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Candidates for L.A. County assessor tangle over tax policy in debate

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 31 Maret 2014 | 12.56

Candidates competing to be the next Los Angeles County assessor tangled in their first public debate Sunday over tax policy and the best way to reform the office after a scandal that led to the arrest of the current assessor.

But they were largely united in their criticism of one candidate who was not present: Jeffrey Prang, a West Hollywood councilman and special assistant in the assessor's office, who is so far the front-runner in fundraising and endorsements.

Twelve candidates are running to replace Assessor John Noguez, who is on leave and fighting charges that he had property values reduced for campaign contributors. The seven contenders who attended the Los Angeles forum sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council were Omar Haroon and John Loew, appraisers in the assessor's office; Frank Diaz Jr., supervising appraiser; Brilliant Manyere, an appraiser specialist; John Wong, a real estate businessman and former assessment appeals board member; John Morris, a prosecutor; and Nestor Valencia, a Bell city councilman and healthcare administrator.

The candidates debated whether the job of cleaning up the office would best be undertaken by an outsider or someone familiar with the department.

"A fish rots from its head. The problem is the leadership," said Morris, who argued that the office needs an outsider.

Haroon countered: "Unless you work at the assessor's office, you don't know where the skeletons are.... You can't just remove one person at the top."

The candidates also wrangled over the best way to ensure that property assessments are fair. Diaz and Loew — who changed his middle name to "Lower Taxes" so he could have it printed that way on the ballot — said they would support legislation to increase the exemption for homeowners on their primary residence, and Loew said he would also support eliminating the requirement for small businesses to pay property taxes on business equipment.

Morris said he would not promise lower taxes, which he described as "pandering — and that's a polite word for bribery." But he pledged to protect Proposition 13, the law passed by California voters in 1978 to limit property assessment increases.

Several of the candidates criticized Prang for not showing up and questioned his association with Noguez, who hired Prang in 2012 to handle public relations for the office.

And Loew criticized Prang for his part in a "public drunken groping event" in 1999.

Prang was accused at the time of sexually harassing a West Hollywood city employee while on a delegation to Portland's gay pride parade. Prang publicly apologized for the incident at the time, saying he had had too much to drink and his behavior was "not professional," according to a 1999 Times article on the incident, which Loew read from.

Reached by phone after the forum, Prang said he had been unable to attend because he was being briefed by the West Hollywood city manager about a fatal stabbing in the city. He characterized the 1999 allegations as a "political attack" by a rival on the council at the time, and said he had apologized for "being drunk and representing the city poorly" but that he had not sexually harassed anyone.

Prang said he was not surprised that "the more marginal candidates" were banding together to attack him as the front-runner.

Haroon filed a lawsuit last week to prevent Prang from listing himself as a "deputy assessor" on the ballot. The assessor's office does not use "deputy assessor" as an official job title, but Haroon argued that the term traditionally has been reserved for employees authorized to act on behalf of the assessor as appraisers. Prang is not licensed as an appraiser. If elected assessor, he would have a year to obtain a license.

Prang argued that the term "deputy" is commonly used to refer to high-level employees of elected officials — such as a field deputy or press deputy — and accurately represents his work. Judge James C. Chalfant initially sided with Prang in a tentative ruling but changed his mind after a hearing Friday. Several other candidates running for the office appeared at the hearing to support Haroon's position.

The judge said Prang should be listed instead by his official job title, "special assistant, assessor."


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Assessor candidate's ballot job title is disallowed

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Friday ruled that a front-runner in the race for county assessor can't call himself a "deputy assessor" on the ballot.

Candidate Omar Haroon, an appraiser in the assessor's office, had filed a court case contending that the occupation listed by rival candidate Jeffrey Prang, a West Hollywood councilman who also works as a public affairs manager for the county agency, was misleading.

The assessor's office does not use "deputy assessor" as an official job title. But Haroon argued that it traditionally has been reserved for employees authorized to act on behalf of the assessor as appraisers. Prang is not licensed as an appraiser. If elected assessor, he would have a year to obtain a license.

Prang argued that the term "deputy" is commonly used to refer to high-level employees of elected officials — such as a field deputy or press deputy — and accurately represents his work.

Judge James C. Chalfant initially sided with Prang in a tentative ruling but changed his mind after a hearing Friday. Several other candidates running for the office appeared at the hearing to support Haroon's position.

"There's no such thing as a deputy city councilperson," Chalfant said. "There's a deputy to a city councilperson.... A deputy to the assessor is not the same thing as a deputy assessor."

The judge said Prang should be listed by his official job title, "special assistant, assessor."

Haroon said he was pleased with the ruling. "I'm a real estate professional," he said. "Jeff is a professional politician."

Prang said he disagreed with the judge's decision but did not object to using his formal job title on the ballot. He criticized Haroon for costing the county money. County Registrar Dean Logan told the court his office would incur $37,625 in overtime costs for extra work required to make the ballot change.

"I wouldn't spend $40,000 of taxpayer money for political grandstanding," Prang said.

Twelve candidates are vying to replace current assessor John Noguez, who is on leave and fighting public corruption charges. Haroon accused Prang of picking the "deputy assessor" title to obscure his connection with Noguez, who hired Prang in March 2012. Prang denied that was his intent.


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Even old hands are stunned by Yee allegations

SACRAMENTO — If there has ever been a more nauseating corruption scandal in Sacramento, I'm not aware of it. Certainly not in the past 50 years.

The notion of a legislator masquerading as a gun control crusader while offering to help a mobster traffic in automatic rifles and rocket launchers is beyond hypocrisy. It's sick.

The obligatory insert here: Everyone is presumed innocent until proved guilty in court.

But no one I've talked to presumes any innocence in this sordid case.

Especially not anyone who has read the 137-page FBI affidavit that summarizes an elaborate undercover sting leading to the arrest last week of state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) — "aka Uncle Leland" — on charges of conspiring to illegally deal firearms, public corruption and wire fraud.

Yee allegedly was teamed with his political fundraiser, consultant Keith Jackson, who also was charged in murder-for-hire and narcotics schemes. Jackson was aligned with convicted felon Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a San Francisco tong dragonhead — gang boss — accused of laundering money and trafficking in stolen cigarettes.

Back in the 1950s, there was a big bribery scandal involving the sale of liquor licenses by state Board of Equalization members, who then regulated alcohol. The board was stripped of that power and the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control was created.

Since then, we haven't come close to anything like international gun running.

A 1980s FBI sting, which sent five legislators of both parties to prison, involved bribes for helping to pass legislation setting up a phony and innocuous shrimp processing plant. It was dubbed Shrimpscam. The FBI tipped off then-Gov. George Deukmejian, and he vetoed the bill.

In the last decade, two state elected officials — Republican Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush and Democratic Secretary of State Kevin Shelley — resigned amid heated but garden-variety political scandals.

Last month, Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello), following an FBI sting, was indicted on 24 felony counts that included accepting nearly $100,000 in bribes along with gourmet meals and pricey golf junkets. He has pleaded not guilty.

Also in February, a jury found Sen. Roderick D. Wright (D-Inglewood) guilty of lying about where he lives.

Nothing compares to Yee's alleged chameleon trick of turning from gun control champion to international weapons trafficker.

A hero of gun regulators, Yee pushed unsuccessful legislation that would have closed a loophole in California's assault weapons ban by making it mechanically impossible to quickly detach one empty magazine and insert a loaded replacement.

After the mass murder of children at a Connecticut elementary school in late 2012, Yee stood before cameras and said, "As a father, I have wept for the parents and families who lost their precious children."

But at a San Francisco coffee shop in January, according to the FBI affidavit, Yee told an undercover agent pretending to be a mafioso seeking a $2-million arms deal: "Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money. Do I think we can get the goods? I think we can get the goods."

The next month at a San Francisco restaurant, Yee allegedly took an agnostic stance about arms dealing, telling the agent: "People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don't care. People need certain things."

Yee allegedly told the agent he could arrange the arms sale from Muslim rebel sources in the Philippines and asked for a list of the desired weapons. "Mobile, light and powerful," the agent replied.

And why was the veteran politician scumbagging on the dark side and risking prison, according to the FBI? Two reasons: to retire a $70,000 debt from his failed 2011 San Francisco mayoral campaign, and to help fund a bid this year for secretary of state, California's chief elections officer.

Secretary of state? A second-tier ministerial job? Talk about a guy with warped priorities.

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Cracking cases for L.A.'s Iranian community

An Iranian man parks his car in a guest spot behind his apartment. He heads inside the building and comes back out about an hour later to walk the dog.

Across the street, parked in a rental car, private investigator Sam Nassrouie tucks away his surveillance gear — a camera pen and a hidden tape recorder that looks like an MP3 player — and retrieves his cellphone.

"Your husband doesn't seem to be cheating on you," Nassrouie reassures his client, an Iranian woman, over the phone. "I followed him — he went straight home from work and only left to walk your dog."

The client, confused, tells the PI: "But … we don't have a dog."

Moments later, Nassrouie hears loud profanities in Farsi coming from the apartment building. His client had figured it out: Her husband was cheating on her — with their neighbor. Nassrouie had spotted him walking the neighbor's dog.

With jobs as varied as solving infidelity cases and conducting background checks, Nassrouie, 62, has spent 15 years as the go-to private investigator for L.A.'s Iranian community.

From Tehran to L.A.

As a child, Nassrouie said his parents would call him fozool, or overly curious. Even at Persian parties, called mehmoonies, Nassrouie said he was always "snooping."

"I always saw things people didn't notice," he said. "I would ask, 'Why is this here?'"

