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L.A. City Council sends boardinghouse proposal back to committee

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 31 Januari 2013 | 12.56

The Los Angeles City Council opted not to vote Wednesday on a controversial proposal aimed at cracking down on boardinghouses and group homes, an issue City Hall has grappled with for years.

After more than two hours of public comment and discussion, the council instead agreed to form a committee that will revise the Community Care Facilities Ordinance over the next three months.

"This ordinance is not ready for prime time," Councilman Richard Alarcon told a standing-room-only crowd gathered in the council chambers. He triggered applause and cheers when he mentioned three "poison pills" that he said would make it more difficult for nonprofits and group homes to care for the elderly, disabled and homeless.

Finding a solution to illegal, overcrowded group homes in residential areas gained new urgency last month after four people were fatally shot at an unlicensed boardinghouse in Northridge. Councilman Mitchell Englander, whose district includes Northridge, proposed the legislation the following week.

Advocates of group homes formed a line more than a block long outside City Hall on Wednesday morning. Many wore red T-shirts that read "Shared Housing = Fair Housing." Some chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, CCFO's got to go."

"We are deeply concerned," Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, told the council. The federation is part of an "unprecedented partnership" of more than 150 organizations that oppose the proposed crackdown, including nonprofits and business groups, she said.

Crackdown supporters, including multiple neighborhood councils, stressed the need to make group homes and their surroundings safer. One neighborhood representative mentioned a home of parolees across the street from an elementary school. Another brought up a fire at a San Pedro residential hotel that killed a man last week.

"How many more assaults, fires and murders do we need to have before we get serious?" said Edward Headington, of the Granada North Hills Neighborhood Council.

laura.nelson@latimes.com


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California restricts hiring after dual-paycheck revelations

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has restricted state departments' hiring authority following revelations that hundreds of public employees were receiving pay for second state jobs in addition to their normal salaries.

Workers receiving more than one state paycheck, known in official parlance as "additional appointments," were found in a variety of departments and agencies, including the California Public Employees Retirement System and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and in several state hospitals.

The Brown administration did not ban the practice, but any such hire must now be approved by its Office of Human Resources.

"It appears that in some cases people were paid additionally for the job they were hired to do in the first place," said Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), who introduced a bill Wednesday to ban salaried state employees from holding more than one state job. "It's inappropriate at best and potentially abusive," he said.

Gorell said the proliferation of double paychecks highlights the need for more legislative oversight of the executive branch.

"It's clear that the governor and his administration don't fully understand what's happening in these agencies," he said.

Documents provided by the state controller's office show that 571 nonunion employees hold more than one position in various departments. The records do not show what those employees were paid.

The Sacramento Bee reported that dozens of state corrections officers received additional compensation beyond that of their regular jobs — some of which paid up to $20,000 per month. The paper also reported that the chief psychiatrist at Napa State Hospital, who receives an annual salary of more than $275,000, was receiving an additional $125 per hour for work as a staff psychiatrist.

"It's a scam," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy agency. "Many people in all kinds of different jobs work for a set salary understanding that sometimes that means working long hours. Unfortunately, that's not always the culture of government."

A spokesman for the state's largest public employee union said the extra pay was for managers and other nonunion employees who are not eligible for overtime. Most unionized workers receive overtime if they put in extra hours.

A spokesman for CalPERS said it had allowed salaried workers to receive extra pay since June 2011 to help the agency launch and test a new technology project. Brad Pacheco said that using existing workers saved CalPERS an estimated $1.6 million that would have been spent to hire outside consultants and train new staff.

The human resources agency issued a statement saying that officials were "conducting a full review to determine whether there is any justification for continuing this practice."

anthony.york@latimes.com


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Man behind Manti Te'o hoax wants to 'heal'

The 22-year-old Palmdale man who created Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend broke his silence for the first time, saying he perpetrated the elaborate hoax to build a relationship with the football star.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo pretended to be Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, for months, communicating on the phone and through social media. Tuiasosopo went so far as to disguise his voice to sound like a woman's when he spoke to Te'o on the phone, his attorney, Milton Grimes, said in an interview with The Times.

Grimes said his client decided to come clean about the hoax in an attempt to "heal."

"He knows that if he doesn't come out and tell the truth, it will interfere with him getting out of this place that he is in," Grimes said.

TV talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw, who spoke with Tuiasosopo for an interview set to air this week, described the 22-year-old as "a young man that fell deeply, romantically in love" with Te'o. McGraw, speaking on the "Today" show, said he asked Tuiasosopo about his sexuality, and Tuiasosopo said he was "confused."

In a short clip of the "Dr. Phil" interview, Tuiasosopo told McGraw that he wanted to end his relationship with Te'o because he "finally realized that I just had to move on with my life."

"There were many times where Manti and Lennay had broken up before," Tuiasosopo said. "They would break up, and then something would bring them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or in Lennay's life — in this case, in my life."

Tuiasosopo's comments add another twist to a story so bizarre that reporters from across the country have converged on Tuiasosopo's home in the Antelope Valley. News of the hoax was first reported earlier this month on the website Deadspin.com.

Tuiasosopo, the report said, was the mastermind behind the hoax and used photos from an old high school classmate and social media to connect Kekua with Te'o.

During the college football season, Te'o repeatedly spoke to the media, including The Times, about his girlfriend, the car accident that left her seriously injured and the leukemia that led to her September death. The tale became one of the most well-known sports stories of the year as Te'o led his team to an undefeated season and championship berth.

Te'o has denied any role in the ruse, saying he spent hours on the phone with a woman he thought was Kekua.

Those who know Tuiasosopo said they were baffled when they first learned of his involvement in the hoax. Neighbors and former high school coaches described him as popular, faith-driven and family-oriented.

"I've done a lot of thinking about it," Jon Fleming, Tuiasosopo's former football coach at Antelope Valley High, said in the days after the ruse was revealed. "It's all speculation. He's goofy just like any other kid. The question that comes up in my mind is: 'What could he possibly gain from doing something like this?' It would really surprise me. What would he gain?"

Te'o said in an interview with ESPN that Tuiasosopo called to apologize for the hoax.

"I hope he learns," Te'o said. "I hope he understands what he's done. I don't wish an ill thing to somebody. I just hope he learns. I think embarrassment is big enough."

Diane O'Meara, the Long Beach woman whose photos were used to represent the fake girlfriend, said in an interview with The Times that Tuiasosopo was a high school classmate.

She said he repeatedly asked her for photos and videos of herself.

O'Meara, 23, said that during a six-day period in December, Tuiasosopo contacted her through social media, texting and phone calls about 10 times, asking her to send a photo of herself. Then, after she sent the photo, in part to "get this guy off my back," she said Tuiasosopo messaged her asking for a video clip or another photo.

By that time, his requests were "kind of annoying, kind of pestering," O'Meara said.

Tuiasosopo is seeing a medical professional and "feels as though he needs therapy," Grimes said.

"Part of that therapy is to … tell the truth," he added. "He did not intend to harm [Te'o] in any way. It was just a matter of trying to have a communication with someone."

Grimes said he warned his client that he could face legal consequences for admitting that he falsified his identity on the Internet. But Tuiasosopo insisted that going public was something he had to do.

"This is part of my public healing," Grimes quoted Tuiasosopo as saying.

matt.stevens@latimes.com

ann.simmons@latimes.com

kate.mather@latimes.com

Times staff writers Kevin Baxter and Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.


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Wendy Greuel's $160-million savings claim raises questions

At virtually every campaign stop, Los Angeles mayoral candidate and City Controller Wendy Greuel points to eliminating $160 million in "waste, fraud and abuse" she's found at City Hall as a solution to the city's fiscal troubles and evidence that she would be a tough fiscal manager as mayor.

But most of the dollar total in Greuel's claim, now featured in television ads, relies on two audits that depend on an accounting maneuver and a large revenue projection that the controller's office itself said was unrealistic from the start.

Many of the dozens of audits cited by Greuel's campaign to support the $160-million claim reveal shortcomings in municipal policy and recommend "best practice" reforms that many people inside and outside of City Hall would agree are needed.

While the reports identified potential new revenue and elimination of waste, the amounts cited by Greuel's campaign would not be immediately available to the incoming mayor, although Greuel has suggested otherwise.

"My first day in office, I'm going to stop the cycle of crisis and layoffs and lack of services," she told the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. at a debate. "And I will implement the $160 million worth of waste, fraud and abuse that I found."

Greuel said in a statement Wednesday evening that she stands by her audit findings. She called the $160 million "just the tip of the iceberg" and added that, as mayor, she would "change the way government works so that we spend our precious taxpayer dollars more wisely and efficiently."

Greuel's supporters say she deserves credit for being specific about how she would make the city bureaucracy more efficient. And Greuel campaign spokeswoman Shannon Murphy said the projections used by the controller's office were compiled by professional auditors who had no political motivation.

But City Councilman Eric Garcetti, a rival for mayor, has attacked Greuel's claims. His aides say the savings and new revenue actually produced for the city amount to just $239,000.

Half of Greuel's $160 million — as broken down on her campaign website — comes from a single audit on unrealized revenue from a "street furniture" contract between the city and a company called CBS Decaux.

That 2012 audit said the city lost $23.1 million because the company hadn't paid as much as predicted to place advertising on bus shelters, newsstands, public restrooms and kiosks. An additional $57 million "could be lost" in the future if Los Angeles does not improve the contract, for a total shortfall of $80.1 million, Greuel's office contended.

But CBS Decaux said it would come nowhere near the $150 million it promised to pay the city over 20 years because bureaucrats, and especially City Council members, rejected many of the locations the company wanted for its shelters and advertising "pillars."

