Harbor Commission Trims Port Budget by Nearly 11 Percent

Tempers flared at a special port meeting Tuesday in which debate over shrinking revenues, pollution and growth nearly overshadowed a harbor commission vote to cut spending by almost 11 percent in the 2005-2006 budget at the behest of Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa, the Daily Breeze reported. The special meeting was called after port officials reported last week that revenue was expected to remain flat for the next year, prompting Villaraigosa to ask for the review to scale back spending. The new mayor, who takes office July 1, is also expected to replace most of the five sitting commissioners.

Los Angeles Water Rates Could Increase by January
A Los Angeles City Council committee took the first step Tuesday toward seeking a water rate increase, calling for an outside auditor to determine whether such a move is needed, Copley News Service reported. The Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee recommended that the council identify a consulting firm to review the Department of Water and Power's plan for a 4.3 percent hike. While an increase could go into effect as soon as Jan. 1, that can't occur until the DWP has spent at least 90 days vetting the proposal with the city's network of neighborhood councils.

Villaraigosa Said to Be Near Naming Key Staff
Antonio Villaraigosa heads to Texas today to speak at his second out-of-state conference since his mayoral election, amid reports that he is close to naming some City Hall veterans to top positions on his staff, the Los Angeles Times reported. Jimmy Blackman, chief of staff in Villaraigosa's council office, confirmed that he would be part of the "leadership team" in the mayor's office, but he declined to say in which position. Another person mentioned as a possible candidate for the top position on the mayor's staff was Carolyn Webb de Macias, vice president of external relations at USC.

Smoother Flow of Cargo Is Expected
With more cargo than ever pouring through the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, some delays are inevitable, but a floating traffic jam like last year's is unlikely to be repeated, shipping experts said Tuesday. Ambitious efforts to head off congestion problems at the nation's busiest trade gateway appear to be reaping results, according to officials at a conference sponsored by the Port of Long Beach. Importers are now shipping earlier, and shipping lines are increasing their use of other West Coast ports and routes. And next month, the plan to keep terminal gates open longer hours is set to begin. Still, some importers are skeptical and believe that national transportation improvements are needed to avert disaster, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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