L.A. Council Votes to Join Legal Fight to Block Trump on Immigration

January 18, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council took several actions Wednesday in opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration policies, including directing the city attorney to take legal action to try to stop the cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The council voted 12-0 to authorize City Attorney Mike Feuer to file an amicus brief in support of the California Attorney General’s lawsuit against the termination of the DACA program. The motion was altered in an amendment from its original language that called on the city to file its own lawsuit or join the California lawsuit.

“It’s shameful and immoral that our federal government is debating this,” Councilman Joe Buscaino said before the vote. “Let’s send a message to the federal government and reiterate the importance that immigrants make this community and this country an amazing place to live and work.”

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have been working to negotiate a new DACA deal to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children, but the talks have stalled and a federal government shutdown is possible if an agreement cannot be reached.

DACA was rescinded by President Donald Trump in September, but he gave lawmakers six months to come up with a new deal. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a lawsuit by the attorneys general of the states of Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, as well as the University of California and other plaintiffs, and obtained a preliminary injunction last week against the Trump administration over the move to end DACA, which was created by then-President Barack Obama by executive order.

“As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful Democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve,” Trump said in a statement in September.

Councilman Gil Cedillo, who chairs the council’s Immigrant Affairs, Civil Rights and Equity Committee, seconded the resolution introduced by Councilman Jose Huizar.

Cedillo took the opportunity to publicly criticize Trump, who during a recent meeting with congressional leaders about immigration issues, reportedly asked why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole” countries like Haiti and in Africa rather than places like Norwa

“It’s embarrassing. The `s-hole countries’ and all the comments related to that indicate that the attacks on DACA and the immigrant community that were first expressed as he began his campaign still remain the underlying basis for the policy from the administration,” Cedillo said. “That is not a way to run a nation. That is not what we are about.”

The council also approved — on a 12-0 vote — a resolution asking the city attorney to report on litigation options against the termination of the Temporary Protected Status Program, which offers a provisional reprieve from deportation to citizens of some countries. The resolution, which was altered in an amendment, had originally sought to support legislative or administrative action that would extend the TPS Program.

The Trump administration announced earlier this month that it was canceling the TPS status for immigrants from El Salvador in 2019, and the council voted 13-0 in approval of a second resolution officially opposing the move.

On a 13-0 vote,  the council approved a new immigration program that will facilitate a connection between lawyers and individuals interested in obtaining letters of representation to aid them when they are being questioned by immigration officials.

Council Committees Approve Plan for Street Vending Permit System

November 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Two Los Angeles City Council committees approved a comprehensive plan Wednesday for a regulated permit system for street vending, which would end the city’s distinction as the nation’s only major municipality that bans the practice.

The City Council in February voted to stop making street vending punishable with a misdemeanor criminal charge, although it is being penalized through citations as the council works on the permit system for the industry.

The proposal for the permit system was drafted by the Chief Legislative Analyst  (CLA) and was approved without objection at a joint meeting of the Economic Development Committee and the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee.Vendedor Ambulante

“It’s alarming to know that we are the largest city without a vending policy,” Councilman Joe Buscaino said. “If you look, cities around the world have vending policies that work for everyone. This is exactly our end goal, and today the system is a failure, it’s an embarrassment.”

The permitting proposals include provisions such as limiting vendors to two per block in many locations. While some of the provisions are opposed by vendors, there has been wide support in the industry for the effort to decriminalize street vending.

One provision sparking debate would require businesses on a block to sign a letter of approval allowing the vendor to operate, which is something the council had recommended previously. Although the CLA report did not state a preference on the issue, it said if the council wished to adopt it, the panel should consult with the city attorney in closed session as to the provision’s legality.

The committees added an amendment to the report that would direct the city attorney and CLA to consider allowing businesses to opt out of having vending on their block rather than having all businesses sign a letter opting in.

The idea of requiring businesses to opt in or allowing them to opt out has been opposed by some street vending organizations and advocates.

“We strongly support a comprehensive sidewalk vending program, but we are concerned about a proposal that would require vendors to obtain permission of brick-and-mortar businesses, whether consent or dissent,” Doug Smith, an attorney at Public Counsel, told the committee. “This is an unfair burden to the vendor applicant and could lead to increased instances of extortion.”

The CLA report outlines a plan to create a list of additional “non-vending” areas that may include alleys and city-owned property, while creating a process for certain streets to be named “non-vending” areas by City Council action.

The estimated cost for potential enforcement models contained in the report could range between $3.37 million to $5.87 million. To recover those costs through permit fees of $125, between 26,950 and 46,885 certificates would have to be issued.

The report also estimates that the first year of operation for legalized street vending could cost a vendor between $2,932 and $21,861 in overhead due to equipment purchases, fees, permits, insurance and inspection costs, although it recommends a number of ways to reduce the cost to vendors, including exploring the feasibility of contracting with a manufacturer that would produce carts that have already received plan-check approval from the county.