The city's Bureau of Street Services, the chief legislative analyst and the city attorney all agreed that the advertising company had properly paid the city at a reduced rate. And Greuel's audit acknowledged that $8.2 million was "not recoverable."

The controller's office called for a renegotiation of the agreement and calculated future losses of $57 million using a best-case scenario: that the company would be able to place all of the advertising initially planned and the city would be paid at the rates originally agreed to. Greuel, in her own cover letter for the audit, concluded: "It is clear, however, that this contract was unrealistic in terms of expectations from the very beginning."

Murphy, the Greuel campaign spokeswoman, said auditors working for the controller "felt compelled to highlight the $57-million figure."

"This is absolutely a warning call that Controller Greuel put out. She is saying, 'This is going to be a huge problem for the city if nothing is done differently.' And, in fact, nothing has been done differently."

The city had made no progress on renegotiating with CBS Decaux.

The controller's audit notes that the City Council caused the "majority of delays" in the program by blocking or delaying approval of the street advertising. Murphy blamed the "failed leadership" of city lawmakers, saying it had cost Los Angeles millions in revenue.

City records show that Greuel, who served on the City Council from 2002 to 2009, contributed to the bottleneck in her San Fernando Valley-based district. A 2005 report by the chief legislative analyst's office found 11 other council offices approved the advertising structures more frequently than Greuel's office, although her approval rate improved slightly by 2007. Greuel staffers Wednesday blamed the approval process for the problems and noted that Greuel's audit recommendations would have streamlined placement of the advertising structures.

The second-biggest example of waste, fraud and abuse on Greuel's list is $24.7 million from the Real Property Trust Fund. The 2010 audit on that topic did not identify missing or uncollected funds, but rather money that Greuel concluded should be transferred between city accounts.

At issue was the 50% of funds from sales of surplus public property and from oil pipeline franchises that traditionally has gone into council members' discretionary accounts. The money has been used to pay for pocket parks, graffiti removal and, occasionally, salaries for City Council staff.

Greuel suggested in her audit that the money be shifted to the city's cash-strapped general fund. The council voted in 2010, after the Greuel audit, to give up $12 million that normally would have paid for special projects in members' districts and instead use it to replenish the city's emergency reserve.

james.rainey@latimes.com


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California residents reflect national divide on immigration

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 30 Januari 2013 | 12.56

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Vincent Gazzara wants gun towers along the border and guards with orders to shoot.

"The point is some would have to lose their lives," said the 70-year-old retired administrator, who sings in his church choir. "But when they realized that they can't cross without being shot, they would stop."

Talk about boosting border security, albeit with less extreme measures, is common in Escondido, a working-class city in northern San Diego County, 40 miles from Mexico. But the decades-long patchwork of remedies to halt the flow of illegal immigrants has proved so frustrating that residents like Gazzara expressed qualified support for broad reforms such as those championed by President Obama in his immigration policy speech Tuesday.

They include a path to citizenship for those brought to the United States illegally as children and the possibility of legal status for millions of other undocumented immigrants, provided they pass a background check and meet other criteria.

An estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants live and work in California, embedded in such bulwarks of the state economy as agriculture and the service industry. The state's voters tilt toward Democrats for president, but in some regions elect conservative Republican congressmen — such as Darrell Issa (R-Vista), whose district includes Escondido, and Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). Their support will be key to getting any immigration plan through a fractious House of Representatives.

Immigration reform activists greeted Obama's speech with broad enthusiasm. The president was tackling nothing less than "a defining civil and human rights issue of our time," said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

But the mixed reactions of Californians suggest the fraught terrain legislators must navigate to bring an immigration reform bill to Obama's desk.

"Anyone applying for citizenship should pay a penalty," said Gazzara, the retired administrator. "If you don't respect our laws then you should pay the consequences."

Gazzara was getting a haircut at Del's Barber Shop in Escondido in the company of other self-described conservative Republicans, while immigrant women pushed baby strollers by the American flag that fluttered outside.

Escondido is one of the few cities in the country where immigration enforcement agents monitor and respond to police traffic stops, resulting in hundreds of deportation proceedings.

One passing woman, an illegal immigrant with three children who gave her name only as Maria, said she didn't drive in the city because she feared getting pulled over at a traffic checkpoint.

But she has common ground with the men in the barbershop, and with Obama's proposal, in calling for background checks.

"I tell my friends that everyone should get the opportunity to apply for citizenship, but there must be conditions," she said. "They can't be pushed through really fast. They need to check people's backgrounds thoroughly."

At El Gallo Giro restaurant in Huntington Park, a heavily Latino city, the tables and chairs reflect the colors of the Mexican flag, and the Virgin of Guadalupe has a shrine.

But only one man in the lunchtime crowd showed interest when Obama's speech came on the television Tuesday, interrupting a Spanish-language celebrity talk show.

Felipe Velasquez, 56, who came from Sinaloa, Mexico, said he crossed into the country illegally in the early 1980s. Years later he was among millions of immigrants who received amnesty in the last major overhaul of immigration law.

He applauded Obama's call for broader paths to citizenship. "People come here thinking it means a future. It's a fantasy," Velasquez said. "The only ones who do well are banks and big companies. The rest of us struggle all our lives to get ahead."

Further north in Kern County, a place both heavily Republican and heavily dependent on farm labor, reaction was mixed.

Randy Hubble, 55, a construction worker who was having lunch at Cope's Knotty Pine Cafe in Bakersfield, has clear views on what to do with the country's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants: "Put them on the bus, and put them back where they came from."

The local congressman, McCarthy, is a staunch conservative and the House majority whip, and he will alienate voters like Hubble if he supports Obama's plan.


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Proposed L.A. boardinghouse crackdown worries shelter operators

From a shelter in Boyle Heights, 18-year-old Abraham Magana dreams of Stanford.

Magana has been homeless for more than six months. Since he moved out of his family's house in August after escalating conflicts with his sister, he's lived in a shelter run by Jovenes Inc., a nonprofit that gives young homeless men a place to sleep.

Magana will graduate from high school in June. Then he hopes to earn straight A's at Santa Monica College, get elected to the student government and apply to transfer. When he reaches Stanford — to him it is when, not if — he will get degrees in mathematics, engineering and business.

"It's proof that you are somebody," Magana said.

Knowing he has somewhere to sleep makes school that much easier, Magana said. But the housing, counseling and support the nonprofit provides to Magana and more than 100 other young men each year could be in jeopardy, Jovenes officials say, if the L.A. City Council passes a set of controversial regulations scheduled for a vote Wednesday.

The proposed law, sponsored by Councilman Mitch Englander, includes stricter controls on boardinghouses and group homes intended to rid neighborhoods of illegal, dangerous and overcrowded facilities. How to accomplish that has been debated for nearly two years. But resolving the question took on new urgency in December after four people died in a shooting at an unlicensed Northridge boardinghouse.

Critics warn that the restrictions would hurt shelters, sober-living houses and other programs that help an array of needy residents, including thousands of homeless people in L.A. County.

"I was frankly appalled," said Fried Wittman, a UC Berkeley professor who has studied sober-living houses for more than 25 years and wrote a letter to the council. "It's trying to accomplish a sensible purpose, but it's barking up the wrong tree."

Under the ordinance, it would be illegal for more than four people to live in the same house or apartment when not functioning as a "single housekeeping unit," meaning the members share expenses, chores and living spaces. It would also make it illegal for more than three people on probation or parole to live in the same apartment or hotel room unless landlords obtain a special permit. State-licensed facilities would be exempt.

Limiting individual leases undermines the work of homelessness and alcoholism support groups, Wittman said, because shared living spaces are more affordable for those beginning to live on their own. A personalized lease, including eviction clauses for drinking or not finding a job, teaches independence and holds tenants accountable, he said.

Adam Murray, the executive director of the Inner City Law Center, said the proposed regulations would be impossible to enforce without extensive effort by city building inspectors. They would have to keep count of the number of people in each apartment, run background checks on tenants and monitor living habits to see if they share meals and finances. If the ordinance passes, it will be challenged in court, Murray says. Preventing groups of alcoholics or disabled veterans from living together, he said, appears to violate the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

Englander said city attorneys have examined the proposed ordinance and found no problems. "It's absolutely the opposite" of what critics contend, he said. "We actually provide more opportunities and go further than any city in terms of what we offer."

Jovenes, which is partly funded by state and county agencies, operates in a former air conditioning factory on a quiet cul-de-sac near the 101 Freeway. Employees cook meals each night in a bright-yellow kitchen. In bedrooms of the emergency overnight shelter, bunk beds are made up with quilts and patterned fleece blankets. If clients attend counseling, meet curfew and follow the rules, they can stay for 90 days.

Officials say the proposed law would make some duplexes the group uses to house young men illegal. It also would prevent the organization from housing more than three parolees a night in the shelter. Sometimes, more than half of the 12 beds are filled with men recently released from Men's Central Jail, less than a mile away.

"These guys, when they come out, they have nowhere to go," case manager Luis Medina said.

Magana stayed in the shelter for a month before moving into semi-permanent housing, where he does his calculus homework, sketches knights in futuristic armor and bickers with his roommates about who will do the dishes. He can stay with Jovenes for a year and a half. If he still needs help after that, Jovenes could place him in one of five homes it owns in Boyle Heights, where he would pay rent.

"I don't know what I would do without them," Magana said. "You can't always stand on your own feet right away."

laura.nelson@latimes.com


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Santa Ana man accused of stealing dead father's benefits

A Santa Ana man was charged with fraudulently collecting more than $100,000 of his deceased father's Social Security benefits Tuesday after bones believed to be those of his father were found in the backyard of his former home, officials said.

