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California suppressed consultant's report on inmate suicides

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 28 Februari 2013 | 12.56

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has pointed to reams of documents to make the case in court and on the stump that California's prison crisis is over, and inmates are receiving good care.

But there is at least one document the administration wanted to hide.

New court filings reveal that the state suppressed a report from its own consultant warning that California's prison suicide-watch practices encouraged inmate deaths.

Lindsay Hayes, a national expert on suicide prevention in prisons, told corrections officials in 2011 that the state's system of holding suicidal inmates for days in dim, dirty, airless cells with unsanitized mattresses on the floor was compounding the risk that they would take their own lives.

His report described in detail inmates being divested of their clothes and possessions and robed in a "safety smock." Hayes concluded that such conditions encouraged prisoners to declare they were no longer suicidal just to escape the holding cells. Many of them took their own lives soon after.

The state asked Hayes to create a short version of his report that omitted his damaging findings, to give to a court monitor and lawyers for prisoners, the court documents show. Hayes complied, but when inmate attorneys obtained a complete copy, the state asked a U.S. District Court to order it destroyed. The judge refused.

The report says the state's handling of suicidal inmates is "seemingly punitive" and "anti-therapeutic." Hayes noted that guards, not mental health workers, dictate many of the conditions of suicide watches, such as whether to allow daily showers. Hayes alleged prison workers sometimes falsified watch logs showing how frequently those inmates were checked.

Hayes found that in 25 of the cases he reviewed, seven prisoners had killed themselves within hours or days of being released from suicide watch. He found lapses in care — lengthy delays in checking on the prisoners, failure to attempt CPR — in 68% of the cases he studied. Hayes did give the state high marks for compiling exhaustive reports after an inmate's death.

Contract records show that corrections officials recruited Hayes, a former consultant for inmate plaintiffs, to begin in 2010 a three-year project on suicide prevention, demonstrating the state's resolve to improve inmate mental health care.

His first report was filed in August 2011. Hayes said in a deposition that none of the follow-up reports and consultations called for in his contract occurred.

"When your report landed, it was not roundly applauded and in fact was buried," Robert Canning, a prison official overseeing Hayes' work, wrote in a June 2012 email to the consultant. There were 32 prison suicides in California in 2012, above the national average.

Other new filings show that the staffing shortage at one prison psychiatric hospital is so critical the psychiatric staff has declared they have been working since Jan. 23 "under protest."

The doctors in Salinas Valley State Prison's psychiatric program, run by the Department of State Hospitals, say they routinely juggle caseloads of up to 60 patients a day, and in some instances have been assigned wards containing as many as 120 patients a day.

"While not hiring psychiatrists may help the budget, it just drives more to leave, and the conditions just get even worse for those of us still here — and more importantly, for our patients," one of the psychiatrists told The Times, asking that he not be named for fear of retribution.

The Department of State Hospitals said Wednesday that it recently hired additional psychiatrists, with two starting work next week.

The department's acting director, Cliff Allenby, met with the prison hospital staff Wednesday "to reassure them their concerns have been and are being addressed," said spokesman David O'Brien. "There is currently no anticipated staffing crisis at DSH-Salinas Valley."

Brown has been arguing in federal court that California's prison psychiatric care no longer violates a constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and should be freed from oversight. In a round of speeches in January, he cited testimony from state-paid experts that inmates receive timely and responsive mental health care.


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California bill would allow lesser charges for drug possession

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), shown during a legislative session in 2012, has introduced a bill that would let prosecutors file misdemeanor rather than felony charges in cases of simple possession of heroin, cocaine and other hard drugs. He said the measure would save as much as $200 million a year by keeping fewer offenders behind bars. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press / August 30, 2012)

By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

February 27, 2013, 9:20 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — Saying the war on drugs has failed, state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has proposed allowing prosecutors to file misdemeanor rather than felony charges in cases of simple possession of heroin, cocaine and other hard drugs.

Leno was joined Wednesday by representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of California and the NAACP in announcing the legislation. He predicted it would save as much as $200 million a year by keeping fewer offenders behind bars.

"If we want safer communities, our collective goal for low-level drug offenders should be helping to ensure that they get the rehabilitation they need to successfully reenter their communities," Leno said. "Instead, we sentence them to long terms, offer them no treatment while incarcerated and release them back into our communities with few job prospects.''

Last year, the state Senate rejected a Leno bill that would have made simple possession of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine a misdemeanor after law enforcement groups said it would have taken away a tool for controlling the worst offenders.

The new bill would allow prosecutors to decide to charge simple possession as either a misdemeanor or felony. A felony conviction hampers people for life, Leno said, making it harder for them to get jobs and housing.

California District Attorneys Assn. spokesman Cory Salzillo voiced "concern about the state making a policy that says drugs are not as bad as they used to be." The group has not taken an official position on the new bill.


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Convicted rapist Luster testifies he's a victim of bad legal advice

Testifying in a blue prison jumpsuit with his ankles chained, Andrew Luster cast himself Wednesday as a victim of tragically bad legal advice.

Serving a 124-year sentence on rape and drug charges, Luster, the great-grandson of cosmetics giant Max Factor, took the witness stand in Ventura County Superior Court, where he hopes to have his unusually long sentence reduced because his legal representation was allegedly inept.

With drawn face and sometimes terse answers, Luster said attorney Richard G. Sherman urged him to flee to Mexico — advice Luster followed a week into his 2002 trial. The legal system in Ventura County was stacked against him, Sherman allegedly told him, and in prison, the wealthy, handsome Luster was likely to be murdered.

"I was traumatized," Luster said. "I was completely scared out of my wits."

After he jumped his $1-million bail, Luster was convicted in absentia of giving three women the powerful anesthetic GHB and raping them at his beachfront home. Jurors saw videotapes he made of himself committing sexual acts on two of the unconscious women and found him guilty of 86 criminal counts, including rape by use of drugs and rape of unconscious victims.

Luster's current attorneys, J. David Nick and Jason S. Leiderman, argue that Sherman deliberately frightened his client into fleeing so he could choreograph — and charge hefty fees for — Luster's flight to Mexico.

A state appeals court ruled last year that Luster deserved a shot at proving his former lawyers' incompetence.

On Wednesday, Luster testified about a string of attorneys he hired and fired before Sherman. One of them, James Blatt, advised Luster to accept a possible plea bargain that would have resulted in a prison term of eight to 12 years. But Luster said he listened instead to another lawyer, Joel Isaacson, who contended that the case would be dropped once he could tell jurors about the corruption and incompetence of Ventura County authorities.

"My head was reeling," Luster said. "I was confused."

Ultimately, Luster hired Roger Diamond and Sherman. As a judge continued to reject defense motions, Sherman started making suggestions about "leaving the jurisdiction," Luster said.

In December 2002, Luster said Sherman introduced him to investigator Patrick Campbell, a "black-ops, mercenary type," who immediately had Luster strip to ensure that he wasn't wearing a wire. After a few more meetings, Luster said, Campbell drove him to Mexico.

Six months later, celebrity bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman apprehended Luster in Puerto Vallarta. Luster was taken to Wasco State Penitentiary, where one of his first visitors was Sherman. The attorney came with a notary and papers effectively giving him Luster's home.

Sherman died of cancer in 2011. In a 2004 Los Angeles Times interview, he denied defrauding Luster, as Luster had charged in a lawsuit. Sherman also said he "was never in a room with Mr. Luster discussing his fleeing. The only thing I discussed with him was his future."

Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michelle Contois said Luster was free to ignore Sherman's advice. In cross-examining him Wednesday, she tried to suggest that Luster was less than penitent.

Under questioning about the rapes, Luster told Contois that he had not "given" GHB to the women: "We did GHB together."

Contois asked Luster whether he had once said the harm he suffered at the hands of the court system "was equal to the harm you did to your victims."

Judge Kathryne Ann Stoltz would not allow him to answer, ruling that the question was argumentative. A retired Los Angeles judge, Stoltz hears cases when local judges are overloaded or want to avoid apparent conflicts of interest.

The hearing is expected to end Friday. If Stoltz rules that a new sentence is warranted, a separate hearing will be held, during which Luster's victims will have a chance to testify.


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L.A. to ask high court to overturn ruling on homeless belongings

Citing an immediate public health threat, the city of Los Angeles will ask the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to overturn a lower-court ruling preventing the random seizure and destruction of belongings that homeless people leave temporarily unattended on public sidewalks.

If the court takes up the matter, the case could have broad implications for cities nationwide grappling with how to keep streets clean and safe while respecting the property rights of those who live there.

Fresno faces more than 30 lawsuits arising from its efforts to clean up downtown homeless encampments. In Hawaii, activists living in a De-Occupy Honolulu encampment sought an injunction against city authorities after they allegedly seized and destroyed personal property during a raid, according to court documents.

The Supreme Court filing comes after two years of legal wrangling between Los Angeles officials and homeless advocates over a controversial campaign to clean up downtown's skid row, which has the highest concentration of homeless people in the city.

"We have an obligation to the homeless, as well as to the other residents and businesses on skid row, to ensure their health through regularly cleaning skid row's streets and sidewalks," City Atty. Trutanich said in a statement. "The current outbreak of tuberculosis among that most vulnerable population should serve as a stern reminder to us all of just who and what is at risk."

Carol Sobel, who represents the homeless plaintiffs, said the TB outbreak, which has infected nearly 80 people and killed 11, has nothing to do with the property left on the streets. She accused city officials of deliberately allowing conditions to deteriorate in order to bolster their case, saying: "They have a public health issue of their making."

