Tag Archives: Los Angeles

SF/LA Look towards $15 Minimum Wage

California Cities look to follow Seattle’s lead

by Brian Leubitz

San Francisco voters will have a chance to vote on a $15 minimum wage proposal this November in a gradually increasing wage compromise announced last month:

The mayor, city supervisors and business and labor leaders came together on the compromise – even the Chamber of Commerce was on hand – but service industry representatives warned the plan would be hard on restaurants and other hospitality-related businesses.

The compromise announced at City Hall would increase the city’s current hourly base pay, $10.74, to $12.25 next May 1, then to $13 in July 2016 and $1 each subsequent year until it reaches $15 in 2018. That would bring the annual pay for a full-time minimum-wage worker to $31,000. (SF Chronicle)

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, unions are working to get a requirement of a $15 minimum wage for city contractors:

Currently, Los Angeles has a living wage ordinance that requires that city contractors pay at least $12.28 per hour without health benefits, or slightly less with health benefits, according to its Bureau of Contract Administration website.

The Coalition of LA City Unions, which includes unions representing more than half of city workers, wants to raise that minimum to $15, Chairwoman Cheryl Parisi said Tuesday. It also wants to set the same bar for city employees.(LA Times)

Now, both of these proposals are not nearly as dramatic as some in the social justice movement would like. There is concern on the lower end of the labor market that some employees could be squeezed out. However, the data on these questions is very mixed, and in fact shows no statistical proof that minimum wage. As you can see from the chart to the right, all of the studies basically say that there will be very little economic impact. It may confound many of the free-market people, but data is data.

Seattle is facing its own hurdles in implementing the $15 minimum wage, with recent news that some business interests have filed signatures to put the measure to a referendum.

Rentseekers of Los Angeles

In the latest chapter of the “Rentseekers” of Big Energy stifling growth in the disruptive rooftop solar industry, consider for a moment the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), which is trying to change the rules on rooftop solar customers in the middle of the game.

Since 2009, thousands of LADWP’s customers have signed lease agreements with third-party providers and had systems installed. These contracts were approved by DWP. Now, LADWP is trying to force hundreds of the city’s most recent solar customers to re-sign their contracts, attempting to force solar companies to insert amended language even though the utility acknowledges they had approved the contracts on no less than three separate occasions.

On precisely none of those occasions did their reviewers catch what they suddenly perceive to be language that may in fact violate their own standards for contract language.

By slowing the progress of solar energy and creating such a difficult consumer and business experience, LADWP is acting in direct contrast to the city’s goals for solar growth. Regardless, without re-signed contracts, LADWP says it will not allow these customers to interconnect their solar systems to the grid. This prevents them from accessing the benefits of local, clean power, and from lowering their electricity bills.  

The re-signing process has been extremely confusing and off-putting, especially for those who already have systems built on their rooftops. It, once again, puts the rooftop solar industry – a major source of job growth – at odds with the municipal utility. (See previous criticisms of LADWP, their delays, and inefficiencies here.)

Solar companies and constituents are in the process of contacting L.A. council offices, so there is hope that a policy fix is be on the way. Moreover, Mayor Garcetti has made his plans for increased distributed generation in L.A. clear. After all, the City did approve the original contracts that solar companies have used.

Meanwhile, interconnection is on hold for hundreds of families. Consumers are trying to do the right thing, and solar companies and customers have complied throughout the process, yet the utility is forcing everyone to jump through hoops despite approving the original course.

Let’s hope L.A. moves forward and changes the course.  

LA Times will not be sold to the Koch Brothers

Oil magnates think Tribune newspaper business wasn’t economically viable

by Brian Leubitz

In the end, their desire to make a buck overcame their desire to control the press in LA, Chicago and other cities.

Billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch have scrapped their efforts to buy the Los Angeles Times and other Tribune Co. newspapers, a Koch Industries spokeswoman said.

