January 5, 2009 Archives
Federal and state air regulators used a Puente Hills landfill to demonstrate cleaner-burning earthmovers and tractors as new air pollution rules take effect. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.
Molly Peterson: The money for the construction equipment came from $1 million in fines the federal Environmental Protection Agency collected. South Coast Air Quality Management District director Barry Wallerstein says new filters in that heavy equipment could cut most soot pollution from diesel tractors.
Barry Wallerstein: As we have a debate in the state about moving forward with infrastructure projects, and cutting through so called red tape, by using these types of devices, it’s a way to assure the breathing public they won’t be subject to highly carcinogenic exhaust.
The demo wasn’t just for the public. EPA’s Wayne Nastri says it’s also meant to promote to a skeptical construction industry the new technology that state and federal air quality rules demand.
Wayne Nastri: We’re able to show that this can work quickly, this can get out there, and that the immediate benefits are there.
The Associated General Contractors of America, a trade association for the construction industry, still fights the rules for cleaner engines. The organization says that California’s lost 120,000 construction jobs in the last two years, and that tighter air rules won’t help. The state air board will convene a hearing on off-road diesel equipment regulations later this month.
Los Angeles civic leaders kick off a month-long effort Tuesday to encourage more people to enjoy the region’s visual and performing arts offerings. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has more.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: L.A.’s Department of Cultural Affairs and the city’s convention and visitors bureau are calling January L.A. Arts Month. They want to introduce, or re-introduce, people to the wide variety of arts offerings in the region.
Events include modern dance performances at downtown L.A.’s Seventh and Figueroa shopping center, and shining a spotlight on low-cost and free cultural offerings.
Organizers say it’s also a way, in this economy, to keep arts dollars circulating in the region and to keep people employed in the process.
A study last year indicated that the creative economy in Los Angeles supports one million jobs and generates close to $100 billion in annual revenue.
In closed session Tuesday, the Long Beach city council is set to discuss the sale or lease of its airport. KPCC’s Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has the story.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: The bad economy’s pushed Long Beach’s budget almost $16 million into the red. The city’s considering ways to cut spending and generate revenue. Investment banks have approached the city about selling or leasing its 84-year-old airport.
Long Beach Councilwoman Gerry Schipske thinks the city should continue to run the facility.
Councilwoman Gerry Schipske: With the economy being what it is, this is not the time for infrastructure to be purchased on the cheap. We as a council, local government, should be focusing on our particular budget and how we’re going to live within our means, and we should not be selling off city assets.
Guzman-Lopez: Schipske urges plenty of public discussion about a possible sale or lease before she and her council colleagues make a decision.
Federal officials 12 years ago opened up sale or lease of up to five municipal airports. No airports have changed hands.
Following a two-year process, Chicago’s city council last October approved a 99-year lease of Midway Airport to a private operator for a $2.5 billion payment. Federal officials are reviewing that proposal.
Backers of the voter-approved amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman accuse California’s attorney general of inviting constitutional revolution.
KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more on the flare-up over legal arguments the state Supreme Court’s considering on Proposition 8.
Cheryl Devall: Last month, California’s Supreme Court agreed to review legal arguments for and against Prop 8. Not long after, state Attorney General Jerry Brown offered his opinion.
He rattled opponents of the ballot question by saying that it neither requires a legislative vote to become law, nor violates the separation of government powers.
Brown’s other main argument bothers Prop 8 proponents almost as much. He suggests that although the same-sex marriage ban is a properly enacted constitutional amendment, it violates the state constitution because it denies what he calls “inalienable or natural rights.”
At the state Supreme Court’s invitation, the organizations ProtectMarriage.com and Yes on 8 filed a brief that said Brown’s take on this law “overrides the precious right of the people to determine how they will be governed.”
The court will determine its argument after the opposing sides complete their legal briefing at the end of the month.
