Panel to study L.A.'s finances
by Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
An independent commission of 12 top business, labor and civic leaders - all with close ties to City Hall - was announced on Thursday with a goal of developing a blueprint on how Los Angeles can get out of its structural deficit problems.
Created by City Council President Herb Wesson and chaired by former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, the goal of the panel - which calls itself Los Angeles 2020 - is to provide an independent examination of the city's problem and develop its own set of recommendations on how the city can recover economically and develop options for the future.
"We are not here to rehash old fights and the past," Kantor said at a news conference in the downtown offices of his firm, Mayer Brown. "This is about the future ... to see how we can be helpful to the new (City) Council and mayor."
Other members of the commission include former First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner, former Gov. Gray Davis, former state Business Secretary Maria Contreras-Sweet, attorney David Fleming, Thomas Sayles of USC, Kathay Feng of Common Cause, Antonia Hernandez of the California Community Foundation, Ron Miller of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building Trades and former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
On July 1, the city will have a new mayor - Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti are locked in a tight race in the May 21 runoff - and seven new members of the 15-person City Council.
Wesson said he started thinking about creating the panel last December as a way to have an outside look at the city's fiscal challenges and to prepare a document for the new mayor and City Council.
"We want to look at what we can do to grow business, to see what structural changes we need to make sure the city is moving in the right direction," Wesson said.
The panel will be independent of City Hall and will develop its own funding source, Wesson said.
Kantor said he hoped to have an initial report to the City Council in 90 days - to be presented at a public session - and follow it some three months later with a report containing recommended actions for the city.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has endorsed the work of the commission, even as he works on his final budget.
"We are making the tough decisions necessary to leave the city in the most solid financial position possible," Villaraigosa said, adding he is confident the commission will come up with solid recommendations.
Kantor said the one thing he has insisted upon is that the commission remain politically neutral - even with most of them having taken positions in support of either Greuel or Garcetti.
All of its meetings will be held in private and members are being urged to not make any political statements.
Kantor said they will hear from a variety of sources, including city officials, neighborhood councils and others with expertise in city financial matters.
"We are not going to get involved in the mayor's race," Kantor said. "This is not a partisan commission. This is not a political commission. We want to make that clear."
However, two of the members, Brian D'Arcy of IBEW, Local 18, and Tyler Izen of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, have overseen the spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Greuel campaign.
Kantor and Wesson said those actions would not impact the commission's work.
LAPD, FBI still looking for abductors of 10-year-old Northridge girl
by Mariecar Mendoza and Eric Hartley
Police officers gather around the Starbucks at Canoga Avenue and Oxnard Street in Woodland Hills on March 27, 2013, when a 10-year-old girl who was reported missing from her family's Northridge home was found safe there after an 11-hour search. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)
Two kidnappers remained at large Thursday as Los Angeles police and the FBI tried to find out what prompted the abduction of a 10-year-old Northridge girl.
Nicole Ryan, who was discovered missing early Wednesday, was found 11 hours later wandering shoeless in a Woodland Hills strip mall.
She was back home Thursday after being evaluated at a hospital.
The LAPD was looking for two men the girl said abducted her. Nicole described one only as a white man about 18 years old and did not have a description of the other, Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
Nicole told police she did not know the men, who she said took her from her house to an abandoned home nearby and then to a storage facility before dropping her off at Kaiser Permanente's Woodland Hills Medical Center. Nicole said she was put in several vehicles during the ordeal.
>> Los Angeles police are asking anyone with information on the apparent kidnapping to call LAPD Robbery Homicide detectives at 213-486-6890. Callers can remain anonymous. Police plan to hold a press briefing at 2 p.m. Thursday to give an update on the case. <<
Such stranger abductions are highly unusual in the United States and in Los Angeles, Smith said. He said detectives would "leave no stone unturned" and were investigating Nicole's family, registered sex offenders in the area and whether something that happened online led to the crime.
The LAPD's elite Robbery Homicide Division, whose Special Assault Section investigates kidnappings, was leading the investigation.
