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Few wage theft victims ever get their back pay
Jose Luis Cazares and Marina Torres cleaned the Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live for more than six years, working 11-hour night shifts seven days a week up until 2011. Despite the long hours, the couple said they always got checks from Regal's janitorial subcontractor for the same amount: $700, twice a month — a sum well below the minimum wage, with no overtime. Often the checks bounced or came late. Nearly five years after filing a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner's office, Cazares and Torres are still waiting on more than $83,000 in back pay owed to them — highlighting a systemic failure to enforce state laws against wage theft. A 2013 UCLA Labor Center study examining three years' worth of state wage claims found that only 17% of workers who prevailed against their employers were able to recover any back pay. In 60% of cases, the employers had changed names or transferred assets to avoid liability. [Article]
by CHRIS KIRKHAM, Los Angeles Times. 2015-09-04
 
Animal shelters improving, officials say, but activists call conditions inhumane
The running battle over the treatment of dogs and cats in government-run shelters in the Los Angeles area has produced a mixed, intensely disputed record of reform and has left animal rights activists and many city and county officials at odds. The tension was on display again Thursday as advocates and local leaders weighed in with a series of new and conflicting reports and complaints. ------------ FOR THE RECORD Animal shelters: In the Sept. 4 California section, an article about two animal shelter systems operated separately by Los Angeles city and county governments did not sufficiently distinguish some of the comments and complaints made about the different agencies. A Los Angeles city controller audit that gave generally good marks for the reliability of data on animals impounded, adopted or killed dealt solely with the city-run shelter system. A report by animal rights activists criticizing kennel conditions and the handling of shelter dogs and cats was focused on the county Department of Animal Care and Control's system. ------------ Los Angeles County administrators released a new review defending the operation of the county's six shelters on the same day that animal rescuers held a news conference highlighting what they say are inhumane conditions in the facilities. [Article]
by ABBY SEWELL AND EMILY ALPERT REYES, Los Angeles Times. 2015-09-04
 
Metrolink examining safety of state-of-the-art rail cars in wake of Oxnard crash
After a Metrolink commuter train slammed into a pickup truck near Oxnard this year, injuring 27 people and killing the engineer, railroad officials were quick to claim that new crash-resistant passenger coaches appeared to save lives and reduce injuries. Now, however, Metrolink is trying to determine whether a design flaw in one of the state-of-the-art cars played a role in derailing the train. The evaluation marks a setback in the regional passenger railroad's campaign to employ advanced safety technology to help rebuild public confidence after a 2008 head-on collision in Chatsworth killed 28 and injured 135. On Thursday, railroad officials announced that they will restrict the use of 57 of the new passenger cars that have control cabs for engineers and operate at the front of trains when they are being pushed from behind by locomotives. [Article]
by DAN WEIKEL, Los Angeles Times. 2015-09-04
 
L.A.-area carpool lanes may be opened to everyone during off-peak hours
The state Senate sent the governor separate bills on Thursday — one that would allow all motorists to use carpool lanes on some Los Angeles County freeways during off-peak hours, and another that would increase penalties for sex offenders who remove court-ordered GPS tracking devices. The carpool lane measure was proposed as a way to reduce the frustrating congestion that plagues L.A. freeways even after the daily commutes. The measure would open access to cars with single riders in high-occupancy vehicle lanes during off-peak travel hours on the 134 Freeway from North Hollywood to Pasadena, and on the 210 Freeway from Pasadena to Glendora, as well as allowing the state Department of Transportation to test the change on other freeways. [Article]
by PATRICK MCGREEVY, Los Angeles Times. 2015-09-04
 
News photographers call on California Gov. Jerry Brown to veto drone restrictions
An organization representing news photographers urged California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday to veto legislation that would restrict the use of drones over private property without the owner's consent. The legislation would make flying a drone less than 350 feet above private property without consent a trespass violation. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), author of the bill, has said the measure would prevent camera-equipped drones from peeping into windows or other invasions of privacy. In a letter to the governor, the National Press Photographers Assn. said the restrictions would be “impossible to comply with, impossible to enforce.” If signed into law, news photographers using drones could be sued if the drone strayed onto someone’s property while “gathering newsworthy information at a different nearby location.” [Article]
by PHIL WILLON, Los Angeles Times. 2015-09-04
 
Mayor’s homeless plan requires 200 outreach workers
LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti said his “battle plan” to help house the city’s homeless involves having more than 200 outreach workers citywide. “We need to have, literally, instead of a couple dozen people who are outreaching to the homeless folks and referring them to housing, we need, in my opinion, over 200 people doing that,” Garcetti said during KNX radio’s “Ask the Mayor” show Aug. 27. “I’m going to work with the county to make sure we have that, and line up the housing — new vouchers. We know what works,” he said. “Folks need housing with the services clustered in the housing, whether it’s substance abuse counseling, mental health assistance, physical health assistance.” [Article]
by STAFF REPORT, LA Observed. 2015-09-04
 
