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Partying on at Stagecoach

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 29 April 2013 | 12.56

INDIO — Just a few hours into the annual three-day country-music jamboree Stagecoach, Nashville veteran Connie Smith introduced what she described as "one of my favorite country-gospel songs."

The small but attentive Friday afternoon crowd listened as she sang "Peace in the Valley," a song popularized in the '50s by Red Foley. She struck a tone of steadfast piety as she declared, "There'll be no sadness, no sorrow, no trouble I see."

The line felt like a bulwark against the gloom that might've settled in at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival after the death Friday morning of the great country singer George Jones. His influence looms large over virtually every one of the 48 acts — from Lady Antebellum to Dwight Yoakam to the moonlighting actors Jeff Bridges and John C. Reilly — scheduled to perform through Sunday across the festival's three large stages at the Empire Polo Club.

But Smith's defense wasn't necessary: By the time afternoon turned into evening, it was clear that the tens of thousands of country fans here had come not to mourn but to party.

"Anyone drinking besides me?" Toby Keith asked during his main-stage headlining set, and the crowd's lusty response carried no trace of sadness or sorrow.

As for trouble, there may have been some.

Stagecoach has long enjoyed a reputation as the lower-key counterpart to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival — which earlier this month brought a huge roster of rock, dance and hip-hop acts to the same sun-scorched desert setting. Fans here, who paid at least $239 for a three-day pass to the event, skew older than those at Coachella and prefer cowboy hats over hippie headbands. They're also perceived to be Bud Light drinkers, judging by L.A. concert promotion firm Goldenvoice's choice of official festival beer; at Coachella it was Heineken.

But now in its seventh edition, the country music festival feels considerably rowdier than its hipper cousin, with louder carousing and a higher-profile security presence.

Less than halfway through the festival Saturday, 53 arrests had been made by late afternoon for various drug- and alcohol-related offenses, according to Benjamin Guitron of the Indio Police Department. Last weekend, Coachella had a total of 80 arrests. In 2012, 171 arrests took place at Stagecoach's one weekend — the same number as both weekends of Coachella combined.

In what appeared to be an attempt to tamp down any potential trouble, Goldenvoice (which also puts on Coachella), instituted new guidelines this year for Stagecoach. Camping in tents and cars is forbidden on club grounds, and attendees planning to sleep in recreational vehicles were asked to write a short essay describing why they'd like a spot.

Yet that unruly streak at Stagecoach isn't just a product of the crowd. It's also palpable among the performers — especially compared with the nostalgic, often dull exercises of Coachella's headliners, which included the Stone Roses and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Five minutes into his show Friday night, Hank Williams Jr. abruptly broke from his set list and told his band he wanted to play "Keep the Change," a pugnacious bit of libertarian invective in which he wonders, "United Socialist States of America / How do you like that name?"

Keith happily pushed political buttons too, as when he brought onstage a group of servicemen — whom he referred to as "the only thing that protects our Constitution … from evil" — for a snarling rendition of his post-9/11 hit "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)."

Other acts steered clear of controversy but got boisterous in other ways. Joe Nichols spiked his set of genial love songs with a sly cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot's randy rap hit "Baby Got Back," while the Honkytonk Angels Band played punked-up twang-rock early Saturday for a crowd peppered with guys wearing hats assembled from 12-pack beer boxes.

None of this means that Stagecoach has lost the family-friendly promise it's fighting to preserve. In addition to countless bikini-clad women (and the men who carry them on their shoulders), many festival-goers pushed strollers across the polo field Saturday; some even set up portable cribs next to their blankets and lawn chairs. You see far more older people here than you do at Coachella, as well; one couple sat on a hay bale Friday for a performance by the revivalist string band Old Crow Medicine Show.

And a number of artists lowered the volume to pay their respects to Jones, including Keith, who called the late singer "the face of country music," and Trace Adkins, who did an usually tender version of "The Grand Tour."

"I'm really glad to see the bands here doing tributes to" Jones, said one attendee, Barbara Hubbard of Palm Desert. Added Rose Alsup of Palm Springs, "He was so important to the music going on here — to the foundation of all this."

Still, moments of calm — such as Norah Jones' sleepy performance with her country cover band, the Little Willies — seem like the exception so far at Stagecoach. More typical was Keith's leading a gigantic Friday-night audience through a raucous ode to his preferred beverage container.

"A red Solo cup is cheap and disposable / And in 14 years they are decomposable," he sang, "And unlike my home, they are not foreclose-able / Freddie Mac can kiss my" — well, you can figure out the rest.


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L.A. schools finish one-two in national Academic Decathlon

They were tired and worn from months of preparation and two days of intense competition, but when they returned home to Los Angeles on Saturday they were also thrilled. For the third year in a row, Granada Hills Charter High School's Academic Decathlon team came home with a national victory.

"To see it pay off in this way," senior Faria Ghouri said, "it's amazing."

The team was the first in more than two decades to pull off three consecutive wins — a Texas high school in the 1980s was the last to do so.

The team of nine students scored 54,652 points out of a possible 66,000 in the rigorous 10-subject battle of wits, according to district officials. Students were tested in math, science, literature and art. They also gave speeches and endured interviews by judges.

Kimberly Ly and Hamidah Mahmud, seniors who have been with the team for those three years (the first as alternates, the second two as competitors), had doubts that it could pull off another win.

"You just reach some sort of plateau," Ly said, "but you can always push yourself. I'm really glad we came together."

Another L.A. Unified team — El Camino Real Charter High School, a six-time national champion looking to reclaim the top prize — came in second. The school, which also placed second to Granada Hills in the state competition in Sacramento last month, was able to participate at the national level after a rule change allowed more than one team from each state.

"In having the top two teams in the country, LAUSD this year exceeded our own amazingly high standards in the Academic Decathlon," Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy said in a prepared statement Saturday. Granada Hills' success has proved "once again that when it comes to the Academic Decathlon, our district is way ahead of the competition."

Granada Hills' national title marks the 14th for the district in three decades of competition.

Granada Hills' team members are Jae Kyung Chong, Seung Woo Baek, Hamidah Mahmud, Kelley Ma, Kimberly Ly, Kailin Li, Dayoung Kim, Faria Ghouri and Beatrice Dimaunahan. The team is coached by teachers Matt Arnold, Nicholas Weber and Spencer Wolf.

El Camino Real's team is composed of Ranbir Dhillon, Jenny Chi, Julian Zano, Peter Do, Jacob Hehir, Brennan Lincoln, Melissa Ngu, Tyler Wong and Johnathan Yih. Stephanie Franklin is the coach.

Members of both teams spent long nights and weekends preparing for the competition in Minneapolis, giving up much of their spring break.

The students focused not just on winning the team competition, but on performing well on their own and taking home gold medals for individual achievement. They said they wanted to nail their speeches — or, after struggling with math, finally conquer the subject.

"If they win one medal, they're satisfied," Franklin said. "They just want to do well, get a medal and come on home."

The students were proud of their effort.

"We all tried our hardest, we all came together," said Dhillon, a senior. "Knowing we put it all out there, you can't ask for anything more than that."

Now they can relax, shifting their focus to schoolwork, to spending more time with their family and, as one competitor said, to getting in some more exercise after spending the last several weeks hunkered down studying.

"Life goes on," said Chi, also a senior. She and others said they felt a mix of emotions after working so hard together. "This whole family, they're going off into the world — that's the sad part," said Zano, a senior. "We probably won't see each other again. We're going off to these different colleges, many of them out of state. The happy part is this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance: Getting to be with these guys for a year. That's nothing short of amazing."


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For the record

San Gabriel dispute: In the April 5 LATExtra section, an article about the dispute over San Gabriel Councilman-elect Chin Ho Liao's place of residence said that resident Fred Paine sent a complaint about Liao's residency to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. The district attorney's office did receive such a complaint, but Paine says he did not send it.

Boston bombings timeline: In the April 21 Section A, a timeline of events in the Boston Marathon bombings misidentified the surviving suspect who was hospitalized under heavy guard. His name is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, not Dzhokhar Tamerlane.

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LAPD's 'magic number' of 10,000 officers losing some luster

In 1989, then-Los Angeles Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky unveiled an audacious plan to boost the city police force by more than 25% to 10,000 officers.

He couldn't have imagined that city leaders would chase that goal for nearly a quarter of a century until, at the start of this year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that he had pushed the LAPD over the long-elusive benchmark.

The two candidates vying to replace Villaraigosa in the May 21 election — City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti — have embraced the mayor's achievement, crediting the LAPD buildup in large measure for the city's lowest crime rates since the 1950s. Indeed, Greuel has committed to enlarging the police force an additional 20%, if the city treasury grows.

But increasingly, voices on the periphery of the mayoral campaign argue that rising police costs — up 36% to more than $2 billion over the last eight years, more than twice the rate of growth in such discretionary spending overall — raises two critical questions: Has the expansion been crucial to making Los Angeles safer? Has the relentless pursuit of more officers come at too great a cost to paramedic response times, paving streets and other basic services?

Among those raising such concerns are former police chief and current Councilman Bernard C. Parks, Councilman Paul Koretz, former first deputy mayor and businessman Austin Beutner, the police officers' union and, in a small irony, Yaroslavsky.

"If the Police Department does not lose any officers over the next few years, during this time of economic hardship, it's because the rest of city services have been eviscerated," said Yaroslavsky, now a Westside and San Fernando Valley representative on the county Board of Supervisors. "I don't think it's sensible to say that we cannot cut the Police Department by even one position."

There is little consensus among criminal-justice academics about the effect that changes in police staffing have on crime rates. Where officers are deployed and the assignments they are given appear to be as important as the number of cops on the payroll, said Jeremy M. Wilson, a Michigan State University criminologist. A recent report on police staffing levels coauthored by Wilson suggested that many departments simply guess the number of officers needed. "We determine how many officers we need," said one police official in the report, "by holding an envelope to our head."