In the year just past, crime fell in the city of Los Angeles for the sixth straight year. City officials give most of the credit to the LAPD and its chief, Bill Bratton. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze reports.
Frank Stoltze: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said L.A. bucked a national trend of rising crime rates, thanks largely to Bratton.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: His strategy of putting cops on the dots, of really more strategically focusing on crime and where the crimes trends are.
Stoltze: Bratton’s also been more willing than previous chiefs to work with federal law enforcement agencies, and he’s benefited from a larger police force than his predecessors. Some criminologists say the lower crime rate is also the result of the gentrification that’s transformed dozens of neighborhoods in the city.
There were 381 murders in L.A. last year, the lowest in four decades. Violent crime fell by four percent, property crime by two percent.
The drop in crime is good news for the mayor, who’s up for re-election in March.
During his final weeks in office, President George Bush says he’s establishing national monuments in three remote areas of the Pacific Ocean. KPCC’s Molly Peterson has more on the marine conservation effort.
Molly Peterson: The order will immediately protect 195,000 square miles of ocean near Rose Atoll in American Samoa, around islands near the equator in the central Pacific, and close to some of the uninhabited Mariana Islands.
That last protected area includes the Mariana Trench - a canyon that reaches 32,000 feet below the ocean floor. That’s deeper than Mount Everest is tall.
Corals and underwater volcanoes occupy these ocean preserves. Beyond rare geology, they’re also home to species like whales and the world’s largest land crab.
It’s the second time the Bush administration has conserved a big swath of the Pacific this way. Two years ago, the president protected areas of the Hawaiian Islands from fishing, oil extraction, and tourism.
Naming these areas as monuments will end oil and gas extraction there, but some fishing, tourism, and research may still happen. It’ll be up to the Obama administration to hammer out many of those details.
The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles regards a ruling today by the California Supreme Court as a victory. In a unanimous decision, the court decided that a local parish that broke away from the national Episcopal Church can’t take its property with it.
The case involved St. James Church in Newport Beach, All Saints Church in Long Beach, and St. David’s Church in North Hollywood. Bishop Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles praised the ruling.
Jon Bruno: “We have prevailed in all areas of law addressed in this case. We look forward to the possibility of reconciliation with these congregations and the members in those congregations. But we assure the Diocese of Los Angeles and the people of the Episcopal Church that we will continue mission and ministry in these areas where these congregations serve. “
The three congregations began to split off from the Episcopal Church four-and-a-half years ago after the national church ordained an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire. Like other breakaway parishes in the United States, they affiliated with dioceses in other countries that strongly object to the ordination.
A widely-recognized animal handler has weighed in on the Los Angeles Zoo’s elephant controversy. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has the story.
Cheryl Devall: The proposed Pachyderm Forest exhibit has generated plenty of comment from people who contend it’s not big enough for the single Asian elephant that lives at the zoo, let alone others that might join it. Animal rights activists say elephants belong in free-range sanctuaries, not zoos.
Among the high-profile humans who want to stop construction on the $42 million L.A. habitat are former game show host Bob Barker, actress Lily Tomlin, and actor Robert Culp.
Now Jack Hanna, who’s introduced exotic species on “Late Night with David Letterman” and “Good Morning America,” has sent a letter to the L.A. City Council. He maintains that the zoo’s exhibit will set a new standard for the care of elephants in captivity. A Council committee has until January 24th to decide how to settle the matter without setting off a stampede of protest.
Caltrans is taking the first steps in what could be its biggest freeway project ever. It’ll start taking soil samples tomorrow to determine whether it can build a four-and-a-half mile freeway tunnel under South Pasadena. KPCC’s Nick Roman has the details.
Nick Roman: Linking the 710 and 210 freeways would let trucks zoom away from the ports, loop around and not through Downtown L.A. – and head out to the Inland Empire or the San Joaquin Valley.
That’s one way to look at it. South Pasadena looks at it this way: connecting the freeways means running a concrete divider through the middle of town. For decades, South Pas has fought off Caltrans plans to close the freeway gap.
