Southern California -- this just in

Category: Steve Lopez

L.A. Votes: Hollywood, Texas billionaire weigh in on mayor's race

Los Angeles Mayoral candidates Jan Perry, Kevin James, Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel and Emanuel Pleitez during a debate sponsored by the Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy and Jobs at UCLA's Royce Hall in January.

Los Angeles' election day is rapidly approaching. That's clear from the candidates' frenzied schedules, the money pouring into increasingly ubiquitous television campaign ads and the glossy pitches and hit pieces piling into mailboxes. Election Memo

Spending by independent groups not controlled by the candidates just topped $1.5 million. And another fundraising reporting period ended Saturday, after potential donors were bombarded with last-minute pleas for cash. The latest financial numbers will be available later this week.

The candidates also are touting their most recent endorsements. Eric Garcetti got the nod from the L.A. Times' editorial board. Kevin James has the backing of former Mayor Richard Riordan. And Wendy Greuel received the backing of a young Latino Democrats group in the Valley, a local Teamsters union and a Realtors' coalition.

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With just over two weeks before the March 5 election day, the candidates hopscotched across the city all weekend, opening new field offices, speaking at an education event at a downtown middle school, marching in a Chinese New Year parade and attending Sunday services at an African American church.

Here are other developments in the mayoral race as reported by The Times:

Texas billionaire Harold Simmons has no obvious business in the city of Los Angeles but is bankrolling the Super PAC that just began airing TV ads for James, an attorney and former talk show host. The sole Republican in the race, James is considered a long shot in heavily Democratic L.A. But backing from Simmons -- a major GOP donor who has helped fund some controversial campaigns in the past -- could boost James' profile.

Continue reading »

Steve Lopez: No one seemed to fall asleep at latest mayoral forum

Photo: Los Angeles Mayoral candidates Jan Perry, Kevin James, Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, and Emanuel Pleitez during the debate sponsored by the Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy and Jobs at UCLA's Royce Hall on Jan. 28. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Steve LopezPacked house Monday night at the Autry National Center to see the mayoral wanna-bes square off.

The highlights?

This one was fairly lively, actually. I sat in the back of the room to gage audience reaction, and nobody fell asleep, to my knowledge.

FULL COVERAGE: Los Angeles mayor's race

Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel smacked each other a little bit over “silly season” political tactics, as Greuel called Garcetti’s proposal to donate PAC money to charities.

Kevin James spent a little too much time on an old-news ticket-fixing story. He was better off lining up the city’s problems -- a budget deficit, high unemployment, soaring retirement costs, broken streets and sidewalks -- and then telling the audience we have the highest-paid city officials in the nation.

All five candidates took the courageous stand of promising not to allow digital billboards in Griffith Park. Thanks, folks. But we wouldn’t have had so many of those billion-watt nuisances in neighborhoods if city officials hadn’t sold out to the outdoor advertising industry.

Continue reading »

Steve Lopez: How can Mahony still be a priest 'in good standing'?


Just when you think things can’t get much worse for Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, along comes a stunning rebuke from his successor, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.

Steve Lopez “I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” Gomez said of the molestation files Mahony tried desperately to keep out of the hands of police, even as known pedophiles claimed more victims. “The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil.”

So far, so good. But in The Times story on the decision by Gomez to distance the Archdiocese from Mahony, church spokesman and Mahony loyalist Tod Tamberg said the cardinal’s life would be largely unchanged and that he would remain “a priest in good standing.”

Excuse me?

How could he still be in good standing?

[Updated at 12:11 p.m.: And why did it take until Thursday for the archdiocese to crack down on Mahony and announce that Santa Barbara Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, Mahony’s go-to man in the 1980s on molestation, has stepped down? The church has known for years what Mahony and Curry’s roles were in the scandal, and Gomez has been at the helm since 2011.]

In the files released Thursday, Curry sent Mahony a 1988 memo about a priest accused of molesting 20 altar boys in nine months.

“The whole issue of our records is a very sensitive one, and I am reluctant to give any list to the police,” wrote Curry.