Larry Thomas Dominguez, 65, faces a felony count of theft by embezzlement, with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white-collar crime over $100,000, the Orange County district attorney's office announced. Dominguez's arraignment was postponed Tuesday.

Prosecutors allege that Dominguez collected more than $1,100 a month between his father's death in May 2005 and January of this year. If convicted, he faces a maximum of four years in prison.

Authorities began investigating Dominguez on Sunday after a human skeleton was discovered during a renovation project at a home he used to own in the 2500 block of North Hesperian Street, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. Though an autopsy did not immediately identify the remains, Bertagna said Tuesday that they were believed to be those of Dominguez's father, Wallace Benjamin Dominguez.

There is no death certificate for Wallace Dominguez, Bertagna said, and authorities do not know how he died. Investigators were able to pinpoint May 2005 as his date of death.

Wallace Dominguez, in his late 70s at the time of his death, lived at the home with his son, Bertagna said. Larry Dominguez's mother also lived at the home, Bertagna said — but investigators have a death certificate for her.

"As a homicide detective, the question begs: Did he murder him and has been collecting the benefits?" Bertagna said. "Or did he die and he just took that opportunity to bury him and continue on with his benefits?"

Larry Dominguez was originally arrested on suspicion of homicide, but prosecutors filed the embezzlement charges as authorities continue to investigate the manner of death, Bertagna said, adding "there's a lot of work to be done."

"This is a first for me," he said of the case. "I'm sure they exist, but it's the first I know."

kate.mather@latimes.com


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Looking for fizz in a flat mayoral contest

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Los Angeles has had its share of so-so mayors, and it'd be nice to have a great one for a change.

Readers agreed, but said they weren't sure there was greatness in the current crop of candidates. And that was before Monday night's televised debate, which bolstered their point. For the most part, the five candidates came off as competent but not compelling. There was no presence, no magic, no star quality.

"What an uninspiring bunch," wrote Peter Weinberger, a Pico-Robertson resident. He was one of several readers I recruited to watch the debate and send along their impressions. "They offered platitudes with nothing of substance.... Their rhetoric was akin to a kid running for sixth-grade class president."

"This is the weakest mayoral field in history," Howard Cohen of North Hills wrote.

Ouch. Weakest in history?

Among my posse of campaign-watchers, Weinberger and Cohen offered the most detailed observations after viewing the half-hearted show staged by City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, City Controller Wendy Greuel, former prosecutor Kevin James and Emanuel Pleitez, a former aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Weinberger and Cohen thought Garcetti was the most impressive in the debate, but that wasn't saying much.

As Weinberger put it: "I'm a political junkie who supports Eric Garcetti, and I had to sit myself in an uncomfortable chair just to stay awake."

The tone of the debate was accurately described by The Times as genteel, but come on, they're not running for Rose Parade committee. This is one of the world's great cities, but it's also a work in progress, and the next mayor will take on epic challenges. With five weeks to go before the election, I want tougher questions, better answers and more spark.

As for the tougher questions:

Hey, Eric Garcetti. Congrats on the Salma Hayek endorsement; I didn't know until I watched her video pitch that you were "an amazing dancer." But Cirque du Soleil has now tanked at the Dolby Theatre after you helped deliver a $30-million loan to a partnership set up by the CIM Group, the multibillion-dollar development giant behind the Hollywood and Highland project. Any regrets about that little dance? And even if CIM repays the loan, should we be worried about what kind of deals you might strike with developers as mayor?

Hey, Jan Perry. You helped award $1 million in public funds to a multimillion-dollar Santa Monica architecture firm to move to downtown Los Angeles and supported a $2.5-million handout to Fresh & Easy without demanding living-wage jobs in return. Now Fresh & Easy's owner, a British behemoth, has said it may get out of the supermarket business in the U.S., so what will we have to show for our investment? And why shouldn't we be scared to death about what you might give away as mayor, whether it's to AEG and the NFL or some other billionaire panhandler?

Hey, Kevin James. It's nice to have you poke the other candidates in the eye for their role in digging a financial ditch, in part because of public employee union donations to them. But you're running in one of the most progressive cities in the country with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on your behalf by one of the most conservative political donors in the country. Texas billionaire Harold Simmons called President Obama a socialist and the "most dangerous American alive."

And also, Kevin, as a gay man in a city where we pride ourselves on inclusiveness, what do you think about those millions Simmons gave to anti-gay presidential candidate Rick Perry as well as to Karl Rove's American Crossroads, which has also supported anti-gay candidates?

Hey, Wendy Greuel. If you've really uncovered $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse as city controller — and not everyone finds the figure believable, by the way — how the heck did you miss all that mismanagement during your seven years as a member of the City Council? And what's the deal with your camp insisting on candidate Emanuel Pleitez's participation in the debates? Is it that you were hoping he'd siphon a few votes away from Garcetti, who's Mexican American on his father's side?

My debate watchers weren't all entirely negative. George Martinez of West L.A. thought the debate was a bore but that Greuel came out on top. Francine Oschin of Encino, who once worked as an aide to Councilman Hal Bernson, thought Perry had a sub-par performance but would make the best mayor. And Don Schultz of Van Nuys gave the debate nod to James, even though he's backing Greuel for mayor.

In the last couple of weeks, I've had the feeling that Greuel is beginning to pull away from Garcetti and the others. The unions adore her, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's coterie of supporters seems to be falling in behind her, as pointed out by my colleague David Zahniser.

But is that what L.A. voters really want after general dissatisfaction with the City Hall establishment and continued worries about services getting slashed as employee retirement and healthcare costs grow?

As I see it, Greuel speaks in such vague generalities about so many issues that I have no idea who she is politically, what she believes in, or why she wants to be mayor.

She's got five weeks, and so do the others, to step it up.

steve.lopez@latimes.com


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Unarmed man killed by deputies was shot in the back, autopsy says

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 29 Januari 2013 | 12.56

A Culver City man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies after a pursuit in November was struck by bullets five times in the back and once each in the right hip and right forearm, also from behind, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Times.

Jose de la Trinidad, a 36-year-old father of two, was killed Nov. 10 by deputies who believed he was reaching for a weapon after a pursuit. But a witness to the shooting said De la Trinidad, who was unarmed, was complying with deputies and had his hands above his head when he was shot.

Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating the shooting.

De la Trinidad was shot five times in the upper and lower back, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's report dated Nov. 13. The report describes four of those wounds as fatal. He was also shot in the right forearm and right hip, with both shots entering from behind, the report found.

DOCUMENT: Jose de la Trinidad autopsy report

"Here's a man who complied, did what he was supposed to, and was gunned down by trigger-happy deputies," said Arnoldo Casillas, the family's attorney, who provided a copy of the autopsy report to The Times. He said he planned to sue the Sheriff's Department.

A sheriff's official declined to discuss specifics of the autopsy report because of the ongoing investigation. But he emphasized that the report's findings would be included in the department's determination of what happened that night.

"The sheriff and our department extend its condolences to the De la Trinidad" family, said Steve Whitmore, a sheriff's spokesman.

"Deadly force is always a last resort," he said. "The deputies involved were convinced that the public was in danger when they drew their weapons."

On Saturday, relatives of De la Trinidad and about 100 other people marched through the streets of Compton, shouting, "No justice, no peace! No killer police!"

His widow, Rosie de la Trinidad, joined the march with the couple's two young daughters.

"He was doing everything he was supposed to," she said of her husband, fighting back tears. "All we're asking for is justice."

Jose de la Trinidad was shot minutes after leaving his niece's quinceaƱera with his brother Francisco. He was riding in the passenger seat of his brother's car when deputies tried to pull them over for speeding about 10:20 p.m., authorities said. After a brief car chase, De la Trinidad got out of the car in the 1900 block of East 122nd Street in Compton and was shot by deputies.

The Sheriff's Department maintains that the deputies opened fire only after De la Trinidad appeared to reach for his waist, where he could have been concealing a weapon.

But a woman who witnessed the officer-involved shooting told investigators that De la Trinidad had complied with deputies' orders to stop running and put his hands on his head to surrender when two deputies shot him. The witness said she watched the shooting from her bedroom window across the street.

"I know what I saw," the witness, Estefani — who asked that her last name not be used — said at the time. "His hands were on his head when they started shooting."

According to the deputies' account: De la Trinidad jumped out of the passenger seat. His brother took off again in the car. One of the four deputies on the scene gave chase in his cruiser, leaving De la Trinidad on the sidewalk and three deputies standing in the street with their weapons drawn.

The deputies said De la Trinidad then appeared to reach for his waistband, prompting two of them to fire shots at him. The unarmed man died at the scene.

Unbeknown to the deputies at the time, Estefani watched the scene unfold from her bedroom window. A short while later, she told The Times, two sheriff's deputies canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses came to her door.

The deputies, she said, repeatedly asked her which direction De la Trinidad was facing, which she perceived as an attempt to get her to change her story.

"I told them, 'You're just trying to confuse me,' and then they stopped," she said. Authorities later interviewed Estefani a second time.

Whitmore said the two deputies involved in the shooting were assigned desk duties immediately after the incident but returned to patrol five days later. He said this was standard practice for deputies involved in shootings.

Although such investigations typically take months, Whitmore said the department has given special urgency to this case and hopes to complete its probe in a timely manner.

"We want to have answers about what happened that night soon rather than later," he said. "Even then, we know it doesn't change the grief the family is experiencing."