He also tuned into the radio show "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar," about the adventures of a freelance insurance investigator.

"In Iran, the idea of a private investigator didn't really exist," he said. "But I was drawn to it because it seemed challenging and rewarding."

After graduating from high school in Tehran, Nassrouie hoped to become a pilot or a homicide detective.

Instead, he served several years in the Iranian military before moving to New York to live with his brother.

He eventually moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s, working at an auto repossessing company while taking criminology classes.

While taking classes, he sought real-life experience, and spent hours shadowing other investigators until he got his own license to practice in 1999.

Job lacks glamour

Nassrouie said he loves being an investigator, but it's nothing like what people see on-screen.

There are no trench coats or dark sunglasses. And unlike James Bond, who chases suspects while driving flashy sports cars, Nassrouie picks vehicles to "blend in."

Sometimes he ditches wheels and walks. Other times, he hops on a motorcycle and follows subjects 40 or 50 miles to their final destination.

And stakeouts?

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Transit riders assail proposed Metro fare hike at public hearing

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 30 Maret 2014 | 12.56

During a packed and sometimes tense four-hour public hearing Saturday, Los Angeles County transportation officials heard a litany of complaints from transit riders who said a proposed Metro fare hike would strain the budgets of students and working-class families.

A crowd of more than 500 activists, students and low-wage workers packed Metro's downtown boardroom and spilled into the cafeteria as speaker after speaker pressed elected officials to avoid fare increases or service cutbacks.

"It simply is impossible for us to pay more," said Sylvia Molina, a carwash employee, speaking in Spanish through a translator. "Please don't cut our basic needs."

Officials with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have warned that the agency will face a $36-million operating budget shortfall in 2016, which could grow to $225 million in the next decade unless fares go up substantially.

Metro board members are scheduled to consider fare-hike proposals in May. One would raise the basic $1.50 bus and rail fare to $1.75 in September, to $2 in four years and $2.25 in 2021. Fares for seniors and the disabled would double to $1.10. A $75 monthly pass would increase to $100.

Under an alternative proposal, base fares would remain at $1.50 during non-peak hours. But rush-hour fares would rise to $2.25 in September and more than double to $3.25 in 2021. A $5 day pass would increase to $13 in 2021. After the initial series of increases, fares would continue to rise every two years to keep pace with inflation, Metro officials said.

Without higher fares, Metro will need to consider laying off nearly 1,000 employees and cutting 1 million hours of bus and rail service in 2015, agency staff members said.

Watts resident Della Bonner noted that a federal mediator was called in two decades ago to secure improvements in bus service after riders filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming transit officials gave preferential treatment and funding to rail projects.

"What you did in '94 was wrong. What you're doing now is twice as wrong," she said. "History has shown us that."

Metro officials have stressed that under both proposed fare hikes, riders paying one-way fares would be allowed unlimited transfers for 90 minutes, meaning about 20% of riders who don't use passes could see lower costs using the system. Several speakers urged board members to expand the proposed grace period to two hours.

Students will be especially hard-hit, multiple speakers said. Under both proposals, the $24 monthly student pass would increase 20% to $29 in September and to $45 by 2020.

"Twenty percent more isn't much for someone who's making $75,000 a year," Astrid Logan, a transportation coordinator for Cal State Northridge, said in an interview during the hearing. "But for a student, that's a lot."

Tempers flared as the hearing stretched into a fourth hour. After a loud exchange between a speaker and two Metro board members, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies escorted the speaker and another audience member from the boardroom and arrested them on suspicion of disturbing the peace, officials said.

Advocates argue the fare increases will disproportionately affect low-income, minority passengers. More than 80% of bus and rail riders are minorities and their average household income is less than $20,000, according to Metro data. Others sharply criticized the quality of Metro bus service.

Metro's aim is to increase the share of operating costs covered by fares. Ticket sales pay about one-quarter of system expenses, the lowest of any major U.S. transit agency. Metro managers hope to boost that ratio to 33%, in part to improve the agency's ability to compete for federal grants.


Twitter: @laura_nelson

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O.C. model railroad sees more vandalism

The railroad buffs who operate Goat Hill Junction just can't seem to catch a break.

Just weeks after thieves broke into the model railroad grounds and stole $9,000 in aluminum tracks and other material, vandals broke into the 40-acre Costa Mesa attraction and caused $4,000 in damage by smashing six picnic tables and prying open an irrigation box.

"This is the first time we've seen wholesale destruction like that," said Hank Castignetti, spokesman for the Orange County Model Engineers, who operate the miniature railroad system.

After the thefts in early March, the hobbyists felt derailed until donations began to roll in.

The Costa Mesa police and firefighter associations each donated $500. Goat Hill Tavern, a popular watering hole in town, donated $1,000, and the donation boxes at the railroad filled up.

"It's heartwarming, frankly, to see the response from the community," Castignetti said at the time. "It's been overwhelming, and we're just so gobsmacked over this."

But moods soured after the vandalism attack that left picnic tables damaged. One of the tables was cut free from where it was anchored and shoved under a bridge on the model railroad track. A piece of track was ripped up and used as a crow bar to pry open an irrigation box. Graffiti was sprayed around the bridge.

"This is getting way, way more complex than just the railroad club can deal with," Castignetti said.

Club members said they have no choice but to ramp up security, but being located in public Fairview Park, the railroad complex is tough to keep an eye on around the clock.

Costa Mesa Lt. Paul Dondero said the department does not have the resources to constantly monitor the area but has at times in the past investigated incidents at Goat Hill Junction.

"Is this a homicide case? No." he said. "But it's something that has an effect on the whole community, and it's something that everyone in this community values. That's important to us."

Gaetano Russo, a longtime city maintenance worker, said he goes to Goat Hill once or twice a week to check up on the place, and said graffiti is common.

"For us, it's a usual thing," Russo said. "Usually they call it in, but if I'm in the area, I'll go there and check anyway."

Castignetti said the group's postal box continues to see "huge stacks of checks," though a final tally from all the donations — including the ones gathered at the club's on-site donation box — hasn't been calculated.

"I get choked up sometimes thinking about what these people are doing for us," he said.


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La Habra quake a reminder about dangerous Puente Hills fault

The magnitude 5.1 earthquake that rattled Southern California on Friday was a 10-second reminder of a fault that seismologists believe can produce a catastrophic disaster.

The Puente Hills thrust fault is so dangerous because of its location, running from the suburbs of northern Orange County, through the San Gabriel Valley and under the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles before ending in Hollywood.

Experts say a major, magnitude 7.5 earthquake on the fault could do more damage to the heart of Los Angeles than the dreaded Big One on the San Andreas fault, which is on the outskirts of metropolitan Southern California.

The size of Friday's quake was considered moderate, but it packed a punch. Residents within 10 miles of the epicenter in La Habra reported toppled furniture, broken glass and fallen pictures. Several water mains broke, and a rock slide in Carbon Canyon caused a car to overturn, leaving those inside with minor injuries.

Officials said more than a dozen homes and apartments were red-tagged because of possible structural damage.

Preliminary checks by the U.S. Geological Survey after the quake show it erupted around the Puente Hills thrust fault system, said Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson. Further research is underway.

In 1987, another "moderate" quake on that fault killed eight people and caused more than $350 million in damage. The magnitude 5.9 Whittier Narrows quake left old brick buildings in Whittier's downtown area battered and also damaged some freeway bridges. More than 100 single-family homes and more than 1,000 apartment units were destroyed.

Friday night's earthquake was caused by the underground fault slipping for half a second, said USGS seismologist Lucy Jones, prompting about 10 seconds of shaking at the surface.

But a 7.5 quake on the Puente Hills fault could cause the fault to slip for an entire 20 seconds — and the shaking could last far longer.

The Puente Hills fault could be especially hazardous over a larger area because of its shape. Other local faults, like the Newport-Inglewood and Hollywood, are a collection of vertical cracks, with the most intense shaking occurring near where the fault reaches the surface. The Puente Hills is a horizontal fault, with intense shaking likely to be felt over a much larger area, roughly 25 by 15 miles.

According to estimates by the USGS and Southern California Earthquake Center, a massive quake on the Puente Hills fault could kill from 3,000 to 18,000 people and cause up to $250 billion in damage. Under this worst-case scenario, people in as many as three-quarters of a million households would be left homeless.

One reason for the dire forecast is that both downtown L.A. and Hollywood are packed with old, vulnerable buildings, including those made of concrete, Jones said.

By contrast, a magnitude 8 "Big One" on the San Andreas fault — more than 30 miles from downtown L.A., on the other side of the San Gabriel Mountains — would cause up to 1,800 deaths, according to estimates.

The shaking from a quake in the center of urban L.A. would be so intense that it could lift heavy objects into the air, Jones said. It has happened before, near the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There, the shaking was so bad, "we found an upside-down grand piano."

"That's the type of shaking that will hit all of downtown. And everywhere from La Habra to Hollywood," Jones added.

The violent motion would be amplified by the soft soil underneath the Los Angeles Basin and the valleys, which produces a jello effect as shaking waves wobble off the basin.

Scientists believe the Puente Hills fault has a major quake roughly every 2,500 years but don't know when the last one was. The San Andreas has quakes more frequently (both the Loma Prieta and 1906 San Francisco quakes were on this fault).

The Puente Hills fault was discovered relatively recently — in 1999. Five years earlier, the magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake hit on another "invisible" fault — completely underground — that scientists didn't know about.

"When Northridge happened," Jones said, "it was very sobering for us to think we could have that big of an earthquake that doesn't come to the surface."

