Thousands In Wildfire Path Forced to Evacuate

December 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Thousands of people remained under mandatory evacuation orders Wednesday as firefighters tried to get control of multiple stubborn, wind-driven fires in Sylmar, Santa Clarita and Bel Air.

The largest of the fires, which raged through the hills above Sylmar and threatened thousands of homes was holding at just more than 11,000 acres burned late Wednesday afternoon, but crews were bracing for violent gusts expected to return overnight.

The Creek Fire broke out early Tuesday morning in the city of Sylmar. More than 1,100 firefighters and other personnel were deployed against the fire, which fire officials said Wednesday afternoon was 5 percent contained.

The blaze broke out at 3:42 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Gold Creek and Little Tujunga roads in the Kagel Canyon area. More than 1,100 firefighters and other personnel were deployed against the fire, which fire officials said Wednesday afternoon was 5 percent contained.

El Fuego de Creek empezó el martes por la mañana en la ciudad de Sylmar. Más de 1,100 bomberos y otro personal fueron desplegados contra el fuego, que, según las autoridades de bomberos, el miércoles por la tarde estaba 5 por ciento contenido.

Thousands of people in the path of the Creek Fire that started Tuesday in Sylmar have been forced to flee their homes. More than 14,000 had burned as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles Fire Dept, which said the wildfire was just 5 percent contained. (LAFD /Harry Garvin)

Three firefighters were injured Tuesday, and were hospitalized in stable condition.

At least 30 homes were destroyed, about 20 of them in the Little Tujunga, Kagel Canyon and Lopez Canyon areas. The other 10 homes were within Los Angeles city limits, according to Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The fire also forced a mass evacuation of large animals, primarily horses but also others such as alpacas.

Many of the animals were being housed at Pierce College and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, which were at capacity Wednesday afternoon and not accepting additional animals.

Sylmar resident Virginia Padilla, whose family owns a ranch in Sylmar, told reporters the fire killed at least 30 of the ranch’s horses. Padilla said she and her family were able to get out of her home just in time but were not able to take their horses with them as they had to evacuate immediately when they were awakened Tuesday morning.

Evacuation orders first issued Tuesday were affecting about 110,000 households, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said evacuated residents would not be allowed to return home for another night.

“We realize what an inconvenience this is and how traumatic this is to so many people, but we’ve watched fires in Northern California, we’ve seen through experience it’s much better to err on the side of safety,” Garcetti said at an afternoon news briefing.

An estimated 2,500 structures were threatened by the Creek Fire at one point, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which was fighting the blaze in a unified command with the Los Angeles city and county fire departments.

Los Angeles Fire Department attacks Creek Fire from land and air. (LAFD Photo | Harry Garvin )

Los Angeles Fire Department attacks Creek Fire from land and air. (LAFD Photo | Harry Garvin )

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas warned that the battle was likely to continue until at least Friday.

While there was a lull in the winds Wednesday, allowing crews to work on containment lines around the various fires, a “significant” wind event was expected Wednesday night and into Thursday, with hurricane-force winds possible, Terrazas said.

The LAFD’s “brush burning index” that rates the fire danger was at 296 — “the highest number I’ve ever seen in my career,” according to Terrazas.

He said the usual threshold for extreme fire conditions is 165.

“Tonight may be the worst night of all,” Terrazas said.

Fire fighting resources were further strained when a fast-moving brush fire broke out just before dawn Wednesday, racing across 475 acres in the Sepulveda Pass and Bel Air, destroying four homes and damaging 11 others, forcing mandatory evacuations and prompting a morning rush-hour closure
of the San Diego (405) Freeway.

The Skirball Fire was reported at 4:52 a.m. on the east side of the freeway near Mulholland Drive, said Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department. By 3 p.m. the fire was estimated to have burned 475 acres and was 5 percent contained, though no injuries were reported, according to Los Angeles Fire Department Deputy Chief Charles Butler.

The fire was kept to the east side of the freeway and with winds easing, the forward movement of the fire was halted, but firefighters were in a desperate race to contain the blaze before expected evening gusts, Butler said.

“When the winds come up they’re going to come out of the northeast and they will want to push that fire across the 405 Freeway,” Butler said.

