Political Landscape

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) addressed everything from terrorist trials to Sacramento shenanigans at a Glendale Kiwanis Club meeting Aug. 28.

While the club is used to lighter fare, the six-term Congressman explained his bill inspired by the cases of the Christmas Day bomber and Times Square bomber, two men believed to be Muslim extremists who attempted to detonate explosives in the United States.

Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, said that when terrorists are captured, it forces a dilemma. Do investigators grill them to gain information on future terror plots and threats? Or do they treat them as suspected criminals, warning them of their Miranda rights and seeking only information useful in a prosecution?

"It's a tough choice. Do we gather intelligence, or do we gather evidence?" Schiff said.

In July, Schiff introduced a bill to expand the amount of time — from six to 48 hours — that officials can interrogate suspected terrorists without offering a Miranda warning. That would be enough time to gain crucial info without infringing on their constitutional rights, Schiff said, and could only be done with the approval of a federal judge.

House Resolution 5934 also would expand the ability of U.S. investigators to grill suspected terrorists on foreign soil.

Schiff's bill was criticized last month in a Los Angeles Times editorial. Schiff acknowledged the criticism, saying with a smile that the Times has the right to be wrong.

He also took several minutes to praise U.S. troops in Afghanistan while saying that it still is too early to tell whether efforts to stabilize the country are taking root.

On the one hand, he said military action in Afghanistan has "seriously degraded Al Qaeda's capacity to attack us here." On the other hand, "epidemic corruption" among Afghan political leaders and police have made it difficult to establish democratic institutions that citizens can rely on.

Schiff said a few months ago he met with , then the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as well as McChrystal's subsequent replacement, Gen. David Petraeus.

Schiff came away with the sense that the current combination of military and civilian efforts is the only viable one, he said. Even so, there is little certainty of success on the civilian side.

"By this time next year, we will know whether this is working or isn't working," Schiff said.

His visit with the generals came during a tour of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen — not exactly vacation spots. Schiff quipped such junkets aren't likely to get him in trouble with taxpayers at home.

"Never go anywhere your constituents want to go and you'll never have a problem," he said.

In a brief question-and-answer period, a Kiwanian asked Schiff if he had "any influence over those dweebs in the Assembly," a reference to the three-month budget stalemate in the California Legislature.

Schiff's answer: "Probably very limited."

He then lamented the partisanship barring progress in Sacramento.

"State governance is broken," he said, "completely broken."


A prominent group of San Fernando Valley businesses is among the first to turn to the slate of initiatives on the November ballot, announcing its recommendations on measures ranging from the state budget process to how to pay for parks.

The Valley Industry & Commerce Assn., representing 340 businesses and manufacturers, favors Proposition 20, which would add a redrawing of congressional districts to the mandate of the existing Citizens Redistricting Commission; Proposition 21, which would add $18 to the vehicle license fee to fund state parks; Proposition 22, a measure to stop state raids of money from local and county agencies; and Proposition 26, which would make it harder for lawmakers to enact new taxes on products and services.

The group opposes Proposition 23, which would ice the state's greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts until the job market improves; Proposition 24, which would kill three separate tax incentive programs for businesses; Proposition 25, which would require only a majority of state lawmakers to approve a budget instead of the current two-thirds supermajority; and Proposition 27, which would put a stop the redistricting effort that was approved by voters last year and would be expanded by Proposition 20 in November.

The group took no position on Proposition 19, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana. Spokeswoman Angela Fentiman said the Valley Industry & Commerce Assn. Board of Directors did not feel the measure affected the business community enough to garner an endorsement one way or the other.


Help wanted.

The San Fernando Valley Council of Governments, a new coalition of cities advocating for economic growth and transportation solutions in the valley, is seeking an executive director. Members of the group include Los Angeles County and the cities of Burbank, Glendale, Los Angeles, San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Fernando.

Glendale's representative is Councilwoman Laura Friedman. Burbank's representative is Councilman Jess Talamantes.

According to the job description, the executive director should have experience in public affairs, understand the challenges facing the valley, be able to build a website, work with leaders from all the cities in the coalition and be ready to lobby regional, state and federal leaders.

The job pays $48,000 a year out of the council of government's $60,000 annual budget. Interested parties are asked to apply by Sept. 15 to John Wickham at the city of Los Angeles' chief legislative analyst's office. The e-mail for more info is john.wickham@lacity.org.

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