To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Doug McIntyre: Endorsements aren't a vision for L.A.

 Dueling endorsements take center stage

By Doug McIntyre, March 31, 2013 

 The battle for the black vote turned hot and heavy last week as mayoral march madness made the turn towards ugly April, the month when the airwaves and our mailboxes will feature hundreds of negative ads alleging every kind of chicanery and malfeasance.

"Mark Ridley-Thomas backs me!" crowed mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel.

"Jan Perry backs me!" answered her rival, Eric Garcetti.

"Pffft." Scoffed the City Controller. "I've got our first African-American President, William Jefferson Clinton!"

"Carpetbagger!" parried Garcetti. "Bernie Parks is in my camp."

"Three words: Ervin Magic Johnson," trumped Greuel.

And unless Eric Garcetti gets a phone call from Nelson Mandela's hospital room, Greuel wins this round of celebrity endorsements.

And thus far the 2013 mayor's race has been "The Battle of the Big Wigs" with the two candidates rolling out one famous name after another but almost no policy proposals, only vague platitudes.

Last week Greuel and Garcetti made their pitch for the African-American vote by rolling out surrogates with street cred amongst voters who have no particular attachment to either candidate.

Earlier, Greuel pitched the business community by touting the endorsement of former Mayor Dick Riordan. Team Garcetti answered with business tycoon, Steve Soboroff.

Cue the banjo music. It's dueling endorsements.

The one high-profile politician who hasn't endorsed Garcetti or Greuel is the guy who currently holds the job.

But that doesn't mean the two candidates aren't making their pitch:

Wendy: "Mr. Mayor, I think it's time you got off the fence and backed the only man for the job, Eric Garcetti. "

Eric: "Antonio, amigo! Isn't it about time L.A. had a mom for mayor? "

Meanwhile, the wheels are officially off at City Hall with Council President Herb Wesson's LA 2020 club, a new blue ribbon commission comprised of the usual suspects who are supposed to report back in six months with answers to the Rubik's Cube that is L.A.'s seemingly perpetual problems.

Budget balancing wizards like former California Gov. Gray Davis and DWP Union boss Brian d'Arcy will meet behind closed doors to hammer out a roadmap for L.A.'s future.

Just the thought should cost you more sleep than a ten-cent burrito.

Powerful endorsements and blue ribbon panels populated by City Hall power brokers and political-insiders is doubling down on what got us into trouble in the first place.

I'd trade all the experts on the LA 2020 commission for a single drycleaner from Tarzana and all the Garcetti and Greuel endorsements for a few specifics on policy.

The voters want to know how, not who.

Earthquake: 3.4 quake strikes near Indio


 By Ken Schwencke, April 7, 2013

Earthquake near Indio

A map shows the approximate location of the epicenter of Sunday afternoon's quake near Indio.

A shallow magnitude 3.4 earthquake was reported Sunday afternoon eight miles from Indio, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 12:14 p.m. PDT at a depth of 1.9 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was nine miles from Coachella, 15 miles from La Quinta, and 16 miles from Palm Desert.

In the past 10 days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3 and greater centered nearby.
Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

Earthquake: 3.1 quake strikes near Joshua Tree


 By Ken Schwencke, April 7, 2013Earthquake: 3.1 quake strikes near Joshua Tree

A map shows the approximate location of the epicenter of Sunday afternoon's quake near Joshua Tree.

A shallow magnitude 3.1 earthquake was reported Sunday afternoon 39 miles from Joshua Tree, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 1:45 p.m. Pacific time at a depth of 0.6 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 41 miles from Twentynine Palms, 41 miles from Yucca Valley, 43 miles from Barstow and 256 miles from Phoenix.

In the past 10 days, there has been one earthquake magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.
Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

Jerry Brown In China: California Governor Heads To Asia Seeking Investments 


By Juliet Williams, April 6, 2013 


Jerry Brown China



SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Jerry Brown has designs on building some of the most expensive public works projects in the nation and wants to keep the state moving forward in its slow recovery from the recession.

Where better to go searching for the money to further those interests than the world's second largest economy and a country that has piles of cash to invest around the globe?

The governor of the most populous U.S. state heads to China next week to begin a weeklong trade mission that he hopes will produce investments on both sides of the Pacific. Brown will lead a delegation of business leaders in search of what he calls "plenty of billions."

"They've got $400 billion or $500 billion they're going to invest abroad, so California's got to get a piece of that," Brown said in an interview last week ahead of his seven-day trip to China.

The governor and business leaders accompanying him are trying to rebuild the state's official relationship with China after the state closed its two trade offices and others around the world a decade ago in a cost-cutting move. California finds itself playing catch-up to other states that have had a vigorous presence in China for years.

California, which would be the world's ninth largest economy if it were a separate country, will open a trade office in Shanghai during Brown's visit. The Bay Area Council, a coalition of business interests from the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley, is raising about $1 million a year in private money to operate it.

