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Sheriff's elite Highway Enforcement Team takes on drug traffickers in LA County
An elite and little-known group of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies has been making a major impact by stopping drug money and human traffickers on area freeways. Although the highly skilled unit has been doing remarkable work for years, its existence has only now been made public. In an exclusive report, ABC7 accompanied the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team and observed its methods firsthand. "The team has been extremely successful, "said sheriff's Capt. Robert Lewis. "They find vehicles that have hidden compartments that are transporting drugs and weapons, U.S. currency." [Article]
by DAVID ONO, KABC Los Angeles ABC 7 News. 2017-12-15
 
L.A. County Board of Supervisors Appoints Arts Leader Kristin Sakoda as Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Kristin Sakoda to head its Countywide Arts Initiatives as Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. The Los Angeles County Arts Commission provides funding for over 350 nonprofit arts organizations through a $9 million grant program and runs the nation’s biggest internship program.  The Commission’s free community programs advance diversity and accessibility for the County’s 88 municipalities and 137 unincorporated areas. [Article]
by ATLAS NOVACK, LA Observed. 2017-12-15
 
L.A. County sheriff’s office failed to follow policy for issuing concealed weapon permits, audit says
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has repeatedly failed to follow its own rules for issuing concealed weapon permits, the state auditor concluded in a report released Thursday. L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell disputed some of the key findings of the audit, saying state officials misinterpreted the policy. The department policy requires applicants to provide “convincing evidence” of a “clear and present danger to life or of great bodily harm” to get a license, but the audit found the department issued 24 licenses during the last few years without sufficient evidence.  Most of the 197 active licenses in L.A. County as of August went to current or former law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors, the audit found. The lieutenant in charge of reviewing applications told auditors that people in law enforcement satisfy the department’s requirements by the nature of their jobs. [Article]
by PATRICK McGREEVY, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Inmates are part of an army of firefighters battling a 'monster' that just keeps growing
For well over a week, hundreds of inmates have chain-sawed through relentless thickets of chaparral, cutting lines through the backcountry to thwart the fire's sudden rushes at homes. On Thursday, they were deep in the Los Padres National Forest, covered in wood grit, soot and sweat, as the Thomas fire continued to grow — becoming the fourth-largest in modern California history. In the morning, commanders stressed the dangers of the work and urged them to be careful, even while mopping up hot spots, cutting burned trees or striding though charred rubble. Hours later, a San Diego fire engineer, Cory Iverson, died on the fire lines. The loss rippled through the army of 8,000 fire personnel — both professionals and inmates — on the scene. Some lined the road as Iverson's body was loaded into a hearse and taken from the fire zone. [Article]
by JOSEPH SERNA and JOE MOZINGO, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
L.A. County animal control confirms investigation into death of 29 horses in Creek fire
Animal care officials confirmed Thursday that they are investigating the death of 29 horses at a Sylmar ranch during the fast-moving Creek fire last week. The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control issued a lengthy statement last week in which they shared their officers' efforts to save horses at Rancho Padilla. The statement did not include details about an investigation. The ranch boarded its own horses, but also rented stalls to horse owners. "We are actually looking into it and investigating the entire situation," Don Barre, a spokeswoman for the department, said Thursday. "We can't say anything about the investigation until it's over." [Article]
by BRITTNY MEJIA, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Ravaged by fire, Ventura tries finding Christmas spirit and a way forward
Freddie Contarino and her husband took an afternoon drive into downtown Ventura, where they had lunch, caught a matinee and tried to reclaim a sense of normalcy. It wasn't easy. The often busy street life and restaurants were muted by the fires that cast a pall over everything. "The restaurants were empty," Contarino, 77, said. The fire swept through several neighborhoods in the heart of Ventura, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to evacuate. Nine days later, the fire has moved to the north and is less of a threat to the city of Ventura. That leaves residents and city officials beginning to talk about recovery — and trying to get back to something that can be called normal. [Article]
by RUBEN VIVES, . 2017-12-15
 