The Los Angeles Times reported police were investigating whether there is a link to a 2008 kidnapping case that involved a child related to the Ryan family.
Police already had one vehicle in custody Wednesday night and were looking for others. They also found a storage facility at Mason Avenue and Nordhoff Street and were treating it as a crime scene.
Police said relatives told them Nicole did not have a history of running away and there was no apparent incident that would have led her to leave.
On Thursday, Nicole's relatives did not speak to media camped outside the family house, which was still surrounded with yellow police tape. But late in the morning, a blonde woman, believed to be Nicole's aunt, ducked under yellow crime tape and briskly walked to her car parked off Oakdale Avenue as news cameras swarmed her. The woman, who did not give her name, was faintly heard saying Nicole was home and doing fine.
Stanely Zeitlin, who has a garage abutting the Ryan house, said he didn't know about the reported kidnapping until Wednesday around 6 a.m. when helicopters began hovering overhead.
Otherwise, Zeitlin he rarely heard any noise come from the house other than kids occasionally playing in the neighborhood on the weekends.
But other neighbors said they were shocked to know a child lived at the house, which is on a quiet block of Oakdale Avenue.
"We're very familiar with the neighborhood, but we didn't even know there were kids there," said Stephanie Dolatre, who lives off Gresham Street just two houses from the intersection of Oakdale. "I've certainly never seen the girl."
Dolarte said her son told her he'd occasionally seen the redheaded girl riding her bicycle around the block, although the two children didn't know each other.
Dolarte's 2-year-old son goes to Primrose Child Care at the corner of Oakdale and Gresham, and she never worried for his safety until Wednesday. With her neighborhood turned into a crime scene, she was suddenly cautious.
"My husband left for work last night, and I was scared," Dolarte said. "It makes you worry when you don't know what's going on."
A day earlier, Ashley Mansour and her boyfriend, Jamal Sayed, stood at another scene surrounded by police tape: the strip mall in Woodland Hills where Nicole was found. They were surprised to hear about the attempted abduction.
"I was born and raised in Northridge, so for it to happen in my neighborhood was scary to hear about it," Mansour said.
Nicole's mother last saw her in bed about 1 a.m. Police said she woke to a noise about 3:30 a.m., checked on Nicole and discovered her missing.
A neighbor, Amanda Velasquez, Los Angeles police officers converge on the strip mall at Oxnard Street and Canoga Avenue in Woodland Hills on March 27, 2013, where a 10-year-old girl reported missing from her family's Northridge home was found.(John McCoy/Staff Photographer) said in an interview that her son came in her room about the same time, 3:30 or 4 a.m., but didn't mention anything being wrong. Later in the day, he told his mother he'd heard a door slam in the middle of the night.
There was no sign of forced entry to the Ryan home, but a missing persons flyer said the back door was unlocked and the side gate was open - a gate whose lock Nicole could not reach without help.
The disappearance triggered a massive police response. Capt. Kris Pitcher of the LAPD's Devonshire Division said police did a door-to-door search in a two-square-mile radius around Nicole's house.
Officers and detectives from all seven LAPD stations in the San Fernando Valley joined in the search, along with other LAPD officers and FBI agents with the juvenile abduction unit.
Just before 3 p.m. Wednesday, someone spotted Nicole at a shopping center at Canoga Avenue and Oxnard Street in Woodland Hills, about six miles away from her house. The person recognized her from media reports and notified nearby police officers.
Police said Nicole had "facial bruising and lacerations," but was walking and talking. She was last seen at home wearing a black T-shirt, but had on a white T-shirt when she was found.
"She basically is in shock right now," Pitcher said Wednesday afternoon.
Velasquez, who has lived behind the Ryan family for two years, described Nicole as reserved.
"She is very withdrawn and very quiet. She doesn't say much," Velasquez said.
She said the Ryans seemed to be up late a lot.
"They are up at all hours of the night sometimes," she said. "I know because their lights shine right on my French doors."
At a news conference Wednesday night, LAPD Capt. William Hayes, commander of the Robbery Homicide Division, told reporters, "you have a 10-year-old girl ... who was taken from her home and held by individuals for several hours. If these individuals are brazen enough to do that, I'm putting all the resources I have to make sure they don't do it again."
