January 8, 2009 Archives
Jurors will enter their second day of deliberations Friday in the federal corruption case against former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona. KPCC’s Susan Valot says jurors got the case today.
Susan Valot: Jurors seemed pretty peppy once they were handed the case at about lunchtime. They’ve spent more than two months listening to testimony and arguments. Now, they’ve got to sort through 59 pages of jury instructions to decide whether Carona broke federal law.
Prosecutors say he used his office for personal gain by trading favors for bribes. And the prosecution’s main witness is Carona himself. The former sheriff never testified. But his former assistant sheriff, Don Haidl, secretly recorded conversations with Carona, talking about the deals they allegedly made. Prosecutors say the tapes show Carona formed a cover story with Haidl to hide their actions.
But defense attorneys say Carona was simply stating the truth on the recordings; no cover story.
The jury of 11 men and one woman deliberated for nearly four hours today. If convicted, Carona could be sentenced to eight years in prison.
- January 8, 2009 8:14 PM
- Categories: Criminal Justice
As the death toll in Gaza rises, international charities are working to establish a humanitarian corridor for the delivery of relief supplies. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario says one of the organizations preparing to help Palestinians is based in Southern California.
Patricia Nazario: Operation USA is preparing at least 15 tons of medical supplies – gauze, syringes, and bandages – for shipment within the next couple of weeks.
The organization’s founder, Richard Walden, says Gaza needs immediate help because it lacks a sophisticated first-aid infrastructure.
Richard Walden: “Twenty years ago, it was a piece of desert, that was made into a large refugee camp, that became a territory. It doesn’t have all the things that a city or a province would have in another country, where you’d have long-standing people who’ve lived there.”
Nazario: Walden says Culver City based Operation USA has conducted worldwide disaster relief since he started the organization 30 years ago.
More information about its partner organizations and the pending relief effort in Gaza is online at OPUSA.org.
Supporters of Proposition 8 have filed a federal lawsuit that challenges the state’s campaign finance laws. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.
Molly Peterson: The Yes on 8 campaign says the ballot question’s opponents have harassed Californians who supported the ballot measure that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
A lawsuit filed in federal court in Sacramento lists phone calls, vandalism, death threats, and other incidents as evidence that the state’s campaign finance laws are unconstitutional.
California requires people who donate $100 or more to ballot campaigns to make public their names, addresses, and phone numbers. Yes on 8’s claim aims to end that practice. It argues that donors’ First Amendment right to speak in the public arena free from threat is more important than the state’s interest in disclosure.
Opponents of Prop 8 used campaign finance records to target supporters in Los Angeles. The manager of El Coyote restaurant in Hollywood,who’d donated to the Yes side, resigned after protesters gathered outside and threatened a boycott.
Most Americans are willing to pay a little more in taxes to upgrade schools, roads, and other public works projects. That’s the finding of a poll commissioned by a group called Building America’s Future.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg head the organization. Its survey found that 81 percent of Americans are prepared to pay one percent more in federal taxes for re-building efforts.
Governor Schwarzenegger says the poll results don’t surprise him because Californians have overwhelmingly supported bond measures for projects like that.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: “The people are willing to pay for it. They want to have their infrastructure kept up. They want to have the infrastructure kept up, they want to have new roads and new schools. They don’t want to have their kids in overcrowded classrooms…”
Schwarzenegger also had positive words for President-elect Barack Obama’s re-building proposals, particularly those that involve renewable energy.
Building America’s Future conducted the online poll of 800 adults late last month.
Reasonable, but risky. That’s how the state’s non-partisan legislative analyst describes Governor Schwarzenegger’s latest budget proposal.
Mac Taylor says the plan is a “good faith effort.” He agrees with the Administration that the state faces a $40 billion shortfall. But Taylor is worried about the borrowing in the governor’s plan.
Mac Taylor: “So you’ve got at least $23 billion in ‘09; 10 that you have to finance through the credit markets, and given the status of those markets at the time, that could be very difficult for the state to do, to access that credit in the coming year.”
Taylor says he’s also concerned about the legality of “revenue anticipation warrants,” another expensive type of borrowing the governor wants to use.
A Southland non-profit that specializes in disaster relief is joining several international charities to donate first-aid medical supplies to Gaza.
