Villaraigosa Holds a Large, Diverse Lead, LA Times Poll Finds

Antonio Villaraigosa has opened an 18-point lead over Mayor James K. Hahn in the Los Angeles mayoral race, with nearly every large voting bloc supporting his effort to bounce Hahn from City Hall, according to a new Los Angeles Times poll. The survey shows that Hahn has yet to rebuild the historic coalition of South L.A. blacks and San Fernando Valley whites that thrust him into office four years ago. Both groups favor Villaraigosa by wide margins in the May 17 runoff.

Records Show LAX Police Rake in Substantial Overtime
Three Los Angeles International Airport police officers earned more than $100,000 each in overtime last year, while five others took in upwards of $80,000 apiece, records show. Dozens more worked enough overtime to increase their base pay, which starts at about $50,000, by $30,000 to $69,000, according to documents obtained by the Daily Breeze through the California Public Records Act. The Police Department's top overtime earner took in $135,693.41 in additional pay by working 2,269.5 extra hours, which averages to 84-hour workweeks. This sergeant brought home at least $204,000, nearly triple the minimum straight salary for that rank,during the 2004 fiscal year ended June 30.

Universal Pictures Shuffles Execs
Universal Pictures announced on Tuesday that production co-chiefs Mary Parent and Scott Stuber would step down for an exclusive five-year deal to make movies for the studio, the Los Angeles Times reported. Donna Langley, executive vice president of production, was promoted to fill the vacancy. Some studio observers were surprised by the timing of the management shuffle, but the change was widely anticipated. The two executives said that they would remain in their jobs for several months to ensure a smooth transition. Their contracts expire at year-end.

Port of Los Angeles Officials OK Ship 'Plug-in' Incentive
Los Angeles port officials on Tuesday approved a financial incentive program encouraging cruise lines to alter ships so they can "plug in" to shoreline electrical power and reduce cruise ship air pollution, the Daily Breeze reported. Harbor commissioners unanimously agreed to offer $810,000 to each of the port's three cruise ship operators to outfit one vessel each to use Alternative Maritime Power, allowing the vessels to be powered by shore-supplied electrical power while at berth, rather than using polluting diesel generators. The Port of Seattle also recently announced a plan to implement the technology for cruise ships.

L.A. County's Legal Costs Top $400 million
The tab for Los Angeles County government's legal obligations, insurance and related costs has topped $400 million, according to a new report issued Tuesday by the county's chief risk manager. The overall cost rose from $369 million in fiscal year 2001 to 2002 to $414 million in 2003 to 2004, an 11 percent increase. The report examined the total costs of claims, lawsuit judgments and settlements, legal expenses, insurance, workers' compensation and related expenses, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. The report also noted that the county's payouts in medical malpractice lawsuits dropped from $15 million to $9 million and general liabilities fell from $41 million to $13 million.

Ethics Panel Levies New Fine Against Casden Associates
The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission on Tuesday approved settlement agreements with associates of developer Alan Casden as part of a broad money-laundering case from the 2001 election, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. In approving the new fines, totaling $147,000, the city Ethics Commission has now levied more than $736,000 in fines in the cases involving Casden, his company and its associates. The Ethics Commission has said the individuals and their firms either exceeded contribution limits, failed to provide information or failed to return matching funds.

L.A. Times Investigating Reporter's Story
The Los Angeles Times has sent editor and former reporter Jim Newton to Chico to try to corroborate reporting by the paper's Eric Slater that has come under fire, the blog L.A. Observed reported. Slater's story in March about hazing troubles at Chico State has already been the subject of a Times correction and official dismay in Chico. A story today in the Chico State student newspaper, the Orion, says that Newton has interviewed students, faculty and city officials. Student leader Michelle Dobin said Newton told her "he was here trying to talk to as many people as possible and to see if Eric Slater was ever in town" and that Slater's travel records aren't conclusive. Sources at the Times say Slater has been suspended pending an investigation.

County Health Chief Rebuked
Frustrated over recent deaths at King/Drew, Los Angeles County supervisors sharply rebuked their health department chief during a rancorous public debate Tuesday, ordering him to move his office to Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center and increase oversight, the Los Angeles Times reported. "Park yourself there," Supervisor Gloria Molina directed Dr. Thomas Garthwaite during one of many heated exchanges at the weekly board meeting. "Spend every moment that you're working for us working on solving the crisis." The Board of Supervisors directed Garthwaite to hire even more outside doctors and nurses to roam the hallways to protect patients from the types of medical mishaps that have plagued the public hospital for the last 21 months.

Democrats Divided on Negotiating With Governor
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger began trying to salvage his plan to overhaul California's public pension system Tuesday, as Democrats in the Legislature were divided over whether to challenge the governor further, the Los Angeles Times reported. Some Democrats are pushing to let Schwarzenegger "self-destruct," as one lawmaker put it, rather than head to the negotiating table on the governor's ideas for overhauling state government. Last week, Schwarzenegger announced that he would drop his initiative to overhaul the state's pension system. Unions vowed this week to continue their ad campaigns against Schwarzenegger, who is stepping up a public relations effort to defend himself. Some in the Capitol are losing patience.

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