California’s attorney general alleges fraud by a Project Homekey contractor

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta is accusing a contractor with the state’s Project Homekey homeless housing program of putting projects in jeopardy by illegally borrowing against them.

August 2023 photo of Calif. Attorney General Rob Bonta during a press conference in Los Angeles. 
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

In a civil lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Bonta demands that Shangri-La Industries LLC return more than $100 million in Project Homekey funds and asks the court to place the seven properties in receivership.

According to the complaint, Shangri-La took out loans on six of the seven properties without obtaining approval from the state or recording the required affordability restrictions on the properties.

The state learned of the problem when the banks sent notices of default, and all seven properties are now at risk of foreclosure, the complaint said.

The lawsuit also names Shangri-La’s chief executive officer, Andy Meyers; Santa Monica-based homeless housing and service provider Step Up On Second; the limited liability corporations that hold title to the properties; several lenders; and cities and counties where the projects are located.

Three of the projects are in Riverside, San Bernardino and Thousands Oaks, and four are in Northern California.

Los Angeles-based Shangri-La did not respond to a voicemail and email from The Times.

In an interview with the online publication CalMatters before the lawsuit was filed, Meyers blamed the state for taking months to approve the affordability agreements.

“The state has just taken forever to get these agreements out,” he told CalMatters.

Step Up Chief Executive Tod Lipka said his organization, a nonprofit with a mission to house and provide services to chronically homeless people, was “devastated,” not only by being named as a defendant but by the potential harm to its clients.

“For us, the danger is that these projects are stalled and not going to move forward,” Lipka said.

Step Up was involved in the projects only as service provider and had no part in the acquisition, financing or construction, he said.

Shangri-La’s website describes the company as a vertically integrated real estate firm “with dedicated finance, development, and construction business units coupled with in-house design, compliance teams, and select sub-trades.”

Lipka said Step Up had worked successfully with Shangri-La on four projects in Los Angeles using funds from the city’s $1.2-billion Proposition HHH homeless housing bond.

He said he was aware of the loans but was told by Shangri-La that they were proper and necessary for the completion of the projects.

Step Up is owed money for services it has been providing at the buildings in Redlands and San Bernardino, which are completed and occupied, Lipka said.

“We started to learn of significant problems over two months ago,” he said. “It was very upsetting and devastating for us as an organization.”

Lipka said the organization is building in due diligence processes “to ensure this will never happen again.”

The State Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers Project Homekey, released a statement saying Shangri-La “has misrepresented multiple financial considerations and has yet to cure a number of breached contractual obligations.”

“The difficulties they find themselves in are of their own making,” HCD general counsel Ryan Seeley said in the statement.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Detectives claim LAPD chief sought investigation of Mayor Bass over USC scholarship

Two detectives in the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division say they were ordered to investigate Mayor Karen Bass shortly after her election at the behest of Chief Michel Moore, allegations the chief has strongly denied.

The detectives filed the complaints with the Office of the Inspector General alleging that Moore called for Internal Affairs investigators to conduct an inquiry into a USC scholarship that Bass received.

Bass’ USC scholarship had come under scrutiny during the 2022 election, when her opponent in the mayoral race, Rick Caruso, blasted her for accepting it and later offering legislation that would have given USC and private universities wider eligibility for federal funding. Bass denied any wrongdoing, and the House Committee on Ethics cleared her request to accept the tuition award.

While federal prosecutors did not charge Bass, they said in court papers that her scholarship and her dealings with USC were “critical” to a corruption case involving the university and a top Los Angeles County elected official.

In a message to The Times on Tuesday, Moore said: “The mayor and I have NOT discussed any such investigation by anyone in the department into her USC Master’s Degree in Social Work,” he said. “Additionally, I have no such knowledge of any alleged investigation nor would I initiate any such investigation.”

On Wednesday, after The Times’ story was published, Moore posted a follow-up statement calling the allegations “patently false.”

“The Los Angeles Police Department Internal Affairs Division is restricted in scope to conducting investigations of potential misconduct by Department employee. their investigation into these fictitious allegations,” the statement read. “I did not initiate, request, or authorize an investigation as alleged in any fashion. This matter is now with the Office of the Inspector General and I look forward to their investigation into these fictitious allegations.”