Culver City-based Operation USA is preparing at least 15 tons of gauze, syringes, and bandages for shipment within the next couple of weeks. Its founder, Richard Walden, says the organization needs financial contributions to buy more supplies. He expects some resistance because people on both sides of the conflict harbor very strong reactions.
Richard Walden: “But on the other hand, a lot of people see it for what it is. It’s a humanitarian crisis rather than an ethnic or religious war. We’re not looking at the merits of either side’s positions. We’re looking at the fact that thousands of people have been injured.”
Operation USA is partnering with the International Red Cross, World Vision, Save the Children, and other groups to ship emergency supplies to Gaza.
LINK: Operation USA
The City of Los Angeles is looking to limit second-hand smoke exposure near restaurants. Councilman Greig Smith’s proposed ordinance would ban smoking at eateries with outdoor seating areas. He told KPCC’s “AirTalk” who would be subject to fines.
Councilman Greig Smith: “The person that is committing the violation is the person that we would cite, if we cite anybody. Unless the restaurant is notified by people, ‘Hey, there’s people out there smoking, please tell them to stop,’ and they say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ Then we would make also the establishment liable.”
Smith said the law would apply within 10 feet of any establishment that serves food, except bars with outdoor seating and other adults-only venues. The L.A. City Council could approve the ban by this summer.
Angry protests broke out last night in Oakland on the eve of a Bay Area Rapid Transit meeting about the shooting death of a man in one of its stations. Reporter Bret Burkhart of KGO Radio said the meeting, a week after the death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, attracted a very emotional crowd.
Bret Burkhart: “Many asking why the now-former BART officer has not been arrested; many blaming the shooting on racism; some asking why the other officers haven’t been suspended or arrested. Some denouncing the violence last night, but others supported it, and blamed the BART board for it. Some called on the BART boycott, and called for the resignation of some of the board members.”
Burkhart told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that cell phone videos, widely circulated online, show three officers standing over Grant, who lay on his stomach and was shot in the back. The transit police officer who allegedly shot Grant has resigned from his job. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums announced he will launch a third investigation into the shooting.
A new international anti-piracy force has set sail under American command. It’s starting patrols next week to counter a surge of activity by Somali pirates. Commander Jane Campbell with the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet described the mission to KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.”
Commander Jane Campbell: “We are authorized to go in and interdict if we see somebody in the act of piracy; and quite frankly, just given the size of the area, we’re not going to be there, even with this new task force – be able to be everywhere in what is basically a 1.1 million square mile area.”
Campbell’s fleet is based in Bahrain; it’ll participate with more than 20 nations to combat piracy. Last year, pirates targeted more than 100 ships and commandeered more than 40 off the coast of Somalia. At present, those pirates are holding 315 members of commercial ships’ crews as hostages.
The Los Angeles City Council’s considering whether to expand L.A.’s smoking ban to outdoor dining areas. It would prohibit smoking within 10 feet of outdoor establishments that serve food.
A similar law in the city of Calabasas has logged fewer than 20 violations in two years, said Calabasas City Councilman Barry Groverman. He explained some of the medical reasons for a smoking ban to KPCC’s “AirTalk.”
Councilman Barry Groverman: “Cigarettes are – first of all they’re filtered, and second they’re very hot. When you breathe off of a cigarette, it’s very, very hot and it causes a reaction in the lung that causes you to cough, so cigarette smokers tend to smoke shallow. When you’re outside, that heat effect is gone, it’s cooler, room temperature, and it gets very deep into the tissue of the lung; and the lung surgeons can actually identify the distinction.”
Calabasas was the first Southland municipality to enact outdoor smoking restrictions. If the L.A. City Council approves it, a ban with exceptions for bars and other adult-only venues could be in place by summer.
The environmental group Heal the Bay says regulators aren’t doing a good enough job of keeping toxic substances out of L.A. waters. State and federal laws require industrial plants to test for how wastewater affects aquatic life. In a new report, Heal the Bay scientist Charlotte Stevenson says polluters are failing those tests without penalty.
Charlotte Stevenson: “Water that is toxic to aquatic life is being discharged into L.A.’s waterways, and likely this is really just sort of the tip of the iceberg, because the lack of action by the state has probably caused this laxness on toxicity enforcement throughout the entire state.”