Many criminologists who have studied big-city crime decreases credit longer prison sentences and the retreat of the crack-cocaine epidemic, among other reasons, as being most responsible for bringing down crime. They point to cities such as Seattle and Dallas that cut police staffing in the 1990s and still saw crime drop sharply.

But LAPD Chief Charlie Beck argues that there is an important correlation between officer staffing levels and lower crime rates. Cities such as San Jose, Long Beach and Oakland saw crime surge after cutting their police forces, he said.

Villaraigosa, whose legacy is tied to his record of expanding the Police Department, despite the Great Recession, also draws a direct line between more cops and less crime. The city has had fewer than 300 murders each of the last three years, he notes, down from a high of nearly 1,100 in 1992.

"The numbers speak for themselves," Villaraigosa said. "A 49% drop in violent crime and homicides, a 66% drop in gang homicides. Growing our Police Department and ... community policing is a big reason why we are safer today."

But why 10,000 cops for L.A.?

Yaroslavsky latched onto the number after crack- and gang-fueled violent crime surged. Voters demanded action. The 10,000 figure lacked any analytical underpinning but was "a nice round number," Yaroslavsky chuckled in an interview. It also "takes the force from four digits to five digits." The goal stuck, becoming a lodestar of L.A.'s mayoral politics ever since.

Police Chief Willie L. Williams, hired three years after Yaroslavsky rolled out his plan, said he wanted to reach the mark by 2000. In 1993, mayoral candidate Richard Riordan suggested pushing the force past 10,000 officers by leasing Los Angeles International Airport to a private operator and diverting the income to the LAPD. His opponent, Councilman Michael Woo, pledged to reach the 10,000-officer target by shifting money away from other departments. Riordan won the contest but never added the 3,000 officers he had promised.

In 2005, mayoral contender Villaraigosa pledged 1,000 additional officers, which would have brought the LAPD to a force of 10,200.

To finally claw past the 10,000-cop threshold, his administration employed a bureaucratic sleight of hand — shifting 60 officers to the LAPD from the General Services Department, which patrols parks, libraries and other municipal buildings. The result: no net increase in officers, but effectively 10,000 wearing LAPD blue. (Due to routine fluctuations in staffing, the figure dipped to 9,976 last week.)

The department's highest-ever staffing comes with a notable asterisk. Because the city has all but eliminated funding for police overtime, cops must instead be compensated with time off, removing the equivalent of 400 or more officers from duty. That effectively reduces Villaraigosa's police buildup during his eight years in office by at least half, according to Beutner, the mayor's former first deputy.

Using the 10,000-officer figure, the LAPD now employs more than 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents. That's low compared to Chicago (4.7) and New York (4.3) but higher than other large western cities such as Houston (2.3), Phoenix (2.1) and San Diego (1.5). Criminologists warn that such ratios can be misleading because so many other factors — including geography and deployment patterns — are more important factors.

The LAPD, including the cost of benefits to retired officers, now consumes more than 55% of the $4 billion in revenue that city officials have discretion over, compared with 46% nine years ago.

The increased expenditures are worth it, Beck says, because public safety is the city's No. 1 priority. Current staffing is the "absolute minimum" needed to keep the city safe, he argues.

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20-foot boat that drifted to California is tsunami debris

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 27 April 2013 | 12.56

The barnacle-covered boat with Japanese lettering spent 758 days at sea before it drifted onto a Northern California beach.

Nearly three weeks after the 20-foot boat washed ashore in Crescent City, about 20 miles south of the Oregon border, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined it was from the 2011 tsunami, the first confirmed debris to reach California.

Though official word didn't come until Thursday, a Humboldt State University professor used Facebook to connect the dots shortly after beachgoers discovered the boat April 7. Lori Dengler, who helped examine the craft, recognized the lettering after some of the barnacles were scraped away, the Del Norte Triplicate reported. The characters included "Takata High School" — a school in Rikuzentakata, a fishing town ravaged by the magnitude 9 quake and subsequent tsunami.

Dengler posted photos of the boat on the city's Facebook page, the newspaper reported. Soon after, a teacher confirmed that it belonged to the school.

Though nearly 1,700 pieces of debris have been reported to NOAA, the boat is only the 27th item found that has definitively been traced back to Japan, said NOAA spokeswoman Keeley Belva. Other items include giant docks that washed ashore in Washington and central Oregon, and a Harley Davidson found in a container that reached British Columbia.

But the boat isn't the first item recovered from Rikuzentakata. A year ago, a soccer ball marked in Japanese was discovered on a remote Alaskan island and eventually traced to a 16-year-old Rikuzentakata boy who recognized it as his. The teenager said his family lost everything in the tsunami, which he escaped by running to higher ground with his dog.

The Japanese government guesses the earthquake and tsunami — which killed thousands and devastated the northern part of the country — swept somewhere around 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean, NOAA said. Although 70% of that was thought to have sunk quickly, an estimated 1.5 tons remained.

But given the amount of time that has passed since the tsunami, NOAA said it was unclear how much of that debris is still floating — or where it will show up.

"We think that it will probably trickle through as things go on," Belva said. "It's hard to say when anything will show up exactly — it depends on what it is, if something has broken down, weather patterns and currents. It really is challenging [to predict]."

It's also hard to say what debris is from the tsunami and what isn't, Belva said. Officials look for possible identifiers — such as lettering or boat registration numbers — and work with the Japanese government to try and pinpoint where the items originated.

The process takes digging, Belva said.

There are talks of returning the boat to Japan, but nothing has been decided yet, Belva said.

A Rikuzentakata spokeswoman told the Times-Standard in Eureka that the city was giddy to hear the boat had been found.

"Just to know it made it, just to know it made it across the Pacific, that's just one of these things in life that no one is prepared for — but in the best possible way," Amya Miller said. "That something made it across the ocean is beautiful. It's absolutely beautiful."


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California's medical board backs some prescription-drug-abuse reforms

The Medical Board of California on Friday embraced a host of reforms aimed at combating prescription drug abuse and reducing overdose deaths but balked at a proposal to strip it of its authority to investigate physician misconduct.

The board, meeting in Los Angeles, voted to support proposed legislation that would upgrade the state's prescription drug monitoring system, require coroners to report prescription drug overdose deaths to the board, and give the panel new power to halt a doctor's prescribing in some cases.

The pending legislation was inspired by an investigative series published in The Times last year that revealed that nearly half of the prescription drug deaths in four Southern California counties from 2006 through 2011 included at least one drug that had been prescribed by a doctor. The medical board was unaware of the vast majority of the deaths. In some cases, patients died while investigations into their doctors dragged on for months or years.

Although the board was supportive of those reforms, a proposal by two state legislators to transfer its investigators to the state attorney general's office was met with more resistance. Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park) said they think shifting investigative responsibilities to the state attorney general would foster cooperation between investigators and prosecutors and streamline the process.

Board members labeled the proposal "drastic" and "radical," though ultimately decided they did not have sufficient information to take a vote on the matter. Some members struck a defensive tone, blaming lawmakers and the media for failing to grasp the complexity of investigating and disciplining the state's 100,000-plus doctors.

"It's easy to assault us," said board member Reginald Low, adding, "there's no way the attorney general could take our investigators or hire their own and do what we do."

When it came to the board's performance, Low said, "I see the cup as half full, not half empty."

Fellow board member Gerrie Schipske seemed to agree.

"There's nobody who would say we can't improve," Schipske said. "But there's a witch hunt going on right now."

Others seemed to take a more introspective view.

Michael Bishop said he thought Price and Gordon were motivated by a sense of frustration with the status quo — the pair wrote a letter to the board earlier this month threatening to dissolve the panel if it did not become more proactive and show significant progress in its oversight role.

"What they are telling us is: This is your last chance. We've given you a lot of rope and you've hung yourself," Bishop told his colleagues.

"So far, the board just hasn't gotten it," Bishop added. "We need to get it."

The idea of placing investigators in the attorney general's office is not a new one.

A similar plan was proposed in 2004 by Julianne D'Angelo Fellmeth, a public interest lawyer who was appointed by the Legislature to examine the medical board's oversight of physicians. The plan was supported by then-Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, the medical board, the California Medical Assn. and other key players. Ultimately, however, there was political opposition to the idea and it was dropped from proposed legislation.

On Friday, Fellmeth told the board she still considers the transfer "the last best hope" for more timely investigations.

Board members agreed to further study the issues before taking an official position. They also discussed the need to better communicate with the public — and lawmakers — about what they do and how they do it.

To that end, they asked a top staff member to set up a meeting between Price and Gordon and board president Sharon Levine so they could discuss issues, including the proposed transfer of investigators, face to face.

Board member David Serrano Sewell told Levine he thought she needed to personally tell lawmakers of the board's plan for the future and to assure them of the board's commitment to seeing it through.

"It think that's what it's going to take," Sewell said.

In other business Friday, the board voted unanimously to create a task force to develop guidelines for the treatment of pain and the prescription of narcotic painkillers.

Notably absent from the board's discussion was the question of whether it would support the use of CURES, the state's prescription drug monitoring system, to look for problem doctors as well as drug-abusing patients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called on state medical boards to use prescription data to do so, but the idea has been controversial among physician groups that fear it could have a chilling effect on legitimate prescribing.

Board member Barbara Yaroslavsky appeared to touch on the topic, talking about "the technology out there that allows us to know who is prescribing what to whom."

But the matter was dropped without further discussion.



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L.A. Unified fight focuses on breakfast program

Los Angeles Unified will eliminate a classroom breakfast program serving nearly 200,000 children, reject more school police, cut administrators and scale back new construction projects unless the school board votes to approve them, according to Supt. John Deasy.

