Opinion L.A.
Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
City Council may get pulled into fight over secretive DWP nonprofits

For months now the Los Angeles City Council has been able to sit on the sidelines while Mayor Eric Garcetti, Controller Ron Galperin and City Atty. Mike Feuer have engaged in an increasingly nasty fight with union leaders over revealing how two secretive nonprofits spent $40 million from Department of Water and Power ratepayers.

No more. On Wednesday, Galperin announced that he would not sign the annual $4-million check to the nonprofits due this month. The controller, who approves all payments from the city treasury, said the city charter requires him to withhold payment “if there is a question as to whether it is improper.”

And there are questions about whether the spending has been proper. The Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute were created and are run by management of the DWP and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents most of the utility’s workers. Last fall The Times’ Jack Dolan reportedthat there was scant information...

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We're all wet when it comes to controlling our water appetites

Five months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown asked us to use 20% less water. We’ve managed 5%. Good job, California.

Now the state and cities should force us to do what we aren’t grown up enough to do on our own.

Mega-droughts like this one require mega-measures. Yet we’re months into the drought and few politicians are willing to drop the hammer. They hate mandatory measures because voters hate them, but we’ll all hate it a lot more if we turn on the faucets and nothing comes out.

Politicians keep congratulating us on the fact that Angelenos use the same amount of water we did more than 30 years ago, even though there are at least a million more of us.

Most of that savings, I daresay, was passive — low-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads that require us to to do nothing. That benefit is maxing out; we have to do the rest ourselves.

Lakes, streams, reservoirs, snowpack — going, going, gone. It hasn’t been this dry for 100 years, maybe for 500. And yet still no mandatory rationing. Half of...

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Is it fair to send kids before immigration judges without a lawyer?

In a lawsuit seeking to force the government to supply legal counsel for undocumented minors facing deportation, the American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups Wednesday filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the federal government of denying the kids due process.

The filing is sure to prompt a hailstorm of condemnations by immigration foes, and the legal argument isn’t a sure thing. The lawsuit compares unaccompanied minors in the immigration system with other minors facing civil juvenile delinquency proceedings, where, the ACLU says, court rulings have established that the kids are entitled to legal representation because of their incapacity to make their own cases. The lawsuit argues that federal law requires a “full and fair hearing” for the undocumented, unaccompanied minors, which is impossible unless the children have legal counsel.

There’s something inherently unfairabout forcing children to represent themselves in a legal proceeding presided over by a judge in...

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Note to media: There's no such office as 'female justice'

If you read news articles about a post-Hobby Lobby dispute at the Supreme Court over contraception coverage, you might think that there is an official position of “female Supreme Court justice.” Typical was the lead of this July 3 New York Times report:

“In a decision that drew an unusually fierce dissent from the three female justices, the Supreme Court sided Thursday with religiously affiliated nonprofit groups in a clash between religious freedom and women’s rights.”

The Los Angeles Times didn’t refer to the dissenting justices by their gender until the eighth paragraph of a story by my colleague David Savage: “The unsigned order prompted a sharply worded dissent from the court’s three female members, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.”

I’m sure some readers would accuse Savage of burying the lead, but I’m glad he didn’t begin the story by emphasizing the gender of the three dissenters.

The occasion for the protest by Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Kagan was an...

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Every business should listen to Taylor Swift's advice

The music industry isn’t dying, argues Taylor Swift in an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal. “It's just coming alive,” she writes.

In her Op-Ed, Swift explains her strategy for making it as a musician in this day and age. It all boils down to this: Believe in your craft and produce a solid product that people are willing to pay for. Make an emotional connection with your audience. Understand the technological landscape so that you can use it to your advantage.

It’s a solid argument, and not just for the music industry. Any business with consumers needs to follow these rules.

One example I found especially resonant is the effort she takes to keep the magic alive for her fans even in our instant-access, immediate-gratification era.

“I think forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. No, I did not say ‘shock’; I said ‘surprise.’ I believe couples can stay in love for decades if they just continue to surprise each...

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The Times endorsed Duran; Duran just endorsed Shriver. Now what?

It's interesting, if not entirely unexpected: West Hollywood Councilman John Duran, the third-place finisher in the June 3 primary race for county supervisor, endorsed former Santa Monica Councilman Bobby Shriver over former state lawmaker Sheila Kuehl in the Nov. 4 runoff.

So given The Times' endorsement of Duran, doesn't it make sense that we'll now endorse Shriver? But wait: Our Duran endorsement showed precious little enthusiasm for Shriver, and it praised Kuehl so highly that she used our non-endorsing words about her on campaign mailers (and was called out on it by one of my colleagues). So isn't it pretty clear we'll now endorse Kuehl?

The truth is, barely a month after the primary and with nearly four months to go until the general election, we haven't talked about it yet. We will, though, and soon, and when we do, I suspect those are among the questions we're going to grapple with. Not whether The Times editorial board should endorse Shriver just because Duran did — we don't...

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What's the price tag for the border crisis? Try $3.7 billion

Protecting the border is getting even more expensive.