And Mahony responded:

“We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever.”

Certainly not. Why act in the interest of the victims, or in the interest of preventing more crimes?

I’ve sent a message to Tamberg asking him to explain how Mahony’s actions as head of the church could be so reprehensible that he’s shoved aside, yet he remains in good standing. I’ll let you know what he has to say, if anything.

With Mahony, even as more evidence of his misdeeds emerges, the chance of prosecution remains slim because of the lapsed statute of limitations.

You have to wonder, though, if there is a worse sentence for Mahony than to be kicked aside like this, his legacy tainted, his ambitions grounded, his good deeds forever in the dark shadows of his grotesque misdeeds.



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Rebuke of Cardinal Mahony casts a lengthy shadow at L.A. churches

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Protesters hold quilts bearing portraits of young abuse victims outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Friday. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP Photo

Steve Lopez: Heard about the blind man who got a driver's license?

Mark OverlandAttorney Mark Overland, 72, is legally blind.

So he was a bit surprised when the Department of Motor Vehicles issued him a new license last month, even after he disclosed the visual impairment that has taken away 94% of his vision. He also didn't take a driving test as required.

TalkbackAs The Times' Steve Lopez writes:

Overland gave up driving 15 years ago because of his deteriorating vision. But he kept renewing his license by mail for the sake of having a valid ID. Five years ago, when he got a license renewal form, he noticed a portion that asked if he had any visual impairment that would affect his driving.

"I checked off 'yes.'"

The next line asked what that might be, and Overland wrote "retinitis pigmentosa." That's a progressive condition in which peripheral vision is lost. Overland has a narrow tunnel of vision, and can see pretty well within that field. But anything to the right or left, up or down, is lost to him. He was more than a little surprised then to get his license in the mail a couple of weeks later.

When Overland got his latest renewal notice a month ago, it instructed him to go to a DMV office for a written test and eye exam. He was curious to see what would happen if he didn't mention his disability, so he went to the DMV on Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica, with his daughter Courtney doing the driving. Overland thought briefly about entering the office with his white cane, but decided against it, and Courtney instead served as his guide.

At the DMV, Overland was able to read most of the letters on an eye chart on a back wall and passed another eye test where he peered into a machine — but he initially couldn't see either chart because they weren't in his line of vision. After acing a written test, his new license arrived in the mail two weeks later.

The DMV couldn't say why Overland wasn't ordered to take a driving test five years ago when he notified the agency of his condition — spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez said anyone with retinitis pigmentosa is required to take a driving test. But, Gonzalez said, in 2011, nearly 41,000 people were required to prove their ability to drive after concerns about their driving were reported. More than 38,000 of those people had their licenses suspended or revoked.


When Overland first told me about his adventure, he said he didn't want anyone at the DMV to lose a job over this. But he felt like it was worth speaking up.

"I have concluded that changes need to be made in the DMV vision testing process," he said with graceful understatement.

Do you agree? Should the DMV reevaluate its policies for unsafe drivers? Share your views below.


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Photo: Mark Overland gave up driving 15 years ago because of his deteriorating vision, but the DMV continued to renew his license. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Steve Lopez: Who sold out the Endeavour space shuttle?

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's final journey to L.A.

Steve Lopez TalkbackThe space shuttle Endeavour in a Toyota commercial?

Who sold out on that one? NASA?

The California Science Center where the shuttle will be housed?

If you saw Andrew Blankstein’s post Wednesday morning, a half-ton Toyota Tundra pickup truck will be towing the shuttle part of the way -- or at least it’ll look that way through the magic of television -- when Endeavour makes the two-day journey from LAX to the Science Center near USC next week.

If you’re going to allow a government rocket to be used to sell trucks, why stop there? Why not plaster Endeavour with ads, as if it’s a NASCAR race car?

FULL COVERAGE: Endeavour's final journey to L.A.

Tang breakfast drink would probably like a piece of that action, given its history with the space program. But I’d rather go with local brands.

Philippe’s could take one half of the tail section, El Cholo the other half.

Better yet, Astro Burger, the Galaxy, the Griffith Observatory.