Heading into a fierce battle over funding priorities, Deasy said this week that he would give "maximum responsibility" to the board to decide between those programs and demands by United Teachers Los Angeles to restore jobs and increase pay.

In an April 12 memo obtained by the Times on Friday, Deasy outlined eight items the district would not fund without explicit board approval, including a request for an additional $1.4 million for KLCS-TV public television, small schools that are underenrolled and other unspecified programs.

But the proposed elimination of the breakfast program has drawn the most immediate backlash and pits two of the district's most influential labor unions against each other. Deasy said he proposed eliminating the classroom breakfasts, which were expanded from a small pilot program to 280 schools last year, after "UTLA made it very clear about how this program is a big problem."

UTLA, representing 35,000 teachers, nurses, librarians and others, will not back the program unless it is moved out of the classroom and concerns over lost teaching time and messes are addressed, according to Juan Ramirez, a union vice president. The union posted a video and poll findings on its website stating that more than half of 729 teachers surveyed said they disliked the program in part because it took an average 30 minutes to set up, feed the children and clean up. In a flier to parents, the union said the time lost to the breakfast program amounted to eight instructional days.

"We need to think of our students first, and our biggest concern is instructional time," Ramirez said, adding that the union was willing to seek an alternative nutrition method with district officials.

But Service Employees International Union, Local 99 said more than 900 cafeteria workers among nearly 45,000 school service employees it represents would lose their jobs if the program were eliminated. The union announced that it would begin a week of rallies at schools to save the classroom breakfasts, starting Tuesday at Hooper Avenue Elementary.

Courtni Pugh, Local 99's executive director, said that many of her workers were also L.A. Unified parents who would lose both jobs and extra nutritional opportunities for their children without the program.

The possibility of eliminating classroom breakfasts dumbfounded the program's supporters.

"We'd be out of our minds to cut something that is feeding hungry children," said Megan Chernin, a philanthropist who launched with Deasy the nonprofit Los Angeles Fund for Public Education. The nonprofit has contributed $200,000 to fund an eight-member administrative team to help train educators on how to roll out the program at their schools.

The program was launched to increase the number of children eating breakfast; only 29% of those eligible for free or discounted morning meals were actually eating them when served before school in the cafeteria. Now, 89% of children are eating breakfast and schools are reporting higher attendance, fewer tardies, greater student focus and decreased trips to the nurse's office, according to David Binkle, the district's food services director.

Binkle said the program has brought $6.1 million to the district this year in federal school breakfast reimbursements and that sum is projected to increase to $20 million if the program is expanded to more than 680 schools, as had been planned for the next two years.

Tufts University is evaluating the program and expects to have preliminary findings in the fall.

Deasy said he would recommend that the board restore the program and, in a statement Friday, said he was confident that the board would "enthusiastically and unanimously" do so at its May 14 meeting. But he said the fight over such programs and union demands for more jobs and higher pay would provoke "a very public and intense meeting" in May.

At least one board member, President Monica Garcia, said she would vote to continue the program. Charting a possible way forward were schools such as Malabar Elementary, where students ate together outside their classroom, Garcia said.

She said she wasn't enthralled by Deasy's abrupt move to throw the decisions to the board over classroom breakfasts, more school police and other individual items instead of past practices of bringing an overall recommended budget.

"It's not my favorite strategy, but I understand choices have to be made," she said.


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L.A. County deputies allege department hid FBI informant

Two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies say the department hid an inmate working as a federal informant from the FBI, according to a lawsuit they filed this week.

The allegations are the latest development in the ongoing question of whether top sheriff's officials obstructed an FBI investigation after learning that an inmate at Men's Central Jail was secretly collecting information on allegedly abusive and corrupt deputies.

In the summer of 2011, sheriff's deputies discovered the inmate's cellphone with a history of calls to the FBI. In an unusual move, sheriff's officials responded by transferring the inmate, a convicted bank robber, to a different jail under aliases, including Robin Banks.

Department officials assigned at least 13 deputies to watch the inmate around the clock, according to documents reviewed by The Times, and dubbed it "Operation Pandora's Box."

A federal criminal grand jury has been probing whether sheriff's officials were hiding the inmate and the phone from the FBI, or whether they were simply protecting the inmate from retaliation by jail deputies he was "snitching" on, as a sheriff's spokesman has said.

In the lawsuit, the two deputies, both from the jail's intelligence unit, allege that after the inmate's status as an informant was discovered, they were told by their boss to do things that would "keep the FBI out of the jails." They allege that officials also considered doing surveillance of interview rooms when the FBI or informants were present.

The lawsuit is the first public claim by sheriff's employees that the intent was to hide the inmate, Anthony Brown.

The lawsuit was filed by Deputies James Sexton and Michael Rathbun. Sexton is the son of Sheriff Lee Baca's newly hired homeland security chief.

The Times has previously reported that the two deputies collided with their boss after they reported allegations that another deputy was working as an operative for drug-smuggling skinhead gang members. After writing a memo about the tip, their boss shared the contents of the memo with the accused deputy rather than forwarding it along to internal criminal investigators, who could have conducted a sting operation.

Both men allege they were retaliated against for reporting misconduct to the FBI and others. Sexton says he has been the victim of threats and intimidation.

Rathbun, who is on paid administrative leave, alleges that officials are seeking to fire him over a drunk driving offense. According to the suit, other deputies who committed such misconduct were punished less severely. A video of that incident reviewed by The Times shows the deputy was belligerent as he was questioned by colleagues afterward.

Sexton remains on active duty.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said department officials have cooperated fully with the federal investigation of the county's jails and said the two deputies were not retaliated against.

"The sheriff has made it clear throughout the department that there won't be any retaliation whatsoever," Whitmore said.


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California ignoring some English learners, lawsuit says

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 25 April 2013 | 12.56

The state Education Department has ignored its obligation to make sure that thousands of students learning English receive adequate and legally required assistance, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

State officials said they had not studied the lawsuit, but insisted they are meeting their legal obligations.

The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, focuses on an estimated 20,000 students who are receiving no help or inadequate services as they work to learn English and keep up academically at the same time.

"It is a blatant violation of the law not to provide these students the most basic and essential component of their education — language to access their classes," said Jessica Price, staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

Advocates based their conclusions on information that school districts report to the state Department of Education. About 250 districts acknowledge they are providing no services or inappropriate language help to these students, and yet "the state of California does absolutely nothing in response," Price said.

The suit includes narratives, such as that of F.S., a student in the Compton Unified School District who was allegedly denied language help in third grade, failed most of his classes, and ultimately was retained. The next year, the same student, in the same school system, received help and "finally showed progress in his classes," according to advocates. Compton Unified is not a target of the litigation.

The suit was filed on behalf of six students and their guardians. They are remaining anonymous out of concern over possible retaliation from their local school systems, attorneys said. Also suing is Walt Dunlop, a former Oxnard Union High School District teacher who has worked with English learners and criticized his district's programs for them.

Although federal and state funds are set aside to help English learners, the best approach has long been a topic of contention. Programs that offer the teaching of academic subjects in a foreign language have become more rare. It's more common for English-speaking teachers to receive training in how to make their lessons more accessible. And students can also receive support in classes taught in English.

The ACLU's Mark Rosenbaum said it was outrageous that so many students received no help at all.

A state official insisted California was not shirking its obligations. The education department is "determined to ensure that all English-learner students receive appropriate instruction and services," said Chief Deputy Supt. of Public Instruction Richard Zeiger.

"When questions arose," he added, the department "asked local educational agencies to provide additional information regarding the services they are required to provide."

Zeiger also urged parents with specific issues to contact the department though its established complaint process.

Earlier this year, state officials said 98% of the state's 1.4 million English learners were receiving services.

In an earlier round of litigation, advocates targeted Dinuba Unified as well as the state. Dinuba settled the suit, setting the stage for the current legal action targeting the state.

Also participating in the suit are the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the law firm of Latham & Watkins.


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Gov. Jerry Brown promises fight over education overhaul

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday promised lawmakers "the battle of their lives" if they balk at his bid to overhaul state education.

A day after Democratic state senators announced their differences with him over his proposal to change the way schools are funded, the governor came out swinging.

"This is not an ordinary legislative measure. This is a cause," a combative Brown said at a Capitol news conference, flanked by 20 school superintendents who support his program. "I will fight any effort to dilute this bill."

Brown wants to direct more money to districts that serve large numbers of poor students and non-native English speakers than to wealthier areas, while giving all of them more flexibility in how they spend state dollars. Senate Democrats want a less radical redistribution of money, more restrictions on how it is spent and a one-year delay in any funding change.

Brown vowed to do everything in his power to protect his plan. "If people are going to fight it, they're going to get the battle of their lives," he told reporters. "Everything we have to bear in this battle, we're bringing it."

The nascent dispute adds to differences that have already emerged between Brown and fellow Democrats in other key policy areas, including healthcare, water and environmental rules. And an Assembly committee on Wednesday rejected a Brown proposal to speed students toward graduation in hopes of lowering costs in California's two public university systems.

The proposal is part of the governor's larger blueprint for overhauling higher education, which a legislative analysis said "could lead to less rigorous courses … or grade inflation."

The rifts could grow as the legislative session rolls toward summer and negotiations begin in earnest on Brown's proposed budget, which contains his education plans. Democrats won supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature in last November's elections — enough to override a gubernatorial veto.

Brown set education as his top priority in January, saying: "Equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice." On Wednesday, he said his school funding proposal was a matter of civil rights and the key to reversing a growing gap between rich and poor in California.

"Increasingly this state is turning into a two-tier society," he said. "Those at the top are doing better and better and those in the middle and the bottom are doing worse and worse.