The dispute began when eight homeless people accused city workers, accompanied by police, of seizing and destroying property they left unattended while they used a restroom, filled water jugs or appeared in court. The seven men and one woman had left their possessions — including identification, medications, cellphones and toiletries — in carts provided by social service groups and in some cases were prevented from retrieving them, Sobel said.

In a 2-1 decision last September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the belongings the homeless leave on city sidewalks for a short period of time may be taken only if the possessions pose an immediate threat to public health or safety or constitute evidence of a crime. In such cases, the court said, the city may not summarily destroy the possessions and must notify the owners where they can collect them.

City attorneys question whether the 4th Amendment protection from unlawful seizures and the 14th Amendment guarantee of due process extend to people who violate a city ordinance requiring them to remove their possessions during posted cleanup times, especially when free storage is available.

They say the decision, which upheld an injunction against Los Angeles, has created a "public health disaster." Homeless people are leaving piles of possessions on the ground or in overflowing shopping carts, often covered by tarps and blankets, and sometimes with a note attached saying "not abandoned" or "mine," according to a draft of the filing reviewed by The Times.

"The presence of this unattended property makes it impossible to clean the sidewalks, leads to an accumulation of human waste and rotting food around and underneath, that in turn provides a breeding ground for vermin and bacteria," the filing said.

At the city's request, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health inspected skid row last year and cited the city for violations of county and state health codes, including an accumulation of human waste, needles, condoms and a rat infestation. The city launched a major cleanup effort, during which workers removed 278 hypodermic needles, 94 syringes, 60 razor blades, 10 knives, 11 items of other drug paraphernalia and two 5-gallon buckets of feces, according to the filing.

Homeless advocates said the effort showed how street cleaning can and should be done. Homeless residents were notified in advance, given time to remove their belongings and treated courteously, they said. Any items left behind that were not deemed a hazard were bagged, tagged and stored for 90 days.

But city officials contend that the lower-court rulings are causing a drain on municipal resources by forcing city workers to sort through unattended items for hazards, exposing their employees to unreasonable health risks and leaving the city open to the possibility of endless litigation.

Just days after a cleanup, trash and debris begin to pile up again, said Andy Bales, who heads the Union Rescue Mission on skid row.

"We never, ever had to battle that before the injunction, which has taken skid row back at least eight years to before all the improvements," he said. "It has emboldened people to leave their stuff everywhere."

Estela Lopez, executive director of the Central City East Assn., a business improvement district that runs the storage facility for the homeless, said she worries the rulings will undermine efforts to get people off the streets.

"No one's mental illness, tuberculosis or staph infection gets better lying on a public sidewalk," Lopez said. "These are human beings who are often unable to make rational decisions for themselves and they need our help. Instead, we give them options that are self destructive like you can amass and hoard your belongings on the sidewalk."

Settlement negotiations are underway. Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law School professor, said it may be a long shot to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in, given how few cases it has taken up in recent years. But he said: "History has shown that the conservatives on the Supreme Court like nothing better than reversing liberal 4th Amendment decisions out of the 9th Circuit."



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Labor pours millions into L.A. races

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 27 Februari 2013 | 12.56

Nearly $4 million in independent expenditures have poured into Los Angeles city election campaigns in recent weeks, with more than three-fourths coming from groups tied to organized labor.

Much of the debate on union spending before the March 5 vote has focused on $2.2 million — the bulk of it from police officers and Department of Water and Power workers — that is fueling the mayoral candidacy of Wendy Greuel.

But records show labor is also looking to strengthen its hand at the City Council by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on mailers, billboards and campaign ground troops to try to sway the outcome in eight of 15 council races.

SPREADSHEET: Unlimited outside money

Organized labor already wields considerable influence at City Hall, pressing the mayor and lawmakers to support employee raises and approve construction projects that create union jobs. The large number of open council seats, combined with laws that let special interests spend unlimited amounts, could leave unions with "an even stronger grip," said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State L.A.

"L.A. is one of the few places in the country where labor plays such a dominant role, not only in selecting candidates to run, but in spending an amount of money that far outdistances whatever groups or individuals are second or third," he added.

Campaign finance laws limit mayoral candidates to accepting no more than $1,300 from any single contributor. Council candidates can't take more than $700 per donor. But special interests and wealthy individuals can spend unlimited sums as long as they do not coordinate their efforts with a candidate.

By 2 p.m. Tuesday, roughly $700,000 had been spent by independent groups on the three most competitive council contests, with two-thirds coming from labor groups.

The biggest beneficiaries of that money are Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) on the Eastside; former City Commissioner John Choi in an Echo Park-to-Hollywood district; and state Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) in South Los Angeles.

Cedillo, Choi and Price are hoping to replace termed-out council members Ed Reyes, Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry — all of whom antagonized organized labor last year by voting to roll back pension benefits for newly hired city employees.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

Maria Elena Durazo, who heads the 600,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor — one of the big independent campaign donors — warned council members last year that the benefits rollback would "come back and haunt" them.

Durazo was unavailable for comment. But her organization said in a statement that it chose candidates based on their track records, strategy for winning and views on "living wage" jobs, affordable housing and other issues.

In Reyes' district, union groups have spent $182,000 to support Cedillo, a former organizer with Service Employees International Union. Four-fifths of the money came from the county labor federation, which opposed last year's pension reductions. The rollback, which goes into effect July 1, is expected to save taxpayers $4 billion over 30 years, according to city officials. With days left before the election, Cedillo would not say whether that vote was the right one. Instead, he suggested a new look is needed at retirement benefits for new hires.

"I want to reevaluate the entire situation," he said.

Cedillo's opponent, Jose Gardea, said the council did the right thing on pensions. The unlimited independent money — which is paying for campaign billboards across the district — should worry voters, he said. "It's an outrageous amount," said Gardea, who is Reyes' chief of staff.

Ron Gochez, who is running to replace Perry, voiced similar complaints about the South Los Angeles race, where more than $300,000 in independent money has been spent to promote Price, more than half of it from labor groups. "It's completely undemocratic," he said.

Price, who moved into Perry's district last year, said he welcomes labor support, noting that the blue-collar 9th District is filled with union members. "I'm proud to represent working people," he said.

SPREADSHEET: Unlimited outside money

In Garcetti's Hollywood-area district, union groups have spent $171,000 so far supporting Choi, who was the labor federation's economic development director from 2009 to 2011. Choi made his union ties explicit in one closed-door candidate interview, telling a large city employee group he would put them "on the inside" if they endorsed him.

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Deasy group aids 3 school board candidates

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy isn't on the ballot Tuesday, but you'd hardly know it, based on the undercurrent of the school board election.

A coalition of local organizations, wealthy donors and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have decided that the election is all about keeping Deasy on the job and accelerating the aggressive policies he's putting into place.

This group has come together for the campaign through a political action committee called the Coalition for School Reform. So far it's raised on behalf of three candidates more than $3.2 million, including $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The superintendent has a "relentless focus on improving student performance, rather than on protecting a system that does not always serve students," said Elise Buik, president of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. And that, she said, "has made him an easy target for those who are comfortable with the status quo."

Although not part of the funding coalition, the United Way is allied with community groups that support Deasy and want to limit the influence of the teachers union.

That union, United Teachers Los Angeles, is opposing the coalition in two of these races and is neutral in the third. Unless national unions jump in massively, UTLA cannot match the coalition in dollars, but it does have thousands of volunteers it can mobilize including teachers, counselors, social workers and librarians.

UTLA has not made removing Deasy a litmus test for candidates it supports — and Deasy has worked successfully with all employee unions on notable issues — but a sizable UTLA contingent says Deasy has misplaced priorities that have denigrated teachers and worsened working conditions.

Deasy, and the groups that support him, place a high priority on improving teacher effectiveness through new performance reviews that rely on student standardized test scores as a key component. Deasy has proposed basing 30% of an instructor's evaluation on test scores; the teachers union opposes such a fixed percentage.

Many Deasy backers also would end teacher job protections that protect ineffective veteran instructors at the expense of more able teachers with less seniority. So far, Deasy has limited, but not ended, the seniority system, which is enshrined in state law. The union defends seniority as the fairest approach to layoffs, especially in the absence of an evaluation system that they find reliable.

The superintendent also has sped the dismissal process of teachers accused of misconduct and pushed for changes in state law that would give him more authority over hiring and firing.

Advocates for independently managed charter schools have made common cause with the coalition. They oppose impediments to the growth and operation of charters and also want freer access to district-owned campuses. L.A. Unified has the greatest number of publicly funded charter schools of any district in the country.

The tenure of the schools chief, who has been praised by the Obama administration, has become more precarious in recent months because three of the seven current members of the Board of Education would consider removing him, according to insiders. None of the three are on the ballot in the March 5 election.

That has intensified the focus on the reelection bid of one-term incumbent Steve Zimmer, 42, who is supported by the teachers union. Zimmer talks of Deasy as a strong leader with whom he sometimes has strong disagreements; he has been unwilling to replace Deasy so far. But the superintendent's supporters see Zimmer as a possible fourth anti-Deasy vote. Zimmer's District 4 stretches from the Westside to the west San Fernando Valley.

Zimmer's backers insist that he simply does not deserve to be fired by voters. They describe the longtime teacher and neighborhood activist as a thoughtful, hardworking moderate who helped bring opposing parties together on issues large and small.

The pro-Deasy forces are firmly behind challenger Kate Anderson, 41, who leaves no doubt about her enthusiasm for the superintendent.

Her supporters say the board could use her intelligence and perspective. They point to her experience in civic affairs, including as an attorney, a parent, a onetime congressional staffer, a member of a neighborhood council and even her stint as UCLA student body president.

The coalition also stands firmly behind school board President Monica Garcia, 44, a Deasy backer who is considered Villaraigosa's closest ally on the board. Her District 2 stretches out from downtown.