About 700 homes and an apartment building were evacuated. One elementary school was also evacuated, Butler said.

Aircraft crews, engine companies and hand crews were at work battling the fire, with more than 300 firefighters deployed, he said.

Six fixed-wing aircraft and a number of helicopters were deployed to the scene, Garcetti said at a morning news briefing.

Other agencies assisting including the U.S. Forest Service, Los Angeles County Fire Department and Cal Fire.

The Getty Center and the nearby Skirball Center, both on the west side of the freeway, and did not appear to be threatened.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and some on the west side of Los Angeles — a total of 265 district schools and affiliated charter schools — will be closed on Thursday and Friday, district officials said. A full list of closed schools was available at

All Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District campuses will also remain closed Thursday. Both were closed for the day and were to remain closed on Thursday. Santa Monica College and all schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district were closed.

Citywide, about 600 Los Angeles police officers were assigned to coordinate security, evacualtion orders and various “firefighting events,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said.

Residents were urged to heed evacuation orders and to prepare well in advance of commands to leave home.

“Pack a go bag,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

He suggested residents take photo IDs, medications, food and water — enough for a couple of days — and important documents like birth certificates, passports and licenses.

He said 70 mph winds were forecast for Wednesday night.

“Please take this serious,” he said. “Pack a bag, be ready to go, have your cell phone charged and please, heed the warning when we ask you to leave an area.”

Garcetti for President 2020?

November 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s flirtation with a presidential run in 2020 is the focus of a story Monday in the New York Times.

Speculation has grown over the last few months that Garcetti is exploring a White House bid, fueled by his recent announcements that he would not run for governor of California in 2018, nor challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her seat.

The mayor’s increasing number of jaunts out of the city to parts of the country where presidential campaigning often gets off to an early start are adding to talk of a potential Garcetti presidential bid, as have the number of speaking engagements the mayor has taken on that deal with national or international issues.

(EGP archive photo)

(EGP archive photo)

Although Garcetti stopped short of telling The NY Times he is making a presidential run, he made it all but clear to that he is seriously considering it.

“There are 23 states that have a population smaller than Los Angeles,” he told the newspaper.

The article notes – as other political experts have – that no sitting mayor has ever made the jump straight to the White House.

“The classic rules of American politics are dying if not dead, if you look at the last two presidential elections,” Garcetti told The NY Times. “An African-American could never be president until one was, a TV reality star couldn’t become president until one was.”

If elected, Garcetti would be both the first Latino president and the first Jewish president.

Garcetti was re-elected in March to a second and final term with 81 percent of the vote. Due to a one-time change in the election cycle, he has an extra two-years on his term, which will end in 2022. The extra time leaves him in a relatively safe position to run,.

He served for 12 years on the City Council before becoming mayor.

L.A. Approves Network of Portable Restroom to Fight Spread of Hep A

November 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

With the city facing an outbreak of hepatitis A, the Los Angeles City Council approved a plan last Friday to create a system of portable restrooms to help address the problem.

Councilman Mike Bonin recently introduced a motion seconded by Councilman Jose Huizar that calls on the city to begin the steps of creating the system, and it was approved with a vote of 11-0.

“Without access to the basic right of a restroom, people living on the streets are at a significantly increased risk of contracting diseases like hepatitis A that are spread through human feces,” the motion states.

The motion directs city staff to start developing a program of portable public restrooms possibly modeled after the “Pit Stop” program in San Francisco.

The motion also seeks a report on available funding sources for emergency portable restrooms, as well as the bathroom attendants required to operate them.

It also directs the city attorney to report on the city’s laws regarding the placement of portable restrooms in designated locations, including city-owned parking lots.

“Opening additional public restrooms faces two challenges: funding and proper locations,” the motion says.

“Best practices indicate public restrooms should be staffed by attendants to keep the facilities clean and free of criminal activity. And even if adequate funding were available, there remains a lack of adequate space in our dense neighborhoods to place restrooms without encroaching in the public right-of-way.”