In their complaints, the detectives said they found Moore’s alleged request, which was relayed by their supervisors, troubling to the point that they ultimately refused the assignment. It’s unclear why Internal Affairs investigators would have been asked to handle such an inquiry.

Moore did not respond to a question about the possibility that his underlings may have misinterpreted him. The detectives’ complaints say it was not clear “how far and to what extent” any subsequent investigation into Bass went. But they said the timing of the request — in early January, as Moore’s future as the city’s top cop was in limbo under the new mayor — led them to question the chief’s motives.

“I believe that using LAPD resources to investigate Karen Bass was improper, unethical and a violation of City ordinances and was done for the personal benefit of Chief Moore to assure his reappointment as Chief of Police,” one of the complaints said.

The competing narratives, between the chief and two seasoned detectives, have once again thrust the normally secretive inner workings of the department into the public spotlight after a string of embarrassing scandals involving LAPD leadership. The latest allegations are not supported by any evidence in the complaints, and neither detective would discuss the case further.

One of the detectives, Jason Turner, declined to comment when contacted by The Times on Tuesday. Attorney Greg Smith provided the Times with a copy of the other detective’s complaint on the condition that they not be identified because they fear retaliation within the department.

The Times asked the Office of the Inspector General if it had received complaints regarding allegations involving Moore and Bass and a spokesperson said it had.

“We have received communications regarding this matter, and we are handling them according to our standard protocols,” the office said in a statement. “In general, when the OIG receives allegations of misconduct against any Department employee, we ensure that a formal complaint investigation is initiated.”

The Times reviewed copies of the complaints and emails showing they were submitted. The first claim was also sent to a member of the mayor’s staff, who confirmed receipt, according to a record of the email reviewed by The Times.

In response to questions Tuesday about the allegations, a spokesperson for Bass said: “Mayor Bass’ focus is on reducing crime. People need to get with that program and stop wasting time and resources on debunked political attacks.”

The complaints say Moore’s order to investigate Bass was relayed by Capt. Divyesh “John” Shah, the head of internal affairs, during a meeting at a Figueroa Street high-rise that houses the department’s professional standards bureau, among other city agencies.

With Moore nearing the end of his first five-year term and seeking reappointment, the detectives said they were uncomfortable with the request to look into the incoming mayor’s prior scholarship.

Turner said another internal affairs supervisor who was present for the conversation, Det. Jason De La Cova, asked him to draw on his connections and experience working in the Southwest Division, where USC is located, his complaint alleges.

The two detectives had already been investigating the university over its connection to Cory Palka, the former LAPD captain who retired last year amid allegations that he schemed to cover up a sexual abuse claim against former CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves. Their investigation centered on whether Palka’s daughter, who was a USC student at the time, had received an internship thanks to her father’s cozy relationship to Moonves.

In their complaints, the detectives said Shah and De La Cova briefed them on a meeting about the Palka case with Moore and Michael Rimkunas, his deputy chief in charge of professional standards. Shah suggested the order to investigate Bass came out of that meeting, the complaints say.

After they refused, De La Cova took on the assignment, according to the complaints.

Attempts to reach Shah and De La Cova for comment on Tuesday were not successful.

Questions about Bass’ ties to USC arose last fall when The Times, citing congressional records, reported that she had been awarded a $95,000 scholarship to USC’s social work school without having directly applied. The scholarship led her to be discussed in a federal corruption case involving the school’s former dean, Marilyn Flynn.

Flynn was sentenced to three years probation after she admitted to bribing one-time Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in exchange for his help securing the renewal of a county contract.

Ridley-Thomas, a former City Councilman and onetime Bass ally, was sentenced earlier this year to 42 months in prison after a federal jury convicted him of a scheme to extract benefits from USC for himself and his son. The jury acquitted Ridley-Thomas of 12 other charges related to a scholarship and a professorship that his son, Sebastian, received from USC. Bass did not testify during the trial. Ridley-Thomas is appealing the conviction.

In support of Caruso, the Los Angeles Police Protective League sponsored a series of biting campaign commercials that sought to tie Bass to the federal corruption case involving Ridley-Thomas. A lawyer for Bass later sent a cease-and-desist letter to five local TV stations demanding they stop airing the ad.

Bass told The Times last fall that she initially applied to USC’s master’s in public administration program, a degree offered by the university’s Price School of Public Policy, which is separate from the social work school. Bass also said she thought her status as a former USC employee made her eligible for free tuition, but she did not continue when she found out she had to pay for the program.

