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Sheriff's elite Highway Enforcement Team takes on drug traffickers in LA County
An elite and little-known group of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies has been making a major impact by stopping drug money and human traffickers on area freeways. Although the highly skilled unit has been doing remarkable work for years, its existence has only now been made public. In an exclusive report, ABC7 accompanied the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team and observed its methods firsthand. "The team has been extremely successful, "said sheriff's Capt. Robert Lewis. "They find vehicles that have hidden compartments that are transporting drugs and weapons, U.S. currency." [Article]
by DAVID ONO, KABC Los Angeles ABC 7 News. 2017-12-15
 
L.A. County Board of Supervisors Appoints Arts Leader Kristin Sakoda as Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Kristin Sakoda to head its Countywide Arts Initiatives as Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. The Los Angeles County Arts Commission provides funding for over 350 nonprofit arts organizations through a $9 million grant program and runs the nation’s biggest internship program.  The Commission’s free community programs advance diversity and accessibility for the County’s 88 municipalities and 137 unincorporated areas. [Article]
by ATLAS NOVACK, LA Observed. 2017-12-15
 
L.A. County sheriff’s office failed to follow policy for issuing concealed weapon permits, audit says
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has repeatedly failed to follow its own rules for issuing concealed weapon permits, the state auditor concluded in a report released Thursday. L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell disputed some of the key findings of the audit, saying state officials misinterpreted the policy. The department policy requires applicants to provide “convincing evidence” of a “clear and present danger to life or of great bodily harm” to get a license, but the audit found the department issued 24 licenses during the last few years without sufficient evidence.  Most of the 197 active licenses in L.A. County as of August went to current or former law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors, the audit found. The lieutenant in charge of reviewing applications told auditors that people in law enforcement satisfy the department’s requirements by the nature of their jobs. [Article]
by PATRICK McGREEVY, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Inmates are part of an army of firefighters battling a 'monster' that just keeps growing
For well over a week, hundreds of inmates have chain-sawed through relentless thickets of chaparral, cutting lines through the backcountry to thwart the fire's sudden rushes at homes. On Thursday, they were deep in the Los Padres National Forest, covered in wood grit, soot and sweat, as the Thomas fire continued to grow — becoming the fourth-largest in modern California history. In the morning, commanders stressed the dangers of the work and urged them to be careful, even while mopping up hot spots, cutting burned trees or striding though charred rubble. Hours later, a San Diego fire engineer, Cory Iverson, died on the fire lines. The loss rippled through the army of 8,000 fire personnel — both professionals and inmates — on the scene. Some lined the road as Iverson's body was loaded into a hearse and taken from the fire zone. [Article]
by JOSEPH SERNA and JOE MOZINGO, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
L.A. County animal control confirms investigation into death of 29 horses in Creek fire
Animal care officials confirmed Thursday that they are investigating the death of 29 horses at a Sylmar ranch during the fast-moving Creek fire last week. The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control issued a lengthy statement last week in which they shared their officers' efforts to save horses at Rancho Padilla. The statement did not include details about an investigation. The ranch boarded its own horses, but also rented stalls to horse owners. "We are actually looking into it and investigating the entire situation," Don Barre, a spokeswoman for the department, said Thursday. "We can't say anything about the investigation until it's over." [Article]
by BRITTNY MEJIA, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Ravaged by fire, Ventura tries finding Christmas spirit and a way forward
Freddie Contarino and her husband took an afternoon drive into downtown Ventura, where they had lunch, caught a matinee and tried to reclaim a sense of normalcy. It wasn't easy. The often busy street life and restaurants were muted by the fires that cast a pall over everything. "The restaurants were empty," Contarino, 77, said. The fire swept through several neighborhoods in the heart of Ventura, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to evacuate. Nine days later, the fire has moved to the north and is less of a threat to the city of Ventura. That leaves residents and city officials beginning to talk about recovery — and trying to get back to something that can be called normal. [Article]
by RUBEN VIVES, . 2017-12-15
 