The Pit Stop Program is a partnership between Bay Area Rapid Transit and the city of San Francisco that provides portable public toilets at 17 locations.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease that can spread easily through homeless populations because it thrives in unsanitary conditions and is primarily spread through contact with feces via surfaces or sexual contact.

Reports of the disease among the homeless have spiked in recent months in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Cruz, causing Los Angeles County to declare an official outbreak in September.

The motion was approved two days after activists attempted to deliver a pair of toilets to the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti and also occupied stalls in two City Hall restrooms for several hours in an attempt to bring awareness to the lack of restrooms in Skid Row.

A report released in June found there are only nine public toilets available at night in the Skid Row neighborhood, where roughly 1,800 homeless people sleep.

The lack of toilets is worse than refugees in Syria are experiencing and violate the United Nations standards of hygiene, according to the “No Place to Go” report prepared by homeless advocacy groups, including the Los Angeles Central Providers Collaborative, Los Angeles Community Action Network and the Downtown Women’s Center.

L.A. Stopped Accepting ‘Section 8’ Applications More Than a Decade Ago, That Changes Monday

October 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It has been more than a decade since the city of Los Angeles stopped accepting applications for Section 8 housing vouchers, but that’s about to change Monday when the city opens its waitlist for the popular but extremely hard to get rental subsidy program.

With rents continuing to skyrocket in the city, the federally funded vouchers are highly sought after. Under the program, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles pays up to 70% of a tenant’s rent, provided the tenant meets all eligibility requirements. All rental subsidies are paid directly to the landlord.

The window for applying however is short, and can only be done online. There are only 20,000 slots available, but according to the Los Angeles Times, as many as 600,000 applications are anticipated.

The local Section 8 voucher program is administered by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), which will begin accepting applications at 6 a.m. Oct. 16; the deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Oct. 29.

Section 8 currently supports more than 56,000 households in Los Angeles, and an estimated 18,600 Angelenos living in Section 8 housing are formerly homeless, said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement announcing the reopening of the application process. Nationally, about five million Americans use Section 8 each year.

Because there are so many applicants and so few slots, a lottery will be held to decide which applicants make it onto the Housing Authority’s waitlist, from which potential recipients are drawn when vouchers become available. According to housing officials, only about 2,400 vouchers are available each year, and those usually only become available when someone dies or income becomes higher than the program allows.

Making it on to the waitlist in no way guarantees the applicant will receive a voucher, and for those that do, the wait could be a decade or longer.

To be eligible, the applicant must be very low-income, earning no more than $36,000 for a family of two or $45,050 for a family of four. Three quarters of the vouchers that do become available, however, are likely to go to tenants classified as “extremely low-income,” meaning $21,650 for a family of two or $27,050 for a family of four.

Saying the program is underfunded, Garcetti has called on the federal government to “make bold new investments” to the Section 8 program.

“Everyone deserves to live in a place they can afford. And for tens of thousands of Angelenos, Section 8 can mean the difference between sleeping in safe homes at night and suffering in desperation on the street,” said Garcetti. “L.A. is making unprecedented investments in housing and services, because the homelessness crisis demands that we put every possible dollar to work. Washington should meet the urgency of this crisis and increase the number of people who can get help through Section 8.”

You can access the application by going to Applications can only be submitted online and are not available at HACLA locations, nor will those locations provide internet access.

During the two-week open application period, all 73 Los Angeles City Public Libraries will provide free internet access as well as assistance with setting up e-mail accounts and accessing the application, according to the Housing authority. A map of the libraries offering free internet access and assistance can be accessed by clicking here:




L.A.’s ‘Creative Economy’ Gets Boost From City

October 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti this week announced the start of a program aimed to support Los Angeles’ creative economy.

LA Original is a pilot program to spotlight and support the city’s creative economy and local manufacturers, Garcetti said. LA Original includes a logo, promotional campaign, and line of products from local makers with the program’s proceeds supporting creative entrepreneurs across the city.

LA Original Logo

LA Original Logo

“The creativity in Los Angeles is unrivaled anywhere else,” Garcetti said in connection with the start of L.A. Manufacturing Week.

“Our artists and manufacturers feed the spirits and better the lives of people all over the world. LA Original showcases that legacy, brings support to a new generation of entrepreneurs, and raises awareness of the extraordinary makers who fuel the city’s creative spirit.”