Despite the controversy, Bass won the election by a healthy margin. The question of whether to bring back Moore as chief was one her first major decisions after taking office at the end of 2022. Under the city charter, the decision on whether to reappoint a police chief rests with the five-member civilian Police Commission But, in practice the final choice effectively rests with the mayor, who appoints the oversight body’s members.

Late last December, weeks after Moore expressed desire to return for a second term, the commission’s president announced that a vote on Moore’s reappointment would be held on Jan. 10 — around the same time as the alleged Internal Affairs meeting regarding Bass’ scholarship. The announcement drew criticism from some longtime department observers, who accused the commission of rushing through its decision without considering Moore’s record.

The vote was delayed after Bass released a statement saying she too felt it was “too soon.” She asked the commission to take it up at a later date.

Moore had faced criticism in some quarters during his first term for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department’s response to the mass protests of 2020, a botched detonation of a fireworks cache that destroyed a South L.A. neighborhood, and several controversial killings by officers.

The decision to reappoint Moore had been widely expected as several commission members had signaled their support for him. In news interviews and public comments, they called him a strong leader who was familiar with the intricacies of running the LAPD — a massive, multibillion-dollar organization that is constantly under a microscope.

And despite a string of recent controversies, a Loyola Marymount University survey of Los Angeles residents showed stronger satisfaction with the LAPD’s overall performance than in recent years. The one caveat was that swaths of the population still see disparities in the way the department polices Black and Latino residents.

The chief was ultimately reappointed for a second term on January 31. Moore has said he plans to serve only another two or three years to ensure a smooth handoff to his successor.

In recent months, the department has been roiled by accusations of thefts and illegal stops by anti-gang officers in the San Fernando Valley, the inadvertent release of photos of undercover officers, and an allegation that an assistant chief used an Apple AirTag to surreptitiously track an officer with whom he had been romantically involved.

Moore has maintained public support from Bass, who defended the chief and praised his response to the gang unit scandal. They appeared together recently at a news conference at the Police Academy where Bass outlined her public safety bona fides.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Why homelessness looks different in Washington, D.C., than L.A.

WASHINGTON —  Mayors Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. — Democrats leading two of the nation’s most prominent and progressive cities — epitomize the plight big-city mayors around the country face as they tackle a growing number of homeless encampments, and the complaints that come with them.

While both cities have removed some of the most visible tents, Washington looks and feels less saturated with homeless people than Los Angeles, especially in the tourist areas around the White House, Capitol Hill and the national monuments.

The first reason is sheer numbers. Washington has about 61% as many unhoused people as the city of Los Angeles on a per capita basis, and only about 14% as many living on the street, according to local estimates.

The second factor is the federal government, which oversees most city parks here, as well as larger attractions such as the National Mall. The National Park Service and other federal agencies have traditionally been more aggressive in enforcing no-camping policies, sometimes after prodding from local officials, according to homeless people and advocates.

Finally, neither Bowser nor the federal government faces the same legal constraints as Los Angeles and other Western cities, which are subject to some unique 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings that have left some doubt as to whether camps can be removed if the city lacks shelter space for its entire homeless population.

Though Bass’ signature program, Inside Safe, has moved nearly 2,000 people from public spaces into housing since she took office, it remains voluntary, meaning some homeless people can choose to stay in their tents.

Bass has said encampments are a defining issue, the reason she ran for the job.

“I was worried that L.A. was at a crossroads where people were getting ready to take a very punitive approach, because we’ve taxed ourselves three times and the problem just keeps getting worse,” she said in October at Bloomberg CityLab, a Washington conference for mayors and other government leaders.

The issue is not as dominant in Washington, but has sparked similar political flashpoints. In February, after the Park Service and district officials cleared a large encampment in McPherson Square, a federal park near the White House, Bowser called it a matter of safety for those living in the tents.

“What we’re doing is insisting people get connected to the services that we know work,” she said.

City officials, advocates and homeless people here all say D.C. has been more aggressive in closing encampments since the end of the pandemic.

“We are seeing an uptick in D.C. and across the country,” said Eric Tars, senior policy director with the National Homelessness Law Center.