As with all deputy-involved shootings, De la Trinidad's killing is subject to investigation by the district attorney, the sheriff's homicide and internal affairs bureaus and the Sheriff's Executive Force Review Committee.

wesley.lowery@latimes.com


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Whale of an artist helps out with Laguna Beach mural project

On sunny days, from the right spot in its terraced courtyard, future residents of Glennwood House of Laguna Beach will see two Catalinas.

One, of course, will be the island itself, the familiar brown sliver visible on the distant horizon.

The other sits atop the aquamarine waters of a seascape mural that artist Robert Wyland helped prospective residents of Glennwood paint.

Glennwood Housing Foundation Inc. is converting a senior assisted living facility off South Coast Highway into a house that will provide services to about 50 young adults with developmental disabilities. Glennwood House is expected to open in early June, said Executive Director Shauna Bogert.

Wyland, known for his murals and the popular tail-of-the-whale art piece that was featured on California license plates, recently directed a crew of about 12 prospective residents and their families in turning a blank wall into a lively seascape.

"Together, we're going to transform this into a beautiful coastal scene," Wyland told the group before instructing them to pay close attention to his process.

"You may want to paint murals for a living," he said, grinning. "Hey, it worked out pretty good for me."

From a nondescript wall to a mostly finished piece — complete with a barnacle-studded gray whale spraying into the sunset and other marine creatures peeking through the depths — the job took just a few hours.

There wasn't much of a plan, the Laguna Beach resident said, because after completing dozens of murals around the world, he felt at ease improvising.

"It's all happy accidents," he joked.

After taking a moment to squint out at the real Catalina, he leaped off the brick retaining wall where he'd been standing and headed straight for a paint roller.

Within minutes, the painted Catalina was complete, and a blue waterline stretched across the wall.

Soon, the crew of painters began filling in rocks and adding fantastic green kelp. Others went to work on the bright orange sky that hangs above the water.

Lisa Scognamiglio said she too was considering letting loose a little, as she painstakingly shaded a large rock near the bottom of the mural.

"I've never been a perfect artist," the 23-year-old said, shrugging. "Maybe I should just wing it."

Scognamiglio, whose mother looked on with approval, survived a brain tumor when she was 4 and will have an opportunity to live independently when Glennwood is ready to take in residents.

"When you have a special-needs daughter or son, it's a small community," said Jill Scognamiglio, who serves on the Glennwood Housing Foundation board. When young disabled adults achieve a certain level of independence, she said, it "improves self-esteem."

Wyland said he's painted alongside thousands of young people as part of his work through the Wyland Foundation, which he said helps spread a message of conservation.

He's lived in Laguna since 1977, and this year the foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary.

"This is a great community event," Wyland said. "We should be taking care of people — young people."

Most of Glennwood's residents will be on Social Security disability and will pay about $2,500 a month for room, board and services for a single room, $1,900 for a shared room, Bogert said.

Through fundraising, the executive director hopes to pay off the house and cut rent by as much as half. The goal, she said, is to make the residents active contributors to the Laguna Beach community.

Prospective resident Matt Guhl, 22, said he was glad to help out with the mural because he is something of an artist himself. He studied animation, he said, and enjoys drawing and painting.

His formula for picking subjects?

"Whatever pops into my imagination."

jill.cowan@latimes.com


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Fire Department is the hot topic at mayoral candidates forum

Residents in Pacific Palisades were deeply critical when cuts to the Los Angeles Fire Department were proposed nearly four years ago. At a forum for mayoral hopefuls there on Sunday, community members arrived with a question: What would the candidates do to beef up emergency operations and bring down response times?

Front-runners Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti each portrayed themselves as fighters for the beleaguered department, which has been under scrutiny since fire officials admitted they'd released misleading performance data for years.

Greuel, who conducted an audit of emergency response times as city controller, blamed the City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for slow responses since the budget reductions began.

She complained that the city hasn't hired a new firefighter in four years and said firefighters have told her: "I don't understand why the mayor and council cut us … and didn't expect it to be a problem."

Councilman Eric Garcetti tersely pointed out that Greuel played a role in the cuts while serving on the council before she was elected controller in 2009.

"We both voted for $56 million in cuts to the Fire Department along with cuts to all of our departments," Garcetti said.

Lawmakers had no choice, he said. When the economy bottomed out during the economic recession, Garcetti said, the cuts helped the city stay afloat. "I will never apologize for balancing the budget in those years."

"The question now," he said, "is what are we doing to restore?" He pointed out that he approved increases to the department's budget last year and has pushed Fire Chief Brian Cummings to draw up a plan mapping out where he would like to add back resources.

"You've seen me hold this chief's feet to the fire," Garcetti said.

Two years ago, the department closed units at more than one-fifth of the city's stations, including in Pacific Palisades, which lost an engine company. Residents feared the cuts would mean longer waits in the hard-to-reach hilly neighborhoods.

Last year, a Times analysis of Fire Department response times found that residents in many of the city's hillside communities wait twice as long as those who live in more dense areas in and around downtown.

Garcetti and Councilwoman Jan Perry said the department needs to focus on upgrading its technology. Plans to install GPS devices in city firetrucks have been in the works for years but slow to be implemented.

Candidate Emanuel Pleitez pledge to install "an in-house roving engineering team" that would look at data in the Fire Department and across the city.

The forum was sponsored by the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club. A fifth candidate, Kevin James, was excluded because he is a Republican.

After the forum, the club's board of directors held a vote to decide whom to endorse in the mayor's race. Garcetti was the winner, receiving at least 60%.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com


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UC Berkeley chancellor to head initiative for public universities

After he retires as chancellor of UC Berkeley in June, Robert J. Birgeneau will head up a national effort to study and help public universities in an era of reduced tax support, new technology and changing student demographics.

Birgeneau, a physicist, is to lead the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' new initiative that will propose ways for the federal government, private industry and foundations to better aid state institutions, along with developing reforms the schools could undertake. It is being called "The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education" — named for President Lincoln, who in 1862 signed the Morrill Act granting federal lands for the establishment of public universities.

The announcement is scheduled to be made Monday at UC Berkeley at an academy symposium about higher education.

Birgeneau, who is 70 and has led UC Berkeley since 2004, said he wanted to help develop "workable plans that will help reverse the progressive disinvestment we have seen in public higher education across the country."

He said that will not occur by just urging more state funding but will need a wider range of government and private supporters. "The long-term civic and economic welfare of the country depends heavily on a robust public higher education system," Birgeneau said in an interview, adding that it is too soon to discuss specific goals or plans.

The position is a part-time, unpaid one for Birgeneau, who will begin a sabbatical from UC in June and return at a later date to teach and conduct research. He said he hopes to have the first Lincoln Project proposals ready in a year and that the effort probably will last three years. Previously, Birgeneau was president of the University of Toronto, Canada's largest public university, and science dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a policy research center and honorific scholarly organization headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. Its president, Leslie C. Berlowitz, described Birgeneau as "a dynamic and highly respected leader in higher education" and noted his efforts to broaden financial aid for middle-class families and for undocumented students.

Other advisors on the project include UCLA chancellor Gene Block; Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan; Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York; William Powers Jr., president of the University of Texas at Austin; and Robert D. Haas, chairman emeritus of Levi Strauss & Co. and a noted donor to higher education.

larry.gordon@latimes.com


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Whale of an artist helps out with Laguna Beach mural project

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 28 Januari 2013 | 12.56

On sunny days, from the right spot in its terraced courtyard, future residents of Glennwood House of Laguna Beach will see two Catalinas.

One, of course, will be the island itself, the familiar brown sliver visible on the distant horizon.

The other sits atop the aquamarine waters of a seascape mural that artist Robert Wyland helped prospective residents of Glennwood paint.

Glennwood Housing Foundation Inc. is converting a senior assisted living facility off South Coast Highway into a house that will provide services to about 50 young adults with developmental disabilities. Glennwood House is expected to open in early June, said Executive Director Shauna Bogert.

Wyland, known for his murals and the popular tail-of-the-whale art piece that was featured on California license plates, recently directed a crew of about 12 prospective residents and their families in turning a blank wall into a lively seascape.

"Together, we're going to transform this into a beautiful coastal scene," Wyland told the group before instructing them to pay close attention to his process.

"You may want to paint murals for a living," he said, grinning. "Hey, it worked out pretty good for me."

From a nondescript wall to a mostly finished piece — complete with a barnacle-studded gray whale spraying into the sunset and other marine creatures peeking through the depths — the job took just a few hours.

There wasn't much of a plan, the Laguna Beach resident said, because after completing dozens of murals around the world, he felt at ease improvising.

"It's all happy accidents," he joked.

After taking a moment to squint out at the real Catalina, he leaped off the brick retaining wall where he'd been standing and headed straight for a paint roller.

Within minutes, the painted Catalina was complete, and a blue waterline stretched across the wall.

Soon, the crew of painters began filling in rocks and adding fantastic green kelp. Others went to work on the bright orange sky that hangs above the water.

Lisa Scognamiglio said she too was considering letting loose a little, as she painstakingly shaded a large rock near the bottom of the mural.

"I've never been a perfect artist," the 23-year-old said, shrugging. "Maybe I should just wing it."

Scognamiglio, whose mother looked on with approval, survived a brain tumor when she was 4 and will have an opportunity to live independently when Glennwood is ready to take in residents.

"When you have a special-needs daughter or son, it's a small community," said Jill Scognamiglio, who serves on the Glennwood Housing Foundation board. When young disabled adults achieve a certain level of independence, she said, it "improves self-esteem."

Wyland said he's painted alongside thousands of young people as part of his work through the Wyland Foundation, which he said helps spread a message of conservation.