So now, Caltrans is toying with another idea. It’s thinking about digging a gigantic tunnel under the city - and running the freeway through it. South Pasadena cautiously supports the idea. The plan raises traffic and air pollution questions - but Caltrans needs to answer technical ones first – like, is the tunnel even possible?
Caltrans work crews will spend the next week drilling soil samples at the north end of the 710 in Alhambra. Eventually, they’ll move up toward the south end of the 210 in Pasadena. They should be done by May.
- January 5, 2009 4:11 PM
- Categories: Transportation
President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for CIA director, former California congressman Leon Panetta, is generating mixed reviews. Some commentators point out that Panetta - White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration - lacks national security experience. But Greg Treverton of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Global Risk and Security, described Panetta as…
Greg Treverton: “Somebody who comes to this afresh, particularly with the experience that Panetta’s had as chief of staff, someone who knows what presidents need and can use, that can be very valuable. It can also be valuable in restoring the morale of the CIA in a period where it has taken some beating and may continue to take some beatings on the Hill.”
Treverton, also a former vice chair of The National Intelligence Council, spoke with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
- January 5, 2009 4:05 PM
- Categories: Politics/Public Affairs
A force potentially more powerful than climate change may have wiped out many species 13,000 years ago. That’s the premise of an article in the journal Science - it posits that a comet might have been the culprit. Article co-author and UC Santa Barbara earth scientist James Kennett told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the comets delivered tiny diamond crystals along with destruction.
James Kennett: “The neat thing about this – you can actually see them. You can quantify them. You can verify that that diamond is by the various kinds of tests we have.
“Diamonds have a very distinct fingerprint. When you run them through - this is called an electron defraction method - and the fingerprint is unique to diamonds. There can’t be anything else.”
The controversial theory goes that these nano-diamonds are the product of a comet that broke into fragments, turning the sky ablaze. Scientists claim that the presence of these diamonds in sediment layers throughout North America bolsters their argument.
- January 5, 2009 3:33 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
Israeli officials say they are doing all they can to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. Shahar Azani is a spokesman for the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles.
Shahar Azani: “Israel is continuously flowing into the Gaza Strip truckloads of human aid. The saddening fact is that we are aware on the ground that Hamas is preventing such trucks from entering Gaza, since at the end of the day it does not serve its– what we call the media goals, for them to be able to portray a situation of horrid emergency.”
Azani spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk.” A spokesman for the United Nations in Jerusalem says that Israel needs to do more to allow large quantities of food, medicine, and fuel into the Gaza Strip.
- January 5, 2009 2:48 PM
- Categories: Politics/Public Affairs
Human rights and relief groups are criticizing Israel for creating a humanitarian crisis with its offensive in the Gaza Strip. Israel says it is allowing aid into Gaza, but that Hamas is not letting all of it in. Christopher Gunness is a spokesman for the United Nations Relief Agency in Jerusalem. He says Israel needs to allow far greater quantities of aid into Gaza.
Christopher Gunness: “We need to open up the crossings, we need to get fuel in so the generators can run, and so the power plants can run, we need to get wheat flour in industrial quantities to avoid a deepening of this humanitarian crisis.”
Gunness spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk.” He says about a million Gazans have no electricity, and about a quarter of a million have no water. He estimates there’s enough wheat flour for several days.
- January 5, 2009 2:39 PM
- Categories: Politics/Public Affairs
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said today that in the year just ended, crime in the city dropped for the sixth straight year.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: “Unemployment is up, the housing market is down. And throughout the United States, these trends have translated into more homicides and higher crimes rates in many large cities and urban centers. But not here. Our city continues to experience low crime rates not seen since the Eisenhower administration.”
There were 381 murders in the city of Los Angeles last year - 15 fewer than in the year before. The mayor and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton credit the drop in crime to better allocation of police resources, more officers, and increased cooperation between local and federal law enforcement agencies.