So scientists launched a major study to discover more of these invisible faults. They strung thousands of sensors across the Los Angeles region and set off small explosions underground.

"From that, we saw this Northridge-like structure sitting under downtown L.A., which is horribly sobering," Jones said.

Video simulations of a rupture on the Puente Hills fault system show how energy from a quake could erupt and be funneled toward L.A.'s densest neighborhoods, with the strongest waves rippling to the west and south across the Los Angeles Basin.

By contrast, the Northridge earthquake, which killed 57, channeled its strongest shaking north to the more sparsely populated Santa Susana Mountains.


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For Japanese Americans, a backtrack to a sad past at Santa Anita

As thoroughbreds were groomed and prepped for the day's races, a group of elderly Japanese Americans circled the stables of Santa Anita in a tram.

For six months in 1942, they lived here, in the same stalls where horses had slept, before being shipped to internment camps in isolated areas of the country. Back then, arriving adults mourned the loss of homes and businesses, while children explored the grounds, making new friends.

In the barns, a thin layer of asphalt was all that separated families from layers of manure. Beds were mats stuffed with straw.

On Saturday, the pungent odors brought back 70-year-old memories of the government's World War II detention of residents of Japanese descent.

"Remember how smelly the stables were?" asked June Aochi Berk, who was 10 years old at the time, and now served as tour guide during a reunion of internees and their relatives who told stories of spartan times at the track. "My friend couldn't eat because the smell of the stables made her sick."

Berk pointed out where the showers, the mess halls and the barns that housed families stood. Most of the former internees, now in their 80s and 90s, could not recall precisely where they stayed. The place looked different, they said, with nicer buildings and landscaping where there was dirt.

"I was pretty young, and I didn't know why we were here, except that we were evacuating from the West Coast," said Shiro Nagaoka, 89, who was 15 when he was forced to leave his Torrance home. "We were enjoying ourselves too much, maybe. We were pretty free to do what we wanted."

Nearly 400 former internees and family members attended the event honoring George "Horse" Yoshinaga, a columnist for a Los Angeles Japanese newspaper, Rafu Shimpo, who began organizing reunions years ago and led the drive for a monument commemorating the site's history as an internment center.

"I got my name here," he joked to the crowd, referring to his nickname. "They say it's because I ran on the track, but it's because I smell like a horse."

Santa Anita was the largest of 17 "assembly centers" in the western U.S., including one in Pomona, housing Japanese Americans removed from their homes during the war with Japan. The Santa Anita detainees, who numbered nearly 19,000, were mostly from Southern California, with a few brought from San Francisco and Santa Clara. Some were housed in temporary barracks; others were squeezed into the horse stalls.

Internees recalled Saturday that armed guards patrolled the camp and searchlights scanned for escapees. Some were paid $8 a month to make camouflage nets. They also shared fonder memories of softball games, sumo wrestling matches and new friendships.

Amy Hashimoto graduated from high school at the track. Six of her classmates from Excelsior High in Norwalk were also at the camp, and their principal came to present their diplomas, she recalled.

She said her family had to sell a hog farm quickly, at a low price, when the order to evacuate Japanese residents was issued.

"We were young enough, and we made lots of friends," said Hashimoto, 89, who went from Santa Anita to an internment camp in Rohwer, Ark. "Our Issei [first-generation immigrant] parents — it was the hardest on them. They were the ones who lost the most."

Min Tonai was 13 when he arrived at Santa Anita. When he saw the barbed wire and guard towers, he said, he felt he was entering a prison camp. His father had owned a dozen produce stands before the war but afterward trimmed vegetables at someone else's stand, he said.

"They were not trying to protect us. They were making sure we didn't get out," said Tonai, 85.

Ruth Takahashi Voorheis said she cried once during her years of internment: when she arrived at Santa Anita and saw the horse stall she was to share with her mother, brother and uncle.

"It was a communal bath, communal eating. There was a line for everything," said Voorheis, 91, who later was moved to a camp in Arizona.

Saturday's reunion also gave younger family members a chance to understand what their parents and grandparents experienced.

"Even though it's modern now, when you smell that smell, you can imagine what it could have been like," said Voorheis' son, Don.


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Arrest of civic figure Keith Jackson in Yee case a surprise to many

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 29 Maret 2014 | 12.57

SAN FRANCISCO — Keith Jackson came seemingly from nowhere to win a seat on the San Francisco Board of Education, a young newcomer running as a champion of parents and the "problem children" he knew growing up in the city's historically black Western Addition.

He disappeared from public prominence years ago after a troubled tenure on the board and for well over a decade earned a comfortable if unassuming living as a niche player in local politics, representing candidates and corporate interests before San Francisco's hard-pressed African American community.

His reemergence this week came in spectacular fashion, at the center of a corruption case involving state Sen. Leland Yee, a felon known as "Shrimp Boy" and allegations of drug-dealing, gun-running and murder for hire.

Few professed surprise at the charges against Yee. But Jackson's arrest was stunning to many who knew him as a relatively honest and straightforward broker, a man genuinely dedicated to the betterment of his community and the sort who would not just make promises, like a lot of people with their palm out, but deliver on his word.

"It's almost Walter White-esque," said Jim Ross, a campaign strategist who worked with Jackson on several occasions, referring to the anti-hero of TV's "Breaking Bad," a high school chemistry teacher-turned-crystal meth manufacturer. "It's like he had a whole secret life no one in the political world knew about."

According to a lengthy FBI affidavit, Jackson, 49, was not only a fundraiser for Yee but also a consultant for the Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinatown organization run by Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, who has a long criminal past. It was Chow, the affidavit said, who introduced Jackson to an undercover agent posing as an Italian gangster from New Jersey.

Jackson and Yee, according to the affidavit, sold political favors and discussed brokering an illegal gun deal in return for thousands of dollars to cover Yee's debts from a failed 2011 mayoral bid and help launch a run for California secretary of state. In one of the more stunning allegations made by the FBI, Jackson, his 28-year-old son and another man were accused of plotting to kill someone in return for cash; the agent offered $25,000 but Jackson said he could do it for less.

To the extent he was known — many in San Francisco's intimate political world said it has been years since they last heard Jackson's name — it was as a go-between for office-seekers and developers seeking to cultivate support in the African American community. Like many cities, San Francisco has long fostered a pay-to-play culture, where money is traded, implicitly and within certain legal parameters, for access and consideration at City Hall. If someone needed to sit down with a group of black ministers or address a community forum, Jackson could arrange the meeting.

His roots in the African American community were deep. Although he grew up in the Western Addition, living for a time in public housing, he was also active in Bayview-Hunters Point, long the city's poorest, most overlooked neighborhood.

His activism was a springboard to a successful 1994 run for the school board, where he overlapped for a time with Yee. Although a political unknown, Jackson won the backing of then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and other black leaders eager to promote an up-and-comer at a time when African American power was waning.

Describing his qualifications in the year's voter guide, Jackson cited, among other things, his "housing project childhood."

"I believe in public education," he wrote. "Too many children from my background are written off prematurely, with disastrous consequences for them, their families and society.... I understand the disruption, irresponsibility, violence and despair I've seen around me since childhood."

Two years after being elected, Jackson became board president at age 32. His first brush with controversy came when the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Jackson had failed to pay child support for his two young sons and the courts had garnished his wages. In addition, it was reported that Jackson had accumulated several tax liens.

The next year Jackson drew widespread ridicule for a proposal that would have required students to read a certain number of books each year by nonwhite authors. The board eventually softened the proposal and backed a resolution requiring that authors of diverse race, ethnicity and sexual orientation be taught, but without a quota.

Jackson quit the board in 1998, after Brown became San Francisco mayor, and took a job at City Hall in the solid-waste management program. He remained active in the black community and organizations including the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the Hunters Point Boys and Girls Club and the Black Chamber of Commerce.

When he left city government, Jackson parlayed his connections into a consulting business for clients including the Lennar Corp., which spent years fighting to develop a housing project at the site of the former Hunters Point naval shipyard. "Like many people, we were completely shocked to learn of the allegations concerning Keith Jackson,'' a Lennar spokesman said in a statement emailed Friday.

In a 1997 interview with the Chronicle, Jackson spoke proudly of his journey from the projects to the school board presidency. "I've never been accused of robbery," he said. "I've never been in jail. And as an African American, to be 32, that's a big accomplishment."

Jackson was in custody Friday pending a bail hearing scheduled for Tuesday.


Times staff writer Chris Megerian in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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Transportation advocates back half-cent sales tax hike

Hoping to garner voter and political support across Los Angeles County for a possible half-cent sales tax increase, transportation advocates gathered downtown Friday to unveil a proposal for a 2016 ballot measure that could fund a range of new transit projects, including a toll highway and rail line through the Sepulveda Pass.

The tax proposal, announced by the advocacy group Move L.A., could raise an estimated $90 billion over 45 years and cost the average resident 25 cents to 30 cents a day, proponents said. It would also boost the countywide sales tax to 91/2 cents on each $1 spent — though shoppers in cities with their own sales tax would pay higher rates.

Responding to critics who complained that the city of Los Angeles received the lion's share of transit projects from the half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters six years ago, elected officials — including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — emphasized that revenue from the new tax proposal would benefit all areas of the county.

"It will not simply be Mother Metro saying, 'This is what you get,' " Metro Board of Directors Chairwoman Diane DuBois, a councilwoman from Lakewood, told conference attendees.

Metro has not yet decided to put a measure on the ballot. But with as much as $27 billion in added tax money to spend on rail projects, advocates said, the agency could build a light-rail link to Burbank's Bob Hope Airport, convert the San Fernando Valley Orange Line busway to rail and extend the Green Line near LAX to sweep through South Bay cities and connect with the Blue Line in Long Beach.