He's lived in Laguna since 1977, and this year the foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary.

"This is a great community event," Wyland said. "We should be taking care of people — young people."

Most of Glennwood's residents will be on Social Security disability and will pay about $2,500 a month for room, board and services for a single room, $1,900 for a shared room, Bogert said.

Through fundraising, the executive director hopes to pay off the house and cut rent by as much as half. The goal, she said, is to make the residents active contributors to the Laguna Beach community.

Prospective resident Matt Guhl, 22, said he was glad to help out with the mural because he is something of an artist himself. He studied animation, he said, and enjoys drawing and painting.

His formula for picking subjects?

"Whatever pops into my imagination."

jill.cowan@latimes.com


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Fire Department is the hot topic at mayoral candidates forum

Residents in Pacific Palisades were deeply critical when cuts to the Los Angeles Fire Department were proposed nearly four years ago. At a forum for mayoral hopefuls there on Sunday, community members arrived with a question: What would the candidates do to beef up emergency operations and bring down response times?

Front-runners Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti each portrayed themselves as fighters for the beleaguered department, which has been under scrutiny since fire officials admitted they'd released misleading performance data for years.

Greuel, who conducted an audit of emergency response times as city controller, blamed the City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for slow responses since the budget reductions began.

She complained that the city hasn't hired a new firefighter in four years and said firefighters have told her: "I don't understand why the mayor and council cut us … and didn't expect it to be a problem."

Councilman Eric Garcetti tersely pointed out that Greuel played a role in the cuts while serving on the council before she was elected controller in 2009.

"We both voted for $56 million in cuts to the Fire Department along with cuts to all of our departments," Garcetti said.

Lawmakers had no choice, he said. When the economy bottomed out during the economic recession, Garcetti said, the cuts helped the city stay afloat. "I will never apologize for balancing the budget in those years."

"The question now," he said, "is what are we doing to restore?" He pointed out that he approved increases to the department's budget last year and has pushed Fire Chief Brian Cummings to draw up a plan mapping out where he would like to add back resources.

"You've seen me hold this chief's feet to the fire," Garcetti said.

Two years ago, the department closed units at more than one-fifth of the city's stations, including in Pacific Palisades, which lost an engine company. Residents feared the cuts would mean longer waits in the hard-to-reach hilly neighborhoods.

Last year, a Times analysis of Fire Department response times found that residents in many of the city's hillside communities wait twice as long as those who live in more dense areas in and around downtown.

Garcetti and Councilwoman Jan Perry said the department needs to focus on upgrading its technology. Plans to install GPS devices in city firetrucks have been in the works for years but slow to be implemented.

Candidate Emanuel Pleitez pledge to install "an in-house roving engineering team" that would look at data in the Fire Department and across the city.

The forum was sponsored by the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club. A fifth candidate, Kevin James, was excluded because he is a Republican.

After the forum, the club's board of directors held a vote to decide whom to endorse in the mayor's race. Garcetti was the winner, receiving at least 60%.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com


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UC Berkeley chancellor to head initiative for public universities

After he retires as chancellor of UC Berkeley in June, Robert J. Birgeneau will head up a national effort to study and help public universities in an era of reduced tax support, new technology and changing student demographics.

Birgeneau, a physicist, is to lead the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' new initiative that will propose ways for the federal government, private industry and foundations to better aid state institutions, along with developing reforms the schools could undertake. It is being called "The Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education" — named for President Lincoln, who in 1862 signed the Morrill Act granting federal lands for the establishment of public universities.

The announcement is scheduled to be made Monday at UC Berkeley at an academy symposium about higher education.

Birgeneau, who is 70 and has led UC Berkeley since 2004, said he wanted to help develop "workable plans that will help reverse the progressive disinvestment we have seen in public higher education across the country."

He said that will not occur by just urging more state funding but will need a wider range of government and private supporters. "The long-term civic and economic welfare of the country depends heavily on a robust public higher education system," Birgeneau said in an interview, adding that it is too soon to discuss specific goals or plans.

The position is a part-time, unpaid one for Birgeneau, who will begin a sabbatical from UC in June and return at a later date to teach and conduct research. He said he hopes to have the first Lincoln Project proposals ready in a year and that the effort probably will last three years. Previously, Birgeneau was president of the University of Toronto, Canada's largest public university, and science dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a policy research center and honorific scholarly organization headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. Its president, Leslie C. Berlowitz, described Birgeneau as "a dynamic and highly respected leader in higher education" and noted his efforts to broaden financial aid for middle-class families and for undocumented students.

Other advisors on the project include UCLA chancellor Gene Block; Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan; Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York; William Powers Jr., president of the University of Texas at Austin; and Robert D. Haas, chairman emeritus of Levi Strauss & Co. and a noted donor to higher education.

larry.gordon@latimes.com


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Unarmed man killed by deputies was shot in the back, autopsy says

A Culver City man who was fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies after a pursuit in November was struck by bullets five times in the back and once each in the right hip and right forearm, also from behind, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Times.

Jose de la Trinidad, a 36-year-old father of two, was killed Nov. 10 by deputies who believed he was reaching for a weapon after a pursuit. But a witness to the shooting said De la Trinidad, who was unarmed, was complying with deputies and had his hands above his head when he was shot.

Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating the shooting.

De la Trinidad was shot five times in the upper and lower back, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's report dated Nov. 13. The report describes four of those wounds as fatal. He was also shot in the right forearm and right hip, with both shots entering from behind, the report found.

"Here's a man who complied, did what he was supposed to, and was gunned down by trigger-happy deputies," said Arnoldo Casillas, the family's attorney, who provided a copy of the autopsy report to The Times. He said he planned to sue the Sheriff's Department.

A sheriff's official declined to discuss specifics of the autopsy report because of the ongoing investigation. But he emphasized that the report's findings would be included in the department's determination of what happened that night.

"The sheriff and our department extend its condolences to the De la Trinidad" family, said Steve Whitmore, a sheriff's spokesman.

"Deadly force is always a last resort," he said. "The deputies involved were convinced that the public was in danger when they drew their weapons."

On Saturday, relatives of De la Trinidad and about 100 other people marched through the streets of Compton, shouting, "No justice, no peace! No killer police!"

His widow, Rosie de la Trinidad, joined the march with the couple's two young daughters.

"He was doing everything he was supposed to," she said of her husband, fighting back tears. "All we're asking for is justice."

Jose de la Trinidad was shot minutes after leaving his niece's quinceaƱera with his brother Francisco. He was riding in the passenger seat of his brother's car when deputies tried to pull them over for speeding about 10:20 p.m., authorities said. After a brief car chase, De la Trinidad got out of the car in the 1900 block of East 122nd Street in Compton and was shot by deputies.

The Sheriff's Department maintains that the deputies opened fire only after De la Trinidad appeared to reach for his waist, where he could have been concealing a weapon.

But a woman who witnessed the officer-involved shooting told investigators that De la Trinidad had complied with deputies' orders to stop running and put his hands on his head to surrender when two deputies shot him. The witness said she watched the shooting from her bedroom window across the street.

"I know what I saw," the witness, Estefani — who asked that her last name not be used — said at the time. "His hands were on his head when they started shooting."

According to the deputies' account: De la Trinidad jumped out of the passenger seat. His brother took off again in the car. One of the four deputies on the scene gave chase in his cruiser, leaving De la Trinidad on the sidewalk and three deputies standing in the street with their weapons drawn.

The deputies said De la Trinidad then appeared to reach for his waistband, prompting two of them to fire shots at him. The unarmed man died at the scene.

Unbeknown to the deputies at the time, Estefani watched the scene unfold from her bedroom window. A short while later, she told The Times, two sheriff's deputies canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses came to her door.

The deputies, she said, repeatedly asked her which direction De la Trinidad was facing, which she perceived as an attempt to get her to change her story.

"I told them, 'You're just trying to confuse me,' and then they stopped," she said. Authorities later interviewed Estefani a second time.

Whitmore said the two deputies involved in the shooting were assigned desk duties immediately after the incident but returned to patrol five days later. He said this was standard practice for deputies involved in shootings.

Although such investigations typically take months, Whitmore said the department has given special urgency to this case and hopes to complete its probe in a timely manner.

"We want to have answers about what happened that night soon rather than later," he said. "Even then, we know it doesn't change the grief the family is experiencing."

As with all deputy-involved shootings, De la Trinidad's killing is subject to investigation by the district attorney, the sheriff's homicide and internal affairs bureaus and the Sheriff's Executive Force Review Committee.

wesley.lowery@latimes.com


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Students struggling with English not getting help, report says

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 27 Januari 2013 | 12.56

More than 20,000 California students struggling with English are not receiving any legally required services to help them, setting them up for academic failure, according to a recent report by two civil rights organizations.

The study compiled 2010-2011 state data showing that students of all ages in 261 state school districts were receiving no specialized support to help them acquire English, as required under both state and federal law.

The districts with the largest number of students receiving no aid included Los Angeles Unified with 4,150, Compton Unified with 1,697 and Salinas Union High with 1,618, according to the report by the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Students who have been designated "English learners" make up one-quarter of all California public school students; 85% are U.S.-born. Continued failure to teach them English — they are among the lowest-performing groups of students — will leave them further behind and jeopardize California's future, the report said.

"State educational officials are creating a caste system whereby tens of thousands of children — nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens — are denied access to the bond of English language that unites us as Californians," said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU of Southern California.

The two organizations, along with the Los Angeles law firm Latham & Watkins, warned of possible litigation unless the state responds in 30 days with a plan for action. The legal advocates are demanding stronger state monitoring, including investigations of districts that report they provide no services, requirements to create a plan to do so and sanctions if they fail to comply.