"California shouldn't be the only state in the union not to have a presence with key foreign trading partners like China," said Jim Wunderman, president of the group.

Asia Society, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes collaboration between the U.S. and Asia, reported in 2011 that businesses from China have established operations and created jobs in at least 35 of the 50 U.S. states, including California.

Pickering said California is behind other states in recruiting Chinese investment, while states as varied as Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida and Arkansas have had an official presence there. The Republican governors of Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin and Guam also are visiting China this month and meeting with provincial leaders to discuss trade and the environment.

"I would think it would be very difficult to try to attract investment without having someone on the ground there on your behalf," said Joe Holmes, a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Agency.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe led a mission to China last year, and a number of deals are being discussed as a result, Holmes said.

Asia Society reported this year that China's direct foreign investment is poised to skyrocket to between $1 trillion and $2 trillion by 2020. California is ideally situated to capture some of that money if it goes after it: China already is California's third-largest export partner after Mexico and Canada.

And Brown already has a relationship with President Xi Jinping. The two met to discuss trade issues last year when the then-vice president visited California.

Technology, life sciences, real estate, banking, health care and agriculture are among the industries state business leaders and officials hope to target. The concentration of skilled technical engineers and the clean-energy sector in the Silicon Valley also are a draw for emerging companies, along with Chinese tourism to California.

State and local tourism officials are among those joining Brown on the trip, along with winemakers, cheese proprietors and almond growers. In all, about 75 business and policy leaders from a cross-section of California industries are joining the mission, which will include stops in the capital city, Beijing, as well as Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Those cities are among the most developed and important in China. Shanghai, a port city, is an important center of industry and finance, while Guangzhou is in the heartland of the Pearl River Delta region, which is home to the myriad processing and assembling factories that have made China the world's factory floor.

The nearly $4 billion a year in computer and electronic products California sends to China account for the state's largest export, followed by waste and scrap, non-electrical machinery and transportation equipment. The agriculture products such as strawberries, almonds and lettuce are fifth.

According to the governor's office, the vast majority of Chinese exports headed to the United States go through California ports.

The trip also signals a pivot for Brown as he seeks to rebuild California's nearly $2 trillion economy after the state's tumultuous ride during the Great Recession. It was the epicenter of the housing crisis and weathered double-digit unemployment for nearly four years.

Brown said the state budget has stabilized, in large part because of voter-approved tax increases, and that he is now moving on to broader policy issues.

"California is a place where it's a cauldron of creative activity, and I see that China has some of that, maybe a lot of that," Brown said in the interview. "You have always got to find a way to renew things, and that's what I see as my job here."

The governor's boldest and most expensive projects are a $68 billion high-speed rail system that is expected to start construction this summer and a $24 billion project to build massive water-delivery tunnels and restore parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast.

Brown is especially interested in studying China's extensive high-speed rail system and use it as a way to promote his own plan, which has come under intense criticism and has been losing public support as its projected cost has soared. The governor is scheduled to ride part of China's rail system from Beijing to Shanghai, accompanied by the chairman of California's high-speed rail board, Dan Richard.

China has the world's longest high-speed rail system, covering 5,800 miles, and has tried to turn it into a showcase. But the system also has faced problems: Part of a line collapsed in central China after heavy rains and a crash in 2011 killed 40 people. The former railway minister, who spearheaded the bullet train's construction, and the ministry's chief engineer, were detained in a corruption investigation.

Brown said he likes "the exuberance" with which Chinese officials approached building high-speed rail and would welcome investment in the California system or any other infrastructure projects in the state.

Despite the governor's enthusiasm, it's not clear how applicable the Chinese system is to a major infrastructure project in the U.S. The Chinese high-speed rail network benefits from heavy government financing and faces few of the environmental and legal hurdles in California. The land needed to build the Chinese system is often forcibly procured at below market prices.

The council opened its own office in Shanghai in 2010 to fill the void after the closure of the trade offices. Bruce Pickering, executive director of the Northern California office of the Asia Society, called the 2003 decision "penny wise but pound foolish."

"We've basically said, `We're California, show up and stand in line with everybody else,'" Pickering said. "You have to do a little more than just say you're welcoming a business. ... You have to really send a message that you are ready for it."


Doo Dah Queen tryouts in Pasadena


 Doo Dah Queen contestants as well as fans of the parade attended the judging event at the American Legion Bar in Pasadena on Sunday, April 7, 2013.



 Doo Dah Queen hopefuls unite for a group photo prior to their auditions at the tryouts for the Doo Dah Queen. 


Charles F. Delvalle, dressed as Uncle Fester from the Adams Family TV show, was one of many unique guest in attendance at the Doo Dah Queen tryouts. Doo Dah Queen hopefuls, and fans of the parade attended the judging event at the American Legion Bar in Pasadena on Sunday, April 7, 2013.



