Southern California -- this just in

Category: Antonio Villaraigosa

L.A. school board targets Garcia with term-limits vote

Monica Garcia
A narrow majority of Los Angeles Board of Education members voted Tuesday to set a limit of two consecutive years for the school board presidency. Unless the new rule is rescinded later, the decision would end the six-year run of current President Monica Garcia in July.

The board president has no greater authority than others on the seven-member panel, but runs the meetings and frequently represents the nation’s second-largest school system. Both supporters and critics have said Garcia wields an outsized influence on district policy and the use of district resources.

The school board elects its president every July to serve a one-year term.

A similar run at Garcia narrowly failed last year, but political factors outside the board room have evolved. Last year, the swing vote against term limits and to reelect Garcia came from Steve Zimmer.

Since then, however, close allies of Garcia targeted Zimmer for defeat in his recent reelection bid. Zimmer won regardless, when the teachers union and other employee groups rallied behind him. The teachers union, for its part, has been critical of Garcia. It mounted a low-budget but sharply critical campaign against her; she won reelection earlier this month.

The term-limits vote Tuesday symbolized the waning influence of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as his own eight-year tenure in office ends. Although the mayor has no formal authority over the board, candidates he helped elect make up a board majority. Garcia is the mayor’s closest ally on the board, and yet a member of mayor’s bloc, Richard Vladovic, defected to favor the term-limits proposal.

The motion, which was approved on a 4-3 vote, was put forward by Bennett Kayser and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. Supporters noted that since 1985, the board president has come from the downtown area and environs a significantly disproportionate number of times.

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L.A. Votes: Garcetti raises a pint, Greuel cheers marathoners; both court endorsements

Photo: Councilman Eric Garcetti shakes supporters' hands at an election night party on March 5. Credit:  Kevork Djansezian / Getty ImagesElection Memo

The mayoral candidates spent the weekend pressing the flesh and raising cash. City Controller Wendy Greuel was seen at the L.A. Marathon, being interviewed alongside termed-out Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt. City Councilman Eric Garcetti hoisted a Guinness while toasting Los Angeles during a St. Patrick’s Day bash at Tom Bergin’s on Fairfax.

Garcetti picked up the endorsement of former mayoral candidate Emanuel Pleitez on Saturday outside the Derby Dolls’ roller derby rink. Greuel picked up the nod of EMILY’S List, a fundraising organization devoted to electing pro-choice Democratic women. But two of the biggest endorsements remain in play -– Republican attorney Kevin James and Councilwoman Jan Perry, who effectively tied for third in the mayoral primary, and whose supporters would be a major boon to Greuel’s or Garcetti’s chances in the May 21 runoff.

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Team Garcetti is also piqued by the continued airing of an anti-Garcetti ad by a pro-Greuel independent committee that is largely supported by a union that represents many workers from the city’s Department of Water and Power. A flurry of Garcetti fundraising pleas have gone out in recent days, with subject lines such as “Fed up,” “I’m tired of this,” and “Enough is enough.”

Whoever is elected mayor, the city’s next chief executive will have a new quandary to face because of billionaire Philip Anschutz’s decision not to sell Anschutz Entertainment Group and company Chief Executive Tim Leiweke’s departure from the firm: how to upgrade the city's Convention Center in case plans for developing a downtown football stadium fall apart.


St. Patrick's Day weekend: DUI crackdowns on tap

LAPD arrests man for alleged assault on actor Tom Sizemore

Big snake discovered among belongings at homeless storage center

-- Seema Mehta

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema

Photo: Councilman Eric Garcetti shakes supporters' hands at an election night party on March 5. Credit:  Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Fifth-place primary finisher Pleitez hops aboard 'Team Garcetti'

Emanuel Pleitez, the long-shot L.A. mayoral candidate who received only 4% of the primary vote despite an inspiring personal story, endorsed his former rival Eric Garcetti on Saturday.

The former technology executive, who touted his humble beginnings as he courted the Latino vote during the primary campaign, said that City Councilman Garcetti shared his passion for making sure all Angelinos had a voice.

“I ran for mayor because I care deeply about this city and you know this city is where my family came for opportunity like so many other families from other countries [and] from other parts of the country, to live a better life, not just for themselves, for their kids, their grandkids,” he said, speaking outside a roller derby rink near Echo Park. “That’s why I’m standing here today with someone who cares just as deeply about Los Angeles.”

The two men shook hands and embraced, with Garcetti — who finished first in a field of eight contenders — saying, “I welcome Team Pleitez to Team Garcetti today.”