“We can all agree that nobody wants to see encampments on our corners, on our parks, on the National Mall,” he added. But instead of building housing, which is more cost-effective than sending people to jail, he said leaders find it politically easier to use “law enforcement to punish people for things that are outside of their control and making things worse.”

City officials say the increase in removals was guided by the pandemic. When the city shut down, homeless people began erecting tents in newly empty places, said Wayne Turnage, deputy mayor for the District of Columbia Health and Human Services. When the pandemic ended, officials stepped up efforts to find those people housing, he said.

Many encampments “were unhealthy or unsafe,” he said. “That was a heavy lift.”

Turnage said the district prioritizes closing encampments that pose a safety risk and will leave some encampments intact after they are cleaned up by city workers.

In an email, Cynthia Hernandez, a National Park Service spokesperson, said the park service “is dedicated to ensuring the safety and enjoyment of all visitors to NPS parks as well as the preservation of natural and cultural resources while also respecting the rights and dignity of individuals experiencing homelessness.”

Many homeless people in Washington describe needing to move often or steer clear of areas that are likely to be targeted.

Kevin Madden, 61, said he has had to move his tent twice in recent months after Park Police kicked him out. They once left a note on his tent in Georgetown giving him a couple days’ notice to evacuate, he said.

“The police said I had to leave the property,” he said, adding they offered “no kind of resources.”

Derian Mize, 30, said Park Police and D.C. police threw away his and three other people’s belongings last year after posting a warning in a park where they were staying in the city’s more affluent northwest residential neighborhood.

The park had a water pump and an electrical outlet, which made it an attractive place to stay. But the arrangement lasted only six weeks. He heard residents discussing his tent and saw people whom he believed were with the city photograph it.

“They’re not having that” in wealthy neighborhoods, he said.

He now lives in one of six tents behind some trees beside a parkway, between the tourists of Georgetown and the government officials and lobbyists who work around the White House.

One of his neighbors in the encampment, Leroy Fenner, 38, said he prefers the site because it is calmer than other encampments. McPherson Square, the massive encampment that was cleared by officials, had a reputation among homeless people as dangerous, he said.

“I don’t want to be a part of the drugs, the violence, all of that,” he said. “Some of us is just hard on our luck and just want to get our lives back in order. Yeah, so we don’t want to be in places like McPherson Square, because it will trap you there”.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Bass selects former USC official, City Hall advisor as new chief of staff

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on Tuesday appointed Carolyn Webb de Macias as chief of staff, succeeding Chris Thompson, who held the powerful post for less than a year.

Webb de Macias is a former senior advisor to former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and also worked for then-City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas.

She also worked in the U.S. Department of Education as an appointee of President Obama, and as USC’s vice president of external relations, according to Bass’ office.

“I’ve known Carolyn for years and I know Los Angeles has benefited from her work for even longer than that,” Bass said in a statement. “Carolyn is thoughtful, skilled, dedicated and the right person for the job. I’m grateful she has agreed to join our team as we continue our work to move Los Angeles forward.”

In a statement, Webb de Macias said she was “thrilled to work with Mayor Bass in executing her vision of improving the quality of life for all Angelenos.”

Webb de Macias, 75, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Her LinkedIn profile said she serves on the boards of the water company Cadiz Inc. and Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit founded by Villaraigosa.

Thompson, Bass’ chief of staff since December, is returning to the private sector, Bass’ office said. A Bass spokesman declined to comment on his new job.

Thompson previously served as senior vice president of governmental relations for LA28, the private group putting on the Olympic Games. He had agreed to stay away from any Olympics issues at the city for a year out of concern about the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Arson likely caused fire that damaged vital artery of Los Angeles freeway, governor says

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Arson was the cause of a massive weekend fire that charred and indefinitely closed a vital section of a Los Angeles freeway, causing major traffic headaches for hundreds of thousands of commuters, California authorities said Monday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said investigators were trying to determine if one person or more were involved. He gave no other details.

“I have to stress that we have determined what started the fire,” Newsom told reporters.

The fire erupted Saturday in two storage lotsf under Interstate 10. Construction materials combusted quickly and the fire grew. It left many columns charred and chipped and the deck guardrails twisted. Crews shored up the most damaged section for the safety of workers clearing the debris. It’s still unclear what structural damage, if any, the blaze caused to the freeway.