"What we're doing here is trying to figure out what wins," Move L.A. Executive Director Denny Zane said.

The tax increase would need a super-majority of 67% to pass. Metro's preliminary polling says that 58% of residents would support a tax increase.

Any tax increase that goes on the ballot must appeal to voters in Beverly Hills, the San Gabriel Valley and South Los Angeles, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. The proposal "has to be regional, it has to be rational, it has to equitable — all three, all the time, all day long," he told conference attendees. "If we neglect any one of those three elements, it will put the very proposition at risk."

Guaranteeing projects across the county may be a political necessity, but it doesn't always serve passengers the best, said Lisa Schweitzer, a USC professor who studies transit funding. She said transit-using communities with the potential for highest ridership, a common measure of success, tend to be clustered in the core of the county.

Two years ago, a proposed extension of the county transit sales tax approved in 2008 fell 0.6% shy of garnering the required two-thirds supermajority of votes. The loss came as a result of weak support in suburban, relatively well-off communities of the South Bay and the Westside, a Times analysis found. The analysis found support for the sales tax had eroded significantly from four years earlier, when voters initially approved the half-cent sales tax increase for transit.

"In order to get those areas interested in transit, you have to gold-plate it and sugarcoat it" with high-profile projects such as the Westside subway extension, which appeal to residents who typically drive their own cars, Schweitzer said. "But you can't win without them."


Twitter: @laura_nelson

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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Stationing of armed officers at airports is focus of hearing

How best to station armed law enforcement officers at airports was the focus of a congressional hearing at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, one of several reviews of the emergency response to November's shooting rampage that left a federal security agent dead.

During a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security, contrasting views were presented in the aftermath of a decision at LAX early last year to shift police from fixed positions at passenger screening areas to roving patrols.

In the Nov. 1 shooting, a gunman armed with an assault-style rifle entered Terminal 3 and proceeded through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint unopposed. After the killing of TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez and wounding of two of his co-workers and a teacher, airport police shot and captured the suspect, Paul Anthony Ciancia, now 24.

Critics, including former high-ranking law enforcement officers at LAX, have contended that changing the police assignment protocol that had been in place since 9/11 compromised the safety of screening areas.

Much of Friday's discussion centered on the TSA's recommendation that armed police officers be present at busy ticket counters and security checkpoints — such as passenger screening areas — during peak travel times.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the "real vulnerability" is immediately in front of screening stations where passengers and their bags are searched. Stationing armed officers in front of such checkpoints "would probably be ideal," he said. However, McCaul questioned whether TSA officers should be given that responsibility.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), whose district includes LAX, told the panel a consistent law enforcement presence is needed at passenger checkpoints. But she added that assigning officers to fixed positions and to patrol are "not mutually exclusive."

Waters and others have proposed assigning police officers to checkpoints with the freedom to patrol up to 300 feet away. "I've heard the arguments on both sides. I want to put the issue to rest," she said.

J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 45,000 TSA workers, reiterated the union's position that the TSA should create its own unit of armed officers trained to protect passenger screening areas and other security stations.

"Unarmed, unprotected and exposed, TSA officers at the Terminal 3 checkpoint were easy targets for a man with an irrational hatred of the TSA and specifically TSA officers," Cox said.

TSA Administrator John S. Pistole has resisted the idea of arming TSA officers, citing concerns over cost, arrest authority and a possible reduction in the number of agents available to work as passenger and luggage screeners.

Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon again defended his decision to move officers from checkpoints to patrols, saying it was a way to eliminate predictability in security. He said the previous security assignment policy probably would not have saved Hernandez.

Gannon, whose officers were praised for a quick response, told the panel that the airport's strategy is designed to deal with threats that can come from the entrance to the airport, the curb areas outside passengers terminals, TSA checkpoints and boarding gates.

"If you're predictable, then you are vulnerable," he said. "And that's what I don't think we should be."



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Orange County's toll booths take the exit ramp

For years, motorists in Orange County have fished in their pockets for spare change and yanked bills from their wallets as they've navigated the county's vast network of toll roads.

But those days are about to come to an end. The pay-to-drive highways are going cashless.

A metal-and-glass tollbooth on the San Joaquin Hills toll road, which winds along coastal Orange County, was symbolically plucked from the highway's toll plaza this week. The rest will be hauled away or boarded up in the weeks to come.

Orange County was a pioneer on the West Coast in constructing toll roads and still has the largest system in the state, but its toll plazas now seem to be from another era.

Come May, traffic on all Orange County toll roads will be routed through automated lanes, where customers can make payments with the existing FasTrak transponders or the new ExpressAccounts, which can be prepaid, be hooked to a credit card or generate monthly bills that are mailed to motorists.

The switch to the "non-stop" system will affect all 51 miles of toll roads in the county — the 73, 241, 261 and 133.

As part of the change, the Transportation Corridor Agencies are rolling out new ExpressAccounts unique to the Orange County toll roads, which will serve in lieu of dollars and coins. The system is designed to accommodate both everyday users and the occasional toll road driver.

Officials began installing new equipment on all roads in November that snaps images of license plates in order to keep track of the tolls when the FasTrak transponder is not used.

These users will incur costs that are about 20% higher than FasTrak users, just as cash customers did.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the first tollbooths were removed on the San Joaquin Hills toll road — one on each side of the Catalina View Mainline Toll Plaza in Irvine.

The booths, each measuring nearly 19 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 11 feet deep, were pulled from the ground with a 40-ton crane to make way for what will be a widened truck lane. (The FasTrak lanes here are currently too steep for trucks.)

Conceived by California Corridor Constructors in the early 1990s, the Route 73 toll plaza booths were intended to maintain motorists' safety while also respecting local aesthetics, said Lori Olin, spokeswoman for the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which oversees the entire network of tollways.

"Before the toll roads were built in Orange County, toll plazas had typically been unpleasant places," she wrote in an email.

But the builders found a way around the standard unpleasantness, Olin explained, by reducing pollution effects, secluding the toll plaza visually from surrounding communities and designing unique, minimalist structures.

Michael Harper, 58, operations manager for cash operations for Central Parking System, which employs those who work in the booths, said he was there when the toll booths first opened in 1996. It was the first major plaza that the system built in the county. And on Thursday, he was there when the second booth was removed.

After the switch, Harper said, many of the 85 employees who work and manage the booths throughout Orange County are expected to move on to new jobs.

Meanwhile, the booths will remain in storage for the time being, along with two others hauled off from the Windy Ridge Toll Plaza on Route 241 earlier this month. The other cash stations on the road system will be barricaded when the changeover begins.


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Yee's arrest another blow against Democrats' hold on Senate

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 27 Maret 2014 | 12.56

SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Leland Yee, a child psychologist and veteran lawmaker, was a visible member of the Capitol's Democratic majority who most recently has done much of his work out of the spotlight.

He focused on issues involving mental health, open government and the protection of minors. He was involved in efforts to regulate guns, particularly after the 2012 mass murder of children at a Connecticut elementary school, a tragedy that Yee said touched him.

"As a father," he said then, "I have wept for the parents and families who lost their precious children."

Barred by term limits from remaining in the Senate, he had launched a campaign to become secretary of state, California's top elections officer.

But a federal indictment of the San Francisco lawmaker Wednesday may have doomed that effort, and further hampered Democrats' efforts to regain the Senate supermajority they lost when another senator took a leave of absence to fight federal corruption charges.

It also painted an entirely different picture of a lawmaker now accused of conspiracy to traffic in guns, which carries a maximum of five years in prison.

Yee's personal history is an increasingly common one in today's Legislature, that of an immigrant who finds success in America.

He came to the United States from China at the age of 3. He earned a doctorate in child psychology, was elected to various local offices and the state Assembly and in 2006 became the first Chinese American elected to the California Senate.

His campaigns have been funded with donations from such interests as public employee unions, casino operators, healthcare firms and Asian American businesses.

In the Legislature, Yee sometimes angered leaders by straying from the Democrats' official position on bills. He opposed a ban on the use of plastic bags by grocery stores, for example, as well as a prohibition on the sale of shark fins that he called "an attack on Asian culture."

Although he was assistant president pro tem of the Senate in 2009, in more recent years Yee has been left out of influential panels and leadership posts. Still, his website boasts of having more than 180 bills signed into law.

One of those, a measure to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. In 2012, Yee made headlines with a successful bill allowing juveniles who were sentenced to life without parole to petition for a new sentence of 25 years to life.

Not long after the 65-year-old lawmaker sat grim-faced and manacled in a San Francisco courtroom with 19 other defendants Wednesday, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) demanded that Yee "leave the Senate and leave it now," even though he is, "yes, innocent until proven guilty."

The leader of the Senate's minority Republicans, Robert Huff of Diamond Bar, signaled hours earlier that the GOP would make a campaign issue of the criminal charges now lodged against three Democratic senators.

They include Sen. Roderick Wright, who represents an Inglewood district and has been convicted of perjury and voter fraud, and Sen. Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello, who has been indicted on bribery and money-laundering charges.

"Once again, the Senate has been tarnished by another FBI raid of a senator's Capitol office," Huff said in a statement.

One of Yee's rivals for secretary of state, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), called Wednesday's news "a sad day for government."

Another competitor, Dan Schnur, former chairman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission who has no party affiliation, also weighed in, saying that Yee's arrest was another reminder "of why Californians have so little trust in their elected officials."

Yee has had brushes with the law before.