"The very least that we can do is invest in our schools in a way that recognizes reality," he said.

Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy was among those joining Brown on Wednesday. He said the governor's plan could mean as much as $300 million more annually for the district than the Senate Democrats' proposal.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who briefly discussed the education issue with Brown on Tuesday and plans a news conference Thursday to detail his counterproposal, said he supported the central goal of more funds to help poorer students. But he said his caucus had other ideas about how to ensure that the money would help the right students.

Brown and the lawmakers are haggling over how to use about $2 billion of the $49 billion that Brown proposes for K-12 education beginning in July. The governor said he was concerned the Senate's preference, which is to distribute the $2 billion to more districts around the state, would dilute its impact.

"It's a relatively small amount of money," Brown told reporters. "If you spread it out to all the districts, it will have a trivial effect. If you put it into the districts that have high concentrations of poverty, it will have a very powerful effect."

Brown also railed against lawmakers' preference for limiting the flexibility he wants to give school districts, saying there are groups with "very powerful lobbyists" who want to protect the status quo.

Steinberg took Brown's comments in stride.

"The governor introduced this plan in January, but now he's beginning to engage," the Senate leader said. "And we're ready to engage."

During Wednesday's Assembly committee hearing, lawmakers, university officials and activists aired concerns about the governor's plan for higher education, which involves tying some new state funds to requirements that include higher graduation rates.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) said Brown's ideas seem "like we're talking about a factory, with these projections and percentages and outcomes."

A representative of the Legislative Analyst's Office said the governor's plan should focus more on ensuring that students are receiving a quality education and are correctly trained for the workforce.



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Rumor of deal roils teachers union

The leadership of the Los Angeles teachers union is roiled over whether its officials made a private deal with a Board of Education candidate whom critics view as an ally of anti-labor forces.

The dispute centers on an alleged understanding worked out between candidate Antonio Sanchez and Gregg Solkovits, a union vice president. According to people with knowledge of the matter, Solkovits has said that Sanchez, if he wins, would let United Teachers Los Angeles choose his chief of staff.

Sanchez and Solkovits deny any such arrangement. Sanchez said he has no idea what the claim is based on; Solkovits blamed a willful misinterpretation of comments he made in leadership meetings.

The internal dispute says as much about union politics as about Sanchez. A struggle exists between pragmatists, such as Solkovits, who talk about the importance of working with current and potential school district officials, and idealists who want to see a relentless push to replace current leaders and unpopular policies.

An arrangement with Sanchez would be notable because he is endorsed by the Coalition for School Reform, a political action committee that supports the policies of L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy and wants to keep his job secure. Its endorsed candidates, including Sanchez, have pledged as much.

Deasy has successfully pushed to include student standardized test scores in teacher evaluations and to limit job protections in the name of improving the teacher corps, among other things.

The union has been sharply critical of Deasy, even handing him an overwhelming "no confidence" vote from its members this month.

But in March, UTLA mounted only one serious campaign for the Board of Education. That effort helped to reelect incumbent Steve Zimmer. Also winning, however, was incumbent Monica Garcia, the board president whom the union dislikes.

The east San Fernando Valley District 6 seat remains up for grabs in a May 21 runoff. Sanchez, 31, a former aide to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, faces teacher Monica Ratliff, 43, a former attorney. In March, Sanchez took 44% of the vote compared with 34% for Ratliff.

In the primary, the union had endorsed three candidates for District 6, but provided no financial support to any of them. As a result, the coalition, spearheaded by Villaraigosa, was key to a huge funding advantage for Sanchez. Some unions also helped Sanchez.

In the runoff, the teachers union has given $1,000 to Ratliff. The coalition has amassed close to $1 million for Sanchez.

The internal dispute within UTLA became a topic on a website used by activist teachers.

"How about the backroom deal UTLA leadership made with Sanchez to support his campaign as long as he agreed to hire someone from UTLA as his chief of staff????" wrote UTLA board of directors member Jose Lara in a March 30 post. "I am not okay with backroom deals and then being told, 'That's the way things get done.'"

When contacted, Lara declined to elaborate, but didn't recant either. Lara supports Ratliff, and, like some other members, questions how the union could support Sanchez.

Solkovits said that the union had interviewed Sanchez before the coalition embraced him. He added that all UTLA-backed candidates were open to the idea that "at least one of the people on the staff would have relatively close ties to UTLA. I mentioned that at a board meeting," Solkovits said. The critics "chose to construe this as a deal."

"The goal was always to have good working relationships with whoever got elected," Solkovits said. "We don't ask for guarantees."

Several union veterans insist that Solkovits is underplaying the message that he and his allies conveyed. But they would not speak publicly because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

"This is something that Gregg was pitching to sell Sanchez to UTLA," said one veteran union leader, echoing comments that typically came from Ratliff supporters. They added that the pitch for Sanchez also included his support from powerful elected officials — and that these officials were needed to fight off unwanted legislation that would affect teacher job evaluations and job protections.

Solkovits acknowledged that at union leadership meetings he suggested two UTLA administrators who would serve well in a staff position: former school board staffer Ed Burke and former UTLA President John Perez.

Burke retired in December from a position with board member Bennett Kayser, a staunch union ally. Burke said only that he nixed the idea of possibly working for Sanchez. He also recently attended a fundraiser for Ratliff.

Perez, who is a vehement Deasy critic, said he has had no discussions with Sanchez about working for him. Sanchez characterized Perez as one of a number of people he respects as a source of advice.


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Michael Bloomberg donates $350,000 to L.A. school board race

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg donated $350,000 to the Los Angeles school board campaign this week, records show.

Bloomberg's contribution, which was filed Tuesday, will enlarge the already sizable war chest of the Coalition for School Reform, a political action committee led by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The goal of the coalition is to back candidates who will support the policies of L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy and pledge to keep him on the job.

Before the March primary, Bloomberg contributed $1 million for the three board races — the largest contribution ever made in an L.A. school board campaign. Bloomberg also gave a sizable donation of an undisclosed amount to the advocacy arm for the California Charter Schools Assn. That group spent close to $400,000 to support candidates in the election.

The beneficiary of the latest donation is Antonio Sanchez, 31, a former Villaraigosa aide. He is facing teacher and former attorney Monica Ratliff, 42, in a May 21 runoff to represent the east San Fernando Valley on the Board of Education.

The March primary yielded mixed results for the coalition, which spent about $3.8 million. One of its endorsed candidates won and another lost. In the loss, the coalition tried unsuccessfully to defeat incumbent Steve Zimmer, who was backed by employees' unions. Zimmer, a frequent swing vote, said he has not targeted Deasy for dismissal, and it's not clear that Deasy's job is on the line in the contest over the remaining seat.

But Deasy's supporters are taking no chances. Even before Bloomberg's latest donation, the coalition had put together more than $600,000 for the second round of a campaign on Sanchez's behalf. This total included $250,000 from local philanthropist Eli Broad, who had already donated $250,000 for the first round. And StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based advocacy group headed by former District of Columbia schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, gave $100,000 — after an earlier contribution of $250,000.

In the primary, money spent by or for Sanchez outpaced Ratliff's spending by a ratio of about 84 to 1.

So far, Ratliff has reported raising $7,297 for the runoff. Sanchez has reported raising $14,880.

United Teachers Los Angeles endorsed all the candidates in the race but did not provide any financial backing in the primary. For the runoff, the union gave $1,000 to Ratliff.


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Conrad Murray's lawyer asks appeals panel to throw out conviction

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 24 April 2013 | 12.56

Dr. Conrad Murray's trial was "fundamentally unfair" because of the publicity surrounding his manslaughter case and the fame of his patient, Michael Jackson, the physician's attorney wrote in papers filed Monday asking an appellate court to throw out his conviction.

Murray's attorney contended that prosecutors had failed at trial to prove that the cardiologist was responsible for the pop icon's death. She also contended that the trial judge, Michael Pastor, "displayed a bias" against the doctor.

Murray was sentenced to a maximum four-year sentence after his 2011 conviction for involuntary manslaughter.

The appellate attorney, Valerie Wass, argued in her 231-page brief that Jackson probably injected himself with the surgical anesthetic that led to his death and that the judge should have allowed Murray's defense to present evidence of the pop star's dire finances.

"In more ways than one, Jackson was a desperate man," she wrote. "Based on his desperate financial state, combined with his physiological problems, Jackson may have acted recklessly and/or irrationally on June 25th by self-injecting."

In trial, prosecutors responded to the theory by arguing that even if Jackson had awoken and given himself the fatal dose, Murray was still negligent and should be held responsible for the singer's death.

Wass also wrote that jurors could not possibly have been shielded from the overwhelming media coverage of the seven-week trial. She noted that witnesses gave media interviews during trial and that there was even a "Michael Jackson Doctor Trial" smartphone application.

She accused Pastor of sentencing Murray to a harsher term than he deserved because the case was high-profile.

"It appears that due to the publicity surrounding the case, and the fact the victim was one of the most famous people in the world, the court was trying to make an example out of appellant," she wrote.

Before handing down Murray's sentence, Pastor remarked from the bench on Murray's lack of remorse in a television interview that aired after the trial.

"Talk about blaming the victim.... Not only isn't there any remorse, there is umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent," the judge said at the time.

Wass contended that it was improper for Pastor to consider media interviews.

Murray is due to be released in October under state sentencing guidelines. The outcome of the doctor's appeal would affect his ability to practice medicine following his release.


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Death of son of Clippers owner is ruled accidental

The death earlier this year of Scott Sterling, 32-year-old son of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, was caused by a pulmonary embolism and "intravenous narcotic medication intake," the Los Angeles County coroner said Monday. The death was ruled accidental.

Sterling was found dead in his apartment on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu late on New Year's Day. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials quickly determined that his death did not involve foul play but apparently stemmed from a drug overdose.