Beyond a massive traffic headache, the closure is expected to be felt well beyond the metropolis, including possibly slowing the transport of goods from the twin ports of LA and Long Beach, federal officials have said. The ports handle more than half the goods coming into the country. President Joe Biden had been briefed on the fire.

“It’s disrupting in every way, whether you are talking about traveling to and from work or your child care plans and the flow of goods and commerce, this will disrupt the lives of Angelenos,” LA Mayor Karen Bass said.

Los Angeles residents were urged to avoid travel to the area Monday and to work from home if possible.

“Our streets cannot handle 300,000 cars,” Bass said, referring to how many vehicles use the I-10 stretch daily.

Officials have said the damage is reminiscent of the 1994 Northridge earthquake that flattened thoroughfares. After the quake, it took more than two months to repair Interstate 10 — and that was considered significantly fast.

Newsom said early tests show that the deck “appears to be much stronger than originally assessed.” Concrete and rebar samples taken Monday from the superstructure, decks and columns will help determine “whether or not we’re tearing this down and replacing it, or we’re continuing the recovery and repairs,” he said.

“This isn’t going to be resolved in a couple of days, and it’s not going to take a couple years,” Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt told The Associated Press. “But whether it’s weeks or months, we’re still too early to tell.”

Bhatt said the fiery June 11 crash of a tractor-trailer hauling gasoline in Philadelphia that collapsed an elevated section of Interstate 95, snarling traffic and hurting area businesses, highlights the impact of such disasters not only on a city but on the nation.

“The ports are still open and the goods will still flow, but when you remove a section of the interstate that carries 300,000 vehicles a day, there’s going to be spillover impacts,” Bhatt said. “The concern there is the quicker we can get this open, the faster we can remove an impediment.”

Drivers were tested Monday during the first weekday commute since the raging fire. Some freeway exits backed up as drivers were forced to use crowded surface streets to bypass the damaged freeway stretch south of downtown.

Some routes, however, had lighter traffic, suggesting drivers heeded warnings from the city to make alternate plans. Cellphones blasted Monday with a predawn reminder for residents to plan different routes or expect significant delays.

“Our businesses are just bouncing back from the Covid shutdowns. Business was just getting good,” said Blair Besten, director of LA’s Historic Core business improvement district. She’s worried about the lingering effects of this closure.

Flames reported around 12:20 a.m. Saturday ripped through two storage lots in an industrial area beneath I-10, burning parked cars, stacks of wooden pallets and support poles for high-tension power lines, city fire Chief Kristin Crowley said. No injuries were reported.

At least 16 homeless people, including a pregnant woman, living underneath the freeway were brought to shelters. More than 160 firefighters responded to the blaze, which spread across 8 acres (3 hectares) and burned for three hours.

California Fire Marshal Daniel Berlant said investigators have identified where the fire started and what the cause was after sorting through the rubble for evidence but did not specify what they found. He said there is no suspect information yet. He said they are talking to witnesses, including homeless people and nearby business owners.

Storage yards under highways are common statewide, with the money from the leases going to public transit. Newsom said the practice would be reevaluated following the fire.

The governor said California has been in litigation with Apex Development, Inc., the owner of the business leasing the storage property where the fire started. The lease is expired, Newsom said, and the business had been in arrears while illegally subleasing the space to five or six other entities. “They’ve been out of compliance for some time, that’s why we’re going to court” early next year, he said.

Mainak D’Attaray, an attorney for Apex Development, confirmed the company was in litigation with the state.

“We are currently investigating ourselves what happened at the yard under the freeway. As such, we are not prepared to give an official statement or answer questions until we have determined what actually occurred,” D’Attaray said in an email.

Ertugrul Taciroglu, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department at the University of California, Los Angeles, said part of the challenge is how expensive real estate has become.

“Every piece of land is being utilized, so I can see the pressure or the incentives for making use of these spaces under these highways,” he said.

Two contractors have been hired to clean up the hazardous material and to shore up the freeway, according to California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Mayor Bass hosts U.S. Conference of Mayors, gathered to address homeless crisis

Mayors hope to build national momentum to solve what they say is a national crisis

About 20 mayors from across the natioon joined Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass in L.A. this week for a U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) gathering to discuss strategies for combating homelessness and to advocate for federal resources they say are needed to confront this national crisis.

