L.A. Drops Columbus for Indigenous People

August 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The City Council voted Wednesday to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day as an official Los Angeles holiday, siding with critics who said the explorer’s connection to brutality and slavery makes him unworthy of celebration.

In approving the switch, the council also rejected a late push by Councilman Joe Buscaino through an amending motion to have Indigenous Peoples Day take place on Aug. 9 and a second new holiday celebrating the diverse cultures of Los Angeles replace Columbus Day on the second Monday of October.

The idea of getting rid of Columbus Day drew opposition from many Italian-Americans who view the day as a celebration of their national heritage because of Columbus’ Italian lineage.

Buscaino, who is an Italian-American, last year called the proposal to replace Columbus Day “troubling” and divisive, but failed to convince enough council members to replace it with a diversity day.

“With or without Columbus, Italians will continue to celebrate their sacrifices and contributions to this great country and our great city,” Buscaino said after the vote.

Buscaino’s motion would have sent the naming of Indigenous Peoples Day on Aug. 9 and a new diversity day in October back to a committee and city staff for further examination, but it was rejected by a vote of 11-4. A subsequent vote to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day passed 14-1, with Buscaino opposed.

Branamir Kvartuc, Buscaino’s spokesman, had previously said the councilman’s proposed new holiday could be called Embrace L.A. Day, but that specific language was not in the amending motion. Buscaino argued for Aug. 9 because that is the day the United Nations recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day.

The council ultimately sided with council members Mitch O’Farrell and Mike Bonin, who both argued that the strong symbolism of directly replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day was too important to overlook.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who is a member of the Wyandotte Native American Tribe, introduced a motion in November 2015 instructing the Human Relations Commission, with the assistance of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Commission, to report back on the historical importance and cultural impact of establishing Indigenous Peoples Day.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who is a member of the Wyandotte Native American Tribe, introduced a motion in November 2015 instructing the Human Relations Commission, with the assistance of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Commission, to report back on the historical importance and cultural impact of establishing Indigenous Peoples Day.

“Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is a very small step in apologizing and in making amends,” Bonin said.

In June, the Elections, Intergovernmental Relations and Neighborhoods Committee voted 3-0 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. It also recommended that Oct. 12 be recognized as Italian American Heritage Day in the city, although it would not be a paid official holiday for city employees, which the council’s vote approved.

The council’s vote also directs the city administrative officer to provide a report on the process of implementing an additional city holiday that recognizes the contributions of all of the diverse cultures in the city, but does not name a specific date.

In 2009, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated the Columbus Day state holiday as part of a budget-cutting measure, but Los Angeles has continued to observe the holiday as one of 12 paid days off for city workers.

Observing a holiday like Columbus Day costs the city about $2 million in overtime and more than $9 million in “soft” costs from reduced productivity, according to a Human Relations Commission report, so creating a 13th holiday would affect the city’s budget.

“Instituting an additional paid holiday would be a fiscal challenge, given all other budget priorities facing the city,” the report said.

Kvartuc noted that the city did not have a paid holiday in August. After the vote, Buscaino said the holiday could also have replaced a floating holiday for city employees had it gone back to committee.

O’Farrell, who is a member of the Wyandotte Native American Tribe, introduced a motion in November 2015 instructing the Human Relations Commission, with the assistance of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Commission, to report back on the historical importance and cultural impact of establishing Indigenous Peoples Day.

The councilman said he introduced the resolution because of what he called “Columbus’ legacy of extreme violence, enslavement and brutality” and “the suffering, destruction of cultures, and subjugation of Los Angeles’ original indigenous people, who were here thousands of years before anyone else.”

Columbus Day has long been a divisive holiday due to some historians’ conclusion that he committed acts of brutality on the native people he encountered and was involved in slave trading.

The National Christopher Columbus Association called for the city to keep Columbus Day, insisting he was not responsible for the genocide committed by the Europeans who followed him.

