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Legislators to Weigh In -- Literally -- on Obesity Issue

Times Staff Writer

Californians carry the weighty burden of image -- they’re expected to be as lean and limber as a stick of beef jerky. But no lifestyle is more hazardous to that than the politician’s diet of rigor-mortis pizza after a campaign event, doughnuts at morning briefings and wine and cheese at fundraisers.

The “freshman 10" pounds that many first-year college students pack on can become the “freshman 20" on new legislators.

Two no-longer-freshman assemblymen, Republican Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria and Democrat Lou Correa of Anaheim, have arranged a monthlong stunt to get their colleagues into shape and savvy to obesity matters. A flatbed truck will pull up to the Capitol’s west steps Thursday, and all the legislators who wish to take part will climb aboard a huge scale for a group weigh-in.

A month later, they’ll do the same for a group weigh-out. And in between: training with California Highway Patrol cadets, a soccer game with a bunch of schoolkids, a bipartisan 1-mile jog, and spinning on the Capitol Mall -- of the literal, not the metaphorical, campaigning kind.

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Someone should start a “guess the weight of the legislators” contest. Might put a dent in the budget shortfall.

L.A. Agency Votes Down

Campaign Reform Rule

No campaign reform seems to be too small, or too huge, for L.A. to turn away, ever since a couple of grand juries began zeroing in on possible campaign contribution-public contracting quid pro quos.

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But the board of the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency is just saying no -- voting down a rule that would have barred its members from shaking the political money tree on behalf of candidates in state and federal races from people who have business pending before the panel.

The ban has been embraced by every other city department, which makes the board’s rejection all the more astonishing to reformers. LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the city’s Ethics Commission, is shocked, shocked that “the majority of board members see nothing wrong with asking for political money from those who come before them.” Two board members -- its president and vice president, Paul Hudson and Shu Kwan Woo -- voted for the rule, but a bloc led by attorney Doug Ring outvoted them. Ring, who’s married to Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, said the rule would infringe on his right to take part in non-L.A. city elections.

“I’m a citizen who is actively involved in state and federal politics,” Ring said. “I absolutely understand why it’s inappropriate for me to fund-raise for ‘Joe for Mayor,’ but I don’t understand why I should give up my franchise to back John Kerry or George W.” Chez Ring/Miscikowski, in Brentwood, is often a place where politicians such as Barbara Boxer and Gray Davis have added a little something to their campaign accounts. With as many as 250 guests at a time, Ring says, he could hardly know who’s got business with, is consulting for or lawyering for anyone doing business with the redevelopment group.

The board did go along with a rule that the City Council approved barring city commissioners from trolling for campaign dough for anyone running for city office. But heck, who didn’t?

El Toro Airport Opponents Enjoy the Turn of Events

Today’s Orange County blue-plate special: revenge, that dish that tastes so good when it’s cold.

Orange County voters didn’t want the old El Toro Marine Base turned over to commercial aviation, but two of the chief cheerleaders for building an airport there anyway were ... Los Angeles Airport Commission President Ted Stein and former L.A. Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards. The pair even sent a 37-page memo to the U.S. Transportation secretary, angling for L.A. to lease a big hunk of the acreage from the Navy, to turn it into an airport.

Both men have now gone into a nose-dive, resigning from their posts as “pay for play” accusations float through L.A. City Hall, and two grand juries sharpen their subpoena pencils.

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More than a few people in the 714-949 power axis are enjoying the moment of “schadenfreude,” as the governor would put it in his native language: taking pleasure in another’s misfortune. In plain English, Bill Kogerman, who headed up one of the no-airport forces, gloats, “Don’t you love it when what goes around comes around?”

IRS Website Carries Republican Message

Last-minute tax filers desperately e-rummaging through the IRS’ website might have run across, at the bottom of several official government press releases, this boldface alarm: “America has a choice: it can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the president’s policies are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation.”

This is startling on two counts: one, by law, government functions -- such as official press releases written by workers on a public payroll -- and political functions -- such as promoting one political policy over another -- are twains that should never meet.

Two, that press release language is syllable-for-syllable identical to the language on a Republican National Committee website from the week before.

Now, Los Angeles Rep. Henry Waxman, the senior Democrat on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, tells This Space he’s all for his New York colleague Charles Rangel’s demand for an investigation into this too.

“Last month, the Treasury Department conducted campaign research on the Kerry tax plans,” Waxman says. “Now it has issued press releases with language taken directly from the Republican National Committee. The Treasury Department is funded by the taxpayer and is prohibited by law from engaging in partisan politics. It should not be turned into an arm of the Bush reelection campaign.”

Yes, but with all this extra work, did the IRS employees get their taxes filed on time?

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Points Taken

* Moorpark Republican Assemblyman Tony Strickland, who’s gotten an earful from disabled groups, has dropped his measure to allow very pregnant women to park in handicapped spaces, using special parking placards.

* Republican Rosario Marin, who by now had hoped to be campaigning against U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, will instead serve on the California Integrated Waste Management Board. Gov. Schwarzenegger appointed the former U.S. treasurer to the $117,000 post, evidently as a consolation prize after Marin lost the primary to the man Schwarzenegger endorsed, former Secretary of State Bill Jones.

* The Liberty Hill Foundation was so named for the little pile of dirt in San Pedro where, in 1923, author Upton Sinclair was arrested for trying to read the Bill of Rights to striking dockworkers. On Thursday, the L.A. foundation hosts its annual Upton Sinclair dinner, honoring four social and political activists, among them Chicago Seven-ista, Campaign for Economic Democracy founder and former state legislator Tom Hayden. Howard Dean will present Hayden’s award.

* L.A. Rep. Diane Watson’s colleagues unanimously approved her proposal renaming a Koreatown post office after Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, who spent a decade between 1902 and 1912 in the United States, founded schools and cultural groups here, and was imprisoned for his work to free Korea from Japanese rule. A city square and a freeway interchange also bear his name.

* Arnold Schwarzenegger might consider it one of those “strange bills,” but Hollywood business folk are delighted. L.A. Councilman Eric Garcetti wants to study regulating Silly String, the plasticky goop extruded like angel-hair pasta from pressurized cans. On Halloween, party-makers with nothing better to do swarm Hollywood and hose down one another, strangers and even police horses. The empty cans roll around the streets like drunks, and the gunk gets washed into the ocean. You don’t think it’s serious? Heck, Silly String has been banned at Mardi Gras.

You Can Quote Me

“I’m not reporting for NBC anymore, I’m reporting for the state of California.”

-- California first lady and ex-NBC journo Maria Shriver, talking to her former press colleagues at the Edible Garden, the acre-sized agricultural venture at a Berkeley middle school. Students there grow alternatives to junk/fast/fried cuisine. The public-private effort is underwritten by the mother of California cuisine, restaurateuse Alice Waters. Shriver’s visit, said the San Francisco Chronicle, endorsed several things: education, community partnerships and sensible eating.

Patt Morrison’s columns appear Mondays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is patt.morrison@latimes.com. This week’s contributors include Patrick McGreevy, Jean O. Pasco and Jenifer Warren.


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