The coroner's report concludes that Sterling injected a "narcotic medication" that was intended to be taken orally, according to an official statement. It also listed diabetes and use of oxycodone as "other significant conditions."

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said Monday that injection of "ground-up" medication may have led to blockages in his blood system.

A version of oxycodone, the narcotic painkiller OxyContin, has been one of the nation's most-abused prescription drugs, in part because those addicted build up tolerance to it. That has led some users to grind it up or dissolve it in water, making the potent extended-release drug easy to snort or inject for a faster, more intense high.

That practice and other issues with the painkiller led to a recent decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to halt approval of new applications from generic drug manufacturers seeking to produce cheaper versions of OxyContin.

Coroner's officials did not detail the amount of oxycodone in Sterling's system. They are expected to release a full report on the death within two weeks.

Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner for New York City, said that although injecting narcotics meant for oral use is common among drug addicts, doing so does not often result in death. "Usually the person dies of an overdose of the drug," Baden said. "It must be extremely severe to kill the person."

The family released a statement shortly after Sterling's death saying he suffered from diabetes, but it did not say how the disease could have played a role in his death.

"Our son Scott has fought a long and valiant battle against Type 1 diabetes," the statement said. "His death is a terrible tragedy, the effects of which will be felt forever by our family and all those who knew and loved him. We sincerely appreciate the warm outpouring of sympathy and support from so many of our dear friends."

Scott Sterling kept a low profile despite being the son of one of the Southland's most famous real estate moguls. Few details about his personal life or employment were made public at the time of his death.

Sterling was arrested in 1999 in Beverly Hills in connection with the shooting of childhood friend Philip Scheid during an argument. Scheid survived the shotgun blast, and Sterling was not charged in the case.

At the time of his death, Sterling was living in the Malibu Beach Villas complex on Pacific Coast Highway. The property is owned by the Donald T. Sterling Trust, according to property records. Units there are advertised as being "ultra luxurious."



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For the record

Wine of the Week: In the April 20 Saturday section, the Wine of the Week review of the 2009 Paul Jaboulet Ainé Crozes Hermitage "Les Jalets" gave an incorrect phone number for Monopole Wine in Pasadena. The correct number is (626) 577-9463.

Boston bombings timeline: In the April 21 Section A, a timeline of events in the Boston Marathon bombings misidentified the surviving suspect who was hospitalized under heavy guard. His name is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, not Dzhokhar Tamerlane.

Dean Drummond: The obituary of microtonal composer Dean Drummond in the April 22 LATExtra section misspelled the last name of his companion, Esther Starry Schor, as Shor.

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Officials find no meningitis link between L.A. and New York cases

In an effort to quash any fears of a patterned outbreak, Los Angeles County health officials said a fatal case of meningitis found this month is not connected to any others across the country.

"Public Health has not identified any other cases of meningococcal disease associated with this patient, nor identified any linkage between this patient and cases being reported in other areas of the country," according to a news release from the Department of Public Health.

Officials hope the report puts to rest questions about whether the death of a 33-year-old lawyer from West Hollywood, diagnosed with meningitis this month, was connected to a strain of the disease found over the last couple of years in New York City.

The outbreak of a particular strain in New York, primarily among gay men, has infected nearly two dozen people and killed seven. And the death of West Hollywood resident Brett Shaad this year and other cases last year prompted concern among some health advocates that a possible outbreak could have started in L.A. County.

While some called those reports alarmist, West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation pursued the issue aggressively. The organization started offering free meningitis vaccines and called on the county to do the same. Health officials eventually did so for low-income and uninsured residents.

Duran said Monday that although the county's results show there is no current outbreak, he wishes officials would be more proactive about the issue. He wants them to focus on prevention and continue offering free vaccines.

"Someone will die of meningitis in the next three months and it won't be one of the 3,000" who were recently vaccinated, Duran said.

The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center also issued a statement Monday, saying that it was "relieved" the county had "determined the most recent case of meningitis is unrelated to earlier cases among gay men in New York and Los Angeles and that there is no outbreak among gay/bi men here."

"We're also pleased that DPH is on high alert and will advise us of any new cases so we can keep the community informed," spokesman Jim Key said.

The county health department describes meningitis as "a rare infection of the lining of the brain and the spinal cord" that is "spread by very close exposure to sneezing and coughing or direct contact with" saliva or nasal mucus. The disease is generally rare and harder to catch than the common cold but can be deadly.

L.A. County averages about 25 cases of meningitis annually, health officials said. In the news release, they said that "even with prompt treatment, the mortality rate is 10% to 15%."

Symptoms may include a stiff neck, fever, severe headaches, an altered mental state and low blood pressure.

County officials also described how they came to their findings and said they first compared the strain of bacteria from the case in April to others in the county.

Though they found that some of the recent cases in L.A. County were all part of a sub grouping that included some similar cases of men who had a history of sexual contact with other men, officials ultimately determined that "a preliminary reading of the genetic fingerprints … shows it is not highly related to other cases in Los Angeles County, Southern California, or New York City."


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Conrad Murray's lawyer asks appeals panel to throw out conviction

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 23 April 2013 | 12.56

Dr. Conrad Murray's trial was "fundamentally unfair" because of the publicity surrounding his manslaughter case and the fame of his patient, Michael Jackson, the physician's attorney wrote in papers filed Monday asking an appellate court to throw out his conviction.

Murray's attorney contended that prosecutors had failed at trial to prove that the cardiologist was responsible for the pop icon's death. She also contended that the trial judge, Michael Pastor, "displayed a bias" against the doctor.

Murray was sentenced to a maximum four-year sentence after his 2011 conviction for involuntary manslaughter.

The appellate attorney, Valerie Wass, argued in her 231-page brief that Jackson probably injected himself with the surgical anesthetic that led to his death and that the judge should have allowed Murray's defense to present evidence of the pop star's dire finances.

"In more ways than one, Jackson was a desperate man," she wrote. "Based on his desperate financial state, combined with his physiological problems, Jackson may have acted recklessly and/or irrationally on June 25th by self-injecting."

In trial, prosecutors responded to the theory by arguing that even if Jackson had awoken and given himself the fatal dose, Murray was still negligent and should be held responsible for the singer's death.

Wass also wrote that jurors could not possibly have been shielded from the overwhelming media coverage of the seven-week trial. She noted that witnesses gave media interviews during trial and that there was even a "Michael Jackson Doctor Trial" smartphone application.

She accused Pastor of sentencing Murray to a harsher term than he deserved because the case was high-profile.

"It appears that due to the publicity surrounding the case, and the fact the victim was one of the most famous people in the world, the court was trying to make an example out of appellant," she wrote.

Before handing down Murray's sentence, Pastor remarked from the bench on Murray's lack of remorse in a television interview that aired after the trial.

"Talk about blaming the victim.... Not only isn't there any remorse, there is umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent," the judge said at the time.

Wass contended that it was improper for Pastor to consider media interviews.

Murray is due to be released in October under state sentencing guidelines. The outcome of the doctor's appeal would affect his ability to practice medicine following his release.


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Non-drivers hog the road at 6th and biggest CicLAvia

Some brought children. Some brought friends. Alden Delos Santos brought Chihuahuas.

Delos Santos, 41, carried his puppies Bianco and Sriracha in a front pack as he joined as many as 150,000 other bicycle riders Sunday along a downtown-to-the-ocean path of streets that were closed to car traffic for the occasion.

It was the sixth and biggest CicLAvia, a celebration of cycling, walking, in-line skating, skateboarding, scootering and any other form of transportation that requires no motor.

"You can see the city in a different way," Delos Santos said as he set off from City Hall with his miniature white rescue dogs.

The main thoroughfare was Venice Boulevard, a streetcar route in the bygone era of Los Angeles' Red Cars.

With an eye on his legacy in the waning days of his eight years in office, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa described the event as emblematic of a city reducing its reliance on the automobile, with 148 miles of new bike lanes and a rapidly expanding network of rail lines.

"It's not a walkable city yet, but it's becoming a walkable city," he said.

Surrounded by cyclists outside El Pueblo de Los Angeles in downtown before he mounted his bike for the 15-mile ride to Venice beach, Villaraigosa called for a law requiring motorists to leave a three-foot buffer between their vehicles and bicyclists.

"We've got to start sharing the road, particularly in this city that's so addicted to the single-passenger automobile," Villaraigosa said.

A while later, Villaraigosa stopped to tweet a photo. "I broke my elbow here on Venice blvd yrs ago after an accident w a taxi," he wrote. "Now I'm back w no taxis in sight!"

In a city where harried drivers outnumber cyclists, bike riders were pleased to get a one-day break from competing with cars and trucks for road space.

"There's a lot of close misses — getting yelled at," said Chris Manacop, 30, a nurse from Chino who drove to downtown L.A. to ride in the event with a friend from Pomona, Joe Galang, 32.

CicLAvia was inspired by Ciclovia, which has been staged for more than 30 years in traffic-choked Bogota, Colombia.

In Los Angeles, the five previous cycling days drew as many as 100,000 riders and pedestrians. But Sunday's was the first with a 15-mile route that cleared streets from downtown all the way to the beach. Organizers estimated that the crowd swelled to 150,000 this time, although no one counted those coming and going.

The $350,000 cost to stage each event is picked up by a nonprofit, CicLAvia, and the city, which uses state and federal money for the event. The goal of the nonprofit is to encourage public health, mass transit and vibrant public space through car-free street events.

The next CicLAvia is scheduled for June 23 on Wilshire Boulevard, from downtown to Fairfax Avenue.

Police took extra precautions during the five-hour event Sunday, but the atmosphere was festive. Along the way were food trucks, DJs, a rock-climbing wall, a marching band and arts-and-crafts booths.