“It is a huge error to blame Christopher Columbus the man for (genocide) at all,” Patrick Korten, a board member of the National Christopher Columbus Association, told City News Service. “He bore no responsibility for it and as a matter of fact, if you do the slightest little bit of history on the man and read his diaries, and what was said about him following the years of the discovery, it is clear that Columbus personally had great affection for the indigenous people he encountered and went out of his way to order his men not to abuse them in any fashion.”

O’Farrell’s original motion called for creating Indigenous Peoples Day but did not specifically direct it to replace Columbus Day. A subsequent report from the Human Relations Commission made the recommendation to replace Columbus Day.

The vote has Los Angeles joining such cities as Seattle, Minneapolis, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, along with five states, in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Columbus Day still is a federal holiday.

LA Council Approves Sale of ‘Ultracompact” Weapons

August 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 Tuesday to undo a longtime ban on the sale of so called “ultracompact” handguns, bowing to legal pressure from the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle & Pistol Association.

The ban was enacted in 2001 under a motion authored by then-City Councilman Mike Feuer, who is now the city attorney. Feuer and other gun control advocates argued at the time that the smaller weapons, or “pocket rockets,” posed a risk to public safety because they would be easier for criminals to conceal.

The ban prevents the sale within city limits of firearms with a length less that 6.75 inches or a height less than 4.5 inches.

The NRA and California Rifle & Pistol Association have long been opposed to the ban, and last year wrote a letter to Feuer threatening legal action if it was not overturned, arguing that state law allowed the sale of some of the weapons and preempted the local ordinance.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for Feuer, noted that the state law changed after the ban was enacted and that other cities and counties have already undone similar ordinances.

“The other municipalities like L.A. County and West Hollywood and San Francisco and Sacramento also have repealed this ordinance,” Wilcox told City News Service.

Wilcox also said that no person has ever been prosecuted for violating the ordinance.

Rewards Approved for Information in Cypress Park and El Sereno Killings

August 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council approved a $50,000 reward in connection with the New Year’s Day fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Christian Nino in Cypress Park, and the killing last year of     Victor Duenas, 25, who was gunned down on his front porch in El Sereno.

Nino, 22, died after being stabbed once during a fight that was reported shortly after 2 am on Jan. 1 in the 2600 block of Jefferies Avenue, according to the LAPD. The suspects, described as male Latinos between 18- to 20-years of age, were seen running north on Jeffries and then eastbound on Avenue 28, police said.

Detectives working on the case have not been able to identify a suspect or suspects in the killing.

Duenas was standing on his porch around 7:35 p.m. Dec. 7 when an unidentified assailant walked up and opened fire, striking him in the back as he fled into his living room, according to the motion calling for the reward.

The two $50k rewards are for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for this death. Anyone with information regarding Nino’s killing, should contact Detectives Martinez or Lenchuk, at Northeast Homicide, at (323) 561-3321. Person(s) with information in Duenas’ shooting death, are asked to call LAPD Hollenbeck detectives at (323) 342-8960. Anonymous tipsters can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

Naming of Freeway in Eagle Rock for Obama Moves Ahead

July 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A resolution to name a segment of the Ventura (134) Freeway near Occidental College after Barack Obama, who attended the Eagle Rock school from 1979 to 1981, has moved another step forward, a state senator said Wednesday.

The Assembly Transportation Committee voted 11-3 on Monday to rename the stretch of the Ventura Freeway between the Glendale (2) and Foothill (210) freeways the President Barack H. Obama Freeway, according to Sen. Anthony J. Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge.

The legislation, which next goes before the full Assembly, has already passed the state Senate.

Just-seated Rep. Jimmy Gomez was a principal co-author of the resolution. His former Assembly district includes Eagle Rock.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted in June to rename a 3 1/2-mile stretch of Rodeo Road through southwest Los Angeles as Obama Boulevard in honor of the 44th president.

Cedillo Wins Big In Council Race

May 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Councilman Gil Cedillo was celebrating a commanding re-election victory Wednesday over an opponent whose campaign fizzled amid a wave of questionable internet posts condemned by critics as derogatory and racially insensitive.

Cedillo, who narrowly missed being re-elected during the March primary, crushed challenger Joe Bray-Ali in Tuesday’s runoff, completing the downfall of a once-hopeful challenger.