Police officers said they were not sure when they would open up portion of Oakdale Avenue near the girl's house, as they were protecting neighbors from media and curious bystanders.
Topless gardener probed in threat to president
by Erica Meltzer
BOULDER, Colo. - The U.S. Secret Service investigated a report over the weekend that a Boulder couple -- including a woman involved in a topless-gardening dispute three years ago -- made threats against President Obama while eating in an Ohio restaurant.
Police in Marblehead, Ohio, detained Robert Dale Pierce and Catharine Marie Pierce on Saturday after receiving a call that Robert Pierce had said he was going to "kill Obama and take him down,' according to a police report.
A disassembled rifle and ammunition were found in the Pierces' car, according to police.
Catharine Pierce is known in Boulder for gardening topless outside her Cherry Avenue home.
Boulder Housing Partners, which owns the home, threatened to evict the Pierces in 2010, but backed off after the Boulder City Council determined it would not make it a crime to be topless outdoors.
Boulder police occasionally have received complaints about Catharine Pierce's activity, but say she is not breaking any laws.
However, there are signs of a new eviction attempt. A court summons was taped to the door of the Pierces' home Wednesday after Boulder Housing Partners on March 20 filed a "forcible entry and detainer" case against the couple in Boulder County Court. Such cases generally are filed by the owners of a property when a tenant refuses to leave.
The Ohio police report said the Secret Service was contacted and that the Pierces were detained so that they could be interviewed by agents. A spokesperson for the Secret Service could not be reached Wednesday afternoon and the current status of the case is unclear.
Robert Pierce told officers that he is the illegitimate son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and, according to the police report, he had documents in the car that appeared to support that claim.
The police report said dispatchers received a call from Avery's Restaurant regarding a man and a woman who were behaving in an "unstable' way and who said they were going to Washington, D.C., to "set some things straight.'
According to the police report, several staff members at the restaurant said Catharine Pierce had grown up in Marblehead.
The Pierces gave police permission to search their vehicle, which they said was a rental from Colorado, the report said. According to the police report, the Pierces had a disassembled 0.22-caliber rifle in the trunk. It did not have a trigger, but was loaded with a hollow-point round in the chamber. Police also found 0.22- and 0.38-caliber ammunition and several bottles of Oxycodone, a painkiller prescribed to Catharine Pierce.
According to the report, a small container with suspected marijuana seeds was found in Robert Pierce's pocket.
Robert and Catharine Pierce could not be reached Wednesday.
Inside Okla. dental clinic, a 'menace' to public health
State epidemiologist stressed that "this is not an outbreak" and patients are being offered free medical testing.
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The crisp, stucco exterior of an Oklahoma dental clinic concealed what health inspectors say they found inside: rusty instruments used on patients with infectious diseases and a pattern of unsanitary practices that put thousands of people at risk for hepatitis and the virus that causes AIDS.
State and local health officials planned to mail notices Friday urging 7,000 patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington to seek medical screenings for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Inspectors allege workers at his two clinics used dirty equipment and risked cross-contamination to the point that the state Dentistry Board branded Harrington a "menace to the public health."
"The office looked clean," said Joyce Baylor, who had a tooth pulled at Harrington's Tulsa office 1½ years ago. In an interview, Baylor, 69, said she'll be tested next week to determine whether she contracted any infection.
"I'm sure he's not suffering financially that he can't afford instruments," Baylor said of Harrington.
Health officials opened their investigation after a patient with no known risk factors tested positive for both hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. After determining the "index patient" had a dental procedure about the likely time of exposure, investigators visited Harrington's office and found a number of unsafe practices, state epidemiologist Kristy Bailey said.
"I want to stress that this is not an outbreak. The investigation is still very much in its early stages," Bailey said.
Harrington voluntarily gave up his license, closed his offices in Tulsa and suburban Owasso, and is cooperating with investigators, said Kaitlin Snider, a spokeswoman for the Tulsa Health Department. He faces a hearing April 19, when his license could be permanently revoked.