Los Angeles County wins award for newly launched website
The websites of both Los Angeles County and Los Angeles city were recognized this week by the Center for Digital Government, which announced its 2015 Best of the Web winners. The Folsom-based research institute named Los Angeles County’s website the third-best county portal in the country. Los Angeles’ city website was named as a finalist among city portals after placing second in the same category last year. “It’s a big accomplish to go from no recognition to the third-best in the nation in less than a year,” Los Angeles county spokesman David Sommers said in an interview Thursday. [Article]
by DAKOTA SMITH, Los Angeles Daily News. 2015-09-04
 
Report: Downey animal shelter severely understaffed
A Downey animal shelter was severely understaffed when animal rights activists reported it for unsanitary conditions, according to a report the county released Thursday. Overall, the report’s findings are similar to the Animal Care and Control Department’s March assessment of shelters, which primarily addressed the infrastructure needs and replacement plans, saying the shelters “have exceeded their useful life and are costly to maintain” and “need to be modernized or replaced.” A new recommendation is to have one of the department’s medical employees make quarterly, unannounced visits to the shelters and review cleanliness and sanitation, feeding, watering, nutrition and safety. [Article]
by STEPHANIE K. BAER, Pasadena Star News. 2015-09-04
 
What will Pasadena do about its growing homeless problem?: Guest commentary
I’m reminded of an old American Express commercial that people of a certain age will remember. Actor Karl Malden, describing a travel-related disaster, looked into the camera and asked twice, “What will you do; what will you do?” Imagine daily life in a community like this: • Vagrants roaming the streets in large numbers with stolen shopping carts. • Highly aggressive panhandlers confronting people for money at businesses. • Homeless involved in stabbing fights over turf. [Article]
by ANDREW HARVEY / OPINION, Pasadena Star News. 2015-09-04
 
Number of animals euthanized in LA hits 3-year low, report finds
Over a decade ago, former Mayor James Hahn called for Los Angeles to become a "no-kill" city by 2008. Seven years past his deadline, the city has found the number of animals it euthanizes in its shelters has fallen significantly, though it's not yet at zero. In 2008, 50 percent of animals that wound up in the city's shelter system were put down. In the last fiscal year, those numbers have dropped to 25 percent, according to an audit by the L.A. city controller. [Article]
by STAFF REPORT, KPCC Southern CA Public Radio. 2015-09-04
 
Airlines over more of O.C.? 'Completely unacceptable,' county and Newport tell FAA
Newport Beach residents who have expressed unease about the increased noise that could result from the Federal Aviation Administration's proposal to alter flight paths from John Wayne Airport have been heard. The Orange County Board of Supervisors and Newport Beach city officials sent letters to the FAA this week outlining the concerns. The possible change to flight paths is part of the FAA's efforts to replace traditional, ground-based air traffic procedures with satellite-based technology at 11 Southern California airports, including John Wayne. The changes are part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, which the FAA believes has the potential to save fuel, reduce emissions and delays, and shorten flight times. [Article]
by HANNAH FRY, Daily Pilot. 2015-09-04
 
Gun-Toting Supervisors’ Chairman Detained Man at Restaurant
In a previously undisclosed incident, Orange County supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer says he left a restaurant to get a gun from his car when a man acted threateningly towards him, then returned to the eatery to handcuff the man and detain him until sheriff’s deputies arrived. The confrontation, which was first reported Thursday by CBS Los Angeles, took place at a Wahoo’s Fish Taco restaurant in the Foothill Ranch in early April. [Article]
by NICK GERDA, Voice of OC. 2015-09-04
 
Modern sex ed: California set to be first in the nation to teach high schoolers about consent, violence, relationships
California legislators are poised to expand high school sex education, with the nation’s first law directing teachers to tell students about sexual consent. The California Senate is expected to vote Friday, Sept. 4, on SB695, which would require most public school districts to teach students in health classes about such issues as sexual harassment, assault, violence and the importance of developing positive and healthy relationships. If approved, the bill would head to Gov. Jerry Brown for his consideration. The bill by Sen. Kevin De León, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, piggybacks on the “yes means yes” bill passed last year. That law, also the first of its kind, requires state-funded colleges to beef up investigations of sexual assault reports and establish clear rules about sexual consent. Supporters describe the laws as part of a national conversation about sexual assaults on campuses. [Article]
by ROXANA KOPETMAN, Orange County Register. 2015-09-04
 
Time to dial down solar tax credits
Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar, visited the unincorporated San Bernardino County community of Hinkley this past January. He was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Spanish-owned company’s 280-megawatt Mojave solar project. Mr. Seage was asked if Abengoa intended to proceed with plans to build the Palen solar energy project, which was put on hold last fall after Abengoa’s then-partner, Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, backed out. The Spanish company still hopes to build Palen, a 250-megawatt facility on 8.1 square miles off Interstate 10 near Desert Center – but not without an extension of the federal investment tax credit for solar plants, said Mr. Seage. [Article]
by EDITORIAL, Orange County Register. 2015-09-04
 