Bray-Ali turned heads when he forced Cedillo into the runoff because he has never held elective office, and no incumbent has been beaten in a City Council election since 2003.

Unofficial results posted Wednesday on the Los Angeles City Clerk website has Cedillo with a commanding lead, 79.5 percent to Bray-Ali’s 29.4 percent.

The 1st Council District includes Chinatown, Highland Park, Westlake and other northeast Los Angeles neighborhoods.

A billboard for urging the public to vote for Councilman Gil Cedillo is found next to the campaign office of his challenger Joe Bray-Ali. (Photo by Diana Martinez)

A billboard for urging the public to vote for Councilman Gil Cedillo is found next to the campaign office of his challenger Joe Bray-Ali. (Photo by Diana Martinez)

Bray-Ali’s post primary momentum took a major hit in late April when a series of racist and derogatory statements he had made online came to light, causing him to lose a number of key endorsements, despite his attempts to explain away the comments as having been taken out of context.

Claiming victory early Tuesday night in front of a packed room of supporters gathered at the Tree House Lounge in Chinatown, Cedillo said voters in the 1st District “…chose experience, they chose an incredible record.” He said voters selected the candidate “who wants to bring people together.”

The incumbent councilman pledged to continue working closely with the community on making progress in Council District 1.

Celebrating with Cedillo was a who’s who of progressive current and former elected officials, business interests, labor groups, and immigrant rights and community activists.

Cedillo had a long list of endorsements, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, eight City Council members, Gov. Jerry Brown and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California. He also had the support of the powerful, 600,000 member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which through a committee spent $300,000 on the incumbent’s campaign, on top of the over $500,000 Cedillo’s campaign raised from other sources.

Cedillo closed out his comments Tuesday by thanking supporters, telling them, “I know what you’ve done, I know how hard your worked, I know your prayers, I know your commitments, I know your positive thoughts, I know all that you’ve done to get us to this point, and for that I say thank you and God bless …”

Information from City News Service used in this report.

It’s Down to ‘D Day’ in CD1 Race

May 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In less than a week, voters in Los Angeles’s first district will decide who will represent them in the city council for the next five years.

Next Tuesday is “D Day,” closing out what had been a rough and tumble, volatile campaign between a longtime legislator, incumbent Gil Cedillo and campaign novice and bike-lane advocate, Joe Bray-Ali.

Cedillo, who was elected in 2013, was forced into the May 16 runoff when he fell just short of the required 50 percent to win the race outright in the March 7 primary, finishing with 49.34 percent to Bray-Ali’s 37.97 percent.

For the next month, Bray-Ali appeared to be gaining ground on the incumbent, receiving some high profile endorsements and tapping into voters who felt Cedillo and his staff had not been responsive to the district’s needs.

Cedillo’s campaign looked to turn things around with more events and handshaking, and more aggressively reaching out to voters to let them know what he had being doing to improve public safety and cleanliness in the district, as well as infrastructure repairs and traffic safety enhancements.

Two weeks ago, Cedillo’s campaign got a major boost when Bray-Ali came under fire from LGBT groups, civil rights organizations and numerous elected city officials for a series of racist and derogatory statements he made online, some as recently as one year ago.

He lost key endorsements over comments he made online in which he used the N-word, called gender reassignment surgery a “shameless excess,” used the word “retard” and made other comments which offended leaders in the LGBT and civil rights communities.

Bray-Ali did further injury to his campaign by posting other damaging information about himself, on his Facebook page, in which he admitted to cheating on his wife for years, owing $48,000 in back taxes and committing vandalism.

According to Bray-Ali, he wanted to put the information out before it could be used by the Cedillo campaign to “smear” him.

The revelations led to calls for him to withdraw, but Bray-Ali had pledged to stay in the race until the finish.

Bray-Ali has continued to make campaign appearances and knock on doors in an effort to sway voters in his direction. Whether it’s enough to overcome the controversies surrounding him remains to been seen.

Cedillo, meanwhile, is not taking anything for granted in the wake of Bray-Ali’s seeming downfall. He and his campaign have stepped up efforts to engage voters across the district.