"It's uncertain how long those practices have been in place," Snider said. "He's been practicing for 36 years."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is consulting on the case, and agency spokeswoman Abbigail Tumpey said such situations involving dental clinics are rare. Last year a Colorado oral surgeon was accused of reusing needles and syringes, prompting letters to 8,000 patients, Tumpey said. It wasn't clear whether anyone was actually infected.
"We've only had a handful of dental facilities where we've had notifications in the last decade," Tumpey said.
The Oklahoma Dentistry Board lodged a 17-count complaint against Harrington, saying he was a "menace to the public health by reasons of practicing dentistry in an unsafe or unsanitary manner." Among the claims was one detailing the use of rusty instruments in patients known to have infectious diseases.
"The CDC has determined that rusted instruments are porous and cannot be properly sterilized," the board said.
Health officials are sending letters to 7,000 known patients but cautioned that they don't know who visited his clinics before 2007. The letters urge the patients to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV — viruses typically spread through intravenous drug use or unprotected sex, not occupational settings.
Harrington could not be reached for comment Thursday. A message at his Tulsa office said it was closed, and the doctor's answering service referred callers to the Tulsa Health Department. Phone numbers listed for Harrington were disconnected. A message left with Harrington's malpractice attorney in Tulsa, Jim Secrest II, was not immediately returned.
Harrington's Tulsa practice is in a thriving part of town, on a row of some of medical practices. The white-and-green stucco, two-story dental clinic has the doctor's name in letters on the facade.
According to the complaint, the clinic had varying cleaning procedures for its equipment, needles were re-inserted in drug vials after their initial use and the office had no written infection-protection procedure.
Harrington told officials he left questions about sterilization and drug procedures to his employees.
"They take care of that, I don't," the dentistry board quoted him as saying.
The doctor also is accused of letting his assistants perform tasks only a licensed dentist should have done, including administering IV sedation. Also, the complaint says the doctor's staff could not produce permits for the assistants when asked.
Susan Rogers, executive director of the state Dentistry Board, said that as an oral surgeon Harrington regularly did invasive procedures involving "pulling teeth, open wounds, open blood vessels." The board's complaint also noted Harrington and his staff told investigators a "high population of known infectious disease carrier patients" received dental care from him.
Despite the high-risk clientele, a device used to sterilize instruments wasn't being properly used and hadn't been tested in six years, the board complaint said. Tests are required monthly.
Also, a drug vial found at a clinic this year had an expiration date of 1993 and one assistant's drug log said morphine had been used in the clinic last year despite its not receiving any morphine shipments since 2009.
Officials said patients will be offered free medical testing at the Tulsa Health Department's North Regional Health and Wellness Center.
Poll: 70% of Americans Would Allow Illegal Immigrants to Stay in US
(WASHINGTON) -- Americans are becoming increasingly more lenient in their views about illegal immigrants, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.
Seven in ten respondents now say that undocumented aliens should be able to remain in the U.S. with some legal status instead of returning to their home country, while the remainder believe they should go back to their places of origin.
Minorities and college-educated Americans overwhelmingly approve of illegal immigrants staying in the U.S., Pew found, while those with a high school education or less were the least inclined to feel this way.
However, the hot button issue of whether to make undocumented aliens U.S. citizens is far less popular. At the moment, just 43 percent say that there should be a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Others contend that permitting them legal status is preferable, although critics maintain that by doing so, it will create second-class citizens who will not enjoy the same rights as other Americans, including the ability to vote.
In another sign of changing attitudes, 49 percent say immigrants help make the U.S. stronger, while 41 percent contend they are a burden. That's essentially a reversal of how people felt in 2010 when Pew asked the same question.
Listen to the Children
My friends are dead. I saw the bad man. He was next to me
when we ran out.”
“I played ball with him. Now he is dead.”
“My friend got killed cause she didn't hide good enough.”
“Do you think it is my fault?”