Why Wall Street gets a cut of your power bill
ric Hildebrandt first raised the red flag in an annual report written in 2015 for his bosses overseeing California’s electricity market. He raised the same issue in a 2016 report. And he is raising it again in a recently released 2017 report. The warning to the California Independent System Operator: Trading by speculators and other investors in an obscure financial instrument pegged to electricity transmission is costing the state’s electricity customers an average of $76 million a year, contributing to higher rates. From 2009 to 2017, Hildebrandt reported to the state, California ratepayers lost almost $700 million, and the tab keeps growing. While generating profits for investors with returns averaging 146% a year, the trading serves little purpose for energy users and shouldn’t cost consumers a dime, his reports have concluded. Hildebrandt recommends the trading — also cited for its vulnerability to market manipulation akin to the Enron scandal — be terminated. “It’s not needed,” said Hildebrandt, director of Cal-ISO’s market monitoring division. “Stop subsidizing a free market. Don’t expose the ratepayers to the losses.” Despite the warnings, the trading has continued with minor modifications. Although the losses over time have narrowed somewhat, the $49 million in losses so far in 2017 already have exceeded last year’s total by nearly $2 million through the end of October. [Article]
by IVAN PENN, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Freshman applicants to UC soar to a new record, with UCLA again leading the way
UCLA has shattered its own record as the nation's most popular college choice for high school seniors, attracting more than 113,000 freshman applications for fall 2018, according to preliminary data released Thursday. Applications to the Westwood campus soared among California high school students and across all racial and ethnic groups. UCLA again led the University of California's nine undergraduate campuses, which collectively received more than 181,000 freshman applications — a 5.7% increase over last year. [Article]
by TERESA WATANABE, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Mayor's Fund releases 2016 spending report
A nonprofit created by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to fund local civic programs slowed fundraising efforts in its third year and sped up spending, according to tax records set to be filed Friday with the federal government. The Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles raised $3.4 million and spent $8 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. In the previous year, the fund raised $12 million and spent $6 million. "We didn't focus on fundraising substantially last year," said Mayor's Fund President Deidre Lind. "What we focused on is spending the money that we've raised to date and on actually driving, doing our programs." [Article]
by DAKOTA SMITH, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Beverly Hills anesthesiologist charged with murder of patient undergoing plastic surgery
An anesthesiologist was charged with murder Wednesday after a 71-year-old patient suffered a fatal overdose under his care — a rare prosecution likely to send a powerful message to other doctors. Dr. Stephen Kyosung Kim, 53, is accused of administering a lethal dose of the narcotic Demerol to a patient undergoing a procedure at the Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery Center in Beverly Hills, according to a release from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. [Article]
by FRANK SHYONG, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
County provides ash cleaning tips
While fires continue to burn in other parts of California, locals are providing tips on cleaning up the ash that has blown into Santa Monica. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has pointed residents to existing cleanup guidelines established to help after a fire. Those tips include food safety information and advice for removing ash from streets. “Take precautions during clean-up following a fire,” say the guidelines. [Article]
by MATTHEW HALL, LA Weekly. 2017-12-15
 
Historic raid sparks county action on cockfighting
The largest seizure of illegal cockfighting birds in the history of the United States happened on the doorstep of Santa Clarita Valley this past summer, and this week, county supervisors took steps to ensure it never happens again. Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl drafted a motion requiring the Department of Animal Care and Control and the office of County Counsel to report back to the board in the next 30 days with a recommendation to limit the keeping of roosters in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County [Article]
by JIM HOLT, The Signal. 2017-12-15
 
Grants aim to increase California’s supply of bilingual teachers
The California Department of Education has awarded Bilingual Teacher Professional Development grants – each in the amount of $625,000 – to four school districts and four county offices of education throughout the state. The grants were awarded to the Anaheim Union High School District, Oak Grove School District, Patterson Joint Unified School District, Riverside Unified School District, and to the Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Luis Obispo county offices of education. [Article]
by THERESA HARRINGTON, Edsource. 2017-12-15
 
Public’s Voice silenced at Edison Community Engagement Panel
Yesterday, in a three-two vote, the San Juan Capistrano City Council removed Councilmember Pam Patterson, Esq. from Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Community Engagement Panel (CEP). According to opponents of Edison’s plans to bury lethal nuclear waste at San Onofre State Beach, the removal of Patterson could not have come at a worse time. Edison is just days away from beginning the process of burying 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive waste in giant, thin-walled steel containers just 108 feet from the beach, and three feet above a corrosive salt water table. According to geologists, the waste is in the middle of a tsunami inundation zone situated near an earthquake fault as deep and as dangerous to the facility as the San Andreas. [Article]
by TSEARS, Voice of OC. 2017-12-15
 
California Energy Commission Selects Willdan for $6.3 Million Joint-Funded Grant to Research Bundle-Based Energy Efficiency | Business Wire
ANAHEIM, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Willdan Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: WLDN) announced today that the California Energy Commission (CEC) has awarded Willdan a grant to demonstrate emerging energy efficiency technologies through the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC). These technologies will be demonstrated at the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) headquarters facility in Diamond Bar, California for the purposes of testing for scalability in the larger California commercial market. The grant project, titled Bundle-Based Energy Efficiency Technology Solutions for California (BEETS), has a duration of three and a half years and once completed will improve efficiency at the SCAQMD facility by over 20%. The project has $4 million in CEC EPIC funding and $2.3 million in match funding, for a total project budget of $6.3 million, along with several subcontractor donations of time and equipment. [Article]
by PRESS RELEASE, Business Wire. 2017-12-15
 
