Website removes claims about Gatto

A Los Angeles political website has taken down several stories about Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) after an attorney for the lawmaker sent a cease-and-desist letter claiming the material was defamatory.

The letter demanded removal of posts from the political blog Mayor Sam's Sister City. The site had several unflattering posts about Gatto, including one allegedly linking him to drug dealing.

The Oct. 21 letter from Gatto's attorney, Steven Reyes, said Mayor Sam's Sister City contains "numerous unprovoked, unsubstantiated and libelous statements." Gatto had threatened to sue the site and the authors of the posts if they weren't removed.

Michael Higby, the site's operator who provided a copy of the letter, defended the posts, but said he has removed them while he studies his legal options.

"What we have done for now is remove all content related to Mike Gatto as we strategize internally," Higby said.

The website has covered Los Angeles and state politics for six years, Higby said, often with a "snarky, rough-and-tumble" tone.

"Mike Gatto likes to control his image very tightly and for a politician he has an incredibly thin skin," Higby said.

Despite several acerbic posts about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa over the years, Higby said, "we have never ever had any complaint or concern from the mayor's office. In fact, they frequently send us information."

Gatto, who is running against Republican Sunder Ramani for the Nov. 2 election, said he recognized that seeking to stop the posts on Mayor Sam's Sister City was unusual, but added that the site crossed the line in items referencing his wife and mother.

"Tomorrow, they may say I was on the grassy knoll when John Kennedy was shot," Gatto said. "Facts mean nothing to them."

One of the Mayor Sam's Sister City articles points out Gatto registered the domain name in 1999, suggesting he was seeking to get into the illicit drug trade.

Gatto said that from time to time he has obtained the rights to domain names on the chance that they will become valuable.

"People buy domain names that are generic, such as That is all I've ever done," he said.

Getting the stories removed from the site was an important step, he added.

"As long as they stop these meritless attacks on me and my family, then I am OK with that. If they start again, I will pursue them to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

Bob Hope curfew put on hold

Efforts to impose a curfew on nighttime flights at Bob Hope Airport are in a holding pattern as federal lawmakers squabble over other aspects of a major Federal Aviation Administration bill.

In June, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) asked the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to include in the FAA authorization bill language that would, in effect, allow the Bob Hope and Van Nuys airports to impose a curfew on flights between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Commercial carriers at the Burbank airport abide by a voluntary curfew. But other aircraft, most notably parcel cargo carriers, such as UPS and FedEx, argue that a hard curfew is not allowed under FAA rules and that it would undermine their business.

The trio of lawmakers hoped to get the curfew into a reauthorization bill this year, but getting it passed doesn't appear likely to happen this year.

FAA reauthorization is bogged down by clashes over larger issues, such as whether to increase passenger facility charges, the proposed upgrade of air traffic controls and rules governing the ability of domestic airlines to forge alliances with foreign companies.

Mary Kerr, a spokeswoman for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said conflict over several matters prompted Congress to merely extend the current FAA authorization bill in September and delay consideration of a new measure.

The stand-off is now in its third year, and the FAA authorization bill has been extended more than a dozen times.

Kerr said there is little likelihood that the bill will be considered in the lame duck congressional session after the Nov. 2 election. Further, if predictions of Republican gains in the House prove true, the committee will have a new leader in 2011.

As to when a measure that might include the curfew might come up for debate, Kerr said, "your crystal ball is as good as mine."

Registrar's office open this weekend

In an effort to make it as easy as possible for voters to get their ballots in for the Nov. 2 mid-term election, the Los Angeles County registrar/recorder's office at 12400 Imperial Highway in Norwalk will be open Saturday and Sunday to accept ballots.

Voters can come in from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday or Sunday to cast their ballots. They may also do so on weekdays.

"The ability to vote on the weekend provides busy voters an added opportunity to cast their ballot other than on Election Day," registrar Dean Logan said in a statement.

For more info, visit or call (562) 466-1310.

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