(EGP photo archive)

(EGP photo archive)

Councilman Gil Cedillo, top, will go up against challenger Joe Bray-Ali,bottom, in the L.A. City Council District 1 runoff May 16. (Joe Bray-Ali For City Council District 1)

Councilman Gil Cedillo, top, will go up against challenger Joe Bray-Ali,bottom, in the L.A. City Council District 1 runoff May 16. (Joe Bray-Ali For City Council District 1)


Thirty years ago, a landmark court decision on redistricting created what is now the city of Los Angeles’s first council district, that runs from Lincoln Heights to Highland Park, through downtown over to Koreatown, and Westlake.

MAOF, the Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund, at the time argued in court that Los Angeles leaders had for decades engaged in gerrymandering, drawing district boundary lines that marginalized Latino representation in the voting process. MAOF argued that including the San Fernando Valley in the district had resulted in Latinos being able to potentially only elect one Latino to the city council, and that was in what is now Council District 14.

The courts agreed, and in 1987, the city was forced to reconfigure the district, removing the San Fernando Valley and concentrating CD-1 in northeast, downtown and an area just west of the civic center, thereby creating a second majority-Latino council district.

The district had been represented by a Latino ever since, but according to Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Education Project, that could change if longtime voters fail to get out and vote to reelect Council Gil Cedillo over his challenger in the race, Joe Bray-Ali.

His failure to win the primary outright caught Cedillo’s campaign and many eastside leaders by surprise, according to Gonzalez, who in analysis of the campaign released in April noted that it may not have been an “anti-incumbent” trend that forced Cedillo into a runoff, but “the changing demographics and gentrification of the District.”

“CD1 (like CD14 and CD13) is rapidly changing as youthful hipsters/millennials colonize the eastside together with developers looking for redevelopment opportunities,” wrote Gonzalez. “The elderly Chican@ homeowner class is beginning to exit the stage either through death or relocation to greener pastures (i.e. suburbs),” thus crating “unforeseen challenges for Cedillo.”

Based on that analysis, turn out remains a critical issue for both campaigns.

But according to Gonzalez, the odds favor Cedillo, because “high propensity voters in CD1 tend to be older, Latin@ and white homeowners that typically favor incumbents in low turnout races.

“Add to that Cedillo’s unique ability to attract down-scale Mexican and Salvadoran naturalized voters grateful for his generation-long advocacy for immigrants,” says Gonzalez, and it appears Cedillo has a “winning coalition” that could spur him onto victory, despite Bray-A1i’s appeal as “something new” to voters willing to overlook his many transgressions.

Los Angeles City Council Introduces Campaign Finance Reform

January 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Four Los Angeles City Council members Tuesday introduced a motion on campaign finance reform that proposes banning developer contributions to city elected officials and candidates.

The move comes about two months after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office opened a review of campaign contributions alleged to be linked to developer Samuel Leung’s $72 million apartment complex in Harbor Gateway.

“As elected officials, we depend on the people who elected us to trust that we’ll do the right thing for our communities. But, when it comes to campaign finance, the system we have in place today is failing us all,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who introduced the motion with fellow councilmembers David Ryu, Joe Buscaino and Paul Koretz.

“The reform ideas we’re proposing are aimed at upending this by getting developer money out of City Hall and creating a more thoughtful, transparent and fair atmosphere,” Krekorian said.

The City Council commonly grants special permission, or “spot zoning,” to developers that want to construct a building outside of an area’s zoning rules, and eyebrows are often raised when those developers and their affiliates have also donated generously to the council or other elected officials.

One example was a recently proposed building near the Beverly Center by developer Rick Caruso that would be 240 feet high, well above the 45-foot limit under zoning guidelines for the neighborhood.

A Los Angeles Times investigation found that Caruso and his affiliates had contributed more than $476,000 to all but one of the city’s 17 elected officials or their causes over the last five years.

The Caruso development plan drew condemnation from the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association, and within days of the article’s publication, Koretz pulled his support for the project.

Donors identified in a Times investigation as having ties to Leung gave more than $600,000 to the city’s elected officials or independent committees associated with them.