Jim Nissen, 43, put on a red cape that billowed in the wind as he rode in a Nacho Libre costume based on Jack Black's character in the wrestling comedy "Nacho Libre."

"Cars have a great place in our culture," he said on his trek down Venice Boulevard. "They just don't have a great place in our city."

"Look! Nacho!" an onlooker shouted.

One of the most eye-catching attractions was Dan Busby's eight-person bicycle with revelers in formal dinner wear pedaling from their seats around a banquet table set with fruit and pastries, a chandelier dangling overhead.

"We're trying to make it all the way to Venice," Busby said as they made their way down Main Street downtown. "I think we can do it, don't you, guys?"

As bananas and clementines jiggled on the tablecloth, the rest of the group responded collectively as they pedaled: "Yeah!"




Times staff writers Dalina Castellanos, Stacey Leasca and Matthew Fleischer contributed to this report.

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Festival of Books again binds a city together

Is it any surprise that on a warm spring day, thousands of Southern Californians went in search of a good book — and a chance to meet the person who wrote it?

Not to Susan Burton, a retired school librarian from Fontana, who was among the crowds that converged Sunday morning on the USC campus for the final day of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

"I think this is a fabulous place to be," she said as she stood in line with a friend to hear a discussion about crime writing with former L.A. Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Clark and crime novelist T. Jefferson Parker. "But then again, I'm a bookaholic."

Organizers had yet to make a final tally, but they estimate that the 18th annual event drew about 150,000 visitors, a slight increase over last year's festival. The numbers were a good sign for the event, considering it had to compete for patrons with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the increasingly popular bicycle ride known as CicLAvia.

Some visitors to the book festival said that after the Boston Marathon bombing last week, they were hesitant about attending an event with large crowds. Security at USC was high Sunday, with police and security guards patrolling on foot, bicycle and horseback.

But other book lovers said they would not let fear keep them away.

"You can't live your life always fearing," said Janice Jones, a retired construction company worker from San Diego, who listened with a friend as comedian Demitri Martin stood on an outdoor stage, talking about how he began his career.

Although books were the heart of the festival, Sunday's schedule was ripe with panel discussions, performances and demonstrations about food, music, filmmaking and even knot tying.

Actress Valerie Bertinelli, author of "One Dish at a Time," shared the stage with Times food editor Russ Parsons to talk about growing up in an Italian American home, watching her mother and aunt cook gnocchi, cappelletti and meatballs.

"You can do so many things with a great sauce," she said as people in the audience feasted on noodles, curry chicken, frozen yogurt and brownies.

Nearby, lunchtime crowds formed outside about half a dozen food trucks, serving Indian, Cuban, Mexican and French cuisine.

In the morning, a potpourri of food smells mixed with the blare of tubas and bass drums from the Trojan Marching Band. Later, it was the sound of jazz from USC graduate Raquel Rodriguez, who performed before a crowd of nodding, swaying music fans.

For Steve Klevatt, a special-effects artist from Los Angeles, the highlight of his day was a presentation by Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who spoke Sunday morning before a standing-room-only crowd about his book on knot tying, titled "Why Knot?"

"This is a great environment," Klevatt said. "It's great that so many people came out on such a nice day."


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For the record

Reed's profile: A Stock Spotlight article about Reed's Inc. in the April 8 Business section said the company bottled beverages sold under the Martinelli's and Izze names. Reed's does not bottle for those companies.

"Hemlock Grove": An article about the new Netflix series "Hemlock Grove" in the April 18 Calendar section misspelled the first name of Landon Liboiron, the actor who plays Peter Rumancek, as Brandon.

Cannes Film Festival: An article about the Cannes Film Festival in the April 19 Calendar section misspelled the first name of filmmaker Steven Soderbergh as Stephen.

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Poll shows majority of L.A. voters give Villaraigosa good marks

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 22 April 2013 | 12.56

Despite stubborn financial problems and reductions in city services, a majority of L.A. voters give departing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa good marks, a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll has found.

In a telephone survey conducted last week, nearly 53% of respondents said they had a favorable view of the mayor, who was barred by law from seeking a third four-year term. He leaves office this summer.

Nearly 42% of voters said they viewed Villaraigosa unfavorably. Whites were about evenly split — 46.3% viewed the city's first Latino mayor in modern history favorably; 46.9% had an unfavorable view. Latinos were lopsidedly supportive of the mayor — 71.4% saw him favorably, and 27.7% did not.

There were some perhaps predictable differences between members of the two major political parties. Villaraigosa, a Democrat holding a technically nonpartisan office, got a thumbs up from 63% of Democrats but only 25% of Republicans.

Voters will choose between Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel in a May 21 election to succeed Villaraigosa.

The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/Los Angeles Times City Election Poll surveyed 500 likely voters over a three-day period beginning Monday. It was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, a Democratic firm, and M4 Strategies, a Republican firm, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Voters' approval of Villaraigosa climbed slightly from a USC Price/Times survey conducted about seven weeks ago. Then, 47% of voters viewed him favorably and 43.8% unfavorably; among whites, the results were 39.9% to 52.7%. Only Latinos favored him strongly — he earned a 60% favorable rating from that group, contrasted with 30.8% with a negative view of him.

Pollster Amy Levin of Benenson said Villaraigosa's favorable numbers also indicate "there is not a strong anti-incumbent, anti-City Hall sentiment in this electorate."

"They are not looking for radical change," Levin said.

Chris St. Hilaire, with polling firm M4, suggested that Villaraigosa's imminent departure could be a factor in his strengthening poll numbers.

"When the guests are leaving the party," he said, "there is a tendency to like them better."


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Garcetti opens 10-point lead over Greuel in L.A. mayoral race

Eric Garcetti has opened a commanding 10-point lead in the Los Angeles mayor's race over rival Wendy Greuel, whose dogged fight to win the backing of public employee unions appears to be undercutting her on her home turf in the San Fernando Valley, according to a new USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll.

A month before the May 21 runoff, likely voters favored Garcetti over Greuel by 50% to 40%.

The survey also found no sign of success for Greuel's effort to gain an edge among women by highlighting her potential to make history as the city's first female mayor. Women preferred Garcetti, 50% to 41%.

Latinos and younger voters backed Garcetti by still wider margins. The city councilman from Silver Lake has strengthened his standing in the central city and Eastside neighborhoods that he won decisively in the March primary. He has also built a solid lead on the Westside — a key target of Greuel's.

Perhaps most worrisome for Greuel, the city controller, is her failure so far to establish a base in the Valley, where the two are effectively tied. Greuel, who lives in Studio City, had hoped that audits by her office that found wasteful spending of taxpayer money would appeal to the Valley's Republicans, often a pivotal vote in L.A. elections.

Instead, Garcetti has emerged with a lopsided lead among conservatives citywide, picking up support from many of those who voted in the primary for Republican radio personality Kevin James, now a Garcetti backer.

Greuel's tepid support in the Valley, which she represented on the City Council from 2002 to 2009, poses a major challenge for her in the closing weeks of the race. Though Democrats dominate the Valley, many of the city's Republicans live on its western and northern ends.

"That's an untenable situation for Greuel," said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/Los Angeles Times City Election Poll.

Still, even as election officials prepare for the start of mail-in voting on Monday, the contest remains highly fluid, with millions of dollars in TV and radio ads still ahead.

And Greuel holds some clear advantages.

Voters trust Greuel to handle schools better than her opponent would.

"I've got kids in school, and I think she'd do more in terms of improving LAUSD," poll respondent Chris Eisenberg of Sherman Oaks said in a follow-up interview, alluding to the L.A. Unified School District. Greuel often tells voters that her son attends a public elementary school.

A plurality of the voters surveyed also chose Greuel as the candidate who seems genuine and says what she really believes. They picked Garcetti as the one who seems like a typical politician and says things just to get elected.

A plurality also chose Garcetti as the one who cares more about big businesses and developers than Los Angeles as a whole. Greuel has tried to stoke further doubts about Garcetti's integrity. On Friday, after polling concluded, she started airing a TV ad attacking his personal investments.

Also working in Greuel's favor is her endorsement by Bill Clinton, with whom she campaigned on Saturday at Langer's Deli near MacArthur Park. The poll found a majority of voters was more likely to support a candidate backed by the former president. Another of Greuel's TV ads spotlights her work on disaster relief in the Clinton administration after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

"People like Bill Clinton, and people like people who are liked by Bill Clinton," said pollster Chris St. Hilaire of M4 Strategies, the Republican half of the bipartisan team that conducted the survey.

The poll also suggested that African Americans — a key group up for grabs — were tilting toward Greuel. But the poll's sample size was too small to draw firm conclusions about African Americans, Asians and other groups that can swing a close race.

The telephone survey of 500 likely voters, taken Monday through Wednesday, had a margin of sampling error of 4.4 percentage points in either direction, with wider margins for subgroups.

For Garcetti, the poll offered an abundance of good signs. Likely voters gave him higher marks than Greuel on how he would handle traffic, mass transit, jobs, crime and public safety, always areas of concern for city voters. The results suggested minimal returns so far for one of Greuel's thrusts: She has vowed to hire about 2,000 new police officers and 700 new firefighters and paramedics and also attacked Garcetti for Fire Department budget cuts.

A plurality of likely voters also chose Garcetti when asked which candidate could make the tough decisions necessary to move the city in the right direction, which would represent every neighborhood and race in L.A., and which had a strong and clear vision for the city's future.

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Dennis Zine ahead in controller's race, but undecideds are on top

City Councilman Dennis Zine holds a significant lead among likely voters in his race against Ron Galperin for the city controller's seat in the May 21 runoff election, a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll shows.

