Some Wonder if Baca’s on Governor’s Team

Times Staff Writer

Some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political foes are wondering if Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is going a bit too far in his support of the governor.

On Feb. 6, a plane towing a banner that read “It’s No Party for Nurses, Patients and Students --” flew over Schwarzenegger’s Brentwood mansion while the governor hosted a Super Bowl party.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. March 4, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday March 04, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
Mayoral campaign -- A photo caption in the Feb. 14 California section with an article about a Los Angeles mayoral debate said Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa was addressing supporters after the debate. In fact, one of the people pictured with his back to the camera was a critic of Villaraigosa, not a supporter.

Groups representing nurses and consumers have criticized Schwarzenegger’s opposition to proposals for expanding healthcare coverage, and they have been angered over what they say is the rollback of safety rules to assure minimum safe staffing in California hospitals.


Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, one of the groups that hired the plane, said a Sheriff’s Department helicopter intercepted the plane over Los Angeles and persuaded the pilot to abort his mission.

The pilot, who asked not to be identified, confirmed that a sheriff’s helicopter started buzzing around him, and a pilot identifying himself as being with the Sheriff’s Department said there had been some noise complaints and asked the plane to fly at a higher elevation, which would have put it in the cloud cover.

“I asked him: ‘Are you politely asking me to leave?’ and he said: ‘That’s what the neighbors would like,’ ” the pilot said, adding that he cut his flight short to avoid getting in trouble with authorities, even though he said he was flying legally.

Two days later, some nurses were staging a protest near the state Capitol when Donna Gerber of the California Nurses Assn. noticed two men with green Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department polo shirts and guns on their belts taking pictures of protesters.

When confronted, one of the men said enigmatically, “This is for background,” and then the two men left in a marked Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department vehicle.

Gerber and Doug Heller, executive director of the taxpayer foundation, said they were concerned that in both instances it appeared that L.A. County deputies were outside their jurisdiction.


“I think we’ve got Lee Baca providing a private security force for the governor,” Heller said.

Sgt. Mark Utley of the Sheriff’s Department confirmed that one of its helicopters contacted a plane that was flying too low over the governor’s house, but said the pilot was simply asked to increase his altitude.

Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for Baca, said he had no information about sheriff’s deputies getting involved in monitoring the Sacramento protests against the governor.

He said the only deputies he knows about in Sacramento are two legislative aides who “advocate for legislation we feel is important,” but are not assigned to monitor protests against Schwarzenegger.

“He has his own detail,” Whitmore said.


Antonovich, Molina in a Spat Over ID Cards

The normally staid weekly meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors turned testy last week when one supervisor accused another of breaking the law for the sake of a photo opportunity.

The photo op came a day earlier when Supervisor Mike Antonovich held a news conference to denounce the county’s practice of accepting identification cards issued by foreign consulates that he said were too easily forged.

Antonovich held a forged matricula consular card for Mexican nationals with a familiar face on it: his own.

Supervisor Gloria Molina, who represents the eastern portion of the county, defended the ID cards and went on the attack.

“There is no doubt that there are fake IDs that are being bought and sold,” Molina told him. “You violated the law as well as everyone else who does it.”

Antonovich, who represents the Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys and sits next to Molina at board meetings, insisted to his neighbor on the dais that his criminal record is clean.

“I did not buy the card,” he told her. “Somebody did it in my name and mailed it to me. That’s the difference.”

Molina shot back: “It’s in your possession, an invalid ID.”


Boxer Supporters Say It With Hundreds of Roses

She gave them hope, so they’re sending her roses.

Some 2,400 of them and counting, to be delivered today on Valentine’s Day to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington.

The idea came from Stacy Davies, a writer from Claremont, who cheered while watching Boxer challenge Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during last month’s confirmation hearings over the administration’s rationale for invading Iraq.

Davies contacted a national online florist, which set up a special phone line for the “Barbara Boxer Rose Campaign.”

She sent e-mail appeals to several progressive Internet blogs, and got a pitch on Air America, the liberal talk-radio network.

“I’ve been in the business for 18 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Arthur Conforti, president of Coast to Coast Flowers in Sarasota, Fla., which has a local Washington florist delivering the multicolored blooms.

Boxer said she was “very touched.”

The senator’s office has arranged to transfer the flowers tonight to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, which is the main U.S. hospital for soldiers wounded in Iraq.


Election Watchdog Fines Owner of L.A. Avengers

The owner of the L.A. Avengers arena football team was fined last week by the state’s campaign finance watchdog for failing to properly report a late contribution in the 2003 recall election.

Casey Wasserman agreed to pay a $3,000 fine to the state Fair Political Practices Commission for his $20,000 contribution to the campaign of Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

Meantime, the commission levied a stiffer fine of $7,000 against former West Hollywood City Council candidate Terry Morgan for accepting $1,000 in campaign contributions from the Argyle Hotel while a matter concerning its business license was pending before the city Business License Commission, on which Morgan served at the time.


Points Taken

* Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn has won the endorsement of the Central City Assn. of Los Angeles in his reelection bid. Meanwhile, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. Political Action Committee has endorsed Councilman Bernard C. Parks for mayor and the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club is backing Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa.

* The tradition of legislators being succeeded in office by their spouses could get another example. Assemblyman Ed Chavez (D-La Puente) is touting his wife, Renee Chavez, who sits on the La Puente City Council, to replace him in the Assembly when he is termed out in 2006.

* Also just in time for Valentine’s Day, state Sen. George Runner (R-Antelope Valley) and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner (R-Antelope Valley) have put out their first joint news release as husband-and-wife legislators. The couple announced that they sent a letter to the Victor Valley Union High School District to express their outrage that Silverado High School will be presenting a “mock” gay marriage ceremony on campus. “To use taxpayer dollars to promote illegal activities is simply reprehensible,” the couple said in a joint statement.


You Can Quote Me

“Asking the mayor about ethics reform is like asking Fat Albert about a diet.”

-- Los Angeles mayoral candidate Bernard C. Parks at a Feb. 5 debate at the First AME Church.


Contributors this week were Times staff writers Jack Leonard, Noam N. Levey, Jean O. Pasco and Nancy Vogel.