Many of the donors were working-class residents, according to The Times. Some denied having made any contributions, and at least one woman said she had been reimbursed, which raised red flags about potential campaign finance law violations.

Leung told The Times he did not reimburse any campaign contributions.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council supported moving the project forward though planning commission officials were opposed and it requiring a change in zoning rules for the neighborhood.

When asked for comment on the newly introduced motion, a mayoral spokesman told City News Service that Garcetti “looks forward to reviewing any proposals.”

The motion would ban contributions to city elected officials and candidates for city office from developers and their principals with development projects currently or recently before the city.

A second related motion introduced by Krekorian, Ryu and Buscaino and seconded by Koretz would increase the matching fund rates from the current 2:1 match in primary elections and 4:1 match in general elections to 6:1 in both primary elections and general elections for all candidates who qualify for matching funds.

The matching fund changes are aimed at empowering small donors, according to a statement from the council members. When New York City restricted contributions from some non-individual entities, its share of campaign contributions to candidates by individuals rose from 61 percent in 1997 to 92 percent in 2013, they said.

“The best way to restore trust in government is to avoid even the appearance of a conflict,” Ryu said. “By introducing sweeping reforms, we will work to restore Angelenos’ faith in the city’s ability to fairly review and approve major development projects. We need a campaign finance system that

limits the influence of big-pocketed developers, and instead empowers thousands

of small donors to have their voices heard.”

The motions would also seek to define “developer” and cast a wide net while doing so; require campaign committees to provide additional reporting on non-individual entity contributors, including a category that denotes contributions derived from developers and their principals; require a signed

affidavit affirming, under penalty of perjury, that the contributions are being made by the contributor, who is not going to be reimbursed; and requests a report on the costs and feasibility of increasing the size of enforcement staff at the Ethics Commission, which oversees city campaign money.

The issue of developers’ influence on City Hall is the focus of Measure S, which will be on the March 7 primary election ballot.

Measure S would halt any major projects for two years that require spot zoning and call on the City Council to draw up new general plan clearly examining zoning ordinances during that time.

Opponents argue the measure would severely impact the local economy, erase thousands of jobs and restrict the supply of housing in the city.

Jill Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Preserve L.A., which is supporting Measure S, said the motions are “a quarter of a loaf, and Measure S on the March ballot provides the full, fantastic, healthy, great tasting loaf.”

A representative with the Coalition to Protect L.A. Neighborhoods and Jobs, which is opposed to Measure S, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

L.A. Approves DWP Rate Increases

March 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday tentatively approved hikes to electricity and water rates for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers.

The council voted 12-2 to concur with the LADWP board to adopt the water and electricity rate increases, which are to be spread out over the next five years.

Because the decision was not unanimous — Councilmen Mitch Englander and Gil Cedillo cast the dissenting votes — the rate proposals will return for a second vote. Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson was not present for the votes.

Under the water rate plan, the average customer will see a 4.76 percent annual increase, amounting to an additional $3 per month. A monthly bill of $57.79 for the typical residential water user would increase to an average rate of $72.90 at the end of the five-year period, according to an example in a staff report.

With the electricity rate increases, the typical single-family household in Los Angeles could see monthly electricity bills go up a total of $12 over five years.

The council only has the ability to affirm or deny the rate hike plans, which were previously approved by the LADWP board comprised of members appointed by the mayor.

The City Council also approved a set of recommendations aimed at helping LADWP to ensure the projected additional revenue will go toward projects and activity that improve or maintain the efficiency and reliability of water and power service.

Councilman Felipe Fuentes, who chairs the Energy and Environment Committee, said Wednesday he has “reservations” about the electricity rate hike plan, but feels “we have to move forward.”

“The consequences of not doing something really outweigh the impacts of what’s being proposed,” he said.

Utility officials say the rate increases are necessary to upgrade aging water pipes, make energy use more reliable and meet environmental mandates, though some in the city have noted that the hikes will not be nearly enough.

“These rate adjustments are frankly minimal” and are aimed at fulfilling environmental, legal and financial obligations, LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards said.