In 1992, a store security officer in Kona, Hawaii, stopped him after he left the shop with an eight-ounce bottle of Tropical Blend Tan Magnifier oil in a pocket of his shorts, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Yee told police it was a mistake, but he was booked on suspicion of petty misdemeanor shoplifting, the newspaper reported; the case was later dropped.

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Santa Monica moves to close all or part of city's airport

The Santa Monica City Council this week launched an effort to close all or part of the city's airport after July 2015 — a move that could result in years of additional court battles with the federal government.

Council members voted 6 to 0 late Tuesday to develop and evaluate a strategy to scale back flight operations, cut the 5,000-foot runway by 2,000 feet and reduce aviation-related services, such as fuel sales and flight schools.

The decision also calls for the city to consider converting airport land to low-impact non-aviation uses. Meanwhile, it will continue a legal effort to gain control of the facility, which is subject to federal agreements designed to preserve the 227-acre airport, including its 5,000-foot runway.

"We don't want to be told how to use our property," Councilman Bob Holbrook said. "I've sucked in the kerosene fumes.... I've seen the trees turned inside out by jet engines. It's not an environment we should live in."

In addition, Santa Monica officials will consider paying back a $250,000 federal airport improvement grant to free itself from a requirement that the historic facility remain an airport until 2023.

The council approved the proposal although City Atty. Marsha Moutrie said the Federal Aviation Administration has never allowed grant money to be repaid.

The FAA, which has prevailed in every legal attempt by the city to ban jets and gain control of the facility, declined to comment on the measures.

Agency officials, however, reiterated their position that under a 1948 agreement, the city must operate the property as an airport unless the federal government approves a change in use. The agreement, the FAA contends, applies to the entire 5,000-foot runway.

Moutrie cautioned council members that years of litigation were possible if they decided to challenge the federal agreements again and shut down the airport.

During the hearing, the debate over the airport's future played out in full as more than 120 members of the public addressed the effort to scale back or close the oldest operating aviation facility in the county.

Opponents of the airport said it should be shut down because of noisy overflights, air pollution and the potential for deadly crashes in nearby residential areas.

Some speakers were especially concerned about aircraft emissions that contain potentially harmful lead and ultrafine particles of black carbon, which have been found at elevated levels around the airport.

One person compared the situation to Love Canal, the Niagara Falls neighborhood in upstate New York that was heavily contaminated with industrial pollutants in the 1970s. Another speaker worried about safety, saying that being near the airport was like living in Tel Aviv and waiting for a bomb to go off.

"Every takeoff becomes terrorism," she said.

Instead of an airport, opponents urged the council to convert the property into a park with playing fields, gardens, walkways, picnic areas and cultural amenities such as an amphitheater.

Supporters say, however, that the airport contributes $250 million annually to the local economy, offers educational opportunities for children and provides a base for hundreds of medical-related flights a year.

The concerns about noise and pollution, speakers said, will fade due to the increasing use of unleaded aviation gas and cleaner, quieter aircraft engines.

Some speakers chided airport critics who bought homes near the facility and then complained about noise and aircraft emissions. They also contended that most of the air pollution in the area comes from highways and major city streets, not aircraft.

Bill Dunn, an official of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., said the airport's closure would clear the way for high-rise development rather than a park — a proposal he called the "Big Lie."

Others contended that without the airport, a stream of loud, polluting jetliners would be able to fly thousands of feet lower over Santa Monica neighborhoods on their way to Los Angeles International Airport.


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In the fields of UFW's birth, farmworkers see Cesar Chavez film

DELANO, Calif. — The audience members stepped off buses waving red UFW flags. Some came straight from the fields. Those from Salinas and Madera and farther away had given up a day's wages to attend.

The first feature film about Cesar Chavez had been screened in Los Angeles and at the White House. On Tuesday evening, "Cesar Chavez" played outdoors and in Spanish for the farmworkers Chavez represented.

"From the beginning, we said we have to go back and give it to the people," director Diego Luna said. "I've been waiting a long time for this."

A giant screen went up outside the hall where table grape growers first signed contracts with the United Farm Workers more than four decades ago. Banda music played over speakers. Luna hugged Chavez's middle son, Paul.

The Rojas sisters danced in a row of seats entirely filled by their family and friends.

Last week, when Erica Rojas' mother asked if she wanted to go to the movie, the 17-year-old said, "Mom, get tickets for everyone. We're seeing this as a family." Nancy Rojas came home from UC Riverside. Viviana Rojas came home from UC Merced. Both of their parents work in the fields in Kern County, near Arvin.

When the film played, its images were a mirror of everything around: the fields, the stretching sky, the buildings — and the faces in the audience.

By the end of the evening, "si se puede" would meet "que sera sera" in the form of an unexpected spring shower that abruptly cut the showing short.

But Viviana wasn't sure it mattered.

"I saw enough to know there are many details I don't know," she said. "The night was about reuniting people and reminding us what happened here."

The film is set in the 10 years surrounding the grape boycotts that began in the 1960s and drew national attention to brutal working conditions in the fields.

In 1968 at the Forty Acres, this UFW center west of Delano, Chavez fasted for 25 days to rededicate the farmworker movement to nonviolence. Thousands of workers came to support him. Every morning, Mass was celebrated in the warehouse of the union's co-op gas station.

This week, to get hundreds of people to a film screening in the middle of grape fields on short notice, organizers used the same tactics that Chavez once employed to transform this isolated spot into the center of a social movement.

"We had house meetings, and I saw that it only takes a couple of people to get everyone else excited," said Rubi Flores, a UFW organizer.

In the Fresno area, the person pushing hardest was Juan Cruz, 26.

He worked for a company where the employees are in a tense struggle over whether to leave the union. He said he was fired this year shortly after wearing a UFW shirt to the fields.

"They used him as an example," former co-worker Alma Patino Alvarez, 29, said. "There was another woman who went to human resources because the overalls are thrown together and dirty and they might have chemicals. The next day, the forelady threw wet overalls on the ground and said: 'You want to work, wear them.' "

Cruz said he knew little of Cesar Chavez.

"I'm here to learn," the recent immigrant said in Spanish. "I've only heard his name."

Luna got on the stage to introduce the film as the Central Valley sky darkened to purple. Hundreds of people held up cellphones to take his photo. Luna took out his phone to take a photo of them.

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Anaheim residents push for councilwoman to resign after comments

An Anaheim councilwoman is being asked to resign following her online remarks that the fatal police shooting of a 21-year-old man had "saved us a trial."

Lucille Kring, who is running for mayor in the resort city, quickly apologized for her comments, but some residents said it was too late and urged her to step down instead.

The relationship between police and residents in the densely packed core of Orange County's largest city has been strained for years and came to a head in the summer of 2012 when a series of shootings ignited days of street protests and angry demonstrations.

Last Thursday, Robert Moreno Jr., 21, was fatally shot by officers following a police chase. Authorities said Moreno had fired at officers and injured a police dog, Bruno.

"The shooting saved us a trial. Always a good outcome," Councilwoman Kring wrote on an online thread for residents of the city's Colony District. The comment was first reported by the OC Weekly.

The fatal police shooting, as well as Kring's remarks, drew dozens of residents Tuesday to the Anaheim council meeting.

Before the public comments portion of the meeting, Kring read a statement apologizing again for what she wrote.

"The loss of a human life is always a tragedy. He was someone's son, maybe an uncle, brother, father," Kring said. "I apologize unreservedly for my statement and I hope you will forgive me and I do retract the statement I made earlier."

Her apology was met with shouts of "too late" from some members of the audience.

Donna Acevedo, whose son Joel Acevedo was shot in an officer-involved shooting in July 2012 that fueled days of protests, said she didn't care whether Kring retracted the statements because they reflected how she really felt.

"You have no business whatsoever running for mayor, you should step down from where you're sitting," said Acevedo, who is also running for a seat on the City Council.

Damion Ramirez, 38, of South Gate, said that comments such as Kring's give the impression that the lives and due process of a certain class of people aren't valued by the city.

"This community is worthless, because I don't see anybody from here up there, but we're gonna," Ramirez said.

On Wednesday, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said he wasn't surprised there was such a strong backlash to Kring's comments.

"It's shocking and disturbing that any elected official would say that," Tait said. "It's in no way the city's position and it's a disturbing thing, a lack of sympathy for the family of the deceased."

Moreno had a history of evading police, according to Orange County court records. In 2010 Moreno was sentenced to 30 days in county jail and three years' probation for failing to register as a gang member. The following year he was sentenced to four years in state prison for multiple felony charges, including vehicle theft, possession of a controlled substance, evading an officer and battery on an officer.

His uncle, Max Figueroa, 30, of Santa Ana, said Kring's comments were disrespectful and upset his family.

"What's wrong with her?" Figueroa said. "She doesn't give a damn about a life."

Twitter: @adolfoflores3

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Kashkari unveils jobs plan he says would 'unleash' the private sector

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 26 Maret 2014 | 12.56

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari unveiled a jobs plan Tuesday that calls for corporate tax breaks, hydraulic fracturing of some California oil deposits, reduced regulations on business and increased spending on water storage.

The 10-point plan, focused on manufacturing, water, energy and the business climate, is the first policy Kashkari has set forth since announcing in January that he would run for office.

The former U.S. Treasury official said his plan would "unleash" the private sector, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

His most detailed proposal is a 10-year tax break to out-of-state companies that move to California with at least 100 jobs and to in-state companies that open new manufacturing plants. Income from the new enterprises would not be taxed by the state for a decade.

He would reduce business regulations by requiring that they be reviewed every 10 years and expire absent further action. And he calls for an overhaul of the state's landmark environmental law. Both are familiar Republican themes.