Washington, DC– These are some of the devastating voices of children from Sandy Hook Elementary School. Elaine Zimmerman, the executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Children, joined by others, has been offering support to children and families in Newtown, Connecticut since the shootings at their school in December 2012. She shared these quotes at a recent Harvard Graduate School of Education Askwith Forum where she, PBS NewsHour correspondent and Learning Matters president John Merrow, and I participated in a panel on school violence. Less than two percent of fatal gun violence against children takes place at school, but everyone's heart broke with Elaine's as she told the audience, “I am haunted by the child who said, ‘There is nothing you can do or say that will convince me that this will not happen again.'”
Although many children in the school building and school system were not physically hurt on December 14th, all these children and their siblings were also victims of the horrific violence that day. They carry an enormous burden and are paying an incalculable price that may never disappear. It's the same price paid by children fifty miles away in Hartford's North End—though the gun violence there and in inner cities across the country does not always make headlines, adding another layer of anger and frustration about feeling invisible on top of the Black community's already deep pain. From rural Southern communities to small Midwestern towns, child and adult survivors of gun violence all over America pay a high price every day. The psychological and emotional toll of gun violence on bystanders, victims, and families can be overwhelming and leaves effects that last for years.
What about the costs we can count? In addition to the trauma that is so deep and pervasive that it is harder to quantify, there are actual costs to gun violence that can be measured and are enormous. Victims and families often find themselves paying a high economic price while struggling with the emotional one, and other taxpayers share the economic burden.
A recent study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that gun injuries and deaths in 2010 cost the country $8.4 billion in medical and mental health care, emergency services, and administrative and criminal justice costs. Those shot and killed and their families and employers were estimated to have lost $52.5 billion in forgone wages and productivity due to death or injury. This adds up to a total of $60.8 billion, twenty percent of which was borne by local, state and federal governments. On top of these costs to the victims, their families, employers and taxpayers, the researchers also estimated the economic value of the pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life among those shot and their families to total an additional $113.3 billion. This gives a sense of the magnitude of the loss experienced by those killed or injured and their families. Together all these costs add up to $174.1 billion a year, a little over one percent of our nation's gross national product. This is an average of $1.7 million in one year for each of the 105,177 gun deaths and injuries that occurred in 2010. And even this number is an underestimate. It does not count the larger toll and economic impact of gun violence on entire communities, including lower housing values, lost property tax revenue, and lost quality of life due to fear of violence.
The lost quality of life is the price Sandy Hook's children are paying right now, along with every other child in America who has seen gun violence in their own neighborhood, their own street, or their own home. The 2008 National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence found that more than one in five 14-17 year olds had witnessed a shooting at some point in their lives. This number is thought to be even higher among low-income children: one study found that 43 percent of low-income Black school-aged children had witnessed a murder. Behind those children are millions more who have seen pieces of news stories on television or passed armed guards or policemen at their school and wonder whether the grown-ups they know will ever be able to protect them and keep them safe. There is nothing you can do or say that will convince me that this will not happen again.
A December 2012 report of the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence found that exposure to violence takes an enormous emotional toll on children with effects including difficulty sleeping and eating, irritability, attention and concentration problems, aggression, depressed mood and withdrawal, relationship problems, anxiety and intrusive thoughts, and impulsivity (which includes dangerous risk-taking, alcohol and drug abuse, delinquency, and promiscuous sexual behavior). The task force also reported that chronic violence can lead to long-lasting changes in brain anatomy and physiology, including long-term psychiatric problems and lifelong limitations on health, well-being, relationships, and personal success.
It's not fair. Our whole country and our nation's economy bear the financial burden caused by gun violence. Survivors and family members pay the highest price of all. No one should be forced to pay a lifelong emotional or physical toll because a fit of anger, an episode of depression or other mental illness, or a careless accident ended with a gunshot. No child deserves to have their childhood snatched away in an instant and their life changed forever because of an adult's decision to carry and use guns, including high-powered assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips.
Listen to the children. The costs of gun violence in America are far too high for them and for all of us. They are a price none of us can afford and none of us, especially our children, should be forced to pay. It is past time to protect children, not guns.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.