*** **** ***

The Kochs’ decision not to pursue the newspapers was first reported by the Daily Caller, a news website founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, former advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The website, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the proceedings, said the Kochs conducted due diligence and determined that the newspapers were “not economically viable.” They have not been interested in buying the newspapers for “a couple months,” the website reported. (LA Times)

Well, I suppose they could have let the cat drift out of the bag sooner, but perhaps they enjoyed seeing progressive organizations get riled up on the matter. Or not.

Groups like the Courage Campaign and the California Labor Federation had been preemptively fighting any sale of the Times to the Koch brothers since word leaked out months ago. The Koch Brothers funding of anti-labor organizations worried many progressives that the sale would skew the editorial direction of the paper far to the right. Needless to say, many excited press releases went out today. Here is the statement from the Labor Federation:

“Today’s news that the Koch Brothers won’t buy the LA Times and others Tribune Co. newspapers is a major victory for proponents of a free and democratic press.

“For months, the California Labor Federation, media watchdogs and progressive groups have raised serious concerns about the effect of handing control of major news outlets over to the Kochs. The Kochs’ interest in the Tribune Co. was no doubt fueled by a desire to further their anti-worker, anti-environment agenda by using those media outlets as a megaphone for their extreme ideas.

“Journalistic integrity is vital to free society. The power of a free press is essential to providing the checks and balances needed to protect democracy. We’re pleased that the Tribune Co. won’t fall under the control of the Kochs, and we remain vigilant in our efforts to protect journalistic institutions from being corrupted by those who want to use them to serve their own agendas.”

Our Community Diversity Close Up

 photo Screen20Shot202013-08-1420at2010555120AM____zps287b15d2.pngColor coded maps show our diversity, how we cluster by race

by Brian Leubitz

Stephen Colbert talks about how he no longer sees race, but a new set of maps indicate that perhaps he isn’t in the majority.  That being said, new racial dot maps from Virginia’s Cooper Center show our communities diversity and our continued racial segregation. The full map detail website is apparently getting slammed right now, but I’ve grabbed a few of the images.

Below are the maps for the Bay Area and the LA Area. You won’t be surprised to see that both communities are a vibrant mix of colors, but we still clearly cluster together on race. If you are able to get through to the full map detail website, you can zoom in such that every dot represents a single person. It really is a beautiful expression of our diversity. H/t to the Atlantic.

You can click on these maps for a bigger view.

 photo BayArea_zps1e24cc90.jpg  LA Dot Map photo LA_dot_map_zpsb80ae563.jpg

LA Councilmwoman Files Ethic Complaint Against Wendy Greuel, Calls Conduct “Illegal”

Former LA Councilwoman Ruth Galanter filed a formal ethics complaint today against LA City Controller and Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, calling the candidate’s reported use of city resources for her campaign “illegal” and an “insult to voters”.

Citing revelations by the Los Cerritos Community News that they had obtained 130 pages of emails showing the Controller using her official city email address to repeatedly communicate with campaign operatives during normal business hours, Galanter filed a complaint with the LA City Ethics Commission saying the number and frequency of the emails showed a clear pattern of deliberate and illegal use of resources.

“Ms. Greuel’s misuse of public resources is an insult to the voters and taxpayers of Los Angeles made even more egregious by the fact that we taxpayers are paying her approximately $200,000 a year, plus a free car and cellphone, to prevent just such misuse”, Galanter said.

Yesterday, the Los Cerritos Community News released all 130 pages they obtained through a FOIA request. Greuel’s office took 90 days to respond to the request, far longer than the 24 days dictated by law, and provided far fewer than the “tens of thousands of documents” Greuel’s office initially claimed were covered in LCCN’s request.

Eric Garcetti’s campaign has yet to respond to the controversy. But Rick Jacobs, founder of a political action committee to support Garcetti, called on a special investigator to release alldocuments from Greuel’s office pertaining to her mayoral campaign. 

