decided they just couldn’t support it."

“The city council ignored other revenue raising measures, and did so by relying on polls generated by real estate industry lobbyists. Neither council President [Herb] Wesson, nor the council as a whole has studied this measure independently or discussed it with city workers.”


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Negative campaign mailer from PAC supporting Brad Sherman outrages fellow California Democrats

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) lost his shot at a top House committee position after a Super PAC campaign mailer ruffled fellow Democrats' feathers.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Political fallout from the nasty Congressional race in the San Fernando Valley has spread to Capitol Hill. A negative mailer by a political action committee has cost a longtime member the top Democratic job on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The leading Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee is Howard Berman. After his defeat in the November election and the retirement of the number two Democrat, Brad Sherman was positioning himself for a run at the job.

The Sherman/Berman race split California Democrats on Capitol Hill. San Bruno Congresswoman Jackie Speier threw a fundraiser for Howard Berman; she says his defeat left her “heartbroken.” She said she couldn't possibly support Brad Sherman as ranking member of Foreign Affairs.  

Speier says the last straw was a mailer from a political action committee that called itself Californians for Integrity in Government. It depicted Maxine Waters, Barney Frank, and Barbara Boxer and said they all want you to vote for Howard Berman. Then the mailer lists Sherman’s GOP endorsements.

Speier says the mailer targeting fellow Democrats was aimed at Republicans. "Do we eat our young, now?" she asked. "Is that the name of the game?"

San Jose Democrat Zoe Lofgren says the mailer did more than just demonize liberal Democrats, it was "trying to stigmatize people because they were born in one race or they were born gay or because they’re female, those aren’t Democratic Party values." Lofgren says there must be tactics “beyond the pale” for Democrats. 

An increasing number of fellow Democrats from California say they couldn’t support someone from their own delegation as ranking member.

The battle came to a head Friday morning as members met on the House floor for their last vote before the Thanksgiving recess. Brad Sherman handed Zoe Lofgren a “dear colleague” letter expressing regret about the mailer, saying Sherman "did everything possible to keep SuperPACs out" of the race. He says he neither controlled, approved or even knew about the mailer.

Lofgren says he then told her he was no longer seeking the ranking member position.

Friday afternoon, Sherman dropped out of the race, endorsing the odds-on favorite for the position of ranking member, New York Congressman Eliot Engel. Unlike Sherman, Engel had a relatively easy re-election battle, and he spent the fall lobbying colleagues for their vote.

The vote for leadership positions is scheduled for later this month. 



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Maven's Morning Coffee: Recall in San Fernando, supermajority in Sacramento, pension reform in LA (CORRECTION)

Last week's election saw the recall of three San Fernando city council members.
Alice Walton/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 Friday, Nov. 16, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich recalls the last time Democrats held a supermajority in the state Assembly. "You can’t go up there and just sit there and look out the window. You have to be constructive, attend the committee meetings, offer alternatives," he told the Los Angeles Times. Antonovich was the Assembly Republican whip during the 1977-78 session.

Another fallout of last week's election was the recall of three San Fernando council members who were all accused of scandalous behavior. The final meeting of Brenda Esqueda, Mario F. Hernandez, and Maribel De La Torre will be held on Monday, reports KPCC. Hernandez and De La Torre carried on an affair together, while Esqueda was accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a police sergeant.


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LA unions launch 'Riordan Signature Busters' to stop pension proposal

Workers canvassing at farmers markets are usually paid per signature to ensure a measure gets on the ballot. City of LA union workers claim ex-Mayor Richard Riordan will use a similar tactic to get a pension reform measure on the May ballot.
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It’s a strategy rarely employed, but labor unions representing Los Angeles city workers are trying to stop people from gathering signatures for former Mayor Richard Riordan, who is seeking to place a pension reform proposal on the May ballot.

“The one-percent are at it again,” says a notice from the Service Employees International Union, Local 721, calling to its members for volunteers.  “Multi-millionaire Richard Riordan and his billionaire friends are leading the attack against city workers. They are spending millions to place an initiative on the May 2013 ballot that would slash our retirement benefits.”

A union spokesman said Riordan has hired “mercenaries” to collect signatures, and that city workers would stand next to them outside grocery stores and other venues offering counter arguments and handing out literature. He said the strategy has been effective. 


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Elections watchdog launches investigation into $11 million campaign donation

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California’s elections watchdog announced Thursday that it’s launched a formal investigation into an $11 million donation that became the focus of an intense legal battle just days before the election.

Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership donated the money to a campaign to defeat the Prop 30 tax initiative and to pass Prop 32, the ban on payroll deductions for political contributions. The California Supreme Court ordered the group to comply with an audit a couple of days before the election. 

The Fair Political Practices Commission’s Ann Ravel says that’s when Americans for Responsible Leadership's strategy became clear: "What they admitted to was that they were not the real donors, that they were just using their names so that the real donors' identities would be hidden. And that’s money laundering."


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