Thanks to the coalition and her own sway within the district, Garcia enjoys a dominant funding advantage over all four challengers combined. The union hasn't bankrolled any challenger but has invested in an anti-Garcia campaign, hoping to force a runoff.

Her challengers are: Robert Skeels, 47, a writer and researcher who criticizes corporate and foundation involvement in education as well as the growth of standardized testing; Isabel Vazquez, 52, a former board member's aide who became an adult-school administrator before budget cuts forced her return to the classroom this year; Abelardo Diaz, 51, a veteran Spanish teacher, who helped start a bilingual academic decathlon and is among the founding faculty at the Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts; and Annamarie Montanez, 40, a teacher with broad experience at the elementary and adult-school levels, reduced to part-time hours in the adult school because of budget cuts.

Board member Nury Martinez is leaving her District 6 seat after one term to run for L.A. City Council. Her district encompasses the east San Fernando Valley.

Among three candidates, Antonio Sanchez, 30, voiced the clearest support for Deasy, a major factor in his landing financial support from the coalition. Non-teaching unions also have spent money in support of Sanchez, who just completed a master's degree in urban planning at UCLA. He has experience in campaign work and as a staff member for a state legislator and the mayor.

Another aspirant is Maria Cano, 42, a veteran manager in the community outreach office of the district's school construction program; the wind-down of that effort resulted in her being laid off. The third candidate is Monica Ratliff, 43, a veteran fifth-grade teacher at a high-performing school who worked as an attorney before deciding to change fields.

The teachers union has funded no candidate in this contest.

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Garcetti holds potential interest in Beverly Hills oil drilling

In his bid for Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti has promoted himself as the greenest of candidates.

The city councilman from Silver Lake has pushed for an expansion of L.A.'s rooftop solar-panel program and the creation of thousands of clean-energy jobs, all to reduce the region's dependence on oil. Those positions helped Garcetti win the Sierra Club's endorsement.

Missing from Garcetti's environmental platform, however, is any hint that he has long stood to profit from a lease interest in a headline-making oil drilling operation: the wells run by Venoco Inc. at Beverly Hills High School.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

According to documents on file with the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's office, Garcetti and several family members signed a 20-year lease with Venoco in 1998. It gave the company the subsurface drilling rights to a nearby Beverly Hills retail property that the councilman co-owns through a personal trust.

The lease enables Denver-based Venoco to tap oil and gas underneath the Wilshire Boulevard property by slant drilling from the high school about half a mile away.

The high school wells have been the target of some alumni, residents and environmentalists who allege the drilling has emitted dangerous levels of benzene.

Venoco insists the wells are safe and says it has taken no oil or gas from the Garcetti property in the 9600 block of Wilshire. Company spokeswoman Lisa Rivas said Venoco secured the lease in anticipation of extending its drilling to that part of Beverly Hills but does not know if the firm will follow through on the plans.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the candidate "has no memory" of signing the lease. In response to Times queries, Millman said, Garcetti looked into the agreement and found that he earns just $1.25 from it per year.

"It's not really an issue," Millman said.

But Garcetti and several of his relatives who co-own the Wilshire property could collect royalties if Venoco began producing oil or gas from the parcel. Otherwise, they are paid nominal rental fees.

Millman said Garcetti would donate any royalties to the Sierra Club.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

Because the amount of money he has received to date is so small, Garcetti apparently has not been required to list the lease or the fees on his annual financial disclosure forms. It is unclear whether Garcetti has followed state and city disclosure rules for his ownership interest in the property.

When the lease was in its seventh year, Garcetti voted in favor of a 2005 council resolution opposing Venoco's efforts to increase its drilling offshore. At the time, he said in a statement that the ocean drilling "would harm the legacy that we're guarding for the generations that come after us," but he did not mention that he could benefit financially from Venoco's onshore wells.

Millman said the Wilshire property once housed a clothing store run by Garcetti's grandfather. It is now the site of a hair salon that pays rent to Garcetti and the relatives, including his sister and cousins, and his grandfather's trust, Millman said.

In general, state law requires disclosure of real estate holdings that are within two miles of a city office-holder's jurisdiction, said Gary Winuk, enforcement chief for the California Fair Political Practices Commission. The Beverly Hills property is within that distance of Los Angeles. For the most part, the city rules are similar to or stricter than the state's.

Garcetti specifically listed the property on his state and city forms from 2007 through 2009, reporting annual rental income from the hair salon in the broad category of between $10,000 and $100,000.

He omitted the property from the forms he filed in the years before and after that period.

Millman said Garcetti did not report it before 2007 because his advisors believed its location outside the Los Angeles city limits exempted it from disclosure.

Based on new advice, Millman said, Garcetti began reporting his interest in the property in 2007. But starting in 2010, he stopped disclosing it as a real estate holding. Instead, Garcetti listed his rental earnings from the hair salon as income from the Harry Roth Trust, named for his grandfather, believing that was the appropriate way to report the proceeds from the property, Millman said. He added that Garcetti's attorneys would review the filings to make sure they are correct.

The Sierra Club did not respond to requests for comment.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

In 2003, Venoco agreed to pay a fine and install monitoring equipment to settle pollution complaints from air quality officials. The wells were the subject of lawsuits brought that year by the firm of famed environmental advocate Erin Brockovich against Venoco and the city and school district of Beverly Hills, among others. The city and school district earn royalties from the wells.

The suits alleged that the wells had caused cancer in former students. The city and school district subsequently conducted tests that found no evidence of elevated emissions. A judge later dismissed the suits. As part of a settlement, the plaintiffs paid some of the legal fees incurred by the city and school district.

The debate over the wells died down, but the Beverly Hills City Council in 2011 adopted an anti-drilling ordinance that could stop Venoco's operations at the high school when its lease expires at the end of 2016.


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Wendy Greuel acquired a love of politics from working with Tom Bradley

In the early 1980s, Wendy Greuel was at a crossroads. In one direction was the family building supply company housed in a dusty North Hollywood warehouse. The other way, a career at Los Angeles City Hall in Mayor Tom Bradley's administration beckoned.

Bright, young and ambitious, Greuel had balanced duties on the high school cheerleading squad and as student body president with part-time work at Frontier Building Supply — where she kept the books, drove a forklift and answered the phone that sometimes rang for her mother's side business, the White Lace Inn.

The 17-year-old Greuel, raised a Republican, was star-struck when she first met the Democratic mayor during a youth leadership ceremony atop City Hall. "Here was this 6-foot-5 inspirational leader," she said, "and as I've jokingly said, I fell in love that day."

When Bradley handed her an award, her course was set. Over the next decade, she would join a group of young aides who drove the five-term mayor's agenda, from the inspiring run-up to the 1984 Olympic Games to the difficult rebuilding after the city's 1992 riots. Her portfolio at City Hall — homelessness, housing, child care and AIDS — took the young UCLA graduate from the conservative enclaves of the Valley into the most destitute corners of South and East L.A.

"I used to call her the mayor of hopeless causes," former Bradley Deputy Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said. "She had all the really tough, intractable issues … and she dove in."

Now a leading contender to follow her political hero to City Hall's top office, Greuel says she learned from Bradley the skills the job demands: a tireless work ethic, an ability to glide between city factions and a relentless focus on basic city services.

"What I really learned from all of those years was that the details matter," said Greuel, whose admiration for Bradley's zeal in reporting potholes led her to style herself as the "pothole queen" when she later represented the San Fernando Valley on the City Council.

But critics contend that as Greuel, currently the city's controller, raised her political profile she shied away from the imaginative and idealistic projects that were a hallmark of her years in the Bradley administration. Councilman Richard Alarcon, who worked with Greuel in Bradley's office, said he endorsed Greuel's chief rival, Eric Garcetti, after watching her gravitate toward politically safe initiatives.

"When Wendy was with Mayor Bradley, it was all about action — all about creating projects, ideas, L.A.'s Best," Alarcon said, alluding to the acclaimed after-school program that has now expanded to more than 150 Los Angeles schools. "We were doing a lot more than filling potholes."

Greuel says Bradley inspired her "passion to fight for social justice" and to stand up for the most vulnerable. But some saw her City Council focus as tending toward the more narrow — modernizing parking meters and synchronizing traffic signals.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, the former police chief who is supporting Greuel's rival Jan Perry, said that Bradley created the downtown skyline, rebuilt the airport and brought the Olympics to L.A.

"He had a variety of legacies — most of them were big-picture ideas," Parks said. "In Wendy's era on the council…it was more of the mechanics of dealing with transportation and potholes."

In the early years however, Greuel's drive on those social issues was unquestioned.

Olivia Mitchell, Greuel's first boss in Bradley's youth development office, described Greuel as the ultimate "go-getter." At night, Greuel volunteered to be Mitchell's driver, ferrying her boss to community gatherings, prisoner probation meetings and continuation high schools in her brown Camaro.

"She wanted to know everything I knew and the people I knew," Mitchell said. Later, colleagues would tease her about being willing to "go to the opening of an envelope," Greuel said.

Former Bradley aide Donna Bojarsky said Greuel sought out "high-value, low-glamour" assignments. She also cultivated long-term political relationships that have helped her stack up endorsements in the current race.

Fellow Bradley aide Kerman Maddox noted that she was the one staffer who went to every group's party.

"We're talking 1980s Los Angeles, a tough, gritty, racially-balkanized city," Maddox said. "We'd tease her: 'How many white girls are hanging out in South L.A? It's just you.' But that's her.... She could move from camp to camp, faction to faction, because she got along with everyone."

Greuel was tasked with developing programs to deal with the city's burgeoning homeless population, which was threatening Bradley's drive to redevelop downtown's Bunker Hill. Greuel was in the thick of the issue when tensions grew over a proliferation of urban encampments, including the much-publicized "Justiceville."