The report also recommends that once the total number of available vending locations has been determined by the council, that the Economic and Workforce Development Department be instructed to develop a lottery system that reserves a percentage of the certificates of operation for disadvantaged individuals.

The report recommends banning vending near schools unless only fruits and vegetables are being sold, and also banning it near popular venues like Dodger Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl.

One of the motivations for the City Council to legalize street vending and create the permit system was concern that leveling misdemeanor criminal charges against vendors could make some undocumented immigrants a target for deportation.

“I think the city of L.A. and this council has come a long way in terms of our view of street vendors. A few years ago, I didn’t think we would be having this conversation,” Councilman Jose Huizar said in February.

“But the environment is correct — whether it’s the environment nationally or here locally — acknowledging the benefits that street vendors bring to us and the acknowledgment that we should bring them out of the shadows to contribute to the economy,” he said.

The “national environment” Huizar alluded to was President Donald Trump’s stated intention to increase deportations of immigrants in the country illegally.

The committees also approved a second motion that would amend the Los Angeles Municipal Code in a section that is still being used by enforcement agencies continue to cite vendors for “peddling” from vehicles or push carts, as the section was not included in the previous two sections that were altered to decriminalize vending.

Big Pay Hikes OK’d for LADWP Workers

June 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Members of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s most powerful union will see a significant bump in pay, with the City Council’s approval Wednesday of a new contract for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18.

The deal was approved 11-3 despite three council members’ objections to the speed with which it came to the council for a vote, having skipped a committee hearing after the Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved the contract last week.

Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell, David Ryu and Mike Bonin, who cast the dissenting votes, said they felt the process lacked transparency.

“The approval of this plan without greater discussion, public outreach or deeper analysis undermines the public’s trust in their local government,” Ryu said.

Bonin said he learned the details of the deal and that it was coming to a vote though the media

“I’m disturbed, as are a few others, by this process, and there is still information I feel I don’t have,” Bonin said.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who ultimately voted for the deal, also said he learned of the contract details through the media.

“This process stunk. One cannot assume approval of a contract without proper vetting. We heard about this contract through a number of media reports.

In the five years I’ve been here through city contracts, my office and myself were at least briefed on what to expect,” Buscaino said.

The deal, which has the support of Mayor Eric Garcetti, continues the practice of union workers not contributing toward their health care costs — a benefit not enjoyed by all city workers.

The new contract has been criticized by some as being too generous — to the point that it could cause other city unions to ask for raises — as well as for being fast-tracked to a vote.

The contract gives six raises over five years for the IBEW Local 18’s 9,000 members at a total rate of about 13 percent to 22 percent, depending on the consumer price index. It also ends the union’s $4 million controversial annual contribution to two nonprofits, the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute, which have been heavily criticized due to a lack of transparency as to how they were spending and tracking the money.

The contract will cost an estimated $56 million annually, but will not impact the city’s general fund as it will be funded via adjustments to the LADWP’s budget, according to an LADWP commission memo.

Fred Pickle, executive director of the LADWP’s Office of Public Accountability, said because the department routinely comes in under budget each year, the raises would not likely result in higher rates for customers.

When Garcetti ran for mayor in 2013, one of his chief issues was a promise to bring sweeping changes to the LADWP. That pledge made him an enemy of the IBEW, which spent $2 million supporting his opponent, then-City Controller Wendy Greuel. Once elected, Garcetti blocked the approval of a four-year contract with the IBEW so he could renegotiate a new deal that resulted in no raises for the union.

“Public unions are major donors to City Hall political campaigns, so perhaps it should be no surprise if elected officials are reluctant to drive a hard bargain. But this contract could sure use more analysis and public debate,” the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board wrote while also criticizing Garcetti for not driving a harder bargain this time around after his landslide re-election in March.

Interim Chief Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn said the deal was not a template for future deals with other unions and contended the raises are needed to keep LADWP workers from leaving to work for other cities.

An audit of the LADWP released earlier this year by City Controller Ron Galperin found that the utility spends about $40 million a year on apprenticeship programs that only graduate about 51 percent or fewer of their enrollees, and that many of the graduates go to other utilities to get better salaries.

“This contract moves us in the direction of much-needed reforms, specifically ending ratepayer funding of the two nonprofit training institutes that I audited in 2015, and offering a retention incentive for certain workers who are expensive to train and frequently lured away by private utilities,” Galperin said. “At the same time, I’m not convinced that all of the across-the-board increases were justified by the need to attract and retain employees at the DWP. We must be watchful stewards of ratepayer money.”

Llewellyn said the elimination of the payment to the two institutes was a big win for the city.

When pressed by some council members as to why the city didn’t push harder on healthcare contributions, Llewellyn said, “We pushed on everything … We pushed on everyone, and they pushed back on everyone. And we ended up in the middle with what I believe is a reasonable deal.”

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