Pasadena schools face cash crunch

 Official asked for 160 layoff notices, board approved just 94.


By Joe Piasecki, April 7, 2013


Pasadena Unified officials are struggling to find about $10 million in cuts to balance next year's budget amid concerns that school board members didn't issue enough teacher layoff notices to get the district through a worst-case funding scenario.

Earlier this year, the board issued pink slips for 94 educators, despite a recommendation by the district's chief finance officer to put as many as 160 on notice before the state-mandated deadline of March 15.

The school board's 4-3 decision to reduce potential teacher layoff notices came just one week before several of its members were up for reelection and, according to Supt. Jon Gundry, "seriously limited" the district's budgeting flexibility.

That's because now that the deadline for pink slip notices has passed, the spending cuts will have to come from elsewhere.

Officials say they must now contemplate cuts as such as reducing the time security officers spend on campuses, postponing new textbook purchases, scaling back plans for a science magnet program at Washington Middle School and eliminating Blair High School's international baccalaureate program.
Board member Scott Phelps, who ultimately won re-election, said he voted against reducing layoff notices because it was "convoluted" and "didn't make any sense."

Board member Ed Honowitz called the layoff process "a disaster" but said he voted for the reduced layoff package to ensure at least some notices would go out.

The hand-tying cropped up during a board discussion on Tuesday. School officials said they could achieve roughly $1.7 million in savings by cutting 32 teaching positions , but because no new pink slips can go out, it's highly unlikely they'll be able to reach that mark.

District officials only expect to shave 21 positions through attrition and pink slips.

But even during a conversation about needing to cut further, board members expressed second thoughts about laying off librarians, reducing hours for school security officers and cutting back on parent liaisons.

"The fundamental problem here is we are not facing the reality of not having enough funds," Phelps said.

But Gundry also said board members face the challenge of developing a balanced budget in June based on unknown revenues.

Whether teachers will accept furloughs, forgo raises or take pay cuts — options each valued in the millions of dollars but staunchly opposed by the teachers union — is subject to negotiations that Gundry said could take months.

It also remains unclear whether state officials will back Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed local control funding formula proposal, which would increase state payments to school districts with high numbers of students from low-income families or those learning English.

The governor's proposal would mean a boon of about $4 million for Pasadena Unified, Gundry said.

But school districts in wealthier areas would see much lower funding increases, if any, San Marino Unified School District Assistant Supt. Julie Boucher said.

Phelps is pushing the board to adopt a resolution supporting the governor's plan next Tuesday, in part to pressure state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La CaƱada Flintridge), who represents both Pasadena and San Marino.

Liu, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, has misgivings about the governor's plan.

"I'm going to try to get there with him, but no guarantees," Liu said. "At least the governor put something on the table that is pretty serious. It's provocative. This will take some time to discuss."


Rose Bowl works on budget


 By Joe Piasecki, April 7, 2013

 Rose Bowl

Some of the tunnels' width was doubled during construction at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Thursday, February 7, 2013.

PASADENA — Renovations at the Rose Bowl, beset by escalating costs, have so far this year progressed within the new timeline and budget set for the project in January, officials said this week.

The most expensive and significant element of construction — the stadium's new premium seating pavilion and press box area — is nearing completion, Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn said.

The entire Rose Bowl renovation plan was initially budgeted at $152 million in 2010, but officials postponed or suspended some of the planned work after the price tag climbed to nearly $195 million last year.

A city report expected to evaluate governance of the stadium in light of cost overruns will be wrapped up in the coming months, Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said.

In January, Pasadena City Council members provided additional bond funding, but set a new budget of $168.8 million for work through the end of this year. Officials also identified $12.4 million in future Rose Bowl revenue to fund postponed work from 2014 to 2018.

"We're continuing to meet the modified [$168.8-million] budget and continuing to be on schedule," Beck said Friday.

The bulk of renovation cost overruns were related to pavilion and press box construction, with officials blaming costly change orders and accelerated work schedules on unforeseen conditions and tight project deadlines.

An initial budget of $53.1 million for the pavilion and press box was revised to $84.3 million, according to construction documents.

Dunn said he expects the bulk of pavilion-area work to be finished by April 15, with final touches and escalator construction expected to wrap up before a series of events at the stadium in July.

"It's a huge milestone. The single biggest part of this project is the pavilion, and it's really the revenue generator that will help pay for the project," Dunn said.

Regular tours of the Rose Bowl and its new pavilion area are set to begin in May.

"I'm looking forward to getting the public in to see the quality of this space and the product we've invested in," Beck said.

At a meeting on Thursday, stadium officials discussed plans to boost annual revenue by hosting more small events and expanding retail operations catering to joggers and bicyclists who frequent the area.