The LA Original logo can be used by local makers, artists, and manufacturers to indicate that a product was designed, produced or assembled in the Los Angeles area, Garcetti said. An initiative of the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, LA Original has engaged more than 20 companies and retailers that are making new creations for the LA Original line or merging existing products with the brand, according to Garcetti.

Products include T-shirts, bags, neckties, phone cases, glassware, skateboards, and jewelry.

Cha Cha CoversThe product line will be rolled out over the next few weeks.

“As an Angeleno, I have always been inspired by all of the different cultures in Los Angeles,” said Cisco Pinedo, founder of Cisco Brothers and Cisco Home.

“Everybody brings something to the table that is so different and that is what creates such a big explosion in creativity that we all benefit from. I think this program is brilliant. It was about time to highlight the rich culture of innovation, design and entrepreneurship that is in this city.”

Owner of Cha Cha Covers, Ana Guajardo, said she produces everything locally in Boyle Heights.

“…I take pride in the beautiful criss-cross of cultures in Los Angeles and understand the significance of supporting the local Angeleno economy,” Guajardo said.

During the pilot program, which will run through December, proceeds will support MADE by DWC, a social enterprise created by the Downtown Women’s Center, according to Garcetti.

MADE by DWC teaches creative and entrepreneurial job skills including sewing and candle making to women transitioning out of homelessness.

72andSunny, a Los Angeles-based marketing, advertising, and design firm, was the creative partner in the conception of the LA Original logo and promotional campaign, which includes a number of creative icons and institutions.

Among them are Kendrick Lamar, Danny Trejo, Dr. Woo, Shepard Fairey, Roy Choi, Frank Gehry, Compart*s, Sprinkles, the L.A. Dance Project, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“As a passionate member of (Los Angeles’) creative community, this was a pinch-me project for 72andSunny and for me personally, the mark we designed represents the expansive creative culture and possibility of Los Angeles,” said Kelly Schoeffel, director of strategy at 72andSunny.

“It’s an invitation to fill this city with your imagination, and your ideas.” The LA Original product line was developed in conjunction with CAA/Global Brand Group, and the products will be available for purchase at a pop-up shop at the newly redesigned Westfield Century City, opening Tuesday.

Products will also be available at the Library Store at the Los Angeles Public Library Central Library starting mid-October, and online through

Amazon Looking for Second Home: L.A. Will Make a Bid

September 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Amazon officials announced plans today to open a second headquarters in a large city where the company will employ up to 50,000 workers, and Los Angeles is one of the cities planning to bid on the project.

“I can confirm that we are planning to bid,” Alex Comisar, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s press secretary, told City News Service.

The company’s current headquarters is located in Seattle, where it employs more than 40,000 people. Amazon said it plans to invest $5 billion in the construction and operation of its second headquarters.

According to the company’s request for proposals, it wants the new headquarters to be located in a metropolitan area with more than one million people. The deadline to respond is Oct. 19, and the final selection is set to be made sometime in 2018.

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”

Amazon, a worldwide leader in e-commerce, estimates that its investments in Seattle between 2010 and 2016 added $38 billion to the city’s economy.

Resolution Seeks to Officially Declare Los Angeles a ‘City of Sanctuary’

September 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Two City Council members introduced a resolution today seeking to brand Los Angeles a “city of sanctuary” dedicated to “protecting the human rights of all our residents.”

The move by Council President Herb Wesson and Councilman Gil Cedillo follows their receipt of a report on Thursday that civil rights attorney Peter Schey submitted to the Immigrant Affairs, Civil Rights, and Equity Committee, which Cedillo chairs and which Wesson is a member of. The report included a series of recommendations for the city to undertake in response to recent immigration policies announced by President Donald Trump.

While there is no legal definition of a sanctuary city, it generally applies to municipalities that limit cooperation with federal authorities on immigration enforcement. Embracing the term has become a way for cities to openly defy Trump, who has threatened to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities.

“It’s a declaratory statement of our values, of our vision, of our commitments,” Cedillo told City News Service.