Ted Hayes, Justiceville's leader and an advocate for the homeless, recalled that he and Bradley were at sharp odds because "I ran like a buzz saw right smack dab into his plans." Greuel began showing up at the camp, wandering among the plywood and cardboard structures in her prim navy suits.

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Healthcare overhaul may threaten California's safety net

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 26 Februari 2013 | 12.56

Millions of uninsured Californians will gain medical coverage under the national healthcare overhaul beginning in January, but Guadalupe Luna won't be one of them.

Luna, an illegal immigrant and tamale vendor in Los Angeles, doesn't qualify. So she will continue going to the clinic where she has received free care for more than 20 years: Los Angeles County's Hudson Comprehensive Health Center. There, publicly funded doctors will help manage her diabetes and high cholesterol.

An estimated 3 million to 4 million Californians — about 10% of the state's population — could remain uninsured even after the healthcare overhaul law takes full effect. The burden of their care will fall to public hospitals, county health centers and community clinics. And those institutions may be in jeopardy.

County health leaders and others say the national health law has had the unintended consequence of threatening the financial stability of the state's safety net.

Newly insured patients who no longer have to rely on public hospitals and clinics may seek care elsewhere, meaning a loss in revenue, they say. And under the federal law, some of the funding that goes to safety-net hospitals is also set to decrease.

Now, as the state scrambles to create the new healthcare infrastructure, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to take back another crucial pot of money that counties have depended on for more than two decades to care for the uninsured.

"Safety net providers are imperative ... and some of their funding streams are in serious danger," said Lucien Wilson, director of the Insure the Uninsured Project, a consumer organization.

Melissa Stafford Jones, president and chief executive of the California Assn. of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, said many of the patients who are uninsured now still won't have coverage next year. "Those communities are still going to need care, and we need to have a safety net to serve them," she said.

Under the healthcare overhaul, the state could enroll as many as 1.4 million additional residents in Medi-Cal, its program for the poor and disabled, and sign up 2.1 million others for subsidized private insurance through a marketplace known as Covered California, according to a recent UC Berkeley report.

About a quarter of those left uninsured will be undocumented immigrants, and nearly three-quarters will be U.S. citizens or green-card holders, according to the report. Some already qualify for Medi-Cal but don't receive it; others will be eligible to buy subsidized healthcare through Covered California but won't be able to afford it.

Martin Garcia, 39, a U.S. citizen with five children, said he doesn't know if he could get Medi-Cal now or what he might qualify for next year. Garcia lost his job and insurance in 2010 and recently started going to the Hudson clinic in Los Angeles because of stomach pains.

Garcia needs hernia surgery, which he said he will receive at L.A. County-USC Medical Center, a public hospital. He said he was relieved to learn that he could get free healthcare through the county. Without it, he said, "I really don't know what I would do. I would probably head to Mexico."

Even with massive outreach by the state, it will take time for eligible people to learn about and enroll in the new coverage. During the early years, the demand for public health services is expected to remain high, and counties will be responsible, said report author Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

To pay for care for the uninsured, counties have long relied on revenue from sales tax and vehicle license fees — a pot of money known as realignment funds. In fiscal year 2012, the funds amounted to an estimated $1.3 billion.

Brown argues that counties will no longer need all that money because so many of the uninsured will gain coverage under the federal law. At the same time, the governor's administration has said, the state will need the funds if it is going to run the expanded Medi-Cal program.

"There is going to be a fundamental shift in responsibility of healthcare to the state from the counties," said Toby Douglas, director of the state Department of Health Care Services. "There needs to be a realignment of county dollars."

The Legislative Analyst's Office released a report this month recommending that the state run the Medi-Cal expansion and that it take control of some of the realignment funding to help pay for that expansion.

But county health directors argue that the state is just trying to balance its budget on the backs of safety-net systems. They say the counties already struggle to meet demand and contend the state should not take the money before it's clear how many people will sign up for Medi-Cal and how much savings there will be for counties.

"The state needs money, and they see this as an opportunity to get it," said Mitch Katz, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. "I think it is completely unreasonable."

If the state does take back the realignment funding, counties such as Los Angeles that run their own hospitals and clinics could be seriously affected, he said.

Alex Briscoe, director of Alameda County's Health Care Services Agency, said the state proposal shows a "fundamental misunderstanding" of the pressures facing safety-net systems. About 100,000 people might remain uninsured in the county, he said. "If the state takes the money, who is going to pay that care?"

In addition, Briscoe said the state doesn't have any justification for taking the money because the Medi-Cal expansion is 100% covered by the federal government for the first three years.

Who ends up paying doesn't matter to Luna, the tamale vendor. But without the Hudson clinic, the 43-year-old said, her diabetes would spiral out of control.

"I don't have anywhere else to go," she said. "I have to come here."

Luna is one of about 42,000 patients who go to the clinic and urgent care center to manage their chronic diseases, get their children vaccinated, check their eyes and monitor their pregnancies.

Hudson's administrator, Michael Mills, said that even after the healthcare law takes full effect, the clinic will be vital to the community. Nearly half its patients now are uninsured, and many will remain without coverage next year.

"Those are our patients," Medical Director Rona Molodow said. "Those are the people the county has traditionally served."


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Perry, a financial underdog, makes race a three-way contest

With the Los Angeles mayoral primary a week away, an aggressive mail campaign by Jan Perry has helped push her into a three-way fight with Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti for two spots in a May runoff.

From the start, Garcetti and Greuel have seen each other as the chief competition. But Perry's steady attacks via mailers — she lacked the money to advertise heavily on TV — have made her, at the very least, a credible threat to Greuel, the city controller.

The race remains highly fluid, with many voters still largely unfamiliar with the candidates days before the election.

But the surest sign of Greuel's concern was her recent decision to target not just Garcetti but also Perry in a mailer accusing both City Council members of misspending public money on travel and other perks.

In a five-way primary, any tactical miscalculation can be costly, so it was noteworthy that Greuel decided to spend money trying to diminish Perry's appeal.

"Jan has made this a three-person race," said Parke Skelton, a veteran campaign strategist who is unaligned in the mayoral primary.

For weeks, Perry has attacked Greuel relentlessly in mail to voters. On Saturday, Perry put out a scathing piece quoting Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky saying that Greuel's spending plans were "totally impossible without eviscerating other city services."

Yaroslavsky, who is highly influential on the Westside, answered Monday with a statement saying that Perry had wrongly implied he was no longer neutral in the mayor's race. None of the top candidates, he said, has "realistically addressed what they would do about the city's financial challenges."

Each of the leading contenders is keeping close watch on how lesser-known rivals Kevin James, a former radio talk show host, and Emanuel Pleitez, a former tech executive, might affect the split of votes among the top three. James and Pleitez have suffered from poor fundraising.

By tradition and necessity, the winning formula in a Los Angeles mayor's race is to build a coalition of two big voter groups — no small task in a city so diverse and geographically vast. Heightening the challenge this year is the lack of personal charisma among Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's would-be successors. None of them started with a large or solid base.

The candidates are targeting some groups more than others. Over the weekend, they paid respects to two of the largest: African Americans in South L.A. and white liberals on the Westside.

Perry, who sees fellow African Americans as her strongest constituency, visited black churches Sunday with her most prized supporter, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). At New Testament Church on West Florence Avenue, Waters told parishioners that Perry was unashamed "to talk about the poor and the disenfranchised and the 35% to 40% of our young men and women who are without jobs."

Perry, in turn, made an overt, and rare, racial appeal. "Not since Tom Bradley has there been an African American in this seat," she told worshipers. "I would be the first woman, and I would be the first woman of color."

Greuel and Garcetti stand little chance of winning the black vote next week. But they too spent Sunday morning at South L.A. churches, a nod to the pivotal role that African Americans would play in a Greuel-Garcetti runoff.

Seated in a pew at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Greuel swayed as a gospel choir sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Moments later, she stepped to a lectern, where she paid tribute to Bradley, the city's first black mayor.

"I worked for him for 10 years, dealing with issues that are so important in our communities — housing and economic development," Greuel told churchgoers.

A few hours later, Garcetti turned his focus to liberals on the Westside, where he touted his Sierra Club support at a campaign stop on the beach. Westside liberals are one of the biggest groups up for grabs in both the March 5 primary and May 21 runoff, regardless of who makes it to the final round.

With candidates battling multiple rivals in the primary and simultaneously positioning themselves for a runoff, the campaign is like "five-dimensional chess," said Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.

"That's why this thing is so interesting — so many different things are going on," he said.

Early on, Greuel saw James, a Republican, as a serious competitor for conservative votes in the San Fernando Valley, her home turf. But James, a compelling stage presence at debates, has failed to raise much money. He was counting on independent spending by Republican ad maker Fred Davis to promote his candidacy. Davis, however, has had trouble raising money too, limiting his ads' reach. Republican donors, Davis said, are deeply demoralized.

"They think they've seen the last Republican elected — ever — in California," he said.

As for Pleitez, he could erode Garcetti's presumed support among Latinos, but he has raised nowhere near enough money to advertise on the scale that winning candidates typically do.

Perry, though, has waged an efficient mail campaign, sending a carefully sequenced series of brochures to tightly defined pockets of likely voters seen by her strategist as most open to persuasion, with messages calibrated accordingly.

Early on, Perry's mail appeared to be aimed at replicating former Mayor James K. Hahn's 2001 coalition of whites in the Valley and African Americans. She introduced herself as "the daughter of civil rights pioneers" in Ohio (her parents were each elected mayor of her hometown near Cleveland). She also outlined her record of promoting the downtown L.A. development boom, along with an agenda of fiscal restraint to resolve the city's chronic budget troubles.