Bass, who became chair of the USCM’s Homelessness Task Force in June, hosted the group of visiting mayors, who shared best practices and identified potential solutions to barriers that they hope to communicate to White House officials and federal lawmakers.

“When we join together as mayors, we build the national momentum to get this solved,” Bass said during a press conference on Thursday, Nov. 9, at the Westin Bonaventure hotel in downtown L.A., where the mayors had gathered.

“Mayors are on the ground. Mayors are first responders. And we bear the responsibility to make sure that no one in the U.S. is left without housing, is left without support services and left to live and die on our streets,” Bass said.

USCM President and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said elected officials need to start calling out outdated or failing policies, such as the fact that federal funding to combat homelessness often goes to state or county governments but not to the cities.

The group of mayors also brought up the need for policymakers to tackle issues like mental health illnesses and substance abuse as part of a comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness.

Wade Kapszukiewicz, the mayor of Toledo, Ohio, listed some major requests that the group of mayors is seeking from the federal government, including a dramatic increase in housing vouchers, more federal protections for tenants facing evictions, increased emergency rental assistance and more investments in mental health and other support services.

“(We’re) not interested in talking; we’re interested in doing,” Kapszukiewicz said.

Immediately following the press conference, the mayors participated in a discussion with White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden, who announced that the Biden administration will issue guidance to increase the flexibility in the federal housing voucher program to shorten the time someone must wait for housing.

In addition, Tanden announced that the Biden administration launch a program to better ensure that people coming out of treatment for, say, substance abuse, will have access to Medicaid services.

“We know the federal government can be a burden or it can be a partner, and our goal is to be a partner,” Tanden said.

The Biden administration had previously set a goal of reducing homelessness nationwide by 25% by the year 2025.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise

Rick Caruso Switching Sides… Again?

Failed LA Mayor candidate funding Democrats

Billionaire Developer Rick Caruso, who spent $104 million last year in his failed campaign to become mayor of Los Angeles, appears to be politically reinventing himself once again:  the former Republican donor and Trump appointee is now rebranding himself as a Democrat kingmaker.

And maybe thinking about being a king – or at least a mayor or governor – himself.

Recently, Caruso pledged to spend an undisclosed sum in 2024 to defeat five California Republican members of Congress. 

“We’ve got to get things moving and get out of this ridiculous constant fighting and everybody kicking sand in each other’s face in the sandbox,” Caruso told Politico’s Christopher Cadelago and Melanie Mason of his plans. He will “(S)tick with the central theme of getting moderates in the House,” Caruso said.  “I am not out to support extremists or, frankly, ideologues.”

Besides opening his checkbook, Caruso is reportedly making the Democratic rounds, hobnobbing in DC and trying to kiss and make up locally.

Prior to running for mayor as a Democrat, Caruso had been both a decline to state (independent) and a  Republican and a regular campaign contributor to GOP candidates and committees, nationally and locally. Over the years, Caruso has donated hundreds of thousands to Republican candidates, from George w. Bush to Mitt Romney to former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield.

“Rick Caruso has been a pro-life Republican his whole career until he decided to run for mayor,” tweeted Democrat consultant Bill Burton, the former deputy press secretary for President Obama. “So much so that Donald Trump appointed him to his economic team.” 

Caruso may find some of his more pro-business, tough(er) on crime positions not exactly welcome in many Democratic circles, which could hamper any attempt to run for anything.  

In other words, the checks will be welcomed by Democrats, the request to support any electoral ambitions may not.

The five congress members targeted also seems to raise uncomfortable questions.  Caruso in the past has been criticized for his alleged – and confirmed – treatment of members of minority groups.  He called Rep. Maxine Waters a “bitch,” which –  while it may or may not be accurate – was frowned upon by Black political leaders.

He was also criticized by a fellow USC trustee who felt he was dismissed and disparaged by Caruso for his background and tenuous command of the English language. 

“I strongly felt, I was discriminated, humiliated, embarrassed and singled out from the board the meeting because of my race and my knowledges of the facts” of the issue at hand, said Ming Hsieh according to USC Annenberg Media

Hsieh has donated $85 million to the school, endowed the USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering and established the Ming Hsieh Institute for Research on Engineering-Medicine for Cancer at USC.

