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L.A. County says thanks but no thanks to grand jury recommendations on governance structure
Los Angeles County supervisors said they won't act on civil grand jury recommendations that they put measures before voters to increase the size of the county governing board and switch from an appointed to an elected executive. Last year, the supervisors approved sweeping changes in the county’s governance structure, weakening the role of the county chief executive and giving themselves direct control over department heads. The restructuring reversed changes the board had made in 2007 that gave the chief executive more power over the day-to-day operations of departments, including the authority to hire and fire department heads with board approval. A recent report issued by the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury was critical of the return to greater board control, saying it has led to micro-managing by the supervisors that could create difficulties in attracting high-quality candidates for administrative positions. [Article]
by ABBY SEWELL, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
L.A. County adopts new policy on letters supporting and opposing legislation after open meetings lawsuit
Under a settlement of a lawsuit over alleged violations of the state's open meetings law, Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to change their policy on sending letters supporting or opposing legislation. The group Californians Aware, or CalAware, sued the county last year. It alleged that the supervisors had violated the state open meetings law by sending a letter to the Legislature  opposing a 2014 bill that would have restricted the ability of local elected officials to limit public comment during meetings. The bill passed but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. CalAware attorneys argued that the five supervisors had violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by not discussing or voting to send the letter at a public meeting. In their letter to the Legislature, the supervisors said the bill, AB 194, was “ambiguous with respect to when and how often a member of the public must be allowed to speak” on an agenda item, and could be interpreted to allow someone to speak twice on every item. [Article]
by ABBY SEWELL, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
In L.A., a walkable neighborhood comes at a price
Nobody walks in L.A., as the saying goes. But many people want to and will pay more to live in more walkable neighborhoods where they can stroll to work, shops and restaurants from home. It’s a rare luxury in most metropolitan areas and one worth thousands of dollars on average, according to new research. Home workers are willing to pay $3,260 — or nearly a percent more — for a little extra walkability than they would for the same home in a less pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, real estate website Redfin said in a study published this month. When evaluating homes, the real estate brokerage issues so-called Walk Scores on a scale of 1 to 100 based on proximity — by foot — to local amenities. In most major housing markets, Redfin found that an incremental increase in walkability results in a substantial price premium for the property compared with another home in the same metro area. [Article]
by TIFFANY HSU, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
State receives only a trickle of cash from cap-and-trade program
Cap-and-trade produced little revenue this month as demand for greenhouse gas permits remained lower than in the past, according to new figures from the California Air Resources Board, which runs the program.  The results of the auction have been hotly anticipated in Sacramento, where lawmakers are debating the future of the state's climate policies.  Although final details won't be available until next month, it's expected that revenue from the sale will be roughly $8 million, even weaker than the previous round in May. [Article]
by CHRIS MAGERIAN, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
Overhaul of controversial L.A. County water board to be considered by governor
Moving to shake up a troubled agency, state lawmakers on Wednesday sent the governor a bill that would expand the board of the Central Basin Municipal Water District and change how the board's seats are filled. The Assembly unanimously approved a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) after news reports and lawsuits indicated there had been misuse of district funds and inappropriate contracting and employment practices. District lawyers found the agency violated state law by secretly creating a $2.7-million fund for a groundwater storage project. The district also has been accused of doing favors for family members of politicians. [Article]
by PATRICK McGREEVY, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
A dangerous confluence on the California coast: beach erosion and sea level rise
Bob Guza has the best job in California. That’s just my opinion, but take a look at this deal: At 68, his work clothes are a ball cap, shorts and flip-flops. He sets his own hours and gets paid to hang out on the beach all day with his toys, which include a sand buggy, a jet ski and a drone. Guza retired in 2012, but after a month off, the professor emeritus couldn't think of anything better to do with his time, so he went back to work. Live Updates -- Follow along with Steve » “I’m a lucky guy,” says the researcher at UC San Diego’s Scripps Center for Coastal Studies. I met Guza at the Scripps pier, where his office hovers over the beach. Guza calls his operation the beach and sand lab, and he and his team of seven study the movement of sand along the California coast. This is not child’s play, despite the toys and Guza's youthful exuberance. Two things are happening simultaneously along the coast, Guza explained, and it's critical that we know more about each of them. One is beach erosion, the other is sea level rise. [Article]
by STEVE LOPEZ / Columnist, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
Five arrested on suspicion of running sex trafficking ring
Five people were arrested on suspicion of running a San Gabriel Valley-based sex trafficking ring that operated from San Diego to Fresno, authorities said Tuesday. The five are suspected of forcing at least 28 victims, all Chinese nationals, into prostitution in nine counties across Central and Southern California, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. Hsin Chieh “Jerry” Wang, 40, of Covina, was accused of heading the organization. Officials allege that his sister, Yiwen Wang, 42, also of Covina, laundered money obtained from the sex trade. Jiuyin Cui, 63, of Rosemead, and Runan Xia, 32, of Alhambra, were accused of taking clients to and from hotels and motels where the victims stayed, and Defung Hu, 33, of San Gabriel, allegedly coordinated the illicit appointments, according to detectives.         [Article]
by ERICA EVANS, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
5 San Gabriel Valley residents arrested amid human-trafficking bust
Authorities arrested five San Gabriel Valley residents this month who they believe operated a nine-county human trafficking ring and laundered the money through real estate investments, Ventura County Sheriff’s officials announced Tuesday. The victims, all Chinese nationals, were used as prostitutes in motels across Southern California. They were advertised on the website backpage.com. The transactions ranged from $100 to $160, and investigators allege the proceeds were laundered through as many as 50 bank accounts. [Article]
by RUBY GONZALES and SANDRA MOLINA, San Gabriel Valley Tribune. 2016-08-24
 