At the committee meeting Thursday, Cedillo said he intended to submit a sanctuary city motion, but what was submitted at the City Council meeting was a resolution. A motion generally changes an existing law or creates a new one, while a resolution is generally a public declaration that does not change or create any laws. Cedillo said he submitted a resolution because declaring the city a sanctuary does not require any change in laws.

It’s not certain when the resolution would come up for a vote.

Although Los Angeles has long limited its cooperation with the feds on immigration, it has not taken on the official label of sanctuary city, and it is unclear how much support the resolution will have from Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The mayor has resisted calling for Los Angeles to embrace the term because he says it is often used by those looking to harm cities that have friendly immigration policies.

“It is not a term that has meaning,” Garcetti said in an interview on radio station KNX Thursday. “I’m not going to buy into a frame that somebody else who’s attacking immigrants uses.”

Cedillo said he agreed with the mayor’s assessment but believed they could find common ground.

“We agree with the mayor. The mayor has been an extraordinary champion in this area, and has been absolutely responsive from the beginning, and I think we are in concert, and his points are well taken,” Cedillo said.

The Los Angeles Police Department has had a longstanding policy of not initiating contact with an individual based solely on his or her immigration status and does not give immigration agents access to its jails or inmates unless they have a federal warrant. Because of those policies, Los Angeles is often referred to as a sanctuary city, though it has never officially embraced the term as other cities have, including San Francisco and Santa Ana.

Schey, a civil rights attorney, argued in the report that Los Angeles has wide discretion in setting its own policies on immigration and that because none of its current laws are in violation of federal law, Trump’s “showboating about penalties against sanctuary cities has no basis in law and is primarily intended to dazzle his base and intimidate local officials.”

Schey also told the committee that embracing the term was an important symbolic move.

“People seem to have strong views on this name thing. My stance has always been that’s what’s important. Ultimately, yes, that sort of symbolic statement, ‘We are a city of sanctuary, we are a city of refuge,’ etc., I think it’s important. It sets a certain tone,” he said.

Cedillo said part of reason for introducing the resolution was in reaction to the Trump administration’s move Tuesday to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which has shielded immigrants who were brought to the country illegally when they were children from deportation.

“With the changed circumstance, with the announcement on Tuesday, it turned out that we had a scheduled immigration committee meeting, and it turned out that we had a report from our advocate, and it turned out we had a deeper understanding of what it is to be a city of sanctuary,” Cedillo said. “We are confident there will be no fiscal impact on the city, no adverse consequences on the city and we want to send that message to the (DACA recipients) who are here to continue to be engaged in the civic life of this city.”

The resolution cites the LAPD’s policy on immigrant enforcement, Trump’s DACA announcement, and the city’s history of adopting policies protecting all of its residents regardless of immigration status as some of the reasons for the resolution.

Schey’s report also recommended the city take steps to help immigrants in the country illegally and DACA recipients from being detained by federal officials by facilitating legal advice and representation for them. The report also recommended the city enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance, and decriminalize minor offenses likely to be committed by low-income residents.

Waiting Until 2028 for Olympic Games Comes With Added ‘Perks’

July 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles has struck a tentative deal with the International Olympic Committee to host the 2028 summer Games, the leaders of the city’s Olympic bid announced today.

“This is an historic day for Los Angeles, for the United States and for the Olympic and Paralympic Movements around the world. Today, we take a major step toward bringing the Games back to our city for the first time in a generation and begin a new chapter in Los Angeles’ timeless Olympic story,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Los Angeles originally bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics, competing with Paris. But the IOC recently approved a plan to name a host of both the 2024 and 2028 Games simultaneously, assuring that each city would be awarded an Olympics.

The only remaining question was which Games Los Angeles would receive.

Although the city’s bid committee — LA 2024 — has reached the agreement with the IOC for the 2028 Games, the Los Angeles City Council and U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors also must approve it. If that approval is given, the IOC, Los Angeles and Paris will work on a formal three-way agreement in advance of the IOC’s meeting in Lima, Peru, on Sept. 13, when the Games will officially be awarded.