Click here to the read full article in the California Globe

Jewish man dead after attack during Israel-Palestine protests in Ventura County

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Southern California authorities said an elderly Jewish man who was attacked at Palestine and Israel demonstrations in Thousand Oaks over the weekend died from his injuries.

The horrific incident happened around 3 p.m. Sunday during dueling rallies near the intersection of Westlake and Thousand Oaks boulevards. Deputies with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office were called out to the area after reports of a battery.

When they got there, they found 69-year-old Paul Kessler had fallen to the ground and was bleeding from his head. According to deputies, Kessler had been involved in “an altercation with counter-protesters.” 

Reports on social media said Kessler was holding an Israeli flag among the group of pro-Palestine demonstrators when one demonstrator allegedly hit Kessler on the head with a megaphone. The alleged hit caused Kessler to fall down and hit his head, with video posted to social media just showing Kessler on the ground holding his head after the fall.

Kessler was taken to the hospital Sunday, and on Monday, officials said he did not survive his injuries sustained in the attack. According to the VCSO, Kessler’s autopsy determined his cause of death to be a blunt-force head injury, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.

The VCSO’s Major Crimes Bureau continues to investigate the incident and the VCSO said the office has not ruled out the possibility that the incident was a hate crime.

The person wanted in the attack has not been arrested or charged.

In a statement to FOX 11 the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles said it’s “devastated” by the news, saying their “hearts are with the family of the victim.”

“Violence against our people has no place in civilized society,” the statement read. “We demand safety. We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything in our power to prevent it.”

LA Mayor Karen Bass issued the following statement Tuesday:

Click here to read the full artricle in FoxNews 11

Santa Ana winds trigger power shutoffs, Red Flag Alert

LOS ANGELES – Due to ongoing Santa Ana wind conditions, the city of Los Angeles extended its Red Flag No Parking restrictions in brush areas until 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The Red Flag Alert and enforcement of special parking rules went into effect at 8 a.m. Sunday and conditions prompted the continuation of the restrictions, according to Nicholas Prange of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The gusty conditions also shut off power in some areas of Southern California.

The winds primarily affect the northern portion of Los Angeles County, enveloping the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys, along with the Malibu coast, Santa Monica Mountains, Calabasas, the San Gabriel Mountains and the 5 and14 freeway corridors.

Red flag warnings indicating critical fire danger conditions were in place for those areas through 10 p.m. Monday.

“The strongest Santa Ana winds are expected Sunday, when gusts of 35 to 50 mph will be common, except gusts of 50 to 65 mph likely in the Los Angeles County mountains, Santa Susana mountains, western Santa Monicas and wind-prone foothills. Dry and breezy offshore flow conditions will persist into Tuesday, which may extend critical fire weather conditions across portions of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.”

At least two spot fires broke out in L.A. County on Sunday afternoon, one near the 170 Freeway at Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood, and one near the northbound 110 Freeway at Anaheim Street in Wilmington.

Wind-prone coastal and valley areas were expected to experience winds ranging from 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph.

Southern California Edison officials said the utility was reaching out to customers and public safety agencies about the possibility of power shutoffs in which power is cut in areas being battered by heavy winds that could damage electrical lines or equipment and spark wildfires.

According to SCE, roughly 150,240 of the utility’s 5 million customers were being notified that they are within areas that could potentially be impacted by the power cuts.

A list featuring the real-time status of temporary street parking restrictions and addresses affected is at LAFD.org/RedFlag.

In Orange County, high wind warnings were in place through 10 p.m. Monday in the Santa Ana Mountains and foothills and inland areas, with 20 to 30 mph winds anticipated and isolated gusts of up to 70 mph. OC coastal areas will be under a less-severe wind advisory, with winds gusting up to 45 mph.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a windblown dust advisory for the county that went into effect Sunday morning and will last at least until Tuesday morning.

And forecasters also issued a gale warning until 3 p.m. Monday for the inner waters from Point Mugu to San Mateo Point, including Santa Catalina Island. Northeast winds of 15 to 25 knots were predicted, with gusts up to 40 knots and combined seas of 4 to 7 feet when conditions are worst.

Power Shutoffs

According to SCE, roughly 150,240 of the utility’s 5 million customers were being notified that they are within areas that could potentially be impacted by the power cuts.