Neither man mentioned runner-up City Controller Wendy Greuel, who is taking on Garcetti during the May 21 general election, but Garcetti swiped at her support by a deep-pocketed city union.

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L.A. officials begin looking at backup plans for convention center

The top budget official at Los Angeles City Hall said Friday that he will begin researching other strategies for upgrading the city's convention center in case plans for developing a downtown football stadium fall apart.

One day after stadium proponent Anschutz Entertainment Group announced that its top executive had stepped aside and the company was no longer for sale, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the city's consultants will begin examining whether other private developers could be tapped to fix the convention facility.

The city's deal with AEG to develop an NFL stadium next to Staples Center provides for a $315 million upgrade of the convention center. But with AEG's leadership in flux and the stadium agreement set to expire in October 2014, Santana said the city shouldn't wait until the last minute to have other options available.

AEG: A look back

"There’s been a number of changes in strategy on AEG’s front for the last several months. This is yet one more change," Santana said. "They announced AEG was up for sale ... now they’re announcing that they’re not. In both cases, they said it actually helps to deliver football."

"We’re still interested in completing the deal that we developed," he continued. "But given the changes that have been occurred and our commitment to improving [the convention center], looking at alternatives seems like an appropriate move," he said.

Representatives of AEG did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Thursday, AEG owner Philip Anschutz told The Times that he is still focused on bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles. The decision to halt the sale of the company makes that prospect "more likely," he said.

PHOTOS: AEG properties in Southern California

Those comments did not appear to reassure city leaders. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Thursday on AEG to "live up to its commitment by immediately sitting down with the NFL" and hammering out a deal. Villaraigosa said that city officials had lived up to their end of the deal with AEG by speeding up its approval process for a stadium and “will not wait” for AEG to move ahead with the convention center upgrade.

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Villaraigosa calls on AEG to 'live up to' downtown stadium deal

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called on Anschutz Entertainment Group on Thursday to "live up to its commitment" to bring an NFL team to the city through a downtown football stadium deal that would also expand the convention center.

"For the past three years, the City has expedited our process and lived up to our end of a deal to bring the NFL to Los Angeles and create a world-class convention center," Villaraigosa said in a statement.

"Now that AEG is no longer for sale and they have indicated that bringing an NFL team to L.A. remains a priority, I call on AEG to live up to its commitment by immediately sitting down with the NFL to reach an agreement."

AEG: A look back

However, the mayor said the city would not wait for AEG "or any other party" to move ahead with needed convention center improvements. He called for the city's top financial administrator to come up with "options within the next 30 days" to ensure that modernization moves ahead "no matter what."

With the city's convention business seeing a record number of visitors last year, he said, "we will continue to pursue the important work of making downtown L.A. a better place to work, live, visit and dine regardless of whether the NFL and AEG reach that agreement."

On Thursday, AEG announced that it was halting efforts to sell the company, and longtime chief executive Tim Leiweke left his post by mutual agreement with AEG owner Phillip Anschutz, a Denver billionaire.


More warm weather coming to Southern California

Earthquake early-warning system's future still in doubt

Argentine community sees Pope Francis as 'point of pride'

-- William Nottingham


L.A. Votes: Garcetti, Greuel reach out; how the tax vote varied

How LA voted
After winning spots in the May 21 mayoral runoff, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti are back on the campaign trail and heavily courting two distinct constituencies -- black Democrats in South Los Angeles and white Republicans in the San Fernando Valley.Election Memo

The candidates are also increasingly highlighting their plans to revitalize the city’s economy -- a reaction, some argue, to widespread criticism that Greuel and Garcetti failed to offer many specifics during the primary.

Many eyes turned to failed mayoral candidates Jan Perry and Kevin James, whose supporters could be key to winning in the May runoff. Perry has not endorsed, but had harsh words for Greuel’s ties to labor. James met with both remaining candidates in recent days as he decides whether to endorse.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

The Times analyzed voter trends in the other big contest on the ballot: the half-cent sales tax increase that L.A. city voters rejected. The results showed a tale of two cities, with voters in the poorest parts of Los Angeles who are most dependent on city services more likely to support the measure, while residents in more affluent swaths were more likely to be against it.

Columnist Steve Lopez weighs in on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's supporting the sales-tax proposal as vital for retaining key city services, and then claiming that the city’s finances are rosier than believed after the tax failed at the ballot box.