But state education officials said that 98% of the state's 1.4 million English learners were receiving services and that recent court decisions had found that the California Department of Education was fulfilling its legal obligations to monitor help for them.

"Despite the enormous financial strains of recent years, California has made dramatic progress in seeing that all English learners receive appropriate instruction and services," state education official Karen Cadiero-Kaplan said in a statement. She added that any parents with concerns should contact their school district.

Jessica Price, an ACLU attorney, said some parents opt out of specialized programs for their children but that the law still requires districts to provide aid until the students are no longer classified as English learners. She said some districts simply don't know how to help the students, while others willfully ignore them — state compliance monitors found that one Northern California district had used state and federal funds for English learners to buy computer monitors and cameras, she said.

One parent, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by school officials, said she only learned at a district meeting four months ago that her children were entitled to special classes designed for English learners.

She began investigating and learned that her children had never been placed in any of the specialized classes. Neither she nor her children knew they existed, she said.

L.A. Unified's unserved students represented just 2% of its 194,904 English learners. Six of the 15 districts with the highest percentage of students without services were in the northern counties of Yuba, Siskiyou, Shasta, Butte, Sutter and El Dorado.

William S. Hart Union High School District in Los Angeles County reported it provided no services to 1,142 students, representing 54% of all English learners.

teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

Times staff writer Dalina Castellanos contributed to this report.


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California still hasn't bought land for bullet train route

Construction of California's high-speed rail network is supposed to start in just six months, but the state hasn't acquired a single acre along the route and faces what officials are calling a challenging schedule to assemble hundreds of parcels needed in the Central Valley.

The complexity of getting federal, state and local regulatory approvals for the massive $68-billion project has already pushed back the start of construction to July from late last year. Even with that additional time, however, the state is facing a risk of not having the property to start major construction work near Fresno as now planned.

It hopes to begin making purchase offers for land in the next several weeks. But that's only the first step in a convoluted legal process that will give farmers, businesses and homeowners leverage to delay the project by weeks, if not months, and drive up sales prices, legal experts say.

One major stumbling block could be valuing agricultural land in a region where prices have been soaring, raising property owners' expectations far above what the state expects to pay.

"The reality is that they are not going to start in July," said Anthony Leones, a Bay Area attorney who has represented government agencies as well as property owners in eminent domain cases.

State high-speed rail officials say it won't be easy, but they can acquire needed property and begin the project on time.

"It is a challenge," said Jeff Morales, the rail agency's chief executive. "It is not unlike virtually any project. The difference is the scale of it."

Quickly acquiring a new rail corridor is crucial to the project, which Gov. Jerry Brown touted last week as the latest symbol of California's tradition of dreaming big and making major investments in its future.

Delays in starting construction could set in motion a chain reaction of problems that would jeopardize the politically and financially sensitive timetable for building the $6-billion first leg of the system. Under its deal with the Obama administration, which is pushing the project as an integral part of its economic and transportation agenda, the state must complete the first 130 miles of rail in the Central Valley by 2018, an aggressive schedule that would require spending about $3.6 million every day.

California voters in 2008 approved plans for a 220-mph bullet train system that would initially link the Bay Area and Southern California at a cost of $32 billion, less than half the estimated cost of the project.

If the construction schedule slips, costs could grow and leave the state without enough money to complete the entire first segment. Rail agency documents acknowledge initial construction may not get as close to Bakersfield in the southern Central Valley as planned.

In addition to property, the rail authority still needs permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and approval by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, two more potential choke points that Morales says can be navigated.

The land purchases are waiting on the hiring of a team of specialized contractors, but they cannot start their work until the rail agency gets approval from another branch of the state bureaucracy. About 400 parcels are needed for the first construction segment, a 29-mile stretch from Madera to Fresno.

The formal offers will start an eminent domain action, the legal process for seizing land from private owners. The owners have 30 days to consider the offer, and then the state must go through a series of steps that can add 100 more days of appeals and hearings, assuming the state can get on the court calendar, according to Robert Wilkinson, an eminent domain litigator in Fresno. If the state fails to convince a judge that a quick takeover of property is justified, formal trials could stretch on for 18 months, he added.

"I would think a lot of these are going to end up in litigation," he said. "It is a tight schedule, no question about it."

Indeed, the rail authority's formal right-of-way plan indicates it does not expect to acquire the first properties until Sept. 15, despite other documents that indicate construction would start in July. Rail officials said they padded the schedule to avoid claims for additional payments by construction contractors should land not be available by July.

Last month, the federal Government Accountability Office reported that about 100 parcels were at risk of not being available in time for construction.

That assessment was based on information the office collected last August. Susan Fleming, a GAO investigator, testified at a House hearing last month: "Not having the needed right of way could cause delays as well as add to project costs."

Morales said in a recent interview that he would not argue with the warning in the GAO report but still sees nothing that would delay the start of construction. Technically, the rail authority could meet the July target date by beginning demolition or other construction on a single piece of property, he said.

Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau, which is suing to halt the project under the California Environmental Quality Act, said the rail authority will face strong opposition to condemnation proceedings in the Central Valley. The bureau has hired a condemnation expert to help battle the land seizures.

"It is a harried mess," she said.

She noted that agricultural land prices rose rapidly last year across the nation. In the Central Valley, the average price of farmland is $28,000 per acre, while the rail authority's budget anticipates an average price of $8,000 per acre, she said.

Kole Upton, an almond farmer who leads the rail watchdog group Preserve Our Heritage, questioned the rail agency's expertise in conducting complex appraisals of agricultural land that has orchards, irrigation systems and processing facilities.

"I am not sure this thing has been well thought out by people who have a deep understanding of agriculture," Upton said. "I live on my farm, and my son lives on my farm. My dad started it after World War II. This is our heritage and our future."

Morales said he believes the agency's budget for property acquisitions is adequate and he did not want to negotiate prices publicly.

"We don't think we are wildly off," he said.

ralph.vartabedian@latimes.com


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Court decision could cut through haze of medical pot regulations

Sixteen years after Californians approved medical marijuana, the state's highest court is poised to decide whether cities and counties can ban cannabis dispensaries.

The long-awaited ruling by the California Supreme Court, which hears arguments on the issue Feb. 5, follows years of contradictory decisions by the lower courts operating in a void because the state Legislature has yet to define the law or pass detailed regulations.

If the court upholds bans passed by more than 200 local governments, as some legal analysts expect, more such measures are likely to be adopted.

The court also could clarify other parts of the state's medical marijuana law, though no one expects its pronouncement to end the confusion.

"This is a subject matter that requires detailed regulations, and the California Legislature hasn't done the job," said Alex Kreit, a law professor who has advised San Diego on medical marijuana law.

Kreit pointed out that Colorado implemented its medical marijuana law with hundreds of regulations in a "fairly smooth process." California legislators have yet to adopt requirements for state licensing and labeling of marijuana, among other issues.

That has left judges struggling to interpret the law and local governments uncertain of how to enforce it. Prosecutors also have been vexed. Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris sent letters to legislative leaders in 2011 pleading for action.

"For some reason, the perception in Sacramento has been that this will go away, that this is radioactive, so there has been a lack of leadership and commitment on the issue," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who last year introduced a bill to regulate medical marijuana. "That is changing."

While such cities as San Francisco and Oakland moved quickly to regulate medical marijuana, others, such as Los Angeles, failed to act immediately and were inundated with dispensaries, Kreit said. Once in place, the medical marijuana providers sued cities that tried to regulate them.

"Every dot of an 'i' and every cross of a 't' is litigated here in Los Angeles," said Los Angeles Special Assistant City Atty. Jane Usher. "Nothing has gone unchallenged. Any time you try to regulate, hold on to your hat because you will spend the next two or three years in litigation — which makes a ban look really appealing."

The California Supreme Court, in a handful of medical marijuana decisions, has generally interpreted the law narrowly, in one case upholding the right of employers to fire workers who use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, even without evidence of impaired performance.

The Legislature's limited guidance consists of a law passed in 2003 — seven years after Proposition 215 legalized marijuana for medical purposes — that established identification cards for medical marijuana users. A subsequent law passed in 2010 banned dispensaries near schools and said cities and counties could otherwise regulate their location, operation and establishment.

Advocates of medical cannabis insist that regulating does not mean banning. They point out that the written intent of the state law was to provide uniformity among counties and make medical marijuana available to patients.

Cities and counties counter that the language of the law implies a ban is permissible. They also argue that the state Constitution gives them the right to decide local land use matters and contend that federal law, which makes marijuana illegal, preempts state law.

Former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos R. Moreno, who participated in the medical marijuana rulings, said he believes the court is likely to uphold bans in "appropriate" circumstances.

Kreit, who directs the Center for Law and Social Justice at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, agreed that the medical marijuana advocates face the higher hurdle. Although the issue has divided the courts of appeal, more rulings than not have upheld bans.

"If they are allowed to ban dispensaries, there will be thousands of medical marijuana patients who will be out of luck and will have to turn to the black market," said Joe Elford, chief legal counsel for a medical marijuana advocacy organization.

The state high court's decision on bans is not likely to end the litigation. The law requires medical marijuana suppliers to operate not for profit, and Kreit foresees future litigation over what that means.

An appeals court ruled in December that dispensaries are not illegal just because they are large and have many customers, a finding that contradicted the contentions of federal prosecutors trying to close a major dispensary in Oakland.

But the appeals court also said the dispensary's owner might be violating the law if prosecutors can show he was operating for a profit.