Zine, a three-term councilman, is the choice of 34% of respondents, according to the bipartisan survey of 500 likely voters conducted over three days last week. That compares with 22% who said they would probably vote for Galperin, a city commissioner and attorney.

Poll director Dan Schnur, of USC, said the findings indicate that Zine has the advantage at this point in what has largely been a low-profile campaign. But with nearly 44% of voters still undecided, Galperin has a chance to move more in his direction over the next four weeks, he said.

"With the high number of undecided voters and the relatively low level of information available at this point, the race certainly isn't over," Schnur said. "If Galperin can raise the money to get his message heard, he's still in a position to be very competitive."

The telephone survey was conducted April 15-17 by M4 Strategies, a Republican pollster, and Benenson Strategy Group, a Democratic firm. The margin of error is 4.4 percentage points but smaller for subgroups.

Galperin was the top vote-getter in the March primary, edging past second-place finisher Zine by about 4,000 votes. But with the field of six candidates narrowed to two, Zine has moved past Galperin to take the lead, at least among voters who already have a candidate preference.

Zine and Galperin have participated in debates and public events as they compete for the job of serving as Los Angeles' chief auditor and accountant, an independent post elected citywide. But neither has yet sent out campaign mail or bought TV advertising that would introduce him to a wider pool of voters.

The controller's race has also been somewhat overshadowed by the mayoral race between City Councilman Eric Garcetti and current City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Zine, 65, is a 12-year councilman and a retired Los Angeles police sergeant. During his law enforcement career, he was director of the police union and frequently in the news. Galperin, 49, by contrast, is a lawyer who has worked largely out of the limelight on city commissions charged with finding ways to operate City Hall more efficiently.

On the ballot, Zine is identified as a "Los Angeles City Councilman"; Galperin is designated an "Efficiency Commissioner/Businessman." How a candidate is identified can make a difference to some voters.

Glen Lavin, 52, a retired city worker who took part in the poll, said he would probably vote for Zine because he knows him from his years on the council. Lavin, who lives in Winnetka in the northwest San Fernando Valley, said he knew little about Galperin.

"Efficiency commissioner? What does that mean?" he said. "He's not a career politician, and that can be a good thing. But to have no knowledge of city government and then have such a high-level position makes me unsure of him."

Galperin needs to win over voters such as Lavin, Schnur said. The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/Los Angeles Times City Election Poll shows Zine with a significant lead in the vote-rich San Fernando Valley. Forty-one percent of respondents there said they were leaning toward Zine, compared with 26% for Galperin.

Both candidates also have an opportunity with the 59% of African-American voters who say they haven't decided whom to back. That's the highest ethnic group of undecideds, followed by 46% of Latinos and 39% of whites, the poll shows.

In South Los Angeles, the region with the greatest concentration of black voters, the number of those who are undecided is even higher, at 61%. Poll respondent Walter Lawson, 71, of South Los Angeles, is one of those who hasn't yet settled on who will get his vote.

Lawson said he isn't familiar with either candidate and is waiting for both to tell him what they stand for.

"If he's going to stand up for the city and stand up to the special interests, I'll vote for him," said Lawson, a retired county maintenance worker. "I just don't know who that it is yet."


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Chasm divides gun control and gun rights advocates

SACRAMENTO — "Living in parallel universes," is how Senate leader Darrell Steinberg describes it. Gun control and gun rights advocates "talking past each other."

Emanating from different cultures, incapable of agreeing on how to make us all safer from firearms.

Their opposite views were in full voice last week in the Legislature during a marathon 10-hour committee hearing — longest anyone could remember — on gun bills.

Unlike in Washington, where gun control forces couldn't muster enough strength in the U.S. Senate to pass legislation expanding background checks, a state Senate committee in Sacramento approved eight bills to strengthen California's already stringent firearms regulations.

Unfortunately, without universal background checks nationwide — not only in gun stores, which already is the law, but at gun shows and via the Internet — California is vulnerable to Wild-West dealing in other states.

Criminals and mental misfits can buy virtually any weapon they want at a Nevada or Arizona gun show and cart it into California, circumventing this state's tough background checks.

Actually, in Washington there was solid majority support for expanding background checks — 55 Senate votes. But because of that chamber's arcane rules born of undemocratic filibusters, the bill needed 60, or a 60% supermajority.

In Sacramento, where Democrats overwhelmingly rule, most gun legislation can be passed on a simple majority vote.

One exception is a bill to speed up the confiscation of guns from Californians who bought them legally, but later were disqualified because of a violent crime, a restraining order or mental illness. There are roughly 20,000 people possessing around 40,000 firearms who aren't supposed to have them.

The bill, SB 140 by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative house. It would appropriate $24 million to hire enough agents to seize the weapons.

But despite opposition by the gun lobby — it objects to using money from background check fees paid by gun buyers — the measure has been sailing through the Legislature. It passed the Assembly 57-10 last week, with only Republicans voting "no."

This bill, however, offers a clear example of political polarization in the Capitol.

Republicans proposed a perfectly sensible amendment that would have required all the illegal weapons to be confiscated in one year, rather than over three as mandated by the bill. Democrats quickly tabled the amendment, cutting off debate.

"If we're going to be serious about dealing with felons with guns, then we need to take advantage of the money and make it a priority," Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine), the amendment's author, told me.

"A lot of folks on my [GOP] side want to do something. They don't want to just be saying 'no.' But they didn't even let us debate….

"I won't say it's impossible to come together. And I won't say one side is entirely right and the other is entirely wrong. But both sides need to get beyond their hardened positions of the past."

Hardened positions, however, dominated the long meeting of the Senate Public Safety Committee. Republicans followed the gun lobby in opposing every measure. Democrats passed all of them on party-line 5-to-2 votes.

"There's a difference between opposing every bill and your saying, 'We would support it if you did this or that,' " Steinberg, a Democrat from Sacramento, finally vented to gun lobbyists. "It would help your credibility."

The committee approved bills to:

•Prohibit the sale of semiautomatic rifles that hold detachable magazines. SB 374, Steinberg. The senator called them "mass killing machines."

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War, and a warning, at L.A. Times book awards

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 21 April 2013 | 12.56

The darkly comic tale of soldiers spending Thanksgiving leave at a Dallas Cowboys game and a warning of the environmental threats to the female body were among the winners Friday at the annual Los Angeles Times Book Prizes.

The awards to Ben Fountain in the fiction category for "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" and Florence Williams in the science and technology category for "Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History" were announced along with eight other prizes at a ceremony kicking off The Times' 18th annual Festival of Books.

The two-day event featuring readings, discussions, screenings, musical performances and cooking demonstrations is expected to draw more than 150,000 people to the USC campus this weekend.

Fountain previously won the National Book Critics Circle Award, as did another Times honoree, Robert Caro, who won the biography category for "The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson," his fourth volume on the life of 36th president.

In accepting his award, Fountain criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the conflict occupying the soldier protagonists of his novel.

"Governments do lie — or to put it another way, they abuse the language," he said.

"It's our job ... to preserve and protect the language from the liars, and to howl and as long and as loud as possible when we see our American language being hijacked."

Williams told the audience she had been moved to write her book after learning there were toxic chemicals in the breast milk she fed to her daughter.

"It seemed to me that breasts were living a life that they had never lived before," she said.

She thanked her husband for cheering her on at the ceremony and noted that she had done the same for him Monday at the Boston Marathon.

The award for graphic novel or comic went to local author Sammy Harkham for "Everything Together: Collected Stories."

In it, Harkham, co-owner of the Fairfax District's Family bookstore, touches on subjects as diverse as teenage angst, Napoleon and Jewish mysticism.

Two awards were announced in advance of Friday night's event.

The Robert Kirsch Award, for a body of work about the American West, was given to historian Kevin Starr, the former state librarian and author of the eight-volume "Americans and the California Dream" series.

"I wish to continue this for as long as possible," said Starr, a USC professor.

He thanked Catholic school nuns and priests for teaching him how to write clearly and thoughtfully. He also thanked his wife, Sheila, whom he called "my friend and editor in chief in all my writing projects."

Canadian writer and activist Margaret Atwood won the Innovator's Award, which recognizes cutting-edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future.

The Times began awarding book prizes in 1980. An internal Times committee awards the Kirsch and Innovator prizes, while panels composed mainly of published authors select the other winners.

The other 2012 Book Prize winners are:

Current Interest: Katherine Boo, "Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity"

The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction: Maggie Shipstead, "Seating Arrangements"

History: Fergus M. Bordwich, "America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union"

Mystery/Thriller: Tana French, "Broken Harbor"

Poetry: Louise Glück, "Poems 1962-2012"

Young Adult Literature: A.S. King, "Ask the Passengers"

A complete list of 2012 finalists can be found at http://www.events.latimes.com/bookprizes.


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Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti call each other's integrity into question

The candidates for Los Angeles mayor proved they could be almost as disagreeable before a Spanish-language audience as they have been in front of English speakers — challenging each other's integrity in a debate Friday night on a Spanish-language television station.

Councilman Eric Garcetti renewed his charge that opponent Wendy Greuel is beholden to the union that represents Department of Water and Power workers, while Greuel, the city controller, repeated her rebuttal that her rival is a hypocrite who has supported raises and other benefits for the same workers.

The debate on KMEX-TV (Channel 34) came on the day that Greuel launched the first television attack ad of the May runoff campaign for mayor. It accused Garcetti of hiding an investment in a company that erected unpopular digital billboards, and concealing a lease that granted a company the right to extract oil from under family property via a well at Beverly Hills High School.

Garcetti rejected those allegations both earlier in the day and in the televised showdown with Greuel, asserting that his one-time City Council ally, sensing she is losing the race, is "trying to distract from a record of accomplishment." After The Times reported on the oil lease, Garcetti turned it over to a family friend.