Under the terms of the 2028 host city contract, the IOC would advance funds to a Los Angeles Organizing Committee due to the longer planning period and to fund youth sports in the years leading up to the Games. The IOC contribution would be $1.8 billion and has the potential to exceed $2 billion, according to LA 2024.
“This agreement with the IOC will allow us to seed a legacy of hope and opportunity that will lift up every community in Los Angeles — not in 11 years’ time, but starting now and continuing in the years leading up to the Games,” Garcetti said. “LA 2028 will kick-start our drive to make L.A. the healthiest city in America, by making youth sports more affordable and accessible than ever before.”

Garcetti, Council President Herb Wesson and LA 2024 bid chairman Casey Wasserman have scheduled a 5 p.m. news conference at the StubHub Center in Carson to discuss the Olympic bid. They will be joined by members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

“The city of Los Angeles is a proud and enthusiastic partner in this ‘win-win-win’ scenario,” Wesson said. “The opportunity to again host the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a golden occasion further strengthening Los Angeles — not just through bricks and mortar, but through new opportunities for our communities to watch, play and benefit from sport.”

After the IOC announced its intention to award both Games, either Paris or Los Angeles needed to agree to host the ‘28 Games if not awarded the ’24 Games, and the cities’ Olympic leaders started negotiating with the IOC after the announcement was made in June.

Since the idea of awarding two Games at once was first reported, it was widely expected that Los Angeles would end up hosting in ‘28 because its leaders expressed more openness to the idea, while Paris leaders were firm on ‘24 because they said their planned Olympic village may not be available in ‘28.

“The IOC welcomes this decision of the Los Angeles Olympic and Paralympic bid committee. They presented a strong and enthusiastic candidature that embraces the Olympic Agenda 2020 sustainability priorities by incorporating existing facilities and encouraging the engagement of more youth in the Olympic Movement,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

“Therefore, we are very happy that as part of this host city contract, we are able to expand the impact of city youth sports programming and encourage the healthy lifestyle of Angelenos for the next 11 years. We are very confident that we can reach a tripartite agreement under the leadership of the IOC with L.A. and Paris in August, creating a win-win-win situation for all three partners,” he said.

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.”

So Cal Leaders Decry San Bernardino School Shooting

April 10, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

Southland elected officials sent words of condolence today to victims of the shooting at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, with several of them condemning the violence as an incursion on what is supposed to be a safe place of learning.

“School campuses are sacred spaces where children should be free to learn, play and grow without threat of violence,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement released by his office. “Today’s shooting at North Park Elementary in San Bernardino is a reminder that deadly weapons can shatter that sense of security, mercilessly and without warning — leaving parents and educators struggling to address the questions, fears and anxieties that gun violence creates for our young people.”

City Council President Herb Wesson sent condolences via Twitter, writing, “Senseless violence like this is nothing less than a tragedy.”

Two adults — one of them a teacher — died in the shooting, and two children were critically wounded. Police said the shooting was an apparent murder-suicide, with a gunman walking on to the school campus, checking in at the office as a visitor and going to a classroom, where he opened fire at the teacher. The two children also suffered gunshot wounds, police said, but they were not believed to have been targeted by the gunman.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, said he was “heartbroken” by the shooting, noting that it was “even more tragic for (the) community as it comes on (the) heels of terror attack,” referencing the 2015 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Ontario, whose district stretches into Los Angeles County, commended the response of law enforcement to the scene, and echoed Garcetti’s comments about the need to keep schools safe.

“Schools are supposed to be safe havens, and tragedies like today’s are becoming far too commonplace in our society,” Torres said. “While we are still gathering the facts, I am determined to do what I can to support those impacted by today’s shooting and take any actions necessary to protect our
community and prevent these senseless acts of violence from ever happening again.”

Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte, added, “Guns do not belong anywhere near schools, at any grade level, and we must do all we can to ensure our classrooms are safe environments for learning and growth. There are still many unanswered questions from today’s tragedy, but we cannot just talk about how to prevent gun violence, we must act.”

Gov. Jerry Brown said he and his wife “send our thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by today’s tragic shooting.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said she was “heartbroken” over the shooting.

Next Page »

Copyright © 2018 Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews, Inc. ·