But without taking steps to reorganize the utility to rein in bureaucratic and other types of inefficiencies, Edwards said she is “not willing to ask our customers owners for more” at this time.

Edwards’ statements come as city leaders are weighing a November ballot initiative to change the governance structure of the LADWP, including bringing in full-time, paid members to the utility’s board.

The rate hike plans have key support from Mayor Eric Garcetti, environmental groups, neighborhood council leaders and business groups such as the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Noting that he represents some of the poorest areas in the city, Cedillo said he could not vote for another rate increase while the city is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis.

“As Chair of Housing I understand tenants are rent burdened enough, with at least half of all households spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing, with significant numbers paying more than 50% of their income for housing costs,” Cedillo said.

More than 2,000 letters protesting the rate increase were submitted, according to the city clerk, but they were not enough to constitute a majority opposition to the rate hikes.

The relative ease in preliminarily adopting the increases Wednesday marks a departure from the battle that occurred in 2010 when the LADWP last proposed a major increase to rates.

Councilman Paul Koretz noted that the support for the rate increases is “actually pretty remarkable.”

“We wound up with quite a group of supporters of every stripe, including many that are usually very cranky about this kind of thing,” he said.

California Needs to Hike Funding for Prop 47 Services, Says L.A. City Council

March 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council backed a resolution Wednesday urging Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers to increase the amount of funding proposed for drug treatment, mental health, re-entry and other services promised under Proposition 47.

The measure, approved by voters in 2014, reduced six categories of non-violent felonies to misdemeanors and calls for using savings from locking up fewer inmates on preventative and rehabilitation services.

The funds would go toward programs intended to help former inmates re-enter society, reduce the rate of individuals returning to prison and steer youth away from criminal activity. A portion of the funds was also allocated to services for the victims of crimes.

However, a disagreement has arisen over the amount of those savings, with Brown estimating costs to be cut by $29.3 million as part of his January budget proposal, while others say that figure should be between $100 million to $200 million.

The higher amount is based on the state Legislative Analyst’s Office’s projections when the ballot initiative was written, and more recently when the office released an updated calculation in February.

The City Council, siding with the higher savings figures, approved a resolution by Councilmen Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Joe Buscaino that calls on Brown to reconsider his initial funding proposal.

Before joining the City Council in 2015, Harris-Dawson was president of Community Coalition, a South Los Angeles advocacy group that actively pushed for passage of Proposition 47 as part of a statewide alliance called California Calls.

Harris-Dawson said he believes the state’s savings from keeping fewer people locked up in its prisons should be “in the neighborhood of a $130 million estimate.”

Proposition 47 helped to reduce the prison population, which had grown so large that a judge had threatened to assume control over state prisons, but it is also important to ensure people do not return from prison or going there in the first place, according to Harris-Dawson.

“You can save a little money here and go on the cheap, but those people are not going to go away if they do not get the services and they are not able to gain re-entrance to the community,” Harris-Dawson said.

“Eventually you’re going to end up paying the price, and that price is lives, all too often.”
Karren Lane, vice president of policy with Community Coalition, said their group and other organizations are asking that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also approve a similar resolution.

“We’re encouraged our local leaders are stepping up to the plate to actually put pressure on the state to ensure that there’s enough resources in local neighborhoods and communities for prevention and treatment services,” Lane said.

Lane said Brown’s figure, based on calculations by the Department of Finance, fails to account for savings from keeping fewer people in contract prisons, such as those located out of state.

Under Proposition 47, the state had a year to calculate how much the state would save from releasing inmates and locking up fewer people. The first pot of funding is scheduled to be released in July and divvied up among local organizations and agencies that offer such services.

Lane said there is a statewide push for Brown and other state officials to increase the funding proposal in the May revise of the budget and ultimately in June, when the spending plan is expected to be finalized.

Updated 3/4/16 at 11:05 a.m.: Headline updated to reflect viewpoint of L.A. City Council.

Los Angeles City Council Delays Action on Uber Pick Ups at LAX

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The City Council temporarily put the brakes Wednesday on a plan to allow ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers from LAX so the city can further scrutinize passenger safety, disability access and other issues.