The contenders to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did not break new ground Friday. Both said they would judge Villaraigosa on his record, sidestepping the moderator's query as to whether the mayor, who had an affair while married, was a "good moral leader for the city." Both said they supported medical marijuana use but also tighter restrictions on its sale. Both also supported bilingualism, but dodged a question about whether Spanish should be made a second official language in Los Angeles.

Greuel stressed her connections to the Latino community, touting her endorsements from luminaries such as Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, and prominent elected officials, like John Pérez, the speaker of the state Assembly, and L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Garcetti mentioned his Mexican heritage several times, noting that his paternal grandfather earned his citizenship by serving in the U.S. military during World War II. He reiterated his pledge to revive an office of immigrant affairs at City Hall.

The debate moderators posed their questions in both Spanish and English, before the candidates answered mostly in English. Garcetti, who represents the Hollywood area, gave part of his opening remarks and his entire closing comments in Spanish, while Greuel read a few sentences in Spanish during her closing.

Near the end of the debate, KMEX anchor Leon Krauze challenged Garcetti on the significance of his Latino roots.

"Mr. Garcetti touts his immigrant roots at every opportunity," Krauze said to some chuckles from the studio audience. "As we see tonight, he speaks in Spanish every chance he gets. Is speaking Spanish enough of a calling card when it comes to earning the Spanish vote in Los Angeles?"

Greuel, answering first, said she spoke the language too, "but not as well as I should." Angelenos want a mayor who speaks the "language" of job creation and good schools, she added. "They want someone who will be a fighter, who will fight for their issues," Greuel said.

Garcetti said he did not expect support because of his heritage. "I would say to everyone who is out there, 'Don't vote for me because I am Latino. Don't vote for me because I speak Spanish. Vote for me because I have turned neighborhoods around. Vote for me because I have made tough decisions.'"

The debate was far less contentious than one two nights earlier, when the candidates faced each other before the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. and traded sharp jabs over who would be most likely to sell out to DWP workers. Krauze rekindled that feud Friday by asking Garcetti if he was suggesting that Greuel "is in the political pocket of the unions."

Garcetti accused Greuel of "being on the sidelines" as he made tough decisions about worker contracts and pension benefits. He again highlighted $3 million in independent expenditures backing Greuel's candidacy, saying they were "led by the union that represents the Department of Water and Power."

Greuel said she brought up Garcetti's involvement with DWP workers because she was attacked. "Mr. Garcetti has challenged my integrity. He has … suggested that I have not been the independent watchdog that I have," Greuel said. "I learned from my parents if someone pushes you push back and say 'You are incorrect.'"


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Feuer leads Trutanich by 11 points in poll

Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has a steep hill to climb to keep his job in next month's election, a new USC Price/L.A. Times poll has found.

Challenger Mike Feuer, a former city and state lawmaker, held a lead of more than 11 percentage points over Trutanich, drawing support from 36.8% of voters, compared with 25.5% favoring the incumbent. With about a month to go before election day, nearly 38% of the voters surveyed had not made up their minds.

The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/L.A. Times Los Angeles City Election Poll surveyed 500 likely voters by telephone over a three-day period beginning Monday. The poll was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, a Democratic firm, and M4 Strategies, a Republican company. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Trutanich finished second with 30% of the vote in a four-way primary election last month. Feuer was first with 44%.

The city attorney could still make headway with the substantial number of undecided voters. "The race certainly hasn't been decided," said USC's Dan Schnur, director of the poll.

But he is in a tough — and somewhat unusual — position for an incumbent seeking reelection from voters who do not appear to be particularly unhappy, pollsters said.

"It's an uphill road for Trutanich," Schnur said. "This is not an angry, throw-the-bums out electorate, so you would assume [there would be] a better landscape for an incumbent."

Chris St. Hilaire of M4 noted that Trutanich was losing among Democrats, independents and Anglo voters "and that's a huge problem for him." A large number of voters who said they were undecided before the March primary election ended up voting for the city attorney, St. Hilaire said. In the May runoff, the new poll shows Trutanich would need to win undecided voters by almost 2 to 1 to overcome Feuer, he said.

Compounding Trutanich's problem, said Benenson's Amy Levin, is the "drop-off" factor, a tendency of some voters to mark their choices in the top races and skip voting in lower-profile contests.

The city attorney is one of three officials elected citywide, but races for that office, as well as city controller, have generally attracted less attention than mayoral contests. That is especially true this year when two well-funded candidates — Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel — are spending millions in their battle to succeed Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Feuer, a Democrat, began his city attorney campaign in 2011 and has raised considerably more money than Trutanich. He's also collected support across the political spectrum.

Last year, Trutanich, a former Republican who is now registered without a party affiliation, ran for Los Angeles County district attorney, breaking a highly publicized promise to serve two terms at City Hall before seeking another office. He decided to go for a second term as city attorney after failing to make it past the county's June primary election. Many observers attribute his current campaign struggles to the ill-fated decision to run for district attorney before finishing his first city attorney term.

Trutanich has said his campaign for district attorney was "a mistake," but he argues that he has served the city well and deserves another term.

Interviews with some of those surveyed in the USC Price/L.A. Times poll found a lack of enthusiasm for either candidate, even among those who said they had made up their minds.

"I hate full-time politicians," said Joshua Mayo, 48, a laborer who lives in Hollywood. But he said he would vote for Feuer because "he seems to have done some good things." Suzanne Brewer, 50, of North Hills, a paralegal, prefers Trutanich as "the least of the worst" and because of his experience as a prosecutor.

John Short, a 35-year-old bookkeeper who lives in Hollywood, likes Trutanich because "he is somebody in office who seems to be doing all right … so we might as well keep him in." Fred Dee, 67, of Koreatown, said he prefers Feuer because he voted for Trutanich four years ago "and I've been disappointed."

"It's time for new blood to come in; that's the main thing," Dee said.


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Gun legislation failure dismays survivor of Texas mass shooting

Irma Garcia pulled back her sweater to show me where the bullet entered her shoulder and spun her around. It then torpedoed through her body and exited near the middle of her back.

"I still have problems with it," she said, standing to show me how the left side of her upper body is still somewhat twisted.

It happened 47 years ago in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Charles Whitman, who had served as a Marine, killed his wife and mother and then proceeded to the University of Texas at Austin, where he ascended a campus tower with rifles and handguns and began shooting at people below.

Sixteen were killed, many of them students. Another 31 were wounded during 90 minutes of terror that ended when a policeman shot and killed Whitman. Garcia, a 21-year-old student who was nearing graduation, was shot while walking across campus with her boyfriend on that hot August day in 1966. Her boyfriend was shot, too, and also survived.

"I still don't know who it was that saved me," Garcia said. She only knows that, according to news accounts, she was dragged out of the shooter's range by a stranger who risked his life to help.

I met with Garcia at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse, where she works as an interpreter. She told me she had been hesitant to share her story, because she's generally reserved about the physical and psychological battles she's had to fight. But with so much violence in the news, along with the defeat of gun control legislation last week in the U.S. Senate, Garcia felt compelled to speak up.

"I was so disappointed," she said of the Senate's failure to approve expanded background checks on gun buyers. Not only do a majority of Americans support such legislation, but Garcia had let herself believe that after 20 first-graders and six adults were shot to death last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., there'd finally be a consensus on sensible reform.

"I just wish senators had had more courage to do the right thing," said Garcia, whose take on guns strikes me as unassailably reasonable.

She believes people have a right to legally buy and properly use guns, and she knows that no amount of firearms control can eliminate gun violence.

"But I can't see anyone having to have guns with these great big magazines, or these high-powered" military-style assault weapons. "I wish they had gone ahead and required a more thorough investigation of who buys guns," she added, noting that as it is, people with criminal backgrounds or a mental illness have access to guns through Internet dealers or at gun shows.

Assault weapons and guns with large magazines account for a small percentage of firearm violence, Garcia said, but it's worth sending the message that there's no need for anyone to have that kind of firepower. Beyond that, she said, guns of all types often fall into the wrong hands, are used in suicides, or end up being used on a family member rather than an intruder.

"I think we have kind of exalted violence" in popular culture, Garcia said. Her job as an interpreter often makes her feel as though she's watching a long, sad parade, as a lost generation winds single-file through the courthouse, lives ruined by gunplay and other violence that plays out in economically depressed neighborhoods.

Garcia, who got her undergraduate degree in language and later went back for a master's in educational psychology, said she's better able to handle what she hears in the courtroom than what she sees on TV news. The Columbine school shooting got to her, as did the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting. And of course there was last week's horror in Boston and Watertown.

But it was Newtown that shook her the most.

"I wanted to get in touch with parents," said Garcia, but she didn't know how to connect.

She wanted to tell those who were traumatized or suffered loss that the dark days will seem impossible to endure, that there will be clearings in the storm, and that time will bring a measure of healing.

Garcia wanted to make another point as well. The Marine who shot her was later determined to have suffered from mental health problems. Garcia said she wishes there were more care for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom struggle with post-traumatic stress.

She has her own issues with PTSD. Nearly half a century after what was known as the Texas tower massacre, she sleeps with a light on because she remembers being in a dark place after the shooting. The nightmares are gone, but at times she has flashbacks and hears the murmurs of fellow victims.

"I have my sense of humor back now, but for a while, I had lost it. I say this with humility, but at one time, studying was very easy for me…but it wasn't easy after I got shot."

In time, she saw a silver lining in her heightened appreciation of each day. Garcia moved to Los Angeles about 25 years ago. She is married and dabbles in photography, painting and theater. And she sings with her church choir at St. Mary of the Assumption in Whittier.

Though struggling with a cold, she gave me a sample you can watch at http://www.latimes.com/lopez.

"I've got the blues, I feel so lonely," Garcia sang. "I'll give the world if I could only....Baby won't you please come home."


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