The Obama administration has announced that it will seek another $3.7 billion — substantially more than the $2 billion it talked about before — to deal with the flow across the southern border of unaccompanied minors. It wants to use the money to expand the legal system that federal law requires handles the minors’ cases, and the facilities to house them while the process unfolds.

As The Times editorial page has noted, the flood of unaccompanied minors is a complex issue, the result of such regional pressures as international gangs, traffickers in drugs and human beings, and the southward flow of weapons from the U.S. The United Nations is pushing for the crisis to be viewed not as an American immigration issue but as a regional humanitarian crisisand that the kids be considered refugees, which could open the door for resettlement in the U.S. and other nations. So far, the Obama administration, which refers to it as a humanitarian...

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Cigarettes cause wrinkles? Snore. It's time to fix anti-smoking ads

An older woman I know is struggling against emphysema. Though she still gets around locally from time to time, she’s often too exhausted. A flight of stairs is about all she can muster; on cold days, making it even from the handicapped parking spot into a building can be too much. She frequently depends on an oxygen tank, is given low-dose morphine to ease her breathing and is in hospice care. Her chances of seeing the high school graduation of her teenage grandson are unlikely at best.

Smokers and potential smokers could learn so much from seeing this sad situation up close. This woman, now in her 70s, is beloved. She is a brilliant thinker who has always taken an interest in politics and social issues. A former social worker, she has volunteered almost all her life to help others. She has no other serious physical ailments. She could have lived for 10 years, 20 years more, possibly have seen her youngest grandchild, a toddler, become an adult. That’s not going to happen because of...

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Triple-zero sizes for women deserve a big fat zero

The new ideal size for a woman is … negative.

Remember when women’s clothing lines started selling a size zero? Well, evidently size zero was just a grotesque accommodation for women who can’t control themselves and scarf down an entire wedge of iceberg lettuce at one sitting.

Because now size 000 — triple zero — has become the dream-girl goal. And I do mean “girl.” On some brands’ measurements, a size 000 has a 23-inch waist, which is about the same size waist as a first- or second-grade girl. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper named some of the Hollywood notables heading into triple-digit territory, the likes of Nicole Richie and Kate Bosworth. These are women other women — and worse, girls — want to be like.

The body type is far worse than author Tom Wolfe’s scrawny “social X-rays.” They come closer to the duchess of Windsor, a punishing dieter whose reputed 31-23-31-ish measurements, along with her cushions smugly embroidered with “You can never be too rich or too thin,” put her in the...

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After Joan Rivers' transgender 'joke,' some advice via Hari Kondabolu

Joan Rivers’ comedy went too far last week when she said that President Obama was gay and that First Lady Michelle Obama was transgender.

The incident occurred during an on-the-street interview with a photographer who asked the comedian whether she thought the United States would see its first gay president. “We already have it with Obama, so let’s just calm down,” she responded, adding:

“You know Michelle is a [expletive].”

“I’m sorry, what?” the photog asked.

“A transgender,” Rivers said, seemingly exasperated.

Days later, Rivers has refused to apologize for her remarks, saying in a statement to CNN:

“I think it’s a compliment. She’s so attractive, tall, with a beautiful body, great face, does great makeup. Take a look and go back to La Cage Au Follies (sic). The most gorgeous women are transgender. Stop it already ... and if you want to talk about ‘politically correct,’ I think this is a ‘politically incorrect’ attack on me because I’m old, Jewish, a woman and a 'hetty’ -- a...

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Was the Dreamers' sales pitch too clever by half?

This is the lead of a story The Times ran the other day about a Fourth of July swearing-in ceremony for new U.S. citizens presided over by President Obama:

“Kamar Osei Harris joined the U.S. Air Force last fall for the reasons most service members cite: love of country and sense of duty. The fact that it wasn’t technically his country didn’t occur to the Canadian-born son of parents from Barbados and Jamaica. ‘I didn't even think of myself as a noncitizen,’ he said, until he began thinking about becoming a pilot.”

There is a fast track to citizenship for legal permanent residents who serve in the armed forces. Still, the reference to America not “technically” being Harris’ country reminded me of a comment Obama made in 2012 about a different group of would-be citizens: the so-called Dreamers (named after the never-enacted federal Dream Act).

This is what Obama said when he announced that up to 800,000 young people brought here illegally as children would be eligible to live and work in...

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No more $63 tickets -- and other ideas to reform parking in L.A.

The group we represent, the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative, appreciates The Times' editorial board for addressing the unfolding parking reform process taking place in Los Angeles, where even minor parking violations will set you back an outrageous $63 or more.

We'd like to take this opportunity to expand upon and clarify certain points raised by The Times and the issues we think voters should decide if City Hall fails to act.

First, our group's proposal to cap some parking fines at $23 should be viewed as a stopgap measure until a better, more rational system can be put in place. With regard to parking meters and other violations, we strongly agree with The Times that some kind of graduated fine structure should be adopted. The paradigm of fining all violators — first-time and serial violators alike — the same draconian amount is antiquated and needs to be replaced.

One suggestion is to adopt a more "proactive" approach that prevents expired-meter violations from happening in...

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