Two men lose legs in downtown strip club fight

San Diego man mourned after sailboat-race death

Visitors return to lion sanctuary where intern died

-- Seema Mehta

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema

L.A. Votes: Runoff rivals dash for cash; Villaraigosa says budget not so bleak

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- Irfan Khan--Los Angeles Times
The two candidates who earned a spot in the runoff to be Los Angeles’ next mayor have little time to savor their victory. Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti must immediately start raising money, because unlike in state and federal elections, they were prohibited for raising money for the general election during the primary. Election Memo

And they weren’t allowed to reserve any of the millions of dollars they raised in the primary for the runoff, meaning the candidates started raising new funds within hours of the polls closing Tuesday. Garcetti sent off an email missive before he went to sleep that night, and also one targeting donors who had contributed the maximum of $1,300 in the primary. The morning after, Greuel launched a 72-hour grass-roots fundraising drive urging supporters to “be one of the first” to support the city controller in the general election.

But the independent committees backing their bids face no such restrictions, giving Greuel both a potential financial boost and a messaging problem. The main independent group supporting her is up-and-running, but largely backed by city employee unions, a connection that troubles some voters.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

The termed-out mayor that Greuel and Garcetti are vying to replace, Antonio Villaraigosa has not weighed in on the contest, but said Thursday that he plans to take a “real close look” at both of the candidates.

Villaraigosa was a major proponent of a measure--rejected by voters--to increase the sales tax. Backers said the half-cent hike was vital to avoiding cuts to critical city services. On Thursday, two days after the measure's defeat, Villaraigosa said the city’s deficit didn’t look so bad after all.

The Times looked at where the sales-tax proposal, Proposition A, succeeded and where it failed among city voters. Ben Welsh, an editor with the Times Data Desk, broke down the split.

-- Seema Mehta

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

Villaraigosa expects better economy to halve budget gap

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Two days after voters rejected a proposal to increase the city’s sales tax to address a budget crisis, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said stronger revenues and an improving economy could cut this year’s financial gap by more than half.

Villaraigosa, who endorsed the plan to take the sales tax from 9% to 9.5%, said Thursday that a brighter financial outlook could take a looming deficit from $216 million to less than $100 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“The economy’s getting better,” he said. “So I don’t expect that we’re going to have draconian cuts.”

Voters rejected Proposition A by 55%, according to unofficial results. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget official, responded to that vote by announcing that he would offer a menu of potential budget cuts within a few days. Santana said the size of the police force and funding for street repairs should be "back on the table" for discussion.

Villaraigosa will present his final budget next month. His analysis Thursday was similar to one provided last month by his onetime budget advisor, former Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo. Szabo, then running for City Council, said the city's budget shortfall was $100 million lower than the figure being used publicly by proponents of Proposition A.

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Villaraigosa plans 'real close look' at mayoral runoff candidates

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday he still has not decided whether to endorse one of the two candidates in the May 21 mayoral election -- but plans to take a "real close look" at both contenders.

Appearing at an event in which  he announced his support for City Council candidate Nury Martinez, Villaraigosa said he might weigh in later in the race between City Council President Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel.

“At this point, I can’t tell you that I will endorse,” he said. “I may. I also may stay out. Because I think it’s important that whatever happens, that I have a good relationship with the next mayor. I’m going to support whoever wins whether or not I vote for them.”

At least 70 current and former Villaraigosa appointees have coalesced around Greuel, according to a Times analysis completed earlier this year. Key Villaraigosa advisers have been holding fundraisers for her. Meanwhile, two longtime Villaraigosa campaign consultants are with Working Californians, the campaign committee closely aligned with the Department of Water and Power union, which spent $2 million to promote Greuel and attack three of her opponents.

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New boarding gates open at LAX's international terminal

Marking further progress in the modernization of LAX, city officials on Wednesday heralded the opening of three boarding gates at the new Tom Bradley International Terminal, two of which are designed to handle the largest commercial jetliners.

On the north end of the terminal, the gates are the first of 18 that will be built at the Bradley, where a complete renovation is underway that includes new concourses and a grand central hall with upscale shopping and dining.

“Today, we take another important step in creating the LAX of the 21st Century,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said during a news conference at the terminal.  “This summer, nine gates will be open and we will go from having the worst international terminal in the U.S. to having the best international terminal in the U.S.”

The nine gates on the Bradley’s west side and the grand central hall were supposed to be finished in December 2012, but officials say construction complications as well as additions to the modernization project delayed their openings until this summer.

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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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