Los Angeles Councilmembers on long trip to look at trash

From the Los Angeles Times (via LA Observed)

Councilman Greig Smith said he and other city officials would travel to
Canada, Japan, Israel, France, Germany and Spain as part of a
fact-finding mission waged by the city’s Bureau of Sanitation. They
will also visit Bakersfield.

The purpose of the trip is to explore plans to convert garbage into energy.  They might want to look a little closer to home: Burbank has been doing this for several years already.

Also, Mayor Villaraigosa has led a delegation of about 20 city officials on a junket to Israel, for a look at airport security and to sign some ceremonial agreements.

Which leads me to two questions:

1) Are there any city officials who are actually presently in Los Angeles?

2) Since when did it become necessary to bring the city to experts, rather then bringing experts to the city?  Couldn’t a consultant on garbage-energy conversion and Israeli airport security be flown to the city at a much more minimal cost?

Reputed white supremacist judicial candidate from La Canada featured on Huffington Post

Given that Bill Johnson, a Los Angeles County judicial candidate, has run for Congress twice before, it isn’t surprising that the Huffington Post, national blog (and aspiring online newspaper), has picked up a story that has been floated in several local papers, including this one.

As mentioned in a story in our paper, Johnson, a Ron Paul fundraiser, is reputed to be the anonymous author behind a proposed constitutional amendment to limit American citizenship to white people of European descent.  The text of the amendment:

“No person shall be a citizen of the United States unless he is a
non-Hispanic white of the European race, in whom there is no
ascertainable trace of Negro blood, nor more than one-eighth Mongolian,
Asian, Asia Minor, Middle Eastern, Semitic, Near Eastern, American
Indian, Malay or other non-European or non-white blood, provided that
Hispanic whites, defined as anyone with an Hispanic ancestor, may be
citizens if, in addition to meeting the aforesaid ascertainable trace
and percentage tests, they are in appearance indistinguishable from
Americans whose ancestral home is in the British Isles or Northwestern
Europe. Only citizens shall have the right and privilege to reside
permanently in the United States.”

Howie Klein, the Huffington Post blogger, raises concerns that Johnson’s connections to dedicated Ron Paul activists could help bolster him in the June 3 election.  He may have a point: Johnson’s campaign website has meet-ups with Ron Paul groups to help him spray paint “Bill Johnson for Judge” banners.  I have seen two of them hanging on fences this week, one in West Covina, and one in Pasadena.

HBO’s “Recount”: Hindsight is 20/20

Watched HBO’s “Recount” tonight, the cable network’s retelling of the 2000 legal battle between Al Gore and George W. Bush for the presidency of the United States.

It was a roller-coaster ride that brought back a slew of memories — the start-and-stop recounts in Florida, the hanging chads, the recounting of the overseas military ballots, the purging of 20,000 voters from the rolls (most of them not convicted felons), the possibility of the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature deciding who would get the state’s 25 electoral votes if the popular vote could not be discerned by the December deadline, the state Supreme Court’s ordering of the recounting of statewide undervotes, only to be overruled by the federal Supreme Court at the 11th hour — it had all the makings of a great novel, and we all lived through it. It is a wonder why it took so long to tell the tale on film.
I remember feeling the same way as I believe the majority of us felt at the time. It had been more than a month since the election. The United States, the shining beacon of democracy for the world, had descended into a level of bickering over an election that was unbecoming of our status as the world’s first true democracy. We wanted to just get it over with. Who cared if Bush led by only 154 votes, or 537 votes, or 930 votes, depending on who was keeping tally. Even though there were tens of thousands of votes at play, and Bush’s initial 1,784 vote lead had been steadily dwindling the more votes were recounted, we just wanted it to be over already.
Now, with nearly eight years of hindsight, more than 4,000 of our troops and untold tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, the economy in the dumps, gas prices creeping past $4 a gallon and our standing in the world rivaling that of the Soviets in the late 1980s, it doesn’t seem such a bad idea to have waited a little longer to find out for certain who really won that election.

“Because I am Mexican, they think I have to sleep under a cactus….”

Taking a page from the Hillary Clinton playbook, Assembly member Fabian Nunez is blaming the perception of his lavish campaign spending on media bias. 

Nunez told the Sacramento Bee:

“Everyone’s done it like this,” Nez said of previous legislative
leaders. “The difference is there are some in politics who want to
judge me in a certain manner.

“Because of the fact I am Mexican, they think I have to sleep under a cactus and eat from taco stands.”

Funny how it is the most privileged in society who are the quickest to say they have been ill-treated because of their, gender, race, religion, etc. 

That is not to say that it is impossible that some bias does exist in the media- in Clinton’s case, for example, there were some very blatantly sexist statements made by the talking heads on TV.  But that doesn’t mean that sexism doomed the Clinton campaign.