County pension hires CEO, cuts return target
David Wescoe, the executive who rehabilitated San Diego’s scandal-plagued pension system in the late 2000s, will run the county’s system as chief executive. “After a thorough and comprehensive national search process, the Board of Retirement is very pleased to have found the best individual to assume leadership of this organization,” said Skip Murphy, chairman of the board of the San Diego County Employees Retirement Association. The board voted unanimously Thursday to hire Wescoe, who has been interim chief executive since March, as full-time CEO on Sept. 18. [Article]
by Dan McSwain / COLUMNIST, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-09-04
 
Investing in a water-smart future
In late July, the nonprofit San Diego Foundation awarded $311,500 in grants to six local programs focused on helping San Diegans weather this drought and prepare for the droughts to come. Also wildfires, the specter of El Niño-related floods and whatever else Mother Nature has up her wild and woolly sleeve. Think of it as money in the climate-change survival bank. “The reason the San Diego Foundation is so committed to supporting collaboration and partnerships to address climate change is because we know this is an issue we will be challenged with in the future,” said Emily Young, the foundation’s vice president of community impact. “It isn’t just about us. It is about our kids and grandkids.” The grants were awarded around the theme of improving San Diego’s ability to withstand the effects of climate change and the environmental challenges that come with it. The grantees and their programs are: [Article]
by KARLA PETERSON, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-09-04
 
San Diego is a salt mover and shaker in desalination campaign
San Diego may be known as "America's Finest City," but — at least this week — it's also the epicenter of the desalination and water reuse movement. More than a thousand water experts from around the globe are gathered at the waterfront convention center for the International Desalination Assn. World Congress. The area had one of the first desalination plants — opened in Point Loma in 1961 — and will soon see a $1-billion facility open in Carlsbad. With the state gripped in drought, "we're increasingly the city that embraces ideas to secure our water future.… Here in San Diego, we're taking matters into our own hands," Mayor Kevin Faulconer told the assemblage. On Thursday, experts from Australia and Singapore, and an American consultant to countries in the Middle East, discussed how those areas have coped with weather and technology problems similar to California's, and offered some advice. Among their suggestions: [Article]
by TONY PERRY, Los Angeles Times. 2015-09-04
 
Beheaded animals left behind thrift store
NORTH PARK — It’s common for people to leave items behind the Alliance for African Assistance, a thrift store in North Park, but nothing could have prepared employees there for what they found Tuesday morning. Four dead animals – a goat, a rooster, a hen and a dove, had been left near some boxes in the alley behind the El Cajon Boulevard business. They had been beheaded. “We were disturbed,” employee Tracy Lamb said. “It was startling, shocking. It’s kind of spooky, you know?” She tried calling County of San Diego Animal Services, but she couldn’t get through and called police. Officers arrived and called animal control. She was surprised by what they told her about the animal’s deaths. “Both the police and animal control told me it’s not illegal,” Lamb said. “It’s probably a spiritual ritual of some sort.… They weren’t that surprised. They said they’d seen it before.” [Article]
by LYDNSAY WINKLEY, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-09-04
 
Dumanis cleared of discrimination complaint
SAN DIEGO — A decision by the county’s Civil Service Commission on Tuesday has cleared the way for the District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ office to end a months-long freeze on promotions for senior prosecutors. In January, Deputy District Attorney Sophia Roach filed a discrimination complaint that alleged she was denied a promotion from level IV deputy district attorney to level V due to gender discrimination and her political activities. As a result of Roach’s claim, the DA’s office stopped promoting all deputies to levels IV and V in order to protect itself from conflicts if its promotion practices were found to be discriminatory. Dozens of deputies seeking advancement were frozen in place. On Tuesday, the commission denied Roach’s claim 4-0, clearing the way for the DA’s office to resume promotions. Commissioner Mark Nelson was absent. [Article]
by JOSHUA STEWART, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-09-04
 
Don’t name me board chairman, Dave Roberts says
County Supervisor Dave Roberts has asked his colleagues on the board to buck tradition and not name him chairman, likely setting off a reshuffling of duties in the county’s governing body. In an Aug. 28 letter, Roberts said that even though as current vice chairman he is poised to become the next chairman of the Board of Supervisors, he asked other members to not vote him into the leadership position early next year. “While the usual protocol is for the Vice Chairman to move into the position of Chairman upon an election by the Board, I do not plan to accept the position for 2016 if nominated,” Roberts wrote. He asked that Supervisor Ron Roberts, the chairman pro tem and the third in line to lead the board, take over as chairman when Supervisor Bill Horn steps down from the leadership post next year. [Article]
by JOSHUA STEWART, San Diego Union-Tribune. 2015-09-04
 
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