“Wendy Greuel wants the voter’s trust to become Mayor of our city, but she’s violated that trust repeatedly by spending taxpayer’s dollars on her campaign,” said Jacobs.

Emails Show Controller Wendy Greuel Campaigning Out Of LA City Hall Offices

LA City Controller Wendy Greuel’s campaign for mayor has come under scrutiny after a Cerritos newspaper published emails showing the Controller soliciting campaign contributions, discussing endorsements and communicating with campaign staff during office hours using her official lacity.org email address, in apparent violation of Los Angeles’ Ethics laws.

In January,  the Los Cerritos Community News sent a public records request to Greuel’s office asking for any emails between Greuel’s office and campaign managers John Shallman and Rose Kapolczynski, as well as emails from  Brian D’Arcy, the head of IBEW Local 18, whose SuperPAC, Working Californians, has spent millions in support of Greuel’s mayoral campaign.

According to LCCN, Greuel’s office initially balked at the records request saying it “was voluminous and encompasses tens of thousands of pages”, but relented after the newspaper sent a letter on April 12th threatening to file a lawsuit.

In the end, LCCN received only 130 pages of material, including dozens of emails sent to and from various campaign staff and contributors using Greuel’s official governmental email address during normal business hours.

Campaign consultants I talked with said such activity violates section 49.5.5b of the LA Municipal Code which states:

“No City official or employee of an agency shall engage in campaign-related activities, such as fundraising, the development of electronic or written materials, or research, for a campaign for any elective office or ballot measure

  1. during the hours for which he or she is receiving pay to engage in City

    business or 
  2. using City facilities, equipment,

    supplies or other City resources.

“The emails confirm that Greuel is running her mayoral campaign out of the Auditor/Contoller’s Office of Los Angeles using taxpayer resources, a clear violation of California state law,” said Brian Hews, President of Hews Media Group, and Publisher of Los Cerritos Community Newspaper. “The emails document in great detail how Wendy Greuel is using one of the most powerful offices in the City of Los Angeles to leverage campaign support, coordinate political events, and garner major endorsements from some of the biggest political forces in Southern California,”

Greuel campaign spokeswoman Laura Wilkinson characterized the email exchanges using Greuel’s governmental email address as “inadvertent”.

“As Controller and as a candidate for Mayor, Wendy Greuel has worked 18-hour days for quite some time. She inadvertently forwarded a few emails when using her personal iPad or iPhone and most of the emails were for scheduling purposes or as an FYI including documents that were scheduled for public release,” Wilkinson said in a written statement.

However, the emails include numerous conversations between a Who’s Who of political players in Los Angeles, Greuel’s campaign staff, campaign contributors and the staff of the Controller’s office discussing everything from scheduling issues to how to handle media relations. And in one case, Greuel may have violated yet another statute prohibiting the sharing of confidential information acquired in the course of her official duties when she forwarded a Preliminary Financial Report her office prepared for fiscal year 2011-2012 to her campaign staff two and a half hours before giving the document to Mayor Villaraigosa, the City Council and the City Clerk.

An investigation from the LA Ethics Commission of these issues will likely take months, stretching well past Election Day. Regardless of their findings the damage may already be done.

During the campaign, Greuel has tried to portray herself as the best candidate to root out “waste, fraud and abuse” in City Hall, and in recent days stepped up her attacks against opponent Eric Garcetti, attempting to tie him to developer Juri Ripinksy, a convicted felon, and also claiming Garcetti had taken “illegal” votes on a Clear Channel billboard settlement. It’s unclear how much traction these claims will have once LCCN’s allegations are more widely known.

A poll released by the LA Times on Sunday showed Garcetti leading Greuel by 10 points.

Henry Waxman Throws Constituents Under The Wheels Of An Oncoming Jumbo Jet

This weekend, Congresswoman Maxine Waters stood in front of a room full of constituents and activists and did something extraordinary – she declared war on fellow Congress Member Henry Waxman.