Ammiano said his proposed regulations, based on those suggested by Gov. Jerry Brown when he was attorney general, would provide tight regulation and taxation of dispensaries. He said he is hopeful, but not certain, that he can win passage this year.

In the meantime, advocates are considering going back to voters. Many anticipate that Californians will be asked to legalize marijuana on the 2014 ballot.

Under the current law, "it is chaos," Ammiano said. "What we want to do is provide some order."

maura.dolan@latimes.com


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Muslim students convicted of disrupting 2010 speech file appeal

Ten of the so-called Irvine 11 Muslim students convicted of two misdemeanor charges to conspire and then disrupt a 2010 speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine have filed an appeal in Orange County Superior Court.

The 10 defendants, Muslim UC Irvine and UC Riverside students, were convicted in 2011 and sentenced to three years of informal probation and 56 hours of community service.

Charges against an 11th student were dropped after he agreed to 40 hours of community service at Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa.

The case sparked fierce debate over whether the students' or Oren's free speech rights were violated and whether the district attorney's office should have filed criminal charges in the first place.

In an appeal brief filed this week, attorneys alleged that the students were convicted on the basis of an "unconstitutionally vague" state law prohibiting the willful disturbance of meetings.

"The basic premise is that this statute, as applied, makes completely lawful political speech a criminal act, and the 1st Amendment was never intended to allow that," said Dan Stormer, one of several lawyers representing the group.

Though a 1970 California Supreme Court decision "tried to fix the statute" by giving it more specific limits, the jury's instructions on how to apply the statute in question were still fuzzy, said Lisa Jaskol, directing attorney of the Public Counsel Law Center's appellate law program.

But Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner, a prosecutor working on the case, said that because the California Supreme Court had already ruled on the constitutionality of the statute, he's confident the conviction will be upheld.

"Furthermore, their behavior is not the type of behavior or conduct that is protected by the 1st Amendment," he added. "The evidence showed they were intent on taking away the ambassador's right to free speech."

Prosecutors have at least a month to file a response.

The students have completed their community service, Stormer said, and are "all doing very well."

"These young people are the cream of our academic crop," he said. "The idea that you could stand up in a meeting and make a political statement and that is a crime is absolutely abhorrent to our justice system."

jill.cowan@latimes.com


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Brown's bid to take back control of state prisons suffers setback

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 26 Januari 2013 | 12.56

By Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times

January 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown's bid to take full control of California's prisons back from federal courts suffered another setback Friday when the official appointed to oversee all inmate healthcare said the state is not ready.

Persistent overcrowding creates "a cascade of consequences that substantially interferes with the delivery of care," said the official, J. Clark Kelso, in a report to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

He acknowledged improvements in 19 of 20 state prisons recently viewed by state officials. But his comments were a sharp rebuke to Brown's claim that California's corrections crisis is over and the state is equipped to run prison healthcare on its own. The governor vowed to take his custody battle to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

To make its case, the Brown administration had invoked some of Kelso's earlier findings of improved medical care, suggesting that Kelso thought overcrowding was no longer interfering with its delivery. Kelso said the administration's use of his findings "distorts" and "misrepresents" his position.

Kelso objected to California's contention that it can deliver adequate care with prisons holding 45% more inmates than they were built for. The state admits that despite Brown's prison realignment plan, which requires low-level offenders and parole violators to serve their sentences in county jails, California cannot meet the court's cap of 37.5% crowding by June.

Kelso's latest report comes a week after the court-appointed official who oversees prison psychiatric services also advised against restoring full state control. Special Master Matthew Lopes cited recent increases in the inmate suicide rate, well above the national average.

In new documents filed Friday, Lopes said a review of 34 suicides that occurred in 2011 found lapses in prison care in three out of four of the deaths.

State corrections officials Friday again contended that crowding no longer impairs medical care.

"We have shrunk the prison population by more than …43,000 inmates since 2006," said Deb Hoffman, undersecretary of communications for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "The court itself has said that due to the tremendous improvements in prison medical care, the end of the receivership is in sight."

paige.stjohn@latimes.com


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Fire agency hid $3.6 million from state

SACRAMENTO — The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection hid $3.6 million rather than depositing it into the state's cash-strapped general fund as required, interviews and documents reviewed by The Times show.

For seven years, Cal Fire placed the money with the nonprofit California District Attorneys Assn., paying the group to hold it. The department used the cash for equipment purchases and training.

The practice ended last year amid questions about whether the fund was legal.

The money came from legal settlements. Cal Fire's own regulations state that the proceeds of such settlements go to the state's general fund.

After questions from The Times last week, Cal Fire director, Ken Pimlott, notified the state Natural Resources Agency and state Department of Finance about the fund. The Department of Finance is planning an investigation.

The investigation follows revelations that the state Department of Parks and Recreation hid $20 million as parks were being closed because of budget cuts. In the wake of the parks scandal, the Department of Finance looked for secret funds in other areas but did not find Cal Fire's account with the prosecutors' association, a spokesman said.

Auditors found more than $200 million that agencies had squirreled away as lawmakers cut the state budget.

The Cal Fire fund is the latest discovery of money hidden by California agencies and raises questions of whether there are others that, like this one, were entirely off the state books.

In August, Pimlott froze money moving in and out that fund after receiving a briefing from his staff, said Janet Upton, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.

She said the department was determining how to deposit the remaining $810,000 into the state general fund. Upton said this was not an admission that there was anything wrong with Cal Fire's having established the fund.

Documents and emails show that top department officials were aware of potential problems with the fund as early as 2008, when an internal audit was launched.

In early drafts, auditors said Cal Fire needed Department of Finance approval for the fund, which it never requested. The auditors said Cal Fire's chief counsel expressed concern that if the Department of Finance learned about the fund, it would demand that the money be placed in the state treasury.

Another draft contains a September 2009 letter from Anthony Favro, head of Cal Fire's auditors, to Del Walters, then the agency's director, saying, "Of primary concern is the propriety of the fund ... and this conflict needs to be addressed by Cal Fire executive management."

In September 2009, Favro sent another email, saying: "I am concerned about the possible perception and allegation that we are using this fund to bypass state contracting, purchasing, and travel rules and guidelines."

Some of the most critical comments about the fund were cut in the final version of the audit.

Upton said Pimlott was not aware of the comments in the drafts until The Times asked about them. She said that spurred him to notify the other agencies.

Upton said she was told that the comments were dropped from the final report because auditors were treating the money as if it were part of the general fund. But because the district attorney's group is a nonprofit, different rules applied. .

Despite the audit, Cal Fire continued to send money into the fund. Pimlott had signed a new agreement with the association in 2011 before he froze the fund.

With an annual budget of about $600 million, Cal Fire is responsible for preventing and putting out wildfires on about 31 million acres.

The Legislature passed a law last year requiring rural homeowners who rely on state firefighters to pay $150 a year for fire prevention services, which could bring in $200 million. Gov. Jerry Brown said the state could no longer afford to pay the full cost of putting out blazes in fire-prone areas.

The Legislature established the agency's civil cost recovery program to force those responsible for starting a fire to pay the costs of putting out the blaze.

The program "helps offset the burden placed on the state's budget by returning recovered dollars to the state's general fund," according to a Cal Fire fact sheet.

The department established the fund with the district attorney's association in 2005. The association charged a fee to hold the money. The amount of that fee changed over the years. When it began, the prosecutors received 3% of the money when it came in and 15% when Cal Fire pulled money out for training or equipment.

Martin Vranicar, the association's assistant chief executive, said his understanding was that the department approached his group to set up the fund. "We were under the assumption that Cal Fire had the authority to do what they were doing," he said. "The presumption is that government knows what they're doing is correct and certainly proper."

The department used the fund to purchase equipment, such as 600 digital cameras and 26 evidence sheds for $600,000. According to the audits and emails, Cal Fire insisted that the equipment belonged to the association. That led Favro to send an email to Walters and Janet Barentson, the department's current deputy chief director, asking, "Isn't this a gift of public funds?"

Vranicar said his group definitely does not own the equipment. "I didn't want us responsible for equipment purchased on their behalf and be accountable if it was lost or misused," Vranicar said.

The association began to have doubts about the fund when its new accounting firm asked questions and a new memorandum of understanding was being negotiated in 2011.

It recently informed Cal Fire that the association will end its role as fund manager Feb. 10.

jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com


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Greuel, Garcetti close in money race

The top two contenders in the L.A. mayor's race remain in close fundraising contention as they enter the final 5 1/2 weeks before the primary, but two outside groups also posted significant sums, demonstrating their potential to upend the race.

City Controller Wendy Greuel edged Councilman Eric Garcetti by collecting $130,644 to his $84,188 during the fundraising period from Jan. 1 to 19. But Garcetti, who served as council president between 2006 and 2012, holds a considerable lead over Greuel in cash on hand, with $3.55 million to Greuel's $2.94 million.

The new filings show that Greuel reported about $101,000 in unpaid bills to Garcetti's $45,000. A key portion of Greuel's spending over the past month was on slate mailings to registered voters with a high propensity to cast ballots — just as vote-by-mail balloting is set to begin early next month. She also paid a significant amount to the Washington, D.C.-based polling firm Lake Research Partners.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents downtown and South Los Angeles, collected about $16,000 during the first 19 days of this year. With city matching funds, she has raised more than $2 million and reported $1.2 million in cash on hand at the end of the filing period.

A fifth candidate, technology executive Emanuel Pleitez, reported that he has nearly $320,000 to spend before the March 5 primary.