Why Wall Street gets a cut of your power bill
ric Hildebrandt first raised the red flag in an annual report written in 2015 for his bosses overseeing California’s electricity market. He raised the same issue in a 2016 report. And he is raising it again in a recently released 2017 report. The warning to the California Independent System Operator: Trading by speculators and other investors in an obscure financial instrument pegged to electricity transmission is costing the state’s electricity customers an average of $76 million a year, contributing to higher rates. From 2009 to 2017, Hildebrandt reported to the state, California ratepayers lost almost $700 million, and the tab keeps growing. While generating profits for investors with returns averaging 146% a year, the trading serves little purpose for energy users and shouldn’t cost consumers a dime, his reports have concluded. Hildebrandt recommends the trading — also cited for its vulnerability to market manipulation akin to the Enron scandal — be terminated. “It’s not needed,” said Hildebrandt, director of Cal-ISO’s market monitoring division. “Stop subsidizing a free market. Don’t expose the ratepayers to the losses.” Despite the warnings, the trading has continued with minor modifications. Although the losses over time have narrowed somewhat, the $49 million in losses so far in 2017 already have exceeded last year’s total by nearly $2 million through the end of October. [Article]
by IVAN PENN, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Freshman applicants to UC soar to a new record, with UCLA again leading the way
UCLA has shattered its own record as the nation's most popular college choice for high school seniors, attracting more than 113,000 freshman applications for fall 2018, according to preliminary data released Thursday. Applications to the Westwood campus soared among California high school students and across all racial and ethnic groups. UCLA again led the University of California's nine undergraduate campuses, which collectively received more than 181,000 freshman applications — a 5.7% increase over last year. [Article]
by TERESA WATANABE, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Mayor's Fund releases 2016 spending report
A nonprofit created by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to fund local civic programs slowed fundraising efforts in its third year and sped up spending, according to tax records set to be filed Friday with the federal government. The Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles raised $3.4 million and spent $8 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. In the previous year, the fund raised $12 million and spent $6 million. "We didn't focus on fundraising substantially last year," said Mayor's Fund President Deidre Lind. "What we focused on is spending the money that we've raised to date and on actually driving, doing our programs." [Article]
by DAKOTA SMITH, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
Beverly Hills anesthesiologist charged with murder of patient undergoing plastic surgery
An anesthesiologist was charged with murder Wednesday after a 71-year-old patient suffered a fatal overdose under his care — a rare prosecution likely to send a powerful message to other doctors. Dr. Stephen Kyosung Kim, 53, is accused of administering a lethal dose of the narcotic Demerol to a patient undergoing a procedure at the Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery Center in Beverly Hills, according to a release from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. [Article]
by FRANK SHYONG, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-15
 
LA County, Malibu Makes Moves to Combat Homelessness
At Monday night’s City Council meeting, a unanimous, 4-0, vote (council member Rick Mullen was not in attendance) approved a grant agreement between City Manager Reva Feldman and Los Angeles County.  The agreement involves a hot-button issue in Malibu—homelessness.  A program established by LA County and United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Home For Good Funders Collaborative seeks to “pursue regional solutions to the homeless crisis” by uniting communities in the county. [Article]
by SHIVANI PATEL, La Canada Valley Sun. 2017-12-14
 
Bel-Air fire displays L.A.'s extremes of wealth and misery – LA Times
Sunbaked and wind-battered Los Angeles, blessed and burdened city of extremes, is home to those with everything and those with nothing. Last week, the two worlds intersected when a cooking fire at a homeless encampment destroyed six homes and damaged a dozen others in Bel-Air, where affluent residents complain now and then about the scale of colossal estates that dwarf their own mansions. There has to be meaning in this, or it wouldn't play so much like a parable. Was it a warning, a reckoning, a call to action? What does it say about Los Angeles and how should we respond? Not that long ago I cruised the hills and canyons and rolling estates of Bel-Air after a report that some of the biggest water guzzlers in drought-stricken California lived there, unidentified but thoroughly quenched. [Article]
by STEVE LOPEZ / COLUMNIST, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-14
 
Witnesses saw snapped, sparking power line at start of destructive L.A. wildfire
The search for causes behind Southern California's wildfires now includes witness reports of a snapped line on a high-voltage transmission tower in Little Tujunga Canyon, sending off sparks as it whipped high overhead. The incident occurred at the start of the Creek fire, which burned more than 60 homes above Sylmar. That was one of five fires to besiege the Southland last week, destroying more than 1,000 structures and forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate their homes. Of those fires, officials have determined a firm cause of just one. The Los Angeles Fire Department said a cooking fire in a homeless encampment sparked the Skirball fire in Bel-Air. Southern California Edison Co. announced Tuesday that California fire officials notified the utility that its equipment was under investigation as a possible cause of some of the fires. [Article]
by BRITTNY MEJIA, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-14
 