Addressing a meeting of the Westchester Democratic club on Saturday, Waters told the packed room that Waxman secretly circulated a letter from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in support of expanding Los Angeles’ International Airport to Congressional colleagues only a day after telling Waters he had not yet made up his mind about the issue. Waters accused Waxman of forming an “unholy alliance” with the Chamber and the construction trades to expand Los Angeles International Airport – a move that some experts believe would create region-wide traffic gridlock.

Waters, who represents the communities directly surrounding LAX supports modernizing, but not expanding, the airport.

I was on hand to record Waters’ remarks. Watch it: http://vimeo.com/62625350

The Chamber is promoting a plan which could expand capacity at LAX by up to 14 million passengers a year, and is advocating moving the North runway several hundred feet, a move some experts say would force the closure of parts of Lincoln and Sepulveda Blvds for at least 2 years, and perhaps even permanently.

Such closures would force thousands of cars onto other surface streets and nearby freeways, creating a near constant “carmageddon” scenario as traffic backed up onto the 405, 105 and 10 freeways, potentially affecting commuters as far away as Orange County, the Valley and Downtown Los Angeles.

The move is also backed by many of Los Angeles’ biggest labor unions, who see expansion as a job-creating engine for the region. Airport opponents say a multi-billion dollar plan to modernize the airport without moving the runway would create just as many jobs.

In a highly unusual move that signaled just how seriously Waters took Waxman’s end-run, Waters very publicly threatened to take the fight to the Congressman’s own district, calling into question Waxman’s motives for being the bag man for an “unholy alliance between organized labor and the Chamber of Commerce”

“Now I can’t say this is why Mr. Waxman is doing what he’s doing,” said Waters.  “But these are the two places they go for money – the Chamber…..and organized labor. And so some of these elected officials don’t feel they can be independent and fight. They say, ‘Hey, you know, this is too difficult, after all, they’ve come together on this issue’.”

Waters then encouraged her constituents  in the room to reach out to their counterparts in Waxman’s district.

“I want you to find all the community activists in his district and ask them to join with us. I want them to call him and tell him to get his nose out of Westchester’s business. He’s thinking, ‘Well, it’s not my district, so I don’t have to worry about my constituents on this issue. I can do what ever I want.'”

“But we have to turn that around. Get busy. I will remind him, every day, that we’re after him.”, Waters said, smiling.

Waters strategy, though unusually pointed and public, might be effective. Last November, Henry Waxman faced the fight of his life when he suddenly found himself representing the beach cities on either side of LAX due to redistricting.  Rather than cruise to victory virtually unopposed, as he had nearly every year since he was first elected to Congress in 1975 to represent constituents in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, the 17-term Congressman narrowly fended off Manhattan Beach resident Bill Bloomfield.

Garcetti, Greuel head to May LA Mayor Runoff

Mailer WarBlumenfield, Bonin win outright Council seats

by Brian Leubitz

The Los Angeles mayoral election went largely to expectations, as Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel won the top two spots and will head for the runoff. In other races, Mike Bonin won his seat outright, as did Asm. Bob Blumenfield. That, of course, means another vacancy in the Assembly and further erosion of the Democratic caucus until the seat can be filled. That being said, it was something of a scattershot night as the results rolled in.

Mike Feuer will face Carmen Trutanich in a run off for the City Attorney job, as Feuer was unable to get to the 50% mark. And unfortunately, Measure A, the sales tax increase for emergency and other critical city services did not pass. LA Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman had this to say about it:

Unfortunately, the special interests have managed to twist the truth and defeat our efforts to save critically needed emergency and vital city services in Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles County Democratic Party will continue to stand up for Angelenos and fight back the special interests that have time and again impeded progress in Los Angeles.

If you’re in LA, expect to see many more commercials as the Mayoral contest continues in earnest.

