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Southern California -- this just in

Category: Politics/Elections

Bill could extend last call for alcohol to 4 a.m. in some cities

Leno
Last call could come a little later in some California cities if one bill becomes law.

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced legislation that could extend the last call for alcohol in some California cities until 4 a.m., saying doing so could boost the state's economy by drawing in tourists.

The state's major cities, Leno contends, are at a disadvantage competing with Las Vegas, New York and Miami for tourists who want a lively nightclub scene because of a California law that cuts off alcohol sales at 2 a.m.

"This legislation would allow destination cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego to start local conversations about the possibility of expanding night life and the benefits it could provide the community by boosting jobs, tourism and local tax revenue,'' Leno said.

Currently, the state allows the sale of alcohol from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. for bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Leno's bill would let cities get permission from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to allow their nightspots to extend their hours for serving alcohol.

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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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UC faculty leaders blast legislation on online education expansion

In a crossing of swords between academics and politicians, the University of California’s top two faculty leaders on Friday strongly criticized legislation that would allow students bumped from overcrowded core courses at state schools to instead take online courses from other colleges or private companies.

The bill, authored by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), “raises grave concerns,” Robert L. Powell and Bill Jacob, the chairman and vice chairman of the UC system’s faculty Senate, wrote in a letter to colleagues. Among other things, “the clear self-interest of for profit corporations in promoting the privatization of public higher education through this legislation is dismaying,” they said.

The Steinberg legislation, introduced Wednesday amid strong national interest, proposes a special review panel, comprised of faculty from UC, Cal State and community colleges, to determine which online courses are worthy of academic credit.

The goal is a list of up to 50 basic undergraduate courses that students could take online for UC, Cal State or community college credit if they cannot gain enrollment into those courses on campus.

Powell, a chemical engineering professor at UC Davis, and Jacob, a mathematics professor at UC Santa Barbara, rejected that plan as an assault on the power of UC’s Academic Senate to determine whether transfer courses cover the right material with the same rigor as UC courses do.

“There is no possibility that UC faculty will shirk its responsibility to our students by ceding authority over courses to any outside agency,” they wrote.

The two, who are the faculty representatives on the UC Regents board, said they were not consulted in advance of Steinberg’s announcement but said they plan to meet with his staff soon.

The faculty union at the Cal State system previously expressed similar concerns.

Rhys Williams, Steinberg’s spokesman, said Friday that the bill specifically gives California faculty control, albeit in a new way, over which online courses should be approved and that “nobody is trying to take away power from the faculty.”

He said the senator's office “embraces the opportunity to discuss” the bill with faculty leaders and that its details might change as a result.

However, he said the senator remains committed to the legislation’s goal of helping students.

“Students and middle-class families are in desperate need of action to break the bottlenecks that are preventing timely graduation and ultimately increasing the burden of student debt,” Williams said.

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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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L.A. Votes: Greuel and Garcetti vie for endorsements and cash

Photo: Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel speaks to media on March 6. Creidt: Nick Ut / Associated Press

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef017ee8cd99e7970d-piAs they gear up for the May 21 runoff election, Los Angeles mayoral candidates Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti are spending limited time on the campaign trail as they gather support and cash for the final 10 weeks of the race.

Greuel will announce what her campaign bills as a “major” endorsement on the steps of City Hall on Friday morning. Garcetti is not holding any public events on Friday, but will be headlining a fundraiser in the evening at the home of film producer James Lassiter. He also has fundraisers planned at the Los Angeles manse of billionaire Tony Pritzker on Tuesday, and one hosted by a bundler for President Obama in Chicago on Thursday.

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

Greuel is undoubtedly planning fundraisers as well, but invitations to her events have yet to pop up on the city’s Ethics Commission website.

In their few events in recent days, both candidates have underscored their pro-business credentials. Greuel touted her efforts on behalf of minority and female business owners, while Garcetti said the city needed to stop being lazy and work harder to lure international investment.

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The break from non-stop campaigning is unlikely to last long, however.

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

Photo: Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel speaks to media on March 6. Creidt: Nick Ut / Associated Press

L.A. housing activist says AEG will still carry weight at City Hall

Fair-housing activist Larry Gross said Thursday that even without chief executive Tim Leiweke, the company that built Staples Center and LA Live downtown will still be a City Hall heavyweight.

Reacting to the news Leiweke had parted ways with Anschutz Entertainment Group, Gross said the company and Leiweke won influence with elected officials by donating to political campaigns.
 
“They have a lot of money they can throw around,” said Gross, executive for the Coalition for Economic Survival. Leiweke, he said, “essentially was able to get whatever he wanted. The City Hall power structure really bent over backward to accommodate the development going on" downtown.

AEG: A look back

Gross said he doesn’t expect the influence of AEG to diminish with Leiweke’s departure, in part because the company has the money to make City Hall listen. “The fact is AEG’s influence will continue,” he said. “They’ll just continue with someone else.”

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Departing AEG chief Tim Leiweke seen as political force in L.A.

Los Angeles developer Steve Soboroff had only fond memories Thursday of working with downtown business figure Tim Leiweke, as officials announced he would be leaving his post as chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment Group by mutual agreement with its owner.