SCE’s website showed current power shutoffs were in effect for the following customers:

  • Los Angeles County — 420 customers
  • Orange County — 8 customers
  • Riverside County — 163 customers
  • San Bernardino County — 1,893 customers
  • Ventura County  — 529 customers

Shutoffs are being considered for the following:

  • Los Angeles County — 49,297 customers
  • Orange County — 22,789 customers
  • Riverside County — 23,126 customers
  • San Bernardino County —32,057 customers
  • Ventura County — 45,334 customers 

Parking Restrictions

The Red Flag Alert and enforcement of special parking rules began at 8 a.m. Sunday and will remain in effect “until further notice,” according to the LAFD.

A list featuring the real-time status of temporary street parking restrictions and addresses affected is at LAFD.org/RedFlag.

All vehicles parked illegally in posted locations within the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone will be towed by the city, Humphrey said. The LAFD will reevaluate weather conditions Sunday to determine if the alert will be extended.

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Dozen Cities Sue to Stop No Cash Bail in LA County

LOS ANGELES – A dozen Southland cities filed an 11th-hour court action Friday in hopes of halting the implementation of a zero-bail system in Los Angeles County that will eliminate cash bail for most people arrested of non-violent or non-serious crimes, allowing them to be released with a citation to appear in court at a later date.

The zero-bail system is scheduled to take effect Sunday. But in court papers submitted to Los Angeles Superior Court Friday, 12 cities contend that the switch to zero-bail represents a threat to public safety.

“There is and has been grave public concern regarding public safety in light of reduced enforcement and criminal consequences for various categories of `low-level’ offenses that, despite the nomenclature, have profound and significant impacts on the day-to-day life of whole communities of plaintiff cities and others within the county,” the municipalities argue in court papers.

With the zero-bail system taking effect Sunday, it was unclear when or if the cities’ request for an injunction blocking the move might take place. The zero-bail schedule was announced by the Los Angeles Superior Court in July, with an effective date of Oct. 1. It was unclear why the cities waited until the last minute to file a legal challenge.

“It is our duty to this community to ensure the safety of those live here, work here, and visit,” Glendora Mayor Gary Boyer said in a statement Friday. “The zero-bail schedule fails to support local leaders in their pledge to protect their residents, and that is unacceptable.”

Superior Court officials could not be reached for comment after hours Friday on the challenge.

The zero-bail system, officially dubbed by the Los Angeles Superior Court as Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols, or PARP, largely eliminates the existing cash bail system for all but the most serious of crimes. Most people arrested on suspicion on non-violent or non-serious offenses will be either cited and released in the field or booked and released at a police or sheriff’s station with orders to appear in court on a specific date for arraignment once they are actually charged with a crime.

Arrestees who are believed to present a heightened threat to the public or be a flight risk will be referred to a magistrate judge, who will review the case and determine if the person should be held in custody pending arraignment or released under non-financial restrictions such as electronic monitoring.

Once a person is charged and appears in court for arraignment, a judge could change or revoke the defendant’s release conditions.

People arrested in connection with serious crimes such as murder would not be eligible for zero-bail release.

The new system is borne from long-held criticism that cash bail favored the rich, meaning well-heeled people arrested for even the most serious of crimes could pay their way out of jail, while low-income people languished behind bars for far lesser offenses. The new system is based not on cash, but on the risk an offender presents to public safety or the possibility the person might fail to appear in court.

During a hearing before the county Board of Supervisors earlier this week, court officials insisted that the new system does not equate to a lack of accountability for criminal offenders, noting that it applies only to pre-trial detention decisions. People who violate release conditions or commit a new offense while on release will be subject to arrest.

County Supervisor Holly Mitchell said the zero-bail system does not mean criminals are escaping punishment for their offenses.

“It’s really dangerous for us to conflate bail with accountability,” Mitchell said, adding later: “Bail means I have the resources to pay my way out of jail.”

Supporters of the program have lashed out at critics who contend it will lead to heightened crime and reduced public safety.

A report prepared by the county last year analyzing the impacts of a zero-bail system that was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic concluded that “rates of failure to appear in court and of rearrest or new offenses remained either below or similar to their historical average.”

The Judicial Council of California also released a recent report finding that a risk-based zero-bail system actually led to increased public safety, with a 5.8% drop in people being rearrested for misdemeanors and a 2.4% decrease in people being rearrested for felonies.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews 11