Attorney and former radio talk show host Kevin James, who has accumulated more than $534,000 for his bid, including matching funds, collected nearly $15,000 during the first part of this year and has about $49,000 left in his account. That means that his hopes of making the mayoral runoff will largely depend on spending by an outside group, Better Way L.A., which can collect unlimited donations to boost the candidacy of the former prosecutor.

The group has raised $700,000 from just two donors. During the January filing period, Better Way L.A. received the bulk of that in the form of a half-million-dollar contribution from top GOP donor Harold C. Simmons, a Dallas-based billionaire who contributed more than $20 million to the super PACs that tried to defeat President Obama in 2012. Last year, Simmons; his wife, Annette; and his Contran Corp. donated $20.5 million to American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove, and $2.3 million to a pro-Romney political action committee.

At a candidates' forum on Thursday night sponsored by the League of Women Voters, James said he does not have a personal relationship with Simmons, but that the two met at a fundraiser for him last year. Republican advertising specialist Fred Davis, who formed Better Way L.A., has said he hopes to raise $3.5 million to make James a presence on television before the primary.

But Better Way L.A.'s influence may be checked by an outside group known as Working Californians, which is backing Greuel. James and Greuel are competing for many of the same moderate and conservative voters in the San Fernando Valley, the area that Greuel represented as a councilwoman.

Consultants for Working Californians have said that entertainment industry executives and labor unions — including the union that represents Los Angeles city utility workers — are joining forces to fund the outside effort to help Greuel, who handled government relations at DreamWorks before being elected to the City Council in 2002.

Working Californians is expected to raise at least $2 million, which could help boost Greuel's profile on television in the final weeks of the race. The first report this week showed an initial $250,000 contribution from the political arm of the public utility union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18.

maeve.reston@latimes.com


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AEG, Koreatown developer help fund L.A. sales tax campaign

The developer of a proposed downtown Los Angeles football stadium and the company behind two planned apartment towers in Koreatown have provided about two-thirds of the funds for the group backing a half-cent sales tax increase in the city, according to the first report released in the campaign.

The committee for Proposition A on the March 5 ballot reported that it had raised $185,000 by Jan. 19, with $100,000 coming from stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group. The City Council, which is seeking the tax increase to address a $220-million budget shortfall, approved AEG's proposed stadium last year, which involves the demolition and reconstruction of a section of the city's Convention Center.

An additional $25,000 came from 3150 Wilshire, a company created by real estate developer J.H. Snyder Co., which received $17.5 million in financial assistance to build two residential towers in Council President Herb Wesson's district.

Wesson, who launched the sales tax campaign last fall, has been raising money for the measure. Kacy Keys, senior vice president of J.H. Snyder, said Wesson is "a great leader" who has been pivotal in getting her company's Koreatown project off the ground.

"I know this [ballot measure] is Herb's effort, and we wish Herb well," she said.

The city provided a $12.5-million loan for J.H. Snyder's Koreatown development that can be repaid, in part, from new property taxes generated by the project, Keys said. An additional $5-million redevelopment loan does not need to be repaid until the developer sells or refinances the building, she said.

Wesson said he hopes to raise $2 million for the sales tax campaign and secure endorsements from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and others. "I think this is a very good start," he said.

Neighborhood activist Jack Humphreville, who signed the ballot argument opposing the sales tax increase, said Proposition A backers are getting big donations from companies that had received "special treatment" from the City Council.

The campaign contributions are "a cheap price for these special interests to pay."

AEG President and Chief Executive Tim Leiweke said Police Chief Charlie Beck asked him to help with the campaign but did not specify a dollar amount. Leiweke said he contributed out of a fear that the Los Angeles Police Department force would have to be reduced if Proposition A fails.

"I think, quite frankly, that it's difficult to keep on taxing businesses and individuals in the state of California. And if we're not careful, eventually we're going to make it difficult to do business in California and in the city of L.A.," Leiweke said. "That said, I don't see another path."

The Proposition A campaign also received $25,000 from Excel Paving, a company that has received city contracts in recent years, and $25,000 from Crew Knitwear, a Los Angeles-based apparel company.

A $10,000 donation came from a political action committee representing the California Assn. of Realtors. Real estate groups lobbied successfully last fall to stop Wesson and his colleagues from pursuing a ballot measure that would increase the tax on property sales.

Wesson and his colleagues went with the proposed sales tax increase instead.

david.zahniser@latimes.com


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Annual Tet parade will take place in Little Saigon after all

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 25 Januari 2013 | 12.56

The nation's only Tet parade, staged in the heart of Little Saigon, will go on after all.

After being told that the city of Westminster could not help pay for the annual Lunar Day parade in the nation's largest Vietnamese community, organizers hurriedly raised $60,000 in just two weeks.

"We knew we could not lose this opportunity to promote the beauty of our culture," said Ha Son Tran, vice president of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California. "Everyone put in a lot of energy, and there's a lot of pride. Finally, we can show others that we were able to meet the challenge" of fundraising.

Nghia X. Nguyen, president of the federation, appeared at the City Council meeting Wednesday night, presenting two cashier's checks, one for $35,000 and the other for $25,000.

An official from the city's community services and recreation department will oversee the funds, said Councilman Sergio Contreras, who grew up in Westminster and started marching in the parade when he was a high school student.

"I think it's amazing," he said. "Two weeks. I haven't been in a situation where we challenged a group to come up with the money in that short amount of time, and they made it happen. Now the event that we're waiting for will happen."

The parade, scheduled for Feb. 10, is expected to draw thousands and be televised on Vietnamese cable channels here and aboard,

Peter Trinh, a father of two from Huntington Beach, said he plans to attend.

"I heard so much about it and I want my kids to be exposed to our community," he said. "I think it's a good chance for them to see our culture up close, and of course, we'll bring the friends we always go out with. Can't wait."

anh.do@latimes.com


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Recruit no longer with Marines after making dash across runway

By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

January 24, 2013, 9:27 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — A recruit who made a perilous dash across the runway at San Diego's Lindbergh Field in an apparent attempt to flee Marine boot camp is no longer in the Marine Corps, authorities said Thursday.

Benjamin Yi, 22, of Colorado Springs, Colo., has been separated from recruit training and the Marine Corps, officials said.

Last week, Yi was detained by airport police after being spotted dashing across the runway from the adjacent boot camp.

Yi's pants were torn off when he climbed two fences, including one topped with razor wire.

Yi arrived at the boot camp three days earlier and was undergoing initial screening before beginning the training regimen.

Flight operations at the airport were not interrupted by Yi's dash, officials said.

tony.perry@latimes.com


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Security boosted for Orange County gun show

As the nation debates the idea of new gun laws, the decades-old Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Orange County Fairgrounds this weekend will be business as usual, organizers said — with the exception of increased security.

The fairgrounds, whose relationship with the Utah-based Crossroads company spans nearly 25 years, receives about $600,000 from parking, rent, food and beverages from the shows, which are held several times a year, said Jerome Hoban, chief executive of the O.C. Fair & Event Center.

"We're increasing the security because these gun shows are wildly popular, and we want to make sure it's a secure and safe event," he said. "With more people, it's more security, and that's with any event."

Gun shows are under scrutiny from local governments nationwide following the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting last month and after accidents at three recent gun shows left five people injured. The Glendale City Council this week took the first step toward banning gun shows and banning all firearm sales on city-owned land.

Also motivated are gun enthusiasts who fear new regulations; they are stocking up on ammunition and guns. The recent Ontario gun show, also sponsored by Crossroads, was packed.

The state-run fairgrounds has its own on-site security and contracts with the Orange County Sheriff's Department for supplemental help.

Four deputies are scheduled to patrol the show, in addition to the two at the fairgrounds' weekly Orange County Market Place, said sheriff's Sgt. Scott Baker.

"We're not foreseeing any problems," he said. "I know there is a heightened sense with all the stuff going on, but we haven't addressed it any further than that."

Having four deputies on patrol is more than have been on hand for past shows, Baker said.

"It's about as safe as you're going to be," he said. "We're not projecting any problems.... We're not going to a higher level because of the situation, or anything of that nature."

Hoban expressed confidence in security at the fairgrounds. "We don't take any event lightly," he said. "If we have the public on our facility, it's our responsibility to keep everything safe."

Sales of handguns and rifles at the show are subject to state and federal mandates, organizers said. "The rules aren't changing because it's a gun show, or you get an exemption. … The rules still apply there," Baker said.

State laws include a 10-day waiting period, valid identification and a registration fee.

"It's not the kind of event where everybody's walking out the door with firearms," Hoban said.

Bob Templeton, owner of Crossroads, said the Costa Mesa show typically draws 10,000 to 14,000 but that number could swell to 20,000 this weekend. "People are concerned about all the discussions at the national level about gun control and so forth," he said.

He said he expected 8,000 people at the recent Ontario gun show but 16,000 showed up — as did some protesters. The Costa Mesa show will have a "free-speech area" for people to voice their opinions, Baker said.

Templeton called the fairgrounds "a very local event." He said about 80% of those who attend the five shows a year live in Orange County.

Despite increased security, some have reservations.

Kevin Wilkes, a Costa Mesa resident and father of a 7-year-old girl, said the event is too close for his liking to Costa Mesa High School, Orange Coast College and parks. He alluded to the recent gun show shootings and the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

"You have kids and sports fields and TeWinkle Park," he said. "It makes you stop and think … we're literally playing with a loaded gun here."

He said he supports the 2nd Amendment but would like to see an assault weapon ban, among other restrictions on gun ownership. He wants a safer environment for his family.

"I don't want to take anything away from people who collect.... I'm gathering most people are good, law-abiding citizens," Wilkes said. "It's just a few who mess it up for everybody else."

bradley.zint@latimes.com


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