The council voted 11-2 to assert authority over an Airport Commission decision last month to allow ride-hailing companies to make pick-ups alongside taxis, shuttle vans and other transportation services at Los Angeles International Airport, which would become the largest airport in the country to permit such operations.

The move to halt the plan was spearheaded by Councilman Paul Krekorian and backed by five council colleagues who claimed “significant questions remain” as to “the propriety of mandating background checks, clean fleet requirements, non-discrimination and equality of access,” among other issues.

Council members Mike Bonin, whose district includes the airport, and David Ryu voted against the action.

The city’s Transportation, Commerce and Technology Committee will discuss the issue Aug. 18 before the matter returns to the full council.

Krekorian said the Airport Commission “wholly ignored” concerns he raised along with fellow Councilman Paul Koretz about whether ride-hailing companies are adequately regulated to ensure the safety of passengers.

Krekorian and Koretz sent a joint letter to the commission last month saying they would not support an agreement that lacked certain safety regulations that is “substantially similar” to one imposed on taxi companies, including provisions addressing disability access, insurance, environmental requirements and other issues.

Bonin said he supports the Airport Commission’s agreement, saying it contains requirements for “background check information” and institutes “very smart and innovative protections for neighborhoods around the airport.”

“I think there’s a lot of smart stuff here. I think as we delve into it, the rest of you will see a lot of that,” he said. “I look forward to having a robust discussion, but I will be voting no today.”

Uber drivers clad in blue and pink-shirted Lyft drivers filled the council chamber to speak against the action, while a contingent of taxi drivers — many of whom have complained ride-hailing companies skirt city regulations and have an unfair competitive advantage — also made a showing, though only a few spoke publicly on the issue.

Ride-hailing drivers said pick-ups at LAX are among the top requests made by passengers, who they say enjoy the low cost, payment methods and the ability to book trips on their phones.

Many said passengers often arrange to be picked up at a location near LAX, since ride-hailing companies are not currently allowed to pick up passengers directly from the airport.

“It’s kind of like, everybody wants a cheeseburger from McDonald’s — everybody wants it. It’s just something that needs to happen. I think a lot of people like the convenience of it,” Lyft driver Brandon Bailey told City News Service.

Bailey said Lyft does background checks that flag a driver’s criminal history, and the company operates a mentorship program to ensure the quality of drivers.

Despite the council’s action Wednesday, Uber spokesman Michael Amodeo said the company is hoping to see ride-hailing services incorporated at LAX by the end of summer.

“Riders and driver-partners across Los Angeles have voiced their strong support for more safe, affordable transportation options like uberX at LAX,” Amodeo said.

Lyft also issued a statement calling on the council “to move quickly and make options like Lyft available for Los Angeles travelers.”

Koretz said that no matter what he feels about ride-hailing companies, “they are going to wind up at the airport,” but he noted that the Airport Commission-adopted agreement is a rare opportunity for city leaders to consider stronger regulations for such companies.

The city is otherwise powerless to improve upon regulation adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission, which has jurisdiction on the companies.

The CPUC “put in the most minuscule level of regulations and prevented cities from going further for reasons that are not apparent to me,” according to Koretz.

Koretz’s position received a boost Wednesday, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that at least four men who received citations from Airport Police while driving for Uber have criminal convictions that would bar them from operating a taxi in Los Angeles.

The drivers were convicted of child exploitation, identity theft, manslaughter and driving under the influence, according to court records cited by The Times.

Ride-hailing companies are allowed to drop people off at LAX, but only transportation companies with permits can legally make pickups.

To obtain a permit under the Airport Commission-approved agreement, ride-hailing companies would need to have an active permit from the California Public Utilities Commission, sufficient insurance coverage, pay a $4-per-trip fee and a monthly licensing fee and follow other requirements.

Garcetti announced in his State of the City speech in April that he intended to allow ride-hailing companies to pick up passengers at LAX. The ride-hailing agreement approved by the Airport Commission is “part of my agenda to make getting around L.A. easier, faster and more affordable,” Garcetti said after the panel’s vote.

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