But Perry has also targeted many Democrats, the dominant force in Los Angeles elections, sending them a series of hit pieces against Greuel. One shows a voter registration form identifying Greuel as a Republican. "Not on Our Side!" the mailer says.

Greuel released statements from state and Los Angeles County Democratic leaders affirming her party credentials and denouncing Perry's mailer. It did not make clear that Greuel has been a Democrat for almost 21 years. She was a Republican until 1992, when she switched parties months before joining the Clinton administration.

One of the dangers of going after rivals in a multi-candidate primary is that there's no way to know who will pick up votes stripped from the candidate under attack. It's a risk that Perry and Garcetti have taken in criticizing Greuel in recent weeks. It's one that Greuel has also now deemed necessary.

"We don't take anyone lightly," said Greuel strategist John Shallman, "which is why we're responding."


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Despite stumbles, Baca named 'Sheriff of Year' by national group

For Sheriff Lee Baca, the last couple years have been rough.

His department is being investigated by the feds. A county commission examining abuse in Baca's jails found him to be disengaged and uninformed, saying he probably would have been fired in the private sector. Secret deputy cliques with gang-like hand signs and matching tattoos have surfaced. And Baca has been accused of using his office for the benefit of friends, relatives and donors.

Despite those challenges, Baca has been awarded "Sheriff of the Year" by the National Sheriffs' Assn.

His spokesman said the honor was appropriate given Baca is "the most progressive sheriff in the nation" and "a guy that works seven days a week."

"This is his best year because people do their best when they face their biggest challenges and he is excelling," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Baca's critics disagreed.

"You gotta be kidding," said Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California. "The years of malfeasance in the jails and the blatant failure of the sheriff to address the problems make his winning this award mind-boggling."

The association that picked Baca represents most of the sheriffs across the nation, with about 2,700 sheriffs as members, a spokesman said. About ten sheriffs were nominated for the award. A panel of former winners, current sheriffs and corporate sponsors chose Baca after reviewing the applications submitted for him and other nominees.

"It looks at what the sheriff has done in their own community but also what the sheriff has done to advance the office of sheriff nationally," said Fred Wilson, director of operations for the association. "Sheriff Baca certainly embodies that. He is an exemplary sheriff."

In announcing the award, the association cited Baca's record for providing educational opportunities for jail inmates and his efforts to reach out to various religious groups in the community. It also noted the vast size of the Sheriff's Department and the relatively low crime rates in the areas the department patrols.

"He commands the largest Sheriff's Office in the United States with a budget of $2.5 billion," the association wrote. "He leads nearly 18,000 sworn and professional staff ... the law enforcement providers for forty-two incorporated cities, 140 unincorporated communities, nine community colleges, and thousands of Metropolitan Transit Authority and Rapid Rail Transit District commuters."

Wilson said that although members of the panel focused on the application materials for each candidate, they were free to do their own research.

The recent headlines they would have found about Baca have not been flattering.

Current and former sheriff's supervisors went public with accounts of mismanagement. In addition to the FBI investigation of his jails, federal authorities launched a probe into allegations that Baca's deputies harassed minorities in the Antelope Valley and another investigation into one of Baca's captains, who was accused of helping an alleged drug trafficker.

Baca's department attracted more scrutiny following disclosures of a secret clique of elite gang deputies who sported matching tattoos and allegedly celebrated shootings. The sheriff has also been under fire for giving special treatment to friends and supporters, including launching "special" criminal investigations on behalf of two contributors. Although the homicide rate is at a historic low, recently released sheriff's statistics show serious crime increased 4.2% last year and all types of crime jumped 3%.

Most recently, The Times reported that Baca's nephew was hired to be a deputy despite a checkered past, and is now being investigated for allegedly abusing an inmate.

Last year, the sheriff announced a sweeping jail reform plan aimed at curbing abuses and improving accountability. An attorney monitoring Baca's progress for the county has given him high marks so far.

"Sheriff Baca doesn't step down, he steps up," Whitmore added.


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Early news reports worried Dorner victim's father, document shows

Even as Irvine police were trying to confirm the identities of a young couple found shot to death in an Irvine parking garage early this month, the department's on-duty watch commander received a late-night call from former LAPD Capt. Randal Quan.

According to an Irvine detective's search warrant affidavit released Monday, Quan had seen an early news report of the double homicide at the condo complex at 2100 Scholarship.

Quan, the document states, was worried that his daughter, Monica, 28, who lived there, might be a victim.

Quan explained that his daughter called him every night but had not returned his calls that night.

The former police captain said his daughter and her fiance, Keith Lawrence, 27, drove a small white car, similar to the one described on the news report.

Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence, who were found dead in Lawrence's white Kia Optima, were the first known homicide victims blamed on fired LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner, whose rampage earlier this month also left two law officers dead and culminated in Dorner's suicide.

The document states that as police in Irvine walked around the car that night, they counted 14 shell casings. The woman in the car, it states, was in the passenger seat, tucked in nearly a fetal position. The man was in the driver's seat, slumped over. Police said there were numerous bullet holes through the windows on both sides.

Monica Quan was the assistant women's basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton, and Lawrence was a campus police officer at USC. The two had met at Concordia University in Irvine, where both played on the school basketball teams.

Police say Dorner was angry at the elder Quan, who had represented him in the disciplinary case that resulted in his termination from the LAPD in 2009.

In a Facebook post attributed to him, Dorner warned Quan of "deadly consequences for you and your family."

The document shows that the items seized from the home in La Palma where Dorner once lived with his mother included an iPhone, an iPad, three laptops and several hard drives. Those items, the document states, had no evidentiary value to police and have since been returned to Dorner's mother.


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For L.A. County's child protective services agency, change is slow

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 25 Februari 2013 | 12.56

For years, the top director of Los Angeles County's child protective services agency sat in an office hidden behind an unmarked, locked door.

When current director Philip Browning arrived, he made an early decision to use a doorstop to prop it open. And he publicly posted his own name and picture as well as those of his managers, prompting protests by some who feared for their safety.

"The goal is to change the culture," Browning said, acknowledging the embarrassment that some feel at an agency shamed by repeated failures that have allowed at-risk children to die. "What I would like to see is for the worker to be so proud of what he's doing that he tells his next-door neighbor where he works, which is not the case right now."

Browning, 66, who rises at 4:15 a.m. to run five miles before work, is attempting to revive one of the most troubled public agencies in Southern California.

It's been a year since he agreed — somewhat reluctantly — to permanently lead Los Angeles County's long-troubled agency, and many people are still withholding judgment on his performance.

"I have never seen him take a criticism or disagreement personally," said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, chief executive of Community Coalition, an agency in South Los Angeles that advocates for more support for relative caregivers. "He's always been able to keep the conversation about the work and try to apply the energy to solve problems."

Browning is disappointed, however, in the slow progress to improve the agency's 6,800 employees who operate in a byzantine bureaucracy that investigates 160,000 annual child abuse complaints and oversees more than 19,000 foster children.

"I'd give myself a C, if not lower. I have not been able to perform the way I hoped," he said in his Alabama drawl following a fresh wave of miserable news.

In recent weeks, Browning has been forced to answer questions about two young children who were allegedly tortured by a Palmdale woman who adopted them from foster care and later bound their hands behind their backs with zip ties and beat them with electrical cords and a hammer, authorities said.

Browning acknowledged his social workers approved the adoption following shoddy casework.

Then came the leak to The Times of an internal county report that offered a top-to-bottom indictment of the department's stifling policies and inept workforce.

The situation, investigators said, was akin to "the blind leading the blind." In the overwhelming majority of child fatality cases reviewed, they said the department's failures significantly contributed to the deaths.

The poor casework involving the Palmdale children and the problems described in the internal report both occurred when the department was under the leadership of former director Trish Ploehn and the county's chief executive, William T Fujioka.

Ploehn had been a defender of the department and, with Fujioka, took a combative approach to press reports. Their tactics drew widespread complaints from the Board of Supervisors and members of the public that they were withholding information about problems.

Browning has seemed eager to show he's taking a different approach, answering questions about the agency's poor performance.

"There are no simple solutions. If there were, they would already be implemented, but you can't fix things if nobody knows about them," Browning said. "It's always easier to do things behind closed doors, but frankly that usually comes back to bite you. There are no secrets in this department."

For that approach, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has called Browning "the best turnaround artist in public administration."

Browning achieved success over a career that began in Alabama before leading to Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Andy Hornsby, who led Alabama's public assistance and social services programs when Browning held key posts, said Browning's quiet demeanor masked his toughness.

"He did not have the luxury of trying to tolerate poor performers," Hornsby said. "I had a political appointee who I needed to run off. I put him under Philip and it worked pretty fast."

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The evolving views of Kevin James

First in a series of articles focusing on key periods in the lives of the mayoral hopefuls.

If it weren't for paparazzi shooting topless photographs of actress Jennifer Aniston, Kevin James might never have become a talk radio show host — or gone on to run for mayor of Los Angeles.

In an only-in-Hollywood tale, James got his first taste of talk radio in 2002, when he was representing Aniston and then-husband Brad Pitt in a lawsuit against adult magazine publishers who had run the racy photos. When the case settled, he was invited on KABC-AM (790) in Los Angeles to talk about it.

Immediately hooked, James over the next decade found himself doing more radio and less lawyering for Lavely & Singer, one of the city's top entertainment law firms. Then, last year, he traded his radio mic for the mayoral campaign.

"I call it my prior life,'' James said of his entertainment law days, recounting how he once escorted Farrah Fawcett to an awards show.

"I used to go to lots of movie premieres.... Now I go to lots of debates."