All police body camera bills have failed this year in California
For the second straight year, California lawmakers have failed to pass any major legislation regulating police body cameras after a bill that would have allowed families of fallen police officers to block the release of body camera footage showing the officers' deaths stalled in a legislative committee Tuesday. Multiple measures to boost transparency or restrict access to the footage this year did not garner enough support from lawmakers, who have struggled to deal with the complicated privacy and accountability questions raised by the technology — even as police departments statewide have rapidly adopted body cameras as a way to increase community trust in law enforcement. [Article]
by LIAM DILLON, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
California's climate change law clears a big hurdle after lobbyists crank up pressure
A controversial measure to extend California’s target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was approved by the Assembly on Tuesday, clearing a major hurdle in a battle at the Capitol over the future of the state’s environmental programs. White House officials and Gov. Jerry Brown cranked up the pressure on Assembly members to support the legislation, while oil industry lobbyists huddled with sympathetic lawmakers in an attempt to stall an effort that once seemed unlikely to gain traction this year. The legislation would require slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, a tougher target than the current goal of hitting 1990 levels by 2020. "When it’s all said and done, this is a simple bill, but an extremely significant one," said Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), who introduced the measure on the floor. "It represents a new chapter of the state’s climate policy.” [Article]
by CHRIS MAGERIAN, Los Angeles Times. 2016-08-24
 
Audio: LA County treating few people for hepatitis C
"Drugs are really horrible things," says Adolfo, who asked that his real name not be used. "At the beginning, you do it to have fun but then it turns into a hell." Although Adolfo eventually kicked his habit, he's left with the consequences of his IV drug use. He learned about 10 years ago that he has hepatitis C. Today, Adolfo is one of the few patients that the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services has approved to receive powerful new drugs that effectively cure the virus. [Article]
by REBECCA PLEVIN, KPCC Southern CA Public Radio. 2016-08-24
 
LA Animal Control overhauls how it works for the first time since the '40s
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Control got a big overhaul Tuesday. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a shiny new version of Title 10 — the list of rules that directs how the department operates — that they've been revising for two-and-a-half years.  This is the first time the statute has been completely updated since it was written, department director Marcia Mayeda told KPCC.  "There's language in here going back to the '40s. And that's when Animal Control started. So I think over time they've added things as new issues came up, but they've never done an overhaul," she said.  The ordinance has received some sparse improvements in the past, she added — but the more they reviewed it, the more the department realized that a lot of language was extremely dense.  [Article]
by STAFF REPORT, KPCC Southern CA Public Radio. 2016-08-24
 
Audio: There's not enough oversight of psychotropic prescriptions for foster kids
Some children in foster care in Southern California are receiving high doses of psychotropic medications without follow-up care, and without required parental or court approval, a report by the California State Auditor revealed Tuesday. The agency pulled 80 case files from child welfare departments in four counties, including Los Angeles and Riverside, and found ongoing problems with how the drugs are handled. In some cases, children received medications, but no known counseling. In others, dosages were higher than recommended. Looking at overall state data, auditors found 65 percent of children were prescribed at least one medication without legally required court approval. [Article]
by RINA PALTA, KPCC Southern CA Public Radio. 2016-08-24
 
International software firm settles lawsuit, pays O.C. $26 million
Orange County found itself $26 million richer last week after an international software company paid a settlement, ending a lawsuit in which the county alleged it had been defrauded of millions while trying to replace its automated property tax system. The county announced Tuesday that it will drop its lawsuit against Tata Consultancy Services, a multinational information technology company based in Mumbai, India, and that the company will dismiss a cross-complaint. County spokeswoman Jean Pasco said in a statement that it was the most money the county had won in a settlement in over two decades. [Article]
by JORDAN GRAHAM, Orange County Register. 2016-08-24
 
