Schiff aims to help small businesses

With small business still the missing link in the slow-and-go economic recovery, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is bringing together numerous government agencies and business groups for a daylong Small Business Assistance and Career Opportunity Fair on Aug. 11 at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Among those scheduled to have a presence are the Small Business Administration, which will send representatives to go over strategies for struggling small businesses and women business owners; the Internal Revenue Service; the Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency; and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The California Employment Development Department and local Workforce Investment Boards will have representatives there to talk about unemployment benefits and employment training programs, respectively. Several local chambers of commerce will participate, as will the Valley Economic Development Center.

"Far too many people throughout our community are still seeking access to business opportunities and employment, and I hope this business development and career fair will help them discover new resources to succeed," Schiff said in a statement. "The career fair will provide an opportunity for people to network and find additional ways to gain employment or build their businesses, even in a challenging economy."

For more information, call Schiff's Pasadena office at (626) 304-2727.

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Firm says utility needs to raise rates

Earlier this month, Glendale Water & Power learned it may have to raise its rates. The reason? A report from New York-based financial firm called Fitch Ratings Ltd., one of several that estimate and then rate the financial health of government agencies and companies that have issued bonds to support their operations.

Fitch noted the utility's water revenues are down, which means it has less cash to pay off its bonds, which prompted Fitch to ratchet down Glendale Water & Power's credit-worthiness from "stable" to "negative." That means the utility will pay higher interest rates if it borrows again in the near future.

For Glendale Water & Power, the question is whether to raise rates on users now or gird for what likely would be a heftier rate increase if and when it borrows again. Glendale officials are still mulling the options.

Fitch's announcement was routine, but the way ratings companies treat government agencies may change because of language Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) placed in the financial reform bill signed by President Obama on July 21.

"These credit rating agencies have been tougher on state and federal agencies than private companies," Sherman said.

Ratings agencies fail to recognize the difference between cities or public utilities and private companies, he added.

For example, when Circuit City became a bad credit risk, it went out of business and left creditors and shareholders holding the bag. When government agencies get in trouble, they do not stop collecting revenue or delivering services, Sherman said.

Buried in the financial bill is Sherman's Section 938, which instructs the Securities and Exchange Commission to require the credit-rating firms to factor in the stability of government agencies when evaluating debt.

"Across the board, the credit rating agencies should be changing the relationship to show investors that governmental entities are on the whole safer than private corporations," Sherman said.

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Supervisor looking into cleanliness of well water

Mike Antonovich is testing the waters.

Not the political waters, but the stuff from wells in the county. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles County supervisor, whose district includes Glendale, Burbank and the Crescenta Valley, asked for a new study of well water to see if it has traces of arsenic, lead and chromium.

Antonovich last pushed for such a study 10 years ago.

His staffers say it simply is time to do so again.

"We want to make sure we are within state and federal guidelines," said Antonovich's health deputy Philip Chen.

The 2000 study tested 990 wells around the county, including five in Burbank and four in Glendale. While the study found that, overall, the wells were within federal and state safety guidelines, it also found detectable levels of chromium 6, the form of the cancer-causing element created by industrial activity.

Chromium 6 is one of the materials found in the groundwater under and near old industrial sites in the eastern San Fernando Valley, such as the former Lockheed Martin manufacturing plant that is now the site of Bob Hope Airport.

Of the local wells sampled by county scientists 10 years ago, three in Burbank and three in Glendale had detectable levels of arsenic and chromium 6. Three of the Glendale wells revealed the presence of some lead, but Burbank was lead-free.

Local utilities, which have been blending their water with imports from outside sources, have reported their water as more than safe to drink.

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L.A. city attorney to appear on show

Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich is scheduled to appear live as a guest on "ABCTV Live With Vrej Agajanian" from 9 to 10 p.m. Monday.

Trutanich, a former Los Angeles prosecutor elected last year to replace Rocky Delgadillo, will discuss L.A. city matters, including the dispute between the city and the controller's office over the investigation of local agencies.

The interview will air on Charter Cable Channel 384 at 9 p.m. Viewers may call (818) 662-9222 with their questions.

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