On the campaign trail, he has become the crowd-pleasing populist, thundering about corruption at City Hall and emphasizing his outsider status. But his record shows there are two Kevin Jameses: the conservative radio host on one hand and the far more moderate mayoral candidate on the other.

His positions today on key issues such as the environment, immigration and President Obama are at odds with his statements in the past.

In a recent televised debate on KABC-TV Channel 7 in Los Angeles, for instance, he lambasted his opponents for not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gases in the city — a signature issue for environmentalists who link an increase in carbon emissions with global climate change.

He accused fellow candidates Controller Wendy Greuel and council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry of failing to develop a "comprehensive environmental sustainability plan" during their years at City Hall. "We haven't made the progress that we should have made with current leadership,'' he said.

As recently as five years ago, however, James appeared to reject the entire idea of global warming. As a conservative talk show host, he wrote a column in Townhall.com calling Democrats "global warming wimps" who are exploiting the issue for political gain. The phrase "carbon footprint," he wrote, "is code for limitless government intrusion into every detail of your life. Nothing is beyond the reach of a government determined to reduce your carbon footprint in the name of the environment. To these people, nothing is sacred, nothing is private, nothing is truly yours."

His statements at that time could be incendiary. In a Townhall.com column in 2009, he wrote that Obama should choose Daffy Duck, the Warner Bros.' cartoon character, as his Supreme Court pick to replace the retiring David Souter. The reasons he cited: The duck is black, disabled (with a speech impediment) and a "professional victim."

In an on-air quarrel with MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, James suggested that then-candidate Barack Obama was a foreign-policy appeaser comparable to Neville Chamberlain, the former British prime minister who made a deal with Adolf Hitler in an attempt to avoid war.

"You're BS-ing me," Matthews chided James, noting later that there is a difference between talks and appeasement, which involves making concessions to potential aggressors. "This is pathetic. He doesn't even know what Chamberlain did at Munich.... We're talking to people with blank slates about history."

Also in his radio days, James urged tea party supporters to reject any new taxes, voiced support for a juvenile death penalty and supported a 700-mile fence on the nation's southern border.

Even in recent years, he consistently opposed Democratic proposals for a "path to citizenship" — an issue of intense interest to Los Angeles' heavily Latino electorate.

James says he now supports naturalization for immigrants who have been here at least a decade. He also backs California's version of the Dream Act, which guarantees access to college for students who have lived here most of their lives. His change of heart came about after participating in immigrant workshops and learning how difficult it can be to gain citizenship, he said.

"People come from all over the world and want to contribute to our society, and I want to help them,'' he said. "However, it has to be fair and equitable."

After studying accounting at the University of Oklahoma, James earned a law degree in Houston and took a job in the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles from 1990 to 1993, when he left to join entertainment lawyer Bert Fields. In 1992, he received a Director's Award for superior performance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

After the Aniston case, he started filling in at KABC-AM as a legal analyst and later took over a morning drive-time slot at KTOK-AM (1000) in Oklahoma — the state's biggest talk-show station.

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Tough challenges lie ahead for college trustees

The Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees faces a host of immediate and pressing issues this spring, chief among them: the selection of a new chancellor, budget uncertainty and increasing pressure to move struggling students more quickly through the two-year schools.

Nine candidates are vying for three seats on the board in the March 5 election. One incumbent, Nancy Pearlman, is seeking to retain Seat 6, while Tina Park in Seat 2 and Kelly Candaele in Seat 4 did not seek reelection.

The nine-campus Los Angeles district is the nation's largest, with an overall annual budget of $3.5 billion and 240,000 students. The prospect of at least two and potentially three new trustees comes at a pivotal moment, with Chancellor Daniel LaVista last week announcing his resignation, effective June 30, the day before a new term begins.

The state's community colleges are under pressure to increase course offerings, improve outcomes for the tens of thousands of students lingering in remedial math and English classes, begin more aggressive online education and find ways to allow students to graduate or transfer to four-year schools more efficiently. Trustees must also set a course to increase revenue and deal with continued state funding challenges.

Candidates for the three seats largely are interested in improving the schools' finances, but they have few proposals for aggressively turning around the massive two-year system.

The Los Angeles college system should make better use of its political muscle to influence the governor and Legislature for increased funding, said Mike Eng, a former Monterey Park Democratic assemblyman who is running for Seat 2 against challenger John C. Burke, a retired accounting instructor at Los Angeles Valley College.

Eng, who served on the Assembly's Education Committee, said acquiring additional money depends on establishing performance standards for campuses to increase student success rates.

"The governor and the Legislature are going to want to know how many classes we added, how many additional students did we accommodate and how many of these students got certificates or graduated," said Eng, 66, who has collected about $193,688 in cash and other contributions through the Feb. 16 filing period and is being supported by faculty unions and the local Democratic Party.

Burke, 68, who teaches part time, also wants to focus on accountability but by improving teacher training and basing funding on completion of courses rather than on enrollment, which he said would free up funds for more classes. He listed no contributions and said he was using his pension to finance his campaign.

Burke's funding formula is similar to one included in Gov. Jerry Brown's recent budget plan. It was among a slate of measures Brown proposed to improve graduation rates as the state's 72 college districts struggle to overcome deep funding cuts, slashed class schedules and plunging enrollment.

Most of the candidates were more cautious about some of Brown's other proposals, such as moving toward more online learning, but agreed that the Los Angeles board should focus more on students after a bruising period of controversy stemming from oversight of the system's $6-billion campus rebuilding program, which has been investigated for mismanagement and wasteful spending.

In addition, two campuses — Harbor and Southwest — were placed on probation after evaluations last year by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges found deficiencies in several academic and administrative areas. West Los Angeles College received a warning.

Pearlman, 64, a trustee since 2001, said ensuring that colleges remain accredited would be a priority, as would working with K-12 educators to improve college readiness and reduce remedial demands. Pearlman listed about $12,400 in campaign contributions, including money from district contractors.

One of her challengers, Tom Oliver, said the probation decisions reflected poorly on the current board's governance. Oliver, 67, past president of the Pierce and Mission campuses, said he would add more class sections and consider proposing that some students pay the full cost of instruction for high-demand courses to increase revenue — a highly controversial plan.

He has raised about $15,000, mostly in small donations from family and friends, he said.

David Vela, 37, another challenger, said he would boost orientation and counseling for remedial students. He would achieve some savings, he said, by thinning administrative positions and reining in perks such as car allowances; he also suggested that the district should apply for more federal and foundation grants.

"We have to increase classes for students so that they're not waiting in lines for three years," said Vela, a member of the Montebello Unified School Board. He has accepted about $178,000 in cash and non-cash contributions and is also supported by labor and faculty unions and the local Democratic Party.

Also contesting Pearlman is Michael Aldapa, a community organizer running a self-financed campaign. Aldapa, 47, a Boyle Heights resident, said he would direct more district resources to improving vocational education and services for veterans and disabled students.

In the contest for Seat 4, former East Los Angeles College president Ernest Henry Moreno and Valley Glen businessman Jozef Thomas Essavi both cited the need for increased counseling and workforce training as key issues. Essavi, 38, who also ran for a board seat in 2011, said state funding formulas shortchange the huge Los Angeles district and said he would lobby Sacramento for changes, as well as look to restructure employee pensions. He has raised about $5,000 in contributions.

Moreno, 66, also a former president of Mission College, said the district can make more efficient use of its current resources and that he would seek to reduce bureaucracy. Moreno listed nearly $55,000 in contributions to date, including money from several contracting and engineering firms that have done business with the district.

Write-in candidate Margie Recana, 55, an education consultant, is running a self-financed campaign for Seat 4, touting her outsider status and experience with both public and private education.

The seven trustees are elected at large for four-year terms and get paid $2,000 a month based on meeting attendance. The board typically meets twice a month.


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Mahony answers questions under oath about clergy sex abuse cases

A "relatively unflappable" Cardinal Roger Mahony answered questions under oath for more than 3 1/2 hours Saturday about his handling of clergy sex abuse cases, according to the lawyer who questioned the former archbishop.

"He remained calm and seemingly collected at all times," said attorney Anthony De Marco, who represents a man suing the Los Angeles Archdiocese over abuse he alleges he suffered at the hands of a priest who visited his parish in 1987.

Mahony has been deposed many times in the past, but Saturday's session was the first time he had been asked about recently released internal church records that show he shielded abusers from law enforcement.

De Marco declined to detail the questions he asked or the answers the cardinal provided, citing a judge's protective order.

The deposition occurred just before Mahony was to board a plane for Italy to vote in the conclave that will elect the next pope. In a Twitter post Friday, Mahony wrote that it was "just a few short hours before my departure for Rome."

Church officials did not return requests for comment.

The case, set for trial in April, concerns a Mexican priest, Nicholas Aguilar Rivera. Authorities believe he molested at least 26 children during a nine-month stay in Los Angeles.

Recently released church files show Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico after a top Mahony aide, Thomas Curry, warned him that parents were likely to go the police and that he was in "a good deal of danger." Aguilar Rivera remains a fugitive in Mexico.

The archdiocese had agreed that Mahony could be questioned for four hours about the Aguilar Rivera case and 25 other priests accused in the same period. De Marco said he did not get to ask everything he wanted and would seek additional time after the cardinal returned from the Vatican.

Past depositions of Mahony have eventually become public, and De Marco said he would follow court procedures to seek the release of a transcript of Saturday's deposition.

Meanwhile, a Catholic organization Saturday delivered a petition with thousands of signatures asking that Mahony recuse himself from the conclave in Rome.

The group, Catholics United, collected nearly 10,000 signatures making "a simple request" that the former archbishop of Los Angeles not participate in the process because of the priest abuse scandals that happened under his watch, said Chris Pumpelly, communications director for Catholics United.