At the Science Center, kids could learn not just about space travel, but about the ever-expanding world of advertising platforms.

I’m not sure what it would cost to plaster an ad onto the side of Endeavour, but the price of posting your thoughts here?

Free, so let it fly.


L.A. marijuana ban retreat shows clout of pot activists

Ad will show Toyota Tundra towing Endeavour on L.A. street

Inmate accused of killing cellmate at Antelope Valley State Prison

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: The space shuttle Endeavour is seen atop the Over Land Transporter in a hangar at Los Angeles International Airport on Sept. 24. Credit: Bill Ingalls / Associated Press

Steve Lopez: Illegal immigration is a fact of life; deal with it

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown's two big decisions Sunday on immigration bills illustrate the madness of trying to establish public policy when federal, state and local approaches are in conflict.

Brown decided that young illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria and qualify for a work permit program offered by President Obama can apply for a driver's license.

Steve LopezUnderstandably, some folks think this is insane, and you can hear the echo: What part of illegal don't you understand?

But for reasons that include a desire for cheap labor and cheap prices, illegal immigration is a fact of life. And many illegal immigrants drive without training, licenses or insurance, making it more dangerous for everyone on the road. So Brown isn't just recognizing the fact that many illegal immigrants were brought to the U.S. before they knew what the word "illegal" meant; he's also taking public safety into consideration.

But in his other decision Sunday, Brown seemed to cross to the other side of the immigration debate border. He turned back a bill that would have prohibited local law enforcement from working with the feds to detain suspected illegal immigrants, unless the suspected crimes were serious.

The bill was written because deportations have been up under Obama and families ripped apart by deportation, even though in the majority of cases, illegal immigrants are detained for minor offenses by local authorities.

The answer?

Federal immigration reform.

Offer a path to citizenship to those who apply, abide by the law, and pay fines for breaking the law.

Deport those who don't comply, secure the border, enforce the law.

Expand work permit programs to supply American businesses with temporary or permanent labor forces when necessary.

Invest a fraction of what the U.S. spends in the Middle East on economic development in Mexico.


Gov. Jerry Brown tweets that he signed social media privacy bills

Giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants: Is Jerry Brown right?

California allows driver's licenses for young undocumented immigrants

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills during the congregation's High Holy Days Contemporary Issues Forum on Wednesday. Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times

Steve Lopez: Did Villaraigosa, council get played by AEG?

Villaraigosa AEG
Pro football in Los Angeles? We'll know more this week, with an L.A. City Council committee reviewing the downtown stadium proposal Monday and the full council voting Friday.

The betting line? It's probably a done deal, but let's hope someone on the council stops cheering long enough to ask some tough questions about the public impact and risks, and about last week's startling news that AEG, the Staples Center owner who's been pushing the deal, is for sale.

Steve LopezOne question I'd like to ask:

Did L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the council get played by AEG owner Phil Anschutz?

Slobbering, football-happy city officials have spent more than a year and countless man-hours happily putting a deal in place, with some great potential benefits but public risks as well, for AEG to rebuild a wing of the convention center as part of the stadium deal. And now, just when final approval is all but signed and sealed, Anschutz suddenly wants to sell all of AEG.

Why now?

The mayor has said he doesn't care why.

I do, especially if Anschutz's plan all along was to drive up the price of his company by first having L.A. city officials sweeten the package -- and state legislators pitching in, too -- by laying the groundwork for the return of football to L.A.

With a football franchise, or even the prospect of one, the billionaire Anschutz will add gazillions more to his bank account when he sells.

Money the Denver recluse isn't likely to spend in L.A.


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Murder trial nears end for chef who told police he cooked wife

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Magic Johnson after a February 2011 press conference where Timothy J. Leiweke, president and chief executive officer at AEG, announced that the Farmers Insurance Exchange has the historic naming rights agreement for the new downtown Los Angeles football stadium and event center. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Steve Lopez: Mr. Mayor, don’t keep us in dark on AEG sale

Steve LopezL.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has to be kidding.