Stevenson says California needs clearer standards to measure how toxic wastewater is. State regulators say that they’re working on those, and that in the meantime they’re enforcing water quality rules as well as they can.
LINK: Heal the Bay
After more than two months of testimony and arguments, the jury finally today began deliberations in the federal corruption case against former Orange County sheriff Mike Carona. The jury got the case around noon. KPCC’s Susan Valot has been in the courtroom in Santa Ana.
Susan Valot: Prosecutors spent the morning rebutting the defense’s closing arguments. Defense attorneys say the prosecution’s main witnesses are liars. They say the evidence just isn’t there to convict Carona. But prosecutors say it is there.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Sagel repeatedly told the jury that the “truth is the truth” – as laid out in the secretly recorded conversations between Carona and his former assistant sheriff Don Haidl. Sagel said on those recordings, Carona and Haidl try to come up with a cover story to hide a conspiracy to use Carona’s position as sheriff to make money.
Sagel pointed out that not once during the several hours of tape does Carona get up and say he didn’t know what Haidl was talking about – or question statements Haidl made about money and gift exchanges. Eleven men and one woman will decide whether to convict Carona.
Washington lawmakers and policy experts are debating the size - and the timing – of a proposed federal stimulus package. Jon Haveman, founding principal of Beacon Economics, told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the government will have to respond to the slump in retail - and soon.
Jon Haveman: “Somebody spending - the only thing that can turn around these numbers – and it’s not likely to be the American people. That’s more likely to be the American government.
“We had Barack Obama this morning making his pitch for a $700 billion-plus stimulus package and it’s quite clear that something like that is going to be necessary from the American government.”
Haveman said that’s because Americans fearful about their economic security are saving and not spending.
- January 8, 2009 5:07 PM
- Categories: Business/Economy
Last month marked one of the worst holiday shopping seasons on record for American retailers. Jon Haveman of Beacon Economics said today’s announcement that Macy’s would close 11 department stores - including one in downtown Los Angeles - underscores retail’s problems.
Jon Haveman: “California is in fact a little bit worse than the national average and this is just a high profile event. And that sort of synthesizes or expresses what’s been going on in California for the last two years. Retail in employment in California has been falling since about February of 2007.”
Haveman, author of “An Economic Backdrop for Fiscal Reform in California,” told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the mortgage lending and foreclosure crisis plays into the decline in retail profits.
- January 8, 2009 5:02 PM
- Categories: Business/Economy
Five directors of five highly-acclaimed films are on the Directors Guild list of nominees for Best Director of last year. KPCC’s Nick Roman has the list in hand.
Nick Roman: The Directors Guild chose an impressive group of directors that turned out an equally impressive group of films. The Guild nominated Ron Howard for “Frost/Nixon.” It’s his fourth nomination - and he’s won twice.
Gus Van Sant is up for the biopic “Milk.” Christopher Nolan is nominated for the Batman summer blockbuster “The Dark Knight.” Two directors got their first nominations: David Fincher for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” - and Danny Boyle for “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Boyle’s on a hot streak. He was picked as the Best Director of 2008 by the L.A. Film Critics Association - and he’s up for a Golden Globe Award. Fincher and Howard are also Golden Globe nominees.
The Directors Guild presents its award at the end of the month. The winner has a very good shot at an Academy Award. The Directors Guild has been honoring film directors for 60 years. The winner of its award goes on to win an Oscar 90 percent of the time.
- January 8, 2009 4:59 PM
- Categories: Arts
The re-registration deadline ended last month, but natives of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador may still qualify for temporary protected immigration status. More on the story from KPCC’s Patricia Nazario.
Patricia Nazario: U.S. Immigration officials say people may qualify – if they can demonstrate good cause for failing to file during the re-registration period. Before that period ended on December 30th, hundreds of people from Central American countries applied at consulates in Los Angeles and Santa Ana.
To qualify for the exception, foreign nationals must submit documents that prove they lived in the United States eight years ago. That’s when earthquakes in their native countries prompted the U.S. government to extend protected legal residence to these immigrants.
Their renewal applications must also include a letter, along with any evidence that helps explain why they didn’t complete the process last year.
It costs $350 to renew work permits. Applicants who cannot pay the fees can request fee waivers. Immigration officials will consider applications case-by-case.