Photo credit: flickr user waltarrrrr

LA Votes Today for a new Mayor

Garcetti and Greuel favorites for run-off

by Brian Leubitz

With no clear favorite, Los Angeles looks ready to set up a run off for mayor, and possibly several other elections. As of the most recent LATimes/USC poll, Garcetti and Greuel are deadlocked on the trail of the top two runoff spots:

The survey, taken last Sunday through Wednesday, found Garcetti at 27% and Greuel at a statistically even 25%. Bunched behind the two Democrats were Republican lawyer Kevin James at 15% and Democratic Councilwoman Jan Perry at 14%. Former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez trailed at 5%. (LA Times)

However, numbers on all of the candidates are soft. A sizable chunk (14%) were undecided, and around half of the committed respondents said that they may change their minds before they voted. In other words, nothing is final until the last vote is cast tonight.

With a bevy of open City Council and school board seats up and open, candidates and their volunteers are doing their best to hit every voter.  Anybody have any favorites?

Silly Season Arrives In The Race To Be Los Angeles Mayor

Jan Perry attacks Wendy Greuel for not being an in-utero Democrat,  Greuel attacks Eric Garcetti for making  $1.25 off an oil-lease that’s never been used, Garcetti attacks Greuel for fudging her numbers, Gruel attacks Perry for fudging her personal finances, the lone Republican candidate Kevin James accuses both Garcetti and Greuel for being grave robbers and long-shot candidate Emanuel Pleitez is literally running around like a chicken with his head cut off.

With 4 days to go until the March 5th election, silly season has officially arrived in the race to be Los Angeles’ next mayor.

Although conventional wisdom says it’ll be Garcetti and Greuel in the runoff, the candidate’s behavior this week indicates they think the race may be more of a tossup than is being reported. So with independent expenditures reaching into the stratosphere and voter turnout descending into the basement, candidates are clawing for any advantage they can get.

So far, independent groups and SuperPACs have poured more than $3 million into the LA mayor’s race, $2.5 million of that in support of Wendy Greuel – with the lion’s share coming from Working Californians, a SuperPAC formed by IBEW local 18, the union which represents over 8,000 employees for the Department of Water and Power.

What has all that money bought? TV ads. Lots and lots of TV ads. Including this one, which shows footage of Garcetti singing an off-key version of “White Christmas” while a narrator hits the councilman for staying at “five-star hotels,” having “seven city cars” and for taking “money from neighborhood streets for more personal staff.”

Watch it here:

Pretty funny stuff. Garcetti may have a musical background, but a great singer, not so much. The added mic feedback is an especially nice touch.

And it would be a pretty standard attack ad – except for one thing –  the footage of Garcetti came from a 2011 charity event at the Garden Crest Rehabilitation Center in Silver Lake.

He was singing to Alzheimer’s patients.

Garden Crest is (Pay It Forward Volunteer Band founder) Gary Gamponia’s modelnursing home. The staff cares. The schedule is varied and full. They welcome outsiders, and on this day, even L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti pays a visit to take a turn on the keyboards and sing.

Garcetti’s grandparents were musicians, he says, and with his grandmother, “I just remember some of the last ways we ever connected were through music.”…..

A few years back,Gamponia, who has mostly earned a living selling insurance, tried to create a cooperative that would help musicians out and then have them return the favor by performing at community events.

He lent equipment, negotiated deep discounts on instrument repair and drove people to gigs when their cars broke down. But the giving was one-way, he says. Then, around Christmas 2009, he had a simpler notion: Why not just form a band to bring music to the places that could use it most?

He called the office of his councilman, Garcetti, for ideas and got the names of several nursing homes. And he enlisted a ragtag band of old friends and new acquaintances made on Craigslist.

Here’s an excerpt of that performance here, put up by Garden Crest:


So welcome to silly season in the LA Mayor’s race. Where anything can and will be held against a candidate to be used in the court of public opinion – even singing to elderly Alzheimer’s patients at Christmas.