Jurors vote for death penalty for mother's boyfriend in torture killing of 8-year-old Palmdale boy
Jurors on Wednesday voted for the death penalty for a man convicted of fatally torturing his girlfriend's young son — a savage slaying that led to sweeping reform within Los Angeles County's child-welfare system. The verdict ended a murder trial in which jurors heard and saw disturbing evidence about how 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez suffered repeated abuse at the hands of Isauro Aguirre, 37, who stared ahead expressionless as he heard the pronouncement. After a bailiff escorted Aguirre from the courtroom, the jury forewoman read aloud from a public statement written by the panel, which had deliberated for about seven hours over three days. "We were plucked out of our everyday lives and brought together to serve," she said. "We came together to bring justice for Gabriel." [Article]
by MARISA GERBER, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-14
 
L.A. City Council approves development fee to raise money for affordable housing
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to impose a new fee on development to raise millions of dollars a year for affordable housing as the city copes with rising rents and surging homelessness. Mayor Eric Garcetti has long pushed for the so-called linkage fee, saying it would provide a permanent revenue stream to build housing for low-income residents. Celebrating with his colleagues outside City Hall after the council vote, Garcetti suggested the fee would help Los Angeles become “not just a city for some, but a city for all.” “Today we see hope in the promise that Los Angeles can continue to grow and indeed must grow,” Garcetti said. “That when we see luxury condominiums going up, that we can make sure that there is money paid in to build housing for the rest of us.” [Article]
by DAKOTA SMITH, Los Angeles Times. 2017-12-14
 
Whole Person Care - Los Angeles Sentinel
The Los Angeles County Departments of Health Services, Public Health, and Mental Health are starting a new program called Whole Person Care (WPC). WPC will assist tens of thousands of Los Angeles residents. It will mainly help people with high levels of unmet physical health, mental health, and social need. Instead of focusing on just one aspect of health, under WPC eligible people will receive integrated care and services. WPC looks at a broad range of factors that affect overall health. This includes finances, neighborhood safety, and individual healthy or not so healthy behaviors. [Article]
by STAFF REPORT, Los Angeles Chronicle. 2017-12-14
 
County takes possession of two new firefighting helicopters
As fires ravage Southern California’s landscape, two new firefighting tools are one step closer to bolstering local aerial efforts. In a ceremony in Coatesville, Penn., two Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk helicopters were signed over to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Lockheed Martin confirmed. [Article]
by AUSTIN DAVE, The Signal. 2017-12-14
 
Elon Musk Reveals His Dislike for Public Transit | WIRED
ELON MUSK IS a man of many, many interests. Lately, to go along with cars, space, and AI, he has added mass transit to the pile. After launching the Boring Company last year (via a Twitter musing about terrible Los Angeles traffic), the Tesla and SpaceX CEO began digging an experimental tunnel in his own backyard, the parking lot of SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. He plans, he says, to construct networks of tunnels throughout cities with faster, more efficient boring technology. The tunnels could carry individual cars or eight- to sixteen-passenger "pods" on electric skates, traveling up to 150 mph. (Longer tunnels, between cities, would be perfect for hyperloop, another interest.) Less than a year after its founding, the Boring Company is already talking about taking its mass transit solution to real, live cities. In July, Musk announced that he had “verbal government approval” to build a hyperloop between Washington, DC and New York City, which could carry commuters between the two in less than 30 minutes. [Article]
by AARIAN MARSHALL, Government Technology. 2017-12-14
 
County seeking candidates for Coto de Caza Planning Advisory Committee
The County of Orange is seeking qualified candidates for three positions on the Coto de Caza Planning Advisory Committee. The committee will advise the Orange County Zoning Administrator, Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors and county agencies on all discretionary actions in the unincorporated area within the boundaries of the Coto de Caza Specific Plan. The committee will consider proposed land development projects submitted by the county. [Article]
by NATHANIEL PERCY, Orange County Register. 2017-12-14
 
California prison rehabilitation programs should actually work
California has work to do to ensure that prison rehabilitation programs serve their purpose, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office recent reported. With about 130,000 people in state custody, tens of thousands of people are released every year from state prisons back into our communities. It should be in the interests of everyone that those released from state prisons make better decisions moving forward and never end up back in prison. Rehabilitation programs serve a critical role in reducing recidivism. With effective rehabilitation programs, incarcerated individuals can be put on the right track, which in the long run not only saves more people from being victimized, but also saves taxpayers through lower incarceration costs. Unfortunately, while California now spends over $75,000 a year to incarcerate people in prisons, the LAO report highlights numerous shortcomings that need to be addressed swiftly by the Legislature and prison officials. [Article]
by EDITORIAL, Orange County Register. 2017-12-14
 
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