Transportation officials revise OC Streetcar funding plan after grant falls short
ORANGE – County transportation officials have revised the OC Streetcar’s capital funding plan to compensate for a lower-than-anticipated state grant, ahead of a deadline for crucial federal funds. The Orange County Transportation Authority asked for $40 million from the California State Transportation Agency’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program. Last week, the OC Streetcar was awarded $25.5 million from the program, funded through Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds. In order to close the nearly $14.5 million gap, Orange County Transportation Authority board members on Monday voted 11-1 to redirect other federal funds and increase the contribution from local sources. [Article]
by JESSICA KWONG, Orange County Register. 2016-08-24
 
County to get first emergency centers for psych patients, unburdening hospitals
Orange County is set to get its first emergency medical centers dedicated to treating people who suffer sudden psychiatric episodes, addressing a void that critics say long has burdened local hospitals and left mentally ill patients with inadequate treatment. County supervisors voted Tuesday to accept a nearly $3.1 million competitive state grant that will help pay for building renovations and program start-up costs for the expanded care at two undetermined locations. Supervisor Andrew Do credited newspaper articles stemming from a 2014 Orange County Register investigation with revealing that the county’s lack of an outpatient emergency mental health care center had resulted in psychiatric patients being sent to hospital emergency rooms, where they sometimes were held for hours, or days, without treatment. That also delayed medical treatment for other patients at those ERs. [Article]
by JORDAN GRAHAM, Orange County Register. 2016-08-24
 
New initiative to house, treat low-level offenders
SAN DIEGO — The City Attorney’s Office and various city and county partners are launching a program to house and rehabilitate people who repeatedly commit misdemeanor crimes such as public drunkenness or trespassing downtown. The offenders often are homeless people who commit quality-of-life crimes, meaning offenses such as disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and trespassing. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the SMART initiative — the acronym stands for San Diego Misdemeanant At-Risk Track — is an offshoot of the court program that allows people who commit low-level misdemeanors to avoid a criminal record if they complete community service and pay a fine. Beginning Oct. 1, Veterans Village of San Diego will open 12 beds for the SMART program. Participants will commit for two years in the program. [Article]
by GARY WARTH, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2016-08-24
 
Vista fighting to close pot shops
VISTA — Three years ago, Vista’s success in using criminal prosecutions to shutter illegal medical marijuana dispensaries was being hailed and copied by other cities struggling to crack down on similar shops. By 2014, Vista had closed 12 of 15 dispensaries in town, according to news reports. But that success has been hard to maintain. Ten marijuana shops are now operating in Vista, according to city officials, who have expanded the tools they use to curtail the operations. In addition to 68 criminal cases filed against dispensaries over the past few years, Vista has begun targeting landlords who rent space to the shops, winning a misdemeanor conviction against one in March. The landlord in that case told the judge he had taken a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach with his tenants, according to Annie Sahhar, a city prosecutor. [Article]
by TERI FIGUEROA, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2016-08-24
 
Supervisors approve budget, throw sheriff an extra $1.5 million
Supervisors approved Kern County’s 2016-2017 budget Tuesday and, for the most part, resisted demands for more money from the Kern County District Attorney’s and Sheriff’s offices. They rejected a request for an additional $630,000 for staffing in the D.A.’s office but agreed to shift $2.8 million from county reserves to the active budget on behalf of Sheriff Donny Youngblood. The money won’t be Youngblood’s to control. The sheriff will have to ask the County Administrative Office — with which he exchanged tense words Tuesday — for the money on a case-by-case basis. Supervisors put $1.3 million for a sheriff’s training academy and $1.5 million for staffing and substation work into the county’s “contingencies” fund for the sheriff. [Article]
by JAMES BURGER, Bakersfield Californian. 2016-08-24
 
County declares state of emergency
Tulare County supervisors Tuesday declared a local emergency because of the Cedar Fire and sent a formal request to Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a State of Emergency in Tulare County. The Cedar Fire began August 16 and as of late Monday had consumed more than 21,000 acres and several structures. It remain more than 90 percent uncontained. Tulare County Chief Administrative Officer Michael Spata said the cost to the county so far in providing fire protection, road closures and law enforcement assistance has been in the neighborhood of $200,000. He said with the proclamation, the county could be reimbursed for most of that cost. [Article]
by STAFF REPORT, Recorder Online. 2016-08-24
 
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