LABJ's LA Stories

Harsh Words

Veteran Los Angeles Times reporter Kenneth Reich learned the hard way that no matter how frustrating new technologies may be, even 21st century problems may be best solved with old-fashioned diplomacy.

Reich, 66, was struggling with an Internet-based expense reporting system dubbed "Extensity" when he asked a newsroom aide for help.

"I was having a terrible time with it," he said. "It's all part of the centralization of the company in Chicago," he said in reference to Tribune Co., the Times' Chicago-based parent.

When help was either slow to come or didn't come at all, Reich got upset.

"Blowing up is too harsh a term to use. I yelled and it was heard by quite a few people. I apologized, and got her flowers, but it was too late," he said.

Reich, known for his mercurial temper during his 39 years at the Times, was nicknamed the "Third Reich" early in his career.

Reich said he huddled with Times Managing Editor Dean Baquet and Leo Wolinsky, the Page One deputy managing editor, where he was given an ultimatum: take an early retirement severance package or be fired.

In response to calls placed to Baquet and Wolinsky, Times spokeswoman Martha Goldstein wrote in an e-mail only that Reich had retired from the Times, effective the end of June.

Reich has covered four presidential campaigns, as well as southern politics as the Atlanta bureau chief in the late 1960s.

He said he had tried to hold out until his 40th anniversary at the paper next year, but his deteriorating health had been a factor in making the decision to leave.

Pat Maio

City of Paperlessness

City Councilmember Eric Garcetti and Mayor James Hahn made an official proclamation for the month of May: Make Mondays E-Days.

The plan is to save money and resources by making city workers use scanners, e-mail, PDFs and eForms instead of paper. Electronic forms are also required for job opportunity postings and even time sheets.

Don't people just wait until Tuesday to print and distribute?

"We're working to try to track it," said Josh Kamensky, Garcetti's spokesman. "It's definitely worked in our office. The councilmember has been very vigilant in eliminating unnecessary agenda printouts."

The office has also turned the press review package "voluminous printouts of the news clips" into PDFs. This saves about 50 pages multiplied by the staff of four.

But he doesn't look for miracles.

"I don't think anybody expects to get to the paperless office," he said. "What we have done is made the kind of incremental reductions that will save the taxpayers money and save the earth's resources. You can't really stare down your nose at an opportunity like that."

Steve Silkin

Design Delights

A library, a hotel and even an unbuilt hay barn and the folks who worked on their planning, renovation and construction walked away with this year's LA Business Council's Architectural Awards.

Judges selected from 200 nominees for the 25 categories. The grand prize was given to Mayor James Hahn for the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles.

Among the others recognized, Dean Larkin Design and Brackett Construction won for the renovation of the family-owned Farmers' Daughter Hotel, across from the Farmers' Market. The project gave the building a farm theme.

"We were pleasantly surprised and we were honored by the company we were with," said Dean Larkin, principal of the design company.

Hodgetts + Fung Design and Architecture, won multiple awards, including the Civic Award. Judges felt the firm's Sylmar library building showed commitment to the community. The firm was also honored for its work on the Ira Gershwin Gallery of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Unbuilt projects honored included a proposed South L.A. Animal Services center. Judges liked that each pathway through the kennel would be lined with kennels on one side and shrubbery on the other, to provide a barrier against barking and create a relaxed atmosphere. And the design for a barn at Steve Sharpe's Lucky Dog Ranch in Somis got an award for using hay as its wall material.

Kim Holmes

The Roving Eye

Green Jean Scene

Remember those jeans you wore until they shredded into white cotton strings on the knees? If you sent them out for recycling, maybe they'll soon be insulating someone's home.

US Green Fiber, a North Carolina company, sells the fiberglass substitute, which will be on display with other alternative materials for home decoration and construction at the Alternative Building Materials Expo on June 2 in Santa Monica.

Also at the expo will be Reusable Lumber Co. of Woodside, which dismantles housing and recycles the two-by-fours, and Enviro Board, which turns agriculture waste from rice, wheat and barley processing into freeway soundwalls.

"They're not even on the market and they've got a backlog of orders," said Christine Dzilvelis, event producer.

Twenty-eight companies will be presenting their wares to architects, contractors and government officials from Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Long Beach and Los Angeles.

"Green building is actually being required by governments," she said. "It's just this incredibly exploding field that's going through the roof, no pun intended."

Decorating products made from recycled or environmentally friendly materials on display will include tile, carpeting and lighting. One product that won't be at the expo: The waterless toilet.

"They're illegal in L.A.," Dzilvelis said. "But they're catching on like wildfire. They're changing city codes across the entire country as quickly as they can to get these things in."

Steve Silkin

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