"I'm not going to tell everybody everything we're doing," said hizzoner, defending his decision not to reveal to city officials or anyone else that he knew AEG was up for sale in the middle of negotiations to build a downtown stadium.

"Because we want a football team," he went on, "and a lot of what happens here has got to be negotiated quietly."

Pardon me, but one of the public risks in investing in a football team is that owners can't be trusted not to just up and leave. It's happened twice, with the Rams and Raiders, and now before we even get a third team, AEG is flying the coop.

Let me remind the mayor that more than his ego is at stake. Public money is on the line, too, with the city issuing nearly $400 million in debt, with AEG required to pay back the money under the terms of the deal.

Villaraigosa says whoever owns AEG, the same terms will apply, and the City Council will decide next week whether to proceed.

But why should we trust an owner whose identity we don't know?

What if we build a stadium and never get a team?

Continue reading »

With Yaroslavsky out, Riordan unimpressed by L.A. mayor's race field

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan speaks to parents, students and teachers at an education meeting at his home in 2011. Credit: Bret Hartman / For The Times
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's decision not to run for mayor of Los Angeles was greeted with disappointment by a man who held the job for eight years.

Richard Riordan, who served as mayor from 1993 to 2001, said he was unhappy with the current field of candidates, two of whom he said can't get elected, and two of whom "are under the total control of" unions.

“The city is in and is going deeper into financial disaster,” Riordan said. “I think we have to look hard for other candidates."

Riordan has been talking a lot in recent weeks about steadily rising city employee pension costs and the unwillingness he sees among Los Angeles lawmakers to take steps to reduce them. He and a coalition of business leaders have vowed to put a referendum on the May ballot that would turn decisions on pensions over to voters. 

Riordan says county officials, including Yaroslavsky, have done a better job than city officials at controlling pension costs. He said the longtime supervisor is candid and "independent-minded." Without him, Riordan said, the race lacks contenders who will give an honest assessment of the city’s financial picture.

Riordan complained that the top fund-raisers in the race, City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti, are too beholden to labor.

Continue reading »

Steve Lopez: Trutanich delivers cash; what about ‘I’m a liar’ ad?

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich delivers on promise, sort of
Remember L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich's pledge to raise $100,000 for L.A.'s Best After School Enrichment Program, and the wormy way he tried to wriggle out of the commitment?

I do, and just when I was about to take batting practice on him again, it seems he's come up with the money, or at least some of it.

"I want to express my personal appreciation to you for making good on your promise…" Carla Sanger, L.A's Best president and CEO, wrote to Trutanich this week.Steve Lopez

Actually, Trutanich has delivered $30,000 so far and hopes to make good on the rest of it in the next 30 days or so, said spokesman John Schwada. Schwada said the names of at least some of the donors will be released over that same time span, though some may wish to remain anonymous.

It'll be worth watching to see who the Good Samaritans are and whether a contribution on behalf of the city attorney is kosher.

Trutanich got himself into a mess way back when he was running for his current position against Jack Weiss. Trutanich challenged Weiss to agree to a pledge that if either of them won and then decided to leave office early to run for a higher post, they would have to donate $100,000 to L.A.'s Best and take out an ad confessing to being a big fat liar.

And then, of course, Trutanich ran for higher office before completing his first term -– getting trounced, if not humiliated, in a run for district attorney.

When I tried to hold Trutanich to his promise earlier this year, he claimed the deal was off because Weiss never took him up on the pledge. Under the pressure of public embarrassment, Trutanich told me he'd "raise" the money, rather than donate his own as he originally said, and get it done by his birthday in August.

"Being able to help a program like LA's Best is very gratifying and proves the point that it is better to give than receive," Trutanich said in a news release.

Yeah, but it's even better to give without first having your feet put to the fire.

As for the "I'm a liar" ad, I'm still offering to put Trutanich in touch with our advertising department.


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Doctor who prescribed drugs based on dog X-ray suspended

Boy dead, another missing after being swept downriver in Yosemite

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: City Atty. Carmen Trutanich  Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times


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