Kashkari would also ask voters to cancel the bonds they approved for the high-speed rail plan favored by Gov. Jerry Brown and redirect the nearly $10 billion in borrowing to water storage.

A political neophyte, Kashkari is hoping to be one of the two top finishers in the June primary so he can take on the Democratic governor in the fall. His main rival for that spot is Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who has not announced a jobs plan.

Unseating Brown would be an uphill battle. He's a popular incumbent who is widely credited with turning the state's financial outlook around. (Even Brown's immediate predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, praised the governor's work in an interview published Tuesday, saying, "The state is doing well.")

During Brown's tenure, unemployment has dropped 4.1 percentage points, to 8% in February, according to the state's Employment Development Department.

"Putting political rhetoric aside, here are the facts," said Dan Newman, Brown's political spokesman. "In the last four years California has created over a million new jobs, unemployment has dropped to its lowest level since 2008, massive deficits are now solid surpluses, our credit rating is rising and our job growth is outpacing the nation."

Kashkari argues that those numbers obscure millions of Californians still suffering from poverty and joblessness because of Brown's failure to lead.

"Most Californians look at each other and think the man is totally out of touch, and we're going to capitalize on that," he said in a phone interview after touring a San Diego company that makes organic skin care products.

Kashkari concedes that the state's condition has improved in recent years but argues that California ought to be performing better.

"Relative to what we were, is it as bad? No," he said, citing Texas and Florida as better examples of job growth. "But relative to the rest of the country … it's pathetic. So we're going to make him answer for his failure."

Economists said Kashkari's plan misrepresents the state's economic conditions, ignoring that California is one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, with record exports.

Christopher Thornberg, a principal at Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles financial consulting firm, said he supported the calls for more fracking and cancellation of the high-speed rail network. But he labeled the subtext of the jobs plan "silly."

It's "a distortion of reality and sadly, obviously, exactly how politics works — don't focus on facts, you focus on spin," he said. "It's a ridiculous distortion of the data."

Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist with UCLA's Anderson Forecast, questioned the value of the proposed tax breaks.

"It is typically the case that relocation of companies is marginal in any calculus of job growth," he said. "If these incentives were to expand manufacturing in California, how many jobs would they create? This is an open question."

Mike Genest, who was Schwarzenegger's budget director, said he appreciated Kashkari's calls for environmental and regulatory change. But he too questioned the candidate's tax-incentive program, which he said would mean another layer of bureaucrats picking winners and losers.

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Judge may order DWP to turn over nonprofits' records

A Los Angeles County judge signaled Tuesday that Department of Water and Power union chief Brian D'Arcy will have to turn over records showing how two nonprofit trusts he co-directs used $40 million in ratepayer money.

D'Arcy has been locked in a political and legal struggle over control of the financial information since September, following a Times report that managers at the utility had only scant information on how the money was spent.

In January, City Controller Ron Galperin issued a subpoena to D'Arcy and the nonprofits demanding that they turn over internal ledgers and bank records covering the last five years. Galperin also asked D'Arcy to submit to questioning by city auditors.

D'Arcy sought to quash the subpoena in Superior Court, arguing that the nonprofits were not public agencies, were not subject to state open government laws and were not obligated to comply with Galperin's request.

But on Tuesday Judge James Chalfant sided with Galperin, saying, "The overarching principle here is does the city get to find out what happened to city money intended for a public purpose? It does."

The ruling, which becomes final April 22, would give D'Arcy 10 days to comply with the subpoena or persuade an appeals court to intervene. "Today is an important victory for transparency and an important step in holding accountable those who think they are above the law," Galperin told reporters after the ruling.

D'Arcy could not be reached for comment.

The nonprofits — the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute — were created more than a decade ago after a grueling round of job cuts at the city-owned utility. The institutes were charged with improving relations between labor and management, and have received up to $4 million per year. They are co-directed by D'Arcy's union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, and top managers at the DWP. Both groups have equal representation on the nonprofits' boards.

After The Times report in September, Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Atty. Mike Feuer and Galperin unsuccessfully sought the nonprofits' financial records.

D'Arcy's attorney, Bill Heine, argued that the city could have gotten any financial information it wanted about the nonprofits from the DWP managers who sit on the boards because they must agree to all expenditures.

But former DWP General Manager Ron Nichols, who resigned in January, said D'Arcy had threatened to sue him personally if he turned the nonprofits' records over to city officials.

In his decision, Chalfant noted that the DWP managers had provided "no supervision" and "little control" over the nonprofits' spending and therefore share the blame for the controversy.

"This failure is serious and has resulted in well-warranted public scrutiny as to how $40 million of public funds was spent," Chalfant wrote.


twitter: @jackdolanLAT

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Brown's state librarian appointment isn't by the book

SACRAMENTO — Librarians aren't known for being loud, but Gov. Jerry Brown may hear some raised voices from that scholarly crowd over his decision Tuesday to appoint a politically connected journalist as the state librarian.

Greg Lucas, 55, is a former political reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Since 2011, he has been a senior editor for the Sacramento website Capitol Weekly, which covers California politics, and he writes and edits California's Capitol, a website he created that also delves into politics.

Lucas is the son of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas and the husband of Donna Lucas, who heads a political public relations firm and was a top aide to former Republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Deukmejian.

Librarians expressed concerns that a non-librarian would be appointed as state librarian.

"A former reporter? What the hell?" said Roy B. Stone, president of the Librarians' Guild, which represents 350 librarians in the city of Los Angeles.

"I'm tired of political appointments everywhere you go for everything," Stone said. "How about the ability of the person to do the job? His resume at this point is pretty lacking as far as the ability to do that job."

Lucas, who will be paid $142,968 annually if confirmed by the Senate, has been a board member at the Friends of the California State Archives since 2012. He has a master's degree in professional writing from USC.

The state librarian oversees the State Library, which serves as a research library for state government and the public as well as collects and preserves historical items, and provides technical assistance and financial grants to local libraries.

Lucas did not respond to a request for comment on his appointment.

Rosario Garza, executive director of the California Library Assn., said the post should be filled by a librarian.

"It's a complex world and we are facing a lot of challenges," Garza said.

Some librarians said it appears the appointment may conflict with the state Education Code, which says the state librarian "shall be a technically trained librarian."

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor, said Lucas' appointment passes muster with the law, but added: "Our appointee will be pursuing additional technical training through San Jose State University's library science program in the months ahead."

Someone with an advanced degree in library science has special skills and knowledge that can help local libraries provide for an informed electorate, said Axel E. Borg, a librarian at UC Davis.

He said the ideal state librarian was Kevin Starr, who served from 1994 to 2004. Borg said in an email that Starr "was both a professional librarian and a scholar. We lament the absence of someone like Kevin Starr in our State Library."

Westrup defended the appointment, saying Lucas "is an independent thinker, a sharp writer and a keen observer. His appreciation and knowledge of California's history runs deep and the state will be very well served."


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Upcoming San Onofre nuclear plant auction generates interest

Inside a building at the old San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, where storage casks were once manufactured to hold spent nuclear fuel, Dave Althaus looked adoringly at a large piece of equipment once used to cut metal.

"That's a beautiful machine," the 72-year-old Fallbrook resident said. "That's gonna be a popular item."

Althaus came to this shuttered nuclear plant Tuesday to scout out equipment he might use for his hobby of fixing locomotives and, perhaps, snag a bit of memorabilia from the energy station that once stood on the front line of California's power grid. Now the place is being decommissioned.

Starting Wednesday, the generating station will host a three-day auction of hundreds of pieces of surplus machinery and equipment that no longer have a use. The plant was shut down in January 2012 after newly replaced steam generators leaked a small amount of radioactive steam, leading to the discovery that hundreds of tubes carrying superheated water from the reactors were wearing out at an alarming rate.

On the auction list is equipment that is brand new, some that would suit only a very small number of large-scale manufacturers, and more mundane items such as hammers, screwdrivers and cabinets that someone might pick up just to have a piece of the plant — if they can afford the $500 cash deposit required for on-site bidding.

The material being sold was used for maintenance, fabrication, testing and inspection and was not associated with radiological plant operations, said Paul Coughlin of Southern California Edison's asset recovery team.

"It's all unradioactive stuff," he said.

Since Monday, nearly 200 potential buyers have toured the site to get a look at the castoffs and curiosities.

"We've seen literally everyone from mom and pop machine shops making go-karts to people who make rockets to people who see a tool box and say they want it," said Adam Mattes, a machinery expert with Sterling Machinery Exchange, which is helping with the auction.

"The San Onofre nuclear plant," Mattes said, "it's kind of a nostalgic thing. It's really cool."

If the equipment isn't sold it could be donated or sold as scrap, said Maureen Brown, a spokeswoman for Edison, the majority owner of the plant.

"We expect to get cents on the dollar for a lot of this," Brown said. "If you've ever had a garage sale, you know … it's used."

Dismantling the plant will take several years, and more than just getting rid of old manufacturing equipment, a major public concern is the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel.

To help address those concerns, Edison and the plant's co-owners late Tuesday hosted a community engagement panel made up of local community leaders, representatives of environmental and labor groups and others who are charged with advising on the decommissioning process.

Currently, some spent fuel is being held on site in 51 dry storage casks of the type that were once manufactured at the generating station. As the plant is decommissioned, more of them will be needed. But they will no longer be built at San Onofre; instead, they will be purchased elsewhere, Coughlin said.

Coughlin, who has worked at the plant for several years, looked on as Althaus, the locomotive hobbyist from Fallbrook, eyed the machinery.