- January 8, 2009 4:54 PM
- Categories: Politics/Public Affairs
A state proposal to save money by trimming five days from the school year doesn’t sit well with California’s superintendent of public instruction.
Jack O’Connell told KPCC’s “AirTalk” he doesn’t believe the state is going to save $1 billion, as the governor’s administration claims.
Jack O’Connell: “Here’s the reality – these districts have collective bargaining agreements already. So, we have a thousand school districts in the state, and I don’t believe you’re going to see a majority of these school districts be able to renegotiate and suddenly in the middle of the year reduce funding for these five days.”
The state finance department spokesman has said that no school district will be forced to cut days from the academic year for budget reasons.
The Schwarzenegger administration is defending a proposal that would allow school districts to save money by cutting five days from the academic year. H.D. Palmer is a spokesman for the state department of finance. He told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that the proposal would not be mandatory.
H.D. Palmer: “It is not something that we are proposing as you shall do this or you must do this, we are giving school districts the option of doing this in order to save what again would be, as you noted, a little bit over $1 billion in the coming fiscal year. This is not a proposal that would affect the current school year or the current fiscal year.”
Palmer added that educators suggested the proposal last year when they met with the governor about the budget crisis.
But state schools superintendent Jack O’Connell responded that there are better ways to save money - and that districts shouldn’t even have the option of cutting instructional days. O’Connell said he realizes that California will have to cut education money amid the budget crisis, but he added that the state should do it with a scalpel - not a meat axe.
The state schools superintendent is criticizing a budget proposal that would allow school districts to shave five days off of their school year. The proposal by Governor Schwarzenegger would give districts the option of reducing their school year from 180 days down to 175 days to save money.
State Superintendent Jack O’Connell told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that cutting school days is not the way to go.
Jack O’Connell: “We know we’re going to have to postpone the purchase of much needed textbooks, and computers, and technology, and professional development for our professional educators - all of them really necessary for our students. But to deny our student a learning opportunity that every other class has had since we increased to 180 – I want more learning opportunities for our students, not fewer.”
O’Connell also argues that such a move could put students in poor areas at a further disadvantage, since wealthier districts might be able to pay for the extra five school days on their own.
The bad economic news just keeps on coming. Macy’s says it’s closing 11 stores across the country - including one in Los Angeles. KPCC’s Nick Roman has the details.
Nick Roman: Macy’s reports same-store sales in December fell 4 percent from the year before. That wasn’t as bad as expected – but to get there, the Cincinnati-based retailer had to discount merchandise sharply to drive up the sales numbers. It’s no surprise then that Macy’s followed its gloomy sales report with an announcement that it’s closing 11 stores in nine states.
Among the closures is a Macy’s store in Downtown L.A. at 7th and Figueroa. It’s a good spot if you work in downtown – or if you ride the bus or the Metro Red Line. But it’s a little tough to see from the street - and parking’s no picnic. The store’s been open for 20 years - but it never seems to be especially busy.
Macy’s president says closing this store is part of the retailer’s usual end-of-the-year process to “prune under-performing locations.” Clearance sales start next week. As for the 136 workers at that downtown Macy’s – they might be able to switch to other Macy’s stores in the Southland.
- January 8, 2009 1:00 PM
- Categories: Business/Economy
Defense attorneys in the federal corruption trial of former Orange County sheriff Mike Carona yesterday went over the allegations for the jury - one act at a time. It took them all day to finish up their closing arguments. KPCC’s Susan Valot was in the Santa Ana courtroom.
Susan Valot: Carona’s attorney Jeff Rawitz detailed the allegations, and then went over why Carona was not guilty of any of them. The defense’s main theme – the prosecution’s chief witnesses lied.
They say former assistant sheriff Don Haidl - who secretly recorded conversations with Carona - has every reason to lie because it could mean a lighter sentence for him. Haidl’s already pleaded guilty to federal tax charges. Attorney Rawitz told the jury Haidl’s stories are “preposterous” – and that Carona never would have risked his up-and-coming political career for such a small return.
The defense also hammered the prosecution for not calling to the stand another key witness: former assistant sheriff George Jaramillo. They say without his testimony, there are gaping holes in the prosecution’s case. Prosecutors will get a chance to address that - and other issues - with their rebuttal before the case goes to the jury.