The petition was delivered Saturday to St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood, where the cardinal resides. It was accepted by a church staff member.

After delivering the petition, organizers attended Mass at the parish to pray for healing and for the future of the church.


Times staff writer Rick Rojas contributed to this report.

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City union groups give big money to Greuel campaign

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 24 Februari 2013 | 12.56

Outside campaign committees affiliated with two powerful city employee unions have spent more than $2.2 million on their bid to make Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel the city's next mayor, according to Ethics Commission records posted Saturday.

Working Californians, which is heavily backed by the Department of Water and Power union, reported spending an additional $770,000 on Greuel, much of it for campaign commercials. That brings the group's total to $1.65 million — money that has also gone toward billboards, pollsters and campaign consultants working on Greuel's behalf.

Two committees handled by the Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, also have spent $578,562 on TV and radio ads backing Greuel's bid.

The next mayor, and the leadership of the City Council, will be charged with negotiating new contracts with the DWP and police unions. Some officers have been frustrated by a policy that requires them to take time off instead of receiving much of their overtime. The top official at the DWP's employee union has said he expects to see raises in the new contract.

Councilman Eric Garcetti said labor's intense backing of Greuel raises a legitimate question of whether "elections can be bought."

"I don't think that comes without strings attached," the candidate said Saturday during a mayoral forum in the San Fernando Valley.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, also running for mayor, said voters should be "scared" of the Working Californians group's presence in the race. "It's like buying the position," she said after speaking at a separate event in Northridge.

Greuel repeatedly countered during the Valley forum that her record shows she has no problem saying "no" to allies.

"I have angered a lot of people as city controller, but not the taxpayers," Greuel said. "I've stood up and said the DWP doesn't do a good job on green energy and needs to do better."

Greuel and Garcetti have each raised more than $4 million under the system that limits contributions to $1,300 per donor. But unions and other special interests can spend unlimited sums if they do not coordinate their efforts with the candidate.

The unlimited outside spending for Greuel by Working Californians and the LAPD union now is higher than the combined donations collected by three other mayoral candidates: Perry, former prosecutor Kevin James and former tech executive Emanuel Pleitez.

James also is benefiting from unlimited outside spending by Better Way LA, an independent committee that has received $600,000 from Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, a prominent Republican donor nationally. The group has spent nearly $488,000 for television ads and other expenses promoting James, according to Ethics Commission records.

But Friday the committee reported dismal fundraising numbers, collecting only $9,700 during the last reporting period and going into the final days before the March 5 primary with just $64,000 cash on hand. Political strategists say it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to air a meaningful number of television ads in the Los Angeles market for a week.

James said Saturday he would be "thrilled" if Simmons would donate more to Better Way LA in the closing days of the race.

Nibbling on bacon at the Original Pantry Cafe in downtown Los Angeles, he said the independent campaign group already has produced a television ad. "If Harold Simmons sees just how close we are to making this runoff [and donates], it can be, I'm sure, quickly put on television and radio, and I'd be thrilled to see that."

James, the only Republican among the top five contenders, made the remarks after greeting voters with former Mayor Richard Riordan, who has endorsed him.

Many of the diners at the landmark eatery weren't from Los Angeles. James met visitors from as far away as Korea and Britain, and many from communities outside of Los Angeles.

"I've seen your commercials," Susan Friedman told James, who happily replied, "OK, good!"

"But I live in Orange County, so, sorry," the Huntington Beach resident added.

The candidates spent the day sprinting around the city, trying to woo undecided voters in the race's closing days. They met up at the Valley College debate, where the moderator posed a big picture question: Which movie would the candidates pick for an Oscar at Sunday's awards?

James and Emanuel Pleitez punted, saying they had been too busy campaigning to see the nominated films. Perry chose "Zero Dark Thirty," about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, saying it embodied the triumph of good over evil.

Greuel said she was rooting for "Lincoln," the biography made by her old DreamWorks boss, Steven Spielberg, who is one of the financial backers of Working Californians.

Garcetti named "Argo," which tells the story of the daring 1980 Canadian rescue of American diplomats in Iran.


"Because it's the only one that filmed here," he said.



Times staff writers Catherine Saillant and Kate Linthicum contributed to this report.

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Bloomberg's meddling in L.A. Unified races is paying for junk ads

If you're like me, your mailbox is getting stuffed with political mailers.

What to do?

The best course of action is to take a shovel and dig a hole in the backyard, toss the mailers in and set them ablaze.

At best, they're filled with useless simplifications and generalizations about candidates and issues, and a lot of them contain gross exaggerations or distortions, if not outright lies.

If you live in Los Angeles and it seems like you're getting more of this junk than ever, it's because millions of dollars are being spent by committees to either support or demolish candidates for City Council, mayor and school board. Not only for mailers, of course, but also for equally vapid and nasty TV ads. This is how democracy works, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court, which lifted limits on so-called independent expenditures, thereby turning elections into cash-driven free-for-alls in which candidates are almost beside the point.

Take the current campaigns for seats on the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education. Three spots are up for grabs, but this is less an election than a local skirmish in a national war that's raging over control of public schools. In the current battle, the local teachers' union and its allies are taking on the "reformers" and their supporters, some of whom live far, far from Los Angeles.

I kept hearing last week from readers who were having conniptions over New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $1-million donation to the local Coalition for School Reform. They said he should mind his own business, and they called this another example of an attempt by rich guys to privatize public schools, or at least turn them over to their charter school cronies.

Actually, it was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who helped shake down Bloomberg. But I called Bloomberg's office to find out if he was aware that at least part of his money is being spent to distort the truth and misinform voters, which I'll explain in a minute.

"Mike Bloomberg is proud to help level the playing field on behalf of children and their families," a Bloomberg spokesman responded. "The union may not like it, but they should get used to it because he is just getting started."

That's more than a threat; it's a live grenade.

To be honest, I welcome anyone — including outsiders — whose goal is to improve public education. But the conversation has become so philosophically and politically polarized that it's hard to know who, if anyone, is acting most purely in the interest of kids.

On the contentious issue of charter schools, I think it's fair to say some do pretty well and some don't.

And although some of L.A. Unified's shortcomings can be blamed on union inflexibility, some is also due to administrative inefficiency and to parents who don't pay enough attention to their kids' academics. And all those problems are dwarfed by the fact that California is near the bottom when it comes to school funding.

I'd like to see more union give on teacher evaluations, work rules and tenure. But I'd also like anti-union forces to quit scapegoating teachers, because we owe the majority of them a debt of gratitude.

In Los Angeles, the stakes are high because L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy seems to have convinced enough people that he may get ousted if this election doesn't go his way, even though that's an unlikely, long-shot scenario.

Deasy is a creative and effective leader who ought to keep doing what he's been doing, for the most part. But I don't agree with him on everything, and I don't think we're well served if everyone on the board stands up and bows every time he speaks. That goes the other way too. It'd be disaster, for sure, if everyone on the board were a union lackey.

That brings me to incumbent board member and former teacher Steve Zimmer, who has been nobody's stooge. Zimmer, at times, has tried to bridge differences among the warring parties, winning supporters and making enemies on both sides in the process. But there's a price to pay for independence, it seems. Zimmer is under attack by the Villaraigosa-aligned Coalition for School Reform, which supports Zimmer's opponent Kate Anderson. They see Anderson, an attorney and L.A. Unified parent, as more inclined to butt heads with the union and more likely to support Deasy.

Even some of his supporters say Zimmer can be an angst-ridden, hand-wringing worrier who takes too long to decide where he stands. But I respect his answer to that charge.

"I've spent my life immersed in these issues, and when a game-changing vote or policy issue comes up, I damn well should wring my hands."

And it's not as if Zimmer is rabidly pro-union and anti-Deasy. He's proclaimed his support for the superintendent and has ticked off the union because of it. But in a game of lesser evils, the unions have thrown in their lot with Zimmer, which has made his opponents all the more determined to drive him out.

The way I see it, we've got two capable people running who both seem to care passionately about L.A. Unified's 600,000-plus students. But politics being what it is, campaign strategists on each side have polluted mailboxes and airwaves with exaggeration and distortion. It's a dirty game, and you either sling mud or get buried alive.

Are you paying attention, kids?

The hit pieces on Zimmer are paid for in part by Bloomberg, whose name is on mailers, and the stink bombs dropped on Anderson are paid for in part by United Teachers Los Angeles.

If you'd prefer to make up your own mind about who Zimmer and Anderson are, or if you want to learn about the candidates for the other two seats, you can watch all three debates at http://www.unitedwayla.org.

And as for the junk mail headed your way in the next two weeks, you know what to do with it.


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Digital billboard company issues $100-million threat against L.A.

An outdoor advertising company fighting to preserve dozens of digital billboards across Los Angeles warned this week that it would seek "substantially" more than $100 million from City Hall if it is ordered to remove any electronic signs targeted in a recent court ruling.

In an 11-page letter sent Friday, Clear Channel Outdoor told Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and Council President Herb Wesson that its digital signs are "valuable assets that the city cannot attempt to take away without paying just compensation."

The letter comes two months after a three-judge panel struck down a 2006 legal settlement approved by the City Council allowing Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor to convert 840 existing billboards to digital formats. The company installed 79 digital signs before the settlement was blocked.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal ordered a lower court to invalidate all digital conversions permitted under the agreement. But Sara Lee Keller, Clear Channel's lawyer, warned that if the council instructs the company to turn off the signs, "it would be exposed to liability to Clear Channel for the fair market value of such signs, which substantially exceeds $100 million."

"While litigating these claims would be costly and time-consuming for all … we believe it is important to be clear about the consequences," wrote Keller, who contends that other factors make all of the company's signs legal.