"I'll give you $200 for it right now," Althaus told him.

Coughlin smiled and said he'd be content knowing the equipment will once again be productive.

"I hate to see something like this not go to use," he said.

"You've got to remember," Coughlin said later, as he looked out across the largely empty building, "there was a person or two who ran each and every one of these machines."


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LAPD discipline case raises questions of favoritism

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 25 Maret 2014 | 12.57

Shaun Hillmann's career as a Los Angeles police officer appeared to be over after he was caught on tape outside a bar uttering a racial slur, and later denied it to his superiors.

High-ranking police officials recommended that Hillmann be fired, according to internal LAPD records. A disciplinary board agreed, voting unanimously in January that he should be kicked off the force.

Police Chief Charlie Beck decided otherwise, sparing the career of an officer whose father and uncle worked for the department.

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Overruling the board, Beck opted to return Hillmann to duty after a 65-day suspension, according to several sources with knowledge of the chief's decision. The sources requested anonymity because police discipline matters are confidential.

The head of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, expressed concern about Beck's decision.

"Based on what I've seen so far, this stands out as something that I really want explained," said Steve Soboroff, the commission president. "It has to be an important goal that the system is seen by officers as fair — that it doesn't favor or disfavor anyone. This case has risen to a level that it's being discussed and looked at as a test" of how Beck disciplines officers.

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The controversy comes at delicate time for Beck as the commission prepares for an extensive review of the chief's performance to decide whether to offer him a second five-year term. Soboroff, who described himself as supportive of the chief overall, said the Hillmann case, and Beck's approach to discipline in general, will come under scrutiny during the commission's review.

Beck and the commission have clashed over the panel's concerns that the chief is uneven and sometimes too lenient, notably when officers improperly use force or are caught driving while intoxicated.

Citing state confidentiality laws, Beck declined to discuss the details of Hillmann's case. But he defended the decision to give the officer back his badge and denied that he was swayed by Hillmann's family ties.

Beck said he agreed with the disciplinary board that Hillmann's misconduct was serious, but said firing him would have been too harsh.

"The actions are egregious. What we differ on is the penalty and the penalty ultimately is the domain of the chief of police," Beck said. "I attached a penalty that is appropriate — that matches the nature and circumstances of the behavior."

Beck said he takes into account an officer's disciplinary history and job performance, among other factors, in deciding on punishment. Hillmann had a clean disciplinary record and numerous commendations, LAPD records show.

Hillmann, 33, is the son of a retired LAPD officer. And his uncle is former Deputy Chief Michael Hillmann — a respected figure in the LAPD who served in the department's upper ranks with Beck during a career that spanned four decades.

Shaun Hillmann did not respond to requests for comment.

Michael Hillmann said no family member contacted Beck to ask for leniency.

The account of what occurred at the Maverick Saloon in Norco early July 14, 2012, is based on confidential LAPD investigative files obtained by The Times. The files include transcripts of audio recordings, statements by Hillmann and witnesses, and the formal findings by police officials and the hearing board.

Shortly before the bar's closing time at 2 a.m., Hillmann's wife was dancing with a black man whom investigators were unable to identify. Suddenly, she pushed the man away, claiming that he had groped her breasts, according to witness statements.

By his own account to investigators, Hillmann who was off-duty rushed over and shoved the man. A bouncer and the bar's manager intervened and brought Hillmann outside.

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Man suspected of shooting at police found dead in home

A man suspected of opening fire on two Los Angeles police officers in a sprawling Hollywood Hills home Monday was found dead inside after an hours-long standoff that disrupted the workday routine in the lush, secluded neighborhood.

The man was not immediately identified, pending notification of next of kin.

The officers were responding to a domestic violence call in the 8100 block of Gould Avenue about 8 a.m., authorities say, and had just crossed the home's threshold when the man shot at them with a semiautomatic gun, injuring one, and then barricaded himself inside.

Gould Avenue resident William Yakey, 77, said he went outside when he heard the sirens and helicopters. He got to the end of his driveway before officers approached him.

"I thought it was a fire, so I went to go see what was going on," he said. "They told me to get back in the house."

Yakey said he saw about 30 officers walking up Gould Avenue toward a house at the top of the hill, and police blocked access for hours on Laurel Canyon Road.

SWAT officers entered the home about 12:30 p.m. and found the man dead, police said. It was not immediately clear if he died from a wound suffered during the initial firefight or from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Police said attempts to contact the man before they entered the home were unsuccessful.

The injured officer — who sources said was wounded when she was hit in the face and arm by wood fragments — was "doing well" at a local hospital, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. She was not immediately identified.

The other officer, described only as male, was taken to the hospital but was not believed to have been injured, Sgt. Frank Preciado said.

Two other men were in the home at the time, Preciado said. One was taken to a hospital with an unspecified leg injury, and the other was interviewed by authorities.



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Woman, 74, to be freed in 1981 killing

She spent three decades in prison as the outside world moved on.

Her children aged. Grandchildren were born. Friends passed away.

Mary Virginia Jones, who was serving life without parole for murder, did not despair. She told visitors not to cry. An ordained minister, she preached to dozens every week at the interfaith chapel. She directed Bible services, led hymns and was sought out by those who asked for spiritual guidance. They called her "Mother Mary."

On Monday, she walked into a Los Angeles courtroom in a blue jumpsuit, her hands shackled behind her, her gray hair pulled into a taut bun. The 74-year-old calmly sat down and smiled at her attorneys.

Behind her were four rows of people — some former prisoners — under strict instructions not to speak or interact with Jones. For her son Robert, who was not allowed to visit the California Institution for Women because of a felony record, it was the first time he had seen his mother in 30 years.

They collectively held their breath until Judge William C. Ryan ordered Jones to be released.

"Ahh, thank you, Jesus! Hallelujah!" shouted one woman who began to sob as others clapped.

USC Law School's Post-Conviction Justice Project has argued over the last several years that Jones' abusive boyfriend had forced her at gunpoint to help rob and shoot two drug dealers, one of whom died.

Jones expected to be shot and killed and the subsequent trials did not take into account her history as a battered victim, said the justice project's directing attorney, Heidi Rummel.

Rummel oversaw USC law students Laura Donaldson and Mark Fahey who managed the case. Spurred by their work, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office conducted an independent investigation that led to an agreement to dismiss Jones' previous convictions. She would have to plead no contest to involuntary manslaughter, but would serve no more time or be on probation.

Jones, using a magnifying glass to help her see, read her response in court: "I did not willingly participate in this crime, but I believe entering a no contest plea is in my best interest to get out of custody."

Rummel said the win came after a difficult road. "I'm more excited than I've been in a long time. We worked so hard on it and Mary's such an extraordinary woman. We got a reasonable D.A. who was willing to do the right thing."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Hyman Sisman said he would not comment on the investigation except to say "justice was done."

Jones was 41 when she was introduced to Mose Willis, a man who had been convicted of manslaughter, possession of a firearm and evading arrest, according to court documents.

By then, she had already endured physically and emotionally abusive relationships with men, as well as with her mother and father. When she was young, she was raped by a stranger and bore a son. Later, her 4-year-old daughter was killed when she was nearly decapitated by a drunk driver.

Her relationship with Willis was turbulent. Within a month of meeting through a friend, he moved into the home she owned in South Los Angeles. Once, after an argument, he shot at Jones and her daughter and threatened to kill both of them if they talked to authorities.

On April 3, 1981, Jones' attorneys said, she came home from her job as an L.A. Unified teacher's aide to find that Willis wanted to use her tax refund check to buy cocaine for resale. Two men were invited over and Willis ordered everyone at gunpoint into a car. When they arrived at an alley, Jones heard a gunshot when her back was turned. She heard another shot as she ran away. She stayed with a friend until her arrest.

Prosecutors argued that Jones was in love with Willis and would have done anything for him. At her first trial, she was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping to commit robbery and robbery. The convictions were overturned on appeal.

The jury deadlocked on all counts at the second trial.

The jury for the third trial convicted her only on the two counts of robbery. She was sentenced to 15 years to life.

But the state wanted to retry her yet again. In 1987, Jones was convicted on the remaining first-degree murder count. Willis would die the next year on death row.

Jones soon emerged as a leader and voice of hope for the incarcerated.

"She showed us how to walk the walk with God and be faithful," said Patricia Elder, 55, who served 11 1/2 years and was released in 2001. "She had a light that just shined."

Denitra Jones-Goodie, 53, said her mother always believed that some day she would be released. "She's got strength on top of strength," she said.

A teenager when her mother was arrested, Jones-Goodie became interested in the law and studied criminal justice at Cal State L.A. She went on to get her master's degree in public policy and still thinks about becoming an attorney.

On Monday, however, Jones-Goodie said her only dream for the day was to bring her mother to her Long Beach home and cook her a dinner of oxtail.

She grew anxious as Jones' release was delayed, possibly until the next day. "I've waited 32 years for my mother's release. I guess I can wait a little more," she said.


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Gov. Jerry Brown amasses $19.7 million for reelection bid

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown has built a war chest of $19.7 million to fund his bid for an unprecedented fourth term, easily eclipsing the money raised by his challengers, according to new campaign reports filed with the state.

Brown has raised nearly $3 million this year and spent nearly $95,000, his report shows.

Top contributors include several labor unions, Netflix Inc. co-founder Reed Hastings, Napster co-founder Sean Parker and several descendants of the founders of the Gap Inc., the clothing company where Brown's wife, Anne Gust Brown, was once an executive.

Each gave $27,200, the maximum allowed by law.