State and local regulators say federal pollution fines are paying for tractors and bulldozers that propel less cancer-causing soot into the air. California’s Air Resources Board is beginning to hold construction equipment to tougher emissions standards.
That’s one reason the board’s chair Mary Nichols attended a demonstration of cleaner-burning heavy equipment today in the City of Industry. Nichols said the technology on display can set an example for companies.
Mary Nichols: “They’re fearful that trying something new may cause a problem, and so the purpose of this kind of demonstration is really to get people comfortable with the devices that exist, that they’re safe, they don’t, you know, destroy the functionality of the equipment, and that the costs are not unreasonable.”
The construction industry is still fighting the state’s rule. The Associated General Contractors of America has asked the state Air Resources Board and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider their rules about pollution from construction equipment. A state hearing on the subject happens later this month.
- January 5, 2009 1:57 PM
- Categories: Environment
Riverside County supervisors tomorrow will consider a revised ordinance that would set up a “buffer zone” to keep demonstrators a few feet away from private homes. KPCC’s Steven Cuevas says the proposal stems from an anti-Scientology protest last year that turned ugly.
Steven Cuevas: It happened in October. A loosely-knit group of anti-Scientology activists known as “Anonymous” held a protest outside a gated Scientology compound near Hemet. Security guards scuffled with one demonstrator who walked past the compound’s perimeter. A protestor caught the dust-up on video.
Man: C’mon man! Leave him alone!
Woman: They’re hurting him!
Man: This is not gonna keep us from telling the truth about you guys!
Protestors claim the “Golden Era Productions” compound is an interrogation center for wayward Church members. Scientology officials say it’s the Church’s media production center - and the residence for some Church members. They say their privacy is frequently violated by noisy protests.
The Church of Scientology wants Riverside County to require a “buffer zone” to keep protestors at least 50 feet from a targeted residence’s property line. The Church’s “Golden Era” compound extends across both sides of the main road through the area. An earlier draft ordinance asked for a 300-foot limit - but county supervisors rejected it.
- January 5, 2009 1:54 PM
- Categories: Criminal Justice
Like a lot of people, arts institutions across the country and in the Southland are struggling amid the economic recession. Diane Rodriguez, who heads new play production for the Center Theatre Group, said there’s no better time than this for Los Angeles to launch its first Arts Month. Rodgriguez told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that it’s important to let Angelenos know they don’t have to be rich to enjoy the arts.
Diane Rodriguez: “Go to the Music Center and dance on the plaza and sit there and play an instrument. There’s a real sense of coming together as a community and I think that that’s really what we can do to make ourselves feel like Los Angeles is a real place that is your home. And what the arts do is create a community and make us a unified body.”
Starting tomorrow, dozens of theaters, museums, and musical organizations will offer discounted or free admission during L.A. Arts Month.
Link: Los Angeles Arts Month
- January 5, 2009 1:51 PM
- Categories: Arts
Local Episcopal parishes that broke with the Episcopal Church of the United States don’t have the right to take their parish property. That ruling by the California Supreme Court came down this morning. KPCC’s Nick Roman says it’s a damaging blow to parishes that left in a dispute over a gay bishop.
Nick Roman: St. James Parish in Newport Beach broke away from the Episcopal Church in the United States four-and-a-half years ago. It left in protest - along with several other Episcopal parishes - when the US church named an openly gay clergyman as the bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
St. James affiliated with a conservative Anglican diocese in Africa. The Episcopal Diocese in Los Angeles said St. James had to give up its church property - insisting the buildings and land belonged to the diocese and not the parish. St. James won a lower court ruling - but the Diocese won on appeal – and now it’s won the case before the state Supreme Court.
The court ruled “the general church, not the local church, owns the property in question.” Three other Southern California Episcopal parishes also broke with the U.S. Church. All could now face a choice between returning to the fold - and giving up their property and moving on.