Elevated Flu Activity Continues In San Diego County
San Diego County is seeing an outbreak of flu much earlier than in previous years. The number of confirmed cases is three times higher than in December 2016. Across the country, health officials are bracing for what could be a difficult flu year, with a longer season and a serious strain of flu virus. Some experts also worry this season's flu vaccine might not be as effective towards the influenza strain infecting people this year. Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health officer, discusses the elevated flu activity Thursday on Midday Edition. [Article]
by MARISSA CABRERA, KPBS - San Diego. 2017-12-15
 
San Diego Explained: San Diego's Other Transit Agency
Getting around San Diego isn’t always easy. In the central areas of the region, folks have access to trolley and bus lines provided by the Metropolitan Transit System that stretch from Escondido all the way down to the U.S.-Mexico border. But up north, where the communities are less densely populated, folks rely on a different agency, the North County Transit District. Its routes mainly cover Del Mar to the Orange County border along the coast, and extend out east all the way to Ramona and the Pauma Valley. But it also has services, like the Coaster, that take people from their coverage area into downtown San Diego. [Article]
by ADRIANA HELDIZ, Voice of San Diego. 2017-12-15
 
Gaspar: Innovative thinking needed at county
Finding innovative ways to solve complex problems is the method County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said she prefers. Gaspar, a former Encinitas mayor who is completing her first year as supervisor, explained her reasoning and gave examples while speaking in Rancho Bernardo on Tuesday during the Conservative Order for Good Government’s monthly luncheon. “We will not make a lot of progress unless we shift our thinking,” Gaspar said. Examples she gave of where innovation and not doing things as usual could be implemented included helping the region’s homeless population, assisting “vulnerable” groups — such as the elderly with memory issues, foster youths and those with mental issues — and fixing more miles of county roads. Gaspar said she represents the 650,000 constituents in District 3 and with the four other supervisors oversee a $5.7 billion annual budget. Spending most of that money, however, is not based on their discretion since the majority is earmarked by the state and federal government for various programs the county has to manage. A large portion of their work, she said, is providing services to the county’s residents, especially its “vulnerable” populations. Having the money to do so — along with fixing county-owned roads and infrastructure — is due to the financial success of her colleagues and predecessors from the past several decades. “This is the most fiscally-disciplined group you will ever meet,” Gaspar said, adding they are being “as proactive as possible.” [Article]
by ELIZABETH MARIE HIMCHAK, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2017-12-15
 
How San Diego could have been spared a Mayor Filner
As voters watch the lists of men resigning from elected office grow longer, and allegations of sexual harassment stretch from Washington, D.C., to Sacramento, it’s time to develop an objective, nonpartisan, transparent process to investigate misconduct complaints before people are elected to office. Currently, research is typically done by political operatives who “dig up dirt” on opponents. What’s needed is an independent, nonpartisan investigative body to thoroughly vet complaints against candidates during elections. I propose this after serving on the Assembly Ethics Committee, where I reviewed complaints against colleagues accused of illegal or unethical behavior, and after considering how allegations of sexual harassment were handled very differently in two recent San Diego elections: the 2012 mayoral election, and the 2014 52nd congressional district race. In the first case, while teaching in the Women’s Studies Department at San Diego State University, I began having conversations with women who knew and worked with then-Congressman Bob Filner. I heard consistent, credible accounts of Filner verbally and/or sexually harassing women in the workplace, at social events and during meetings. These reports came from elected officials, educators, lobbyists and businesswomen. [Article]
by LORI SALDANA, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2017-12-15
 
Public safety: Where we've been and where we're headed
Violent crime is a growing problem both nationally and locally. In small towns, suburbs and large cities across the nation, violent crime rate increases in 2015 and 2016 represent the largest single-year increases in the national violent crime rate since 1991. In 2015, the United States saw the largest jump in the murder rate since 1968. In the High Desert, we have also seen sharp increases in crime. So I’d like to share with you what we’re doing. Since I took office in December 2012, funds have been allocated for the Sheriff’s summertime crime sweeps in partnership with High Desert cities. This year’s Operation Desert Guardian included 20 separate operations between June and September, resulting in 834 arrests, including 150 felony and 684 misdemeanor arrests. The Sheriff’s Department has also added a fifth Homicide Team to investigate and solve murder cases across the county. [Article]
by ROBERT A. LOVINGOOD, Victorville Daily Press. 2017-12-15
 
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