Among the governor's primary challengers, Republican Neel Kashkari reported bringing in $1.3 million in the two months since he kicked off his campaign. He has $903,478 in his political account, according to his filings.

Kashkari's campaign hopes to raise several million dollars before the June 3 primary election, to pay for television ads aimed at state voters. If the former U.S. Treasury official continues to raise money at his current clip — averaging $162,500 a week — that goal appears out of reach.

His fundraising dropped off sharply after an initial burst when he announced his bid in January. After raising $1 million in his first two weeks as a candidate, Kashkari raised $300,000 in the next six weeks.

Many of his largest donors had ties to the banking industry and finance. Several contributors are associated with Goldman Sachs, where Kashkari worked before joining the Treasury Department. His old boss, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Paulson's wife each gave the maximum.

Other big-name donors include former Univision chairman Jerry Perenchio, News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch and cellphone pioneer Craig McCaw, who raised significant sums of money for 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Another gubernatorial candidate, Republican state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, reported raising $183,206 from Jan. 1 to March 17, the period covered by the filings. But he spent more than that, leaving only $10,765 in the bank and $148,000 in unpaid bills.

The bulk of Donnelly's contributions, which have totaled more than $500,000 since he began fundraising, appeared to come from small-dollar donors. Several of them gave the symbolic figure of $17.76.

In contests for other statewide offices, one of the scrappiest is the race for secretary of state, California's top elections official.

Two candidates, Democratic state Sens. Alex Padilla of Pacoima and Leland Yee of San Francisco, each spent more than $500,000 during the first part of the year. Padilla reported $614,426 left in his political account, while Yee had $135,000.

Dan Schnur, a no-party-preference candidate and former chairman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, reported $260,441 in the bank. Democrat Derek Cressman, a former director of Common Cause, filed with $77,316 on hand.

Republican candidate Pete N. Peterson, who runs a public policy institute at Pepperdine University, reported $1,637 in available funds.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) is running for state controller. He has almost $1.8 million in the bank, dwarfing the sum that his main Democratic opponent, state Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, has after spending $439,600 during the reporting period. She has $100,529 on hand.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, entered the controller race just before the close of the filing period. Her fundraising efforts began after the deadline, said her campaign manager, Tim Clark.

In other statewide campaigns:

• State Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, a Democrat, has $3.16 million for her reelection effort. Republican challenger Phil Wyman, a former state senator who entered the race less than a month ago, had not yet filed a report, but candidates had until midnight Monday to do so. Wyman said he had raised $15,000.

• Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, reported having $1.9 million. Republican challenger Ron Nehring, who entered the race last month, had not filed but said he had raised a little more than $10,000.

• Incumbent Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has $1.57 million. Challenger Ted Gaines, a Republican state senator from Rocklin, reported $32,000.

One hundred seats are also up for election in the Legislature this year. A highly competitive race is for the 26th Senate District seat being vacated by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who is running for Congress.

Democratic candidates include Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth, with $348,339 on hand; physician Vito Imbasciani, $168,133; former Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, $145,709; and attorney Barbi Appelquist, $4,774.

Other contestants had not filed late Monday.



Times staff writer Melanie Mason contributed to this report.

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For the L.A. Derby Dolls, elbow room for self-improvement

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 24 Maret 2014 | 12.56

Some girls choose soccer or cheerleading. Ivy Wolk chose roller derby.

"This is it, this is for me," the petite, wide-eyed 9-year-old said to her mom the first time she saw the Los Angeles Derby Dolls hit the track, and one another, two years ago.

Split lips, black eyes, rink rash and bruises are trophies here. "It's not child abuse, it's derby," she once told her mother, who made sure she alerted her daughter's pediatrician about the girl's newfound love for the sport.

"There have literally been days where I have been like, 'I must be crazy.' But she just picks herself up and gets back out there," said her mother, Tracy Wolk.

Since getting their start 11 years ago, the Los Angeles Derby Dolls have become an L.A. institution, lacing up skates first at Skateland, then on a rooftop in Chinatown, then on the third floor of a Little Tokyo shopping mall, with various parking lots in between. They teach women 7 and older how to skate, and they compete against teams from across the country.

Now the volunteer league is moving again. Their Historic Filipinotown "Doll Factory," a former dairy slathered in pink and black paint, sits on a block that may be slated for new development.

But finding a new place is a challenge, said league co-founder Rebecca Ninburg. It has to be big and affordable, with a landlord willing to look outside the box — they're no textile company, but they're not the violent, raucous crowd some think. To raise money for the move and the new space, the Dolls have started an online campaign with a goal of $100,000 by the end of the month. To date, they've raised more than $79,000.

"I'm just gonna be so sad that we're gonna lose this place. It's my home, it's my home away from home," said Yesenia "Cherry Bomb" Hernandez, 15, who said roller derby is what gave her the confidence to stand up to bullies at her school. The Junior Ri-Ette has gone flying out of the rink before, but her mom isn't worried. The girls take care of one another, said Julie Hernandez.

Practices are intense. Team members are known by their derby names, clever wordplay or tough monikers such as RegulateHer, Jackie Nimble and Cirque d'Slay.

Young women shoot around the banked track under a skate-shaped disco ball. "Jammers" at the back of the pack fight to get through, take a lap, pass the group to score, and go again. The women are pushing and yelling on a recent day when one falls hard and slides into the center of the rink. She writhes on the ground, but she's smiling as the acupuncturist volunteering that night hops the railing and rushes over. Her teammate skates to the first aid cart, reachable from the track, to grab supplies.

The league has gotten dozens of offers for reality shows and documentaries, but Ninburg, a.k.a. Demolicious, said they'll continue to turn them down unless they get the final cut. Television creates drama and tries to sex up the sport, she said, and that's not what they're about. They're serious athletes.

"We're not going to compromise who we are," she said. "The objectification doesn't exist here. We control it. If you wanna wear makeup, wear makeup. If you don't, don't. If you want to look sexy, look sexy. If you don't, don't. Nobody cares. Just get out there and play a good game."

At halftime of a recent "bout," spectators milled around the Doll House with food and drinks in hand, browsing merchandise stalls and stopping to listen to cover bands.

It was the first time David Hale, 39, and friend George Tevelde, 40, had seen the Derby Dolls. Once he found them, it took only about 20 minutes browsing online for Hale to get hooked. Derby was like pro wrestling in the 1970s, but it's had a resurgence that has turned it into much more of a real sport, he said.

"It's not polished. It's not baseball, it's not the Lakers," Hale said. "You can see it in their faces. It's not L.A. They're not doing it for the money, they're doing it for the love."

Ivy — known here as Shematoma, a play on the scientific word for bruise — is sure of herself when she whips around the track. Her teammates, ages 7 to 17, wear skirts and patterned leggings, and some have shirts with their derby names printed on the back. They practice the basics, stopping and maneuvering around cones set up on the rink, to an upbeat soundtrack including the "The Bare Necessities," "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" and Phil Collins.

Ivy gets quiet and a bit shy when asked, really, what it is about roller derby she loves so much. It makes her feel normal, her mother said, which is a big deal for a kid with a rare protein allergy that prevents her from eating 19 major foods. She can't have any outside food, but Ninburg made sure there were frozen grapes, her favorite treat, at a recent team party. They were a hit with the other girls.

Last summer, Ivy took several weeks off to rest and undergo medical tests. She was nervous about coming back, but her coach greeted her with a shout and a big hug. Her friends acted as if nothing had changed.

She turned to her mom and said, "I'm home," Wolk recalled.


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Happy Face Hill mystery illuminated by a Simi Valley family

A monthlong mystery over who illuminated the big grin on Simi Valley's Happy Face Hill has been solved: Two sisters, ages 3 and 7, did it.

"They wanted to surprise me because they knew how much I love the happy face," said their mother, Allison Robertson of Simi Valley.

Robertson is a business administration student at Moorpark College who tries to do her studying on weekends. Her husband, Doug, takes Tabitha and Evelyn on Saturday jaunts to give her some peace when she hits the books.

"I need a big chunk of quiet time," said Robertson, 29. "So they do things like have 'silly-pic Saturdays' where they go out and take pictures around town. They go on hikes. It gives me enough time to study."

Earlier this month The Times detailed how a Northridge man in 1998 created the smiley face next to the 118 Freeway near its entrance to Simi Valley and how in January a Chatsworth restaurant owner installed solar-powered garden lights on its grin and eyes. The story noted that no one knew who was responsible for outlining the face with solar lamps, however.

That report prompted Robertson to fess up about her daughters' weekend jaunt six weeks ago when they added lights to the face's edges.

Doug Robertson, a 38-year-old electrician, said he got the idea to involve the girls while driving home from work after dusk. "I saw there were lights on the eyeballs and mouth. I decided we'd do something crazy."

Robertson said he bought 36 garden lamps for $1 each at a discount store and asked the girls if they wanted to install them. "They were gung-ho to go," he said.

On the day of the installation, "we had trail mix for a snack, but the chocolate in it melted on the way up the hill," said Evelyn, a second-grader at Katherine Elementary School.

Once at Happy Face Hill, Robertson turned the event into an impromptu math lesson as his girls counted their steps as they walked around the face's circumference. "It turned out we had enough lights to put one every four adult-size steps," he said.

That night, the girls and their dad took Allison Robertson out for dinner. On their way, they detoured past Happy Face Hill where the huge smiley face was aglow.

"We did that for you, Mom!" the girls shouted out.

Doug Robertson said his wife was pleased — but a little nervous.

"My wife's a goody two-shoes. She only ditched school one time in her life, and before she did that she asked her mother if it would be OK," he said.

"So she asked if we trespassed when we put up the lights."


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