Soboroff, an early backer of AEG's Staples Center in downtown, said Leiweke brought a spark when he arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1990s to push the project forward for Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz.

“The minute Tim came out here the whole dynamic changed,” Soboroff said. “It went from a stadium deal to the first step in a larger vision of reshaping the sports and hospitality business in downtown and the rest of Los Angeles. And he implemented it.”

AEG: A look back

Leiweke’s impact stretched far beyond the business world, Soboroff said. “He created the company. He grew the company. He operated the company. And in order to do that he became a political and philanthropic force.”

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Glendale candidate refuses to deny link to 'racist' comments

Zareh Sinanyan. Credit: Glendale News Press

Under pointed questioning before the City Council he is campaigning to join, city commissioner Zareh Sinanyan this week refused to deny he was the author behind threatening and racist comments posted online under his name, saying only that they do not reflect who he is.

“The words attributed to me are not me. They do not represent who I am as a person,” he said. “They do not reflect my values, my ideals.”

Sinanyan, a Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee member who is considered a front-runner in the City Council race, called a proposal to strip him of his commission seat an orchestrated smear campaign because of the comments.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman, Councilman Ara Najarian and Mayor Frank Quintero asked for the discussion to be brought before the council last week. Friedman and Najarian are both seeking to keep their seats in the April 2 election.

When asked whether he wrote the comments — which on YouTube referred mostly to Armenia's geopolitical enemies as “lazy,” “degenerate thieves,” “dirty” and more vulgar terms — he refused to say, adding he had not seen the comments council members were referring to.

“Saying that they don't represent you is very different than saying that you didn't write them,” said Friedman.

Sinanyan went on to say: “I'm investigating this issue and trying to understand.”

Since the online comments became public, Sinanyan has lost several high-profile endorsements, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, and both Los Angeles mayoral run-off candidates, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel.

While the council discussion was focused on Sinanyan's commission seat, Sinanyan's supporters quickly turned the public comment period into an attack on Friedman, who first introduced the motion. The crowd of about 90 heckled her several times during the proceeding.

“I'm disappointed that I would be attacked for bringing up hate speech, very serious, very disturbing hate speech,” Friedman said.

At one point, in response to her claim that she was not responsible for the reaction to the alleged comments, Sinanyan got out of his seat and whispered to his supporters: “She's lying.”

In the end, the council unanimously decided to take no action, and tabled stripping Sinanyan of his commission seat.

“The election will decide everything,” Councilman Dave Weaver said.

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Photo: Zareh Sinanyan. Credit: Glendale News Press

Garcetti says L.A. is lazy about recruiting international investment

Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that city leaders have not done enough to promote international investment here or to recruit businesses from other nations, adding that if he is elected, he would pursue those opportunities more aggressively in Latin America and Asia.

“We’ve had successful trips of mayors abroad,” Garcetti told members of the L.A. Metropolitan Hispanic Chambers of Commerce at a luncheon in Silver Lake. But “it’s like a balloon that we blow air into, as soon as we leave, it deflates. I want to have much more of a permanent presence, especially with our large trading partners in the capitals.”

He proposed opening city offices in such key destinations as Seoul to encourage trade, tourism and investment, noting that even the small state of Arkansas has an office in Shanghai.

Garcetti, a Rhodes Scholar who taught at Occidental College and USC, said the city's next mayor should be as culturally fluent as possible.

Making a subtle contrast to rival Wendy Greuel, who has spent much of her career in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., Garcetti noted that he would bring “the experience of having lived abroad, having traveled abroad and having taught international relations” to the role of mayor.

“I understand that our success is really tied to the international economy,” he said.

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L.A. Votes: Building runoff machines, courting endorsements

Photo: Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaks at a news conference on March 6. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press

After a frenzy of activity on the campaign trail in recent weeks, culminating in last week’s primary election, the mayoral candidates are focusing on raising money, trotting out new endorsements and courting party and labor loyalists to build their general-election campaign machinery.

Election memoOn Tuesday, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti courted two key groups-–the most influential labor coalition in the county, and the county Democrats, neither of which endorsed in the primary.

Reflecting the tightness of the race, the county Democratic Party again split on which candidates to endorse in the May 21 runoff election. But a key committee of the county Federation of Labor backed Greuel, setting in motion the procedural votes that will almost certainly result in an official endorsement in the next week. Both candidates vigorously sought the imprimateur of the federation, which represents about 600,000 workers.

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

The fight for endorsements-–which can carry financial backing, influence or armies of volunteers-–has intensified in recent days over the parties that did not weigh in before the primary. Now that the field has been whittled down to two, state lawmakers are increasingly making their decision on who to back in the mayoral contest. Greuel rolled out the backing of two influential African American pastors, and Garcetti rolled out the backing of some labor unions and the former leader of the state Democratic party.

The lull in campaigning is likely to be short-lived. Greuel plans to stump Wednesday morning with women and minority business leaders, while Garcetti will speak at a luncheon for the L.A. Metropolitan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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-- Seema Mehta

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

Photo: Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaks at a news conference on March 6. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press

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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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