In Nunez’s case, it just sounds like the old “well everyone else was doing it” excuse.  If Nunez believe he did nothing wrong (he didn’t break any laws, for example.  And he is correct, that most politicians in California do the same thing and don’t see any problem
with it)he should just stay on message and not act defensive.  It is all too easy to blame the media’s motives for coming after you.

Obama basically calls it

As has been expected for weeks based on unnamed campaign sources, Sen. Barack Obama has subtly declared that he is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency. From today’s New York Times:

“We have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by
the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic
nomination for president of the United States in America,” Mr. Obama
said, standing in front of a moonlit Capitol in Des Moines.

even as Mr. Obama moved closer to making history as the first black
presidential nominee, he stopped short of declaring victory in the
Democratic race, part of a calibrated effort in the remaining weeks of
the contest to avoid appearing disrespectful to Mrs. Clinton and
alienating her supporters. Instead, he offered her lavish praise.

The conventional wisdom is that Clinton will continue to claim she has a chance at the nomination until the end of the month, when a Democratic party committee decides whether to allow the delegates from Michigan and Florida to be seated at the convention. But considering those states were punished by the party itself for holding their primaries early without permission, and that Obama did not actively campaign there and was not even on the ballot in Michigan, those delegates are nearly assured to be forced to stay put and watch the August convention from their living room couches.

Once that decision is made Clinton will likely capitulate. But until then Obama will continue to proceed delicately, avoiding outright declarations of victory while wooing Clinton supporters behind the scenes.

That jibes with what USC professor Kareem Crayton told me on May 7:

Whatever support Obama will get from
Clinton superdelegates will not happen in a wholesale fashion, and will be timed
so as not to be embarrassing to the Clinton campaign.

I suspect there will be an orchestrated
transition in the next few weeks from a hard-fought primary to a
transition of support for the nominee.

Cities install red light cameras for revenue? *gasp*

The L.A. Times ran a well-meaning, but hopelessly naive story today on its suspicions that the city installed red light cameras not for public safety reasons but to make money.

Its evidence?  The fact that the lights are mainly catching people for making rolling right turns at red lights without coming to a full stop.

The evidence I would present if the cities I covered (or when they have) put in red light cameras is the fact that they openly have said that red light cameras would be a good source of revenue.

For example, Covina, which installed them last year, said it would help the city meets its funding goals.  Opponents of the city’s utility tax used the minimal revenue gain the city expected to get from the lights as a reason not to renew the tax.

West Covina, which is facing a budget deficit next year, has discussed the idea as a way to bring in some city funds.  They also brought up overnight parking restrictions as a way to bring in money- forcing people without driveways to essentially pay a tax on using tax-payer funded streets.

So maybe we should expect another Times story on the city’s brutal parking restrictions, once they discover that those are also *gasp* around to bring the city revenue. 

Margett’s sex offender law passes in Senate vote

This bill seems like kind of a no-brainer: it would stop teachers charged with felony sex offenses from keeping their credentials by pleading no-contest to a misdemeanor offense.

The bill arose shortly after a massive Associated Press investigation that showed that teachers across the nation were getting in trouble with the law and moving on to new schools without losing credentials. 

The only thing that gave me pause was that the bill also sets in the same rules for drug offenses… it seems like the demonstrable problem was with sex offenders, rather than drug offenders.  If school boards are not having problems with drug offenders (perhaps suspension and drug treatment can be effective) maybe it did not belong in the bill.  Still, it wouldn’t surprise me if the same sorts of problems are happening with drug convictions.

A similar bill authored by Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena, was passed recently also: it would automatically suspend credentials of teachers who had lost their credentials in another state.  Again, no-brainer. 

Two L.A. superdelegates catch Obama fever

Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Howard Berman both announced today they will both cast their votes for Sen. Obama when the superdelegates weigh in on the presidential candidate.  Both were previously uncommitted. 

Both their districts went for Sen. Clinton in February’s primary, but nation-wide delegates are starting to line up behind Obama.

According to CNN Obama now leads Clinton 291 to 274 in the superdelegate count.

New Assembly Speaker is setting her aim lower than Nunez

  Karen Bass said today in her first press conference as Speaker that she would not pursue big issues like global warming and health care.

That might be a good thing, given California’s massive deficit problems. Remember last year when massive amounts of time and government resources went down the drain as a hastily-constructed (though well-intentioned) health care bill from Assemblyman Fabian Nunez died in committee because nobody thought the state could afford it?

Of course, universal health care is a worthy goal, but with the long-term structure of California government funding at stake (are we going to massively cut spending, massively increase taxation, find a compromise, or continue to face deficits even in good revenue years?) it seems like pipe dream right now.

Bass said her priorities are fixing the state’s budget problems, and ensuring a secure revenue stream for foster care.  Since her term as Speaker will expire in 2010 because of term limits, accomplishing just those two things would be a decent achievement. 

Better to shoot low and accomplish than aim high and miss the target.