The letter drew a sharp response from Summit Media, a competing sign company that successfully sued to block the 2006 agreement. Phil Recht, the company's attorney, said Clear Channel has "no regard for the rule of law."

"Clear Channel is trying to bully the city into submission so that they can continue to make hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal profits from these digital billboards two courts ruled to be illegal," he said.

Clear Channel sent its letter one day before neighborhood activists and outdoor-advertising lobbyists — including the company and its representatives — took part in a working group to discuss possible digital sign legislation. One proposal up for discussion would allow new digital billboards to be installed in exchange for removing a greater number of static billboards.

Summit promised to work with neighborhoods on digital sign issues, saying the technology diminishes quality of life. In recent years, it has described the original 2006 agreement as a "sweetheart deal" that gave CBS and Clear Channel hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Since the ruling, Clear Channel has been waging a publicity campaign in favor of digital billboards, putting together an advocacy group to argue on its behalf and touting support for its signs from such groups as AIDS Project Los Angeles, Art Share L.A. and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Those groups, among others, have asked the state Supreme Court to take another look at the ruling that invalidated the 2006 digital sign pact, according to Clear Channel's letter.

Clear Channel and a handful of other billboard companies also have been contributing tens of thousands of dollars in recent weeks to Proposition A, which is on the March 5 ballot and would raise the sales tax rate to 9.5% from 9%. That measure, if passed, is expected to generate more than $200 million annually for the city budget.

Meanwhile, Lamar Advertising, which has proposed its own plan for converting signs to digital formats, has been spending $5,000 per candidate on outdoor advertising promoting the City Council campaigns of Councilman Joe Buscaino, Assemblymen Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) and Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), and former Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, as well as the city controller campaign of Councilman Dennis Zine.

Friday's letter from Clear Channel was accompanied by a legal claim, a document submitted before the filing of a lawsuit. Clear Channel spokesman Jim Cullinan said his company sent it because it must provide 90 days' notice before filing an action in court.

"This letter gives notice, but we hope it doesn't come to litigation," he said.


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Deputy shoots, injures driver after short chase in Orange County

By Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times

February 23, 2013, 8:46 p.m.

A short chase that began early Saturday in a McDonald's drive-through in Stanton ended when authorities hit the suspect's vehicle and shot and wounded him, authorities said.

The incident began when deputies were dispatched shortly after 3 a.m. to a McDonald's near Beach Boulevard and Katella Avenue, said Lt. Joe Balicki of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. A man was reported to be passed out in his vehicle in the drive-through lane, he said.

The man was "extremely intoxicated" and "became uncooperative" when approached by deputies, Balicki said.

The man sped from the parking lot and struck a deputy's marked patrol vehicle, Balicki said. He then drove north on Beach Boulevard and turned onto Ball Road, Balicki said.

Deputies stopped the vehicle by striking its back quarter panel, causing it to spin out, near Ball Road and Gilbert Street in Anaheim, Balicki said.

One deputy fired at the man and struck him, said Sheriff's Capt. Steve Doan. He sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital, Doan said.


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Dorner and the LAPD legacy

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 23 Februari 2013 | 12.56

I expected fireworks in South Los Angeles this week, when LAPD Chief Charlie Beck showed up at a community meeting to talk about Christopher Dorner, the ex-cop turned killer whose manifesto cast the department in an ugly light, resurrecting decades of buried wrongs.

The crowd at the Vermont Avenue community center was small, about 100 people. But the line to speak stretched from the stage to the back of the room. Some came for answers, some just to vent.

There were stories of ugly street stops and police harassment. Half a dozen people — black, white and Latino — said they'd had family members injured or killed by cops. An old man carried a poster of Dorner. A young man told Beck that the LAPD's legacy runs so deep, "babies cry when they see your uniform."

They had read Dorner's manifesto, which blamed his firing from the LAPD on racists, liars and cowards. There were nods all around when one man declared, "I don't defend what Dorner did, but like many in the community, I believe what he said."

But no voices were raised, no insults hurled. Nearly everyone prefaced their comments to Beck with some version of "thank you for coming."

It wasn't exactly a love fest, but it was the sort of dialogue that would have unimaginable a decade ago, when the LAPD was regarded in the neighborhood as an occupying army.

"This is not us against them," moderator Skipp Townsend told the crowd on Wednesday night. Townsend is a former gang banger who now "partners" with the department in crime prevention efforts.

"We're going to be together, whether we like it or not," he said. "This is like a marriage."


If it's a marriage, one spouse is feeling betrayed right now and the other is fumbling for answers.

A lot has been made of the ways the LAPD has changed since Rodney King and Rampart. The institution is more accountable, with video cameras in patrol cars and officers equipped with microphones. And the ethnic makeup now reflects the city's demographics: 43% of officers are Latino, 35% white, 12% black, and 9% Asian American. Twenty percent are women.

Still, it's unrealistic to believe that the LAPD has cleared its ranks of bullies and bigots.

Beck acknowledged that in South L.A. this week. "You will never have a perfect department," he said. "We hire from the human race and we hire the best people we can, and sometimes they make mistakes."

Some officers can be redeemed through discipline and training, but those with a "malignant heart" have to be let go, Beck said.

But how do you see into an officer's heart and who determines its darkness? And how does an officer wind up fired for reporting misconduct?

That's what residents wanted to know. And those questions are prompting soul-searching not just in the community, but inside the police department.

Dorner's manifesto contends the deck was stacked against him. He was kicked off the force because a police panel ruled that he was lying when he reported that his training officer had kicked a mentally ill man they were in the process of arresting.

Official accounts lay out the evidence on both sides: The suspect's father said the man's face was puffy and that he described being kicked by a police officer. The training officer's denial was backed by two witnesses who said they saw no kick during the arrest.

When Dorner challenged his firing, a trial court judge said the evidence left him "uncertain of whether the training officer kicked the suspect or not." The case came down to the "relative credibility" of Dorner and the training officer. So Dorner lost his job.

Clearly, given his actions later, his was a "malignant heart." Dorner was unfit to be a police officer.

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Councilman's preferred successor holds edge in Westside district

When Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl decided in October to retire and focus on battling cancer, he anointed Mike Bonin, his longtime chief of staff, as his preferred successor.

The March 5 primary election now seems Bonin's to lose.

Of four candidates seeking to represent Council District 11 — which includes Brentwood, Mar Vista, Venice and Westchester — Bonin has raised the most money ($380,000, including matching funds, more than four times the amount amassed by his nearest rival). The self-avowed "progressive activist" has also received hundreds of endorsements from politicians, business and labor leaders, environmental groups and residents.

"He's smart, he's a doer, and he's solution-oriented," said Austin Beutner, a conservative businessman and former mayoral hopeful who recently held a meet-and-greet event for Bonin in Pacific Palisades. "He's not an ideologue."

Bonin's three opponents — Frederick Sutton, 28, a part-time bartender and community activist; Tina Hess, 52, a prosecutor with the city attorney's office; and Odysseus Bostick, 36, a Westchester teacher and parent — all acknowledge the financial leader's sizable edge. But they say they're fed up with pothole-riddled streets, homeless encampments and out-of-control municipal expenditures. Bonin, they say, represents a politics-as-usual bureaucracy that has turned the City Council into what Sutton calls "a merry-go-round of lifetime politicians."

Having received $87,000 in donations and matching funds, Sutton sees his immediate goal as keeping Bonin from getting the simple majority of votes needed to seal victory in March. "Once you get into a runoff," Sutton said, "suddenly everything changes."

Bonin, 45, has unveiled plans to make Los Angeles more employer-friendly (extend the Internet tax exemption for Silicon Beach companies, support tax credits and reduce red tape for film operations) and to improve residents' access to City Hall through regular community meetings and technology ("Hikes with Mike" and "Mayberry meets the iPhone")

After receiving his bachelor's degree in U.S. history at Harvard University, Bonin worked as a newspaper reporter before entering politics. The Massachusetts native moved to the Los Angeles area in the early 1990s. He lives in Mar Vista with his partner, Sean Arian, a consultant.

A Gold's Gym regular who eats mostly raw foods, Bonin sports five tattoos, including a recycling symbol on his left shoulder that serves partly "as a symbol of getting sober and taking a life that had been trash and making it productive again." After long overdoing it on drugs and alcohol, Bonin said, he has been sober for 18 years.

The diverse Westside sector he seeks to represent is rife with vocal activists and hot-button issues: congestion, transit construction, an imbalance between jobs and housing, transients and the modernization of Los Angeles International Airport. Like Rosendahl, Bonin opposes separating the northern runways but is all for updating the airport.

Bonin said his 17 years in public service have prepared him.

He first worked in city government as legislative deputy, district director and deputy chief of staff for former Councilwoman Ruth Galanter. He then became deputy chief of staff and district director for Rep. Jane Harman, who represented many 11th district neighborhoods before retiring from Congress. He has been Rosendahl's chief deputy since 2005.

Elected in 2005 and 2009, Rosendahl, 67, was favored to win a third and final term before being diagnosed with advanced cancer last summer.

Bonin said he has been inspired by his boss' spirit and resilience after months of grueling cancer treatments. "He's got the level of energy back that most of the staff finds exhausting to be around," Bonin told a group of elderly residents one recent afternoon.

Marcia Hanscom, a wetlands activist, said she endorsed Bonin after hearing his ideas for bringing government closer to the people and promoting nature in the city.

"He's got good values and instincts, and he also knows the inner workings of City Hall and its bureaucracy," she said in an email. "If he does as he says — getting and staying close to the constituents — he will not be so captured by City Hall as some think he is."


Times researcher Maloy Moore contributed to this report.

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