FRIDAY WRAP UP: A Questionable LA Times Story Gets Legs, KCET has More HACLA Dirt, Plus More on 3-StrikesDecember 16th, 2011 by Celeste Fremon
IN ITS AWARD-WORTHY INVESTIGATIVE SERIES, KCET’S SO CAL CONNECTED GOES DEEPER INTO THE HOUSING AUTHORITY SPENDING SCANDAL
On Friday (tonight) at 8:30 on KCET, So Cal Connected goes still deeper with its investigation into the ever more astonishing spectacle of LA Housing Authority supervisors gobbling at the public trough.
I agree with Simone Wilson in her recent LA Weekly column: if there’s any fairness in the world, this series will gather up piles of awards for KCET.
LA TIMES’ NOTHING-ISH STORY ABOUT RIDLEY-THOMAS & THE $560 WORTH OF FOOTBALL TICKETS… GETS LEGS
In the midst of all of the investigations into the graft and mismanagement that appears to be running rife through both the county and the city right now [The Housing Authority, LASD and its Jails scandal, the Coliseum Commission and its scandal) last Friday, the LA Times' ran a 922 word, prominently-placed story, by Paul Pringle and Rong-Gong Lin--- which has now been picked up by CBS local news, and other media outlets.
So what is the juicy bit of scandal worth all this attention? It seems that in 2009, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas---who is a member of the increasingly-troubled Coliseum commission---asked for and got $560 worth of football tickets, which then were charged by the stadium's financial director to the commission.
According to Pringle and Lin, Ridley-Thomas took the tickets as a gift, which he never declared. And because an elected official is only allowed $420 worth of gifts from one source (which they are supposed to declare), this means that the supervisor may have taken an undeclared gift that is...$140 over the limit.
In a letter to the Times, Ridley-Thomas disputed the Times' account saying that he'd never intended that the tickets be a gift, that the cost of the tickets were supposed to be invoiced to him right away, but for some reason or other he was never invoiced, thus he didn't pay for the tickets until the oversight was was discovered by a staffer this July, after which time he paid for 'em forthwith. (Or words to that affect.) Okay, maybe not a gift but $560 worth of sloppy accounting---either the Supe's or the commission's.
The Times reporters, however, have written that it was only after they discovered the tickets' existence in August did Ridley Thomas pay up. Ridley Thomas says this is nonsense and says that a staffer discovered the oversight before the Times was on the scene....
....and on it goes.
(This letter [2011-12-08 Sandbrook to Commissioners re LAT Article of December 8] tends to support Ridley-Thomas, but the Times says it has its own documentation…..)
In the end, who knows what really happened. And who cares, quite frankly.
The Times has been reporting on the mess that is the Coliseum commission, and we’re grateful for that work. But give us the meat please, not an innuendo-filled story masquerading as meat. (You too, CBS.)
PS: If you want to really read something excellent from this week’s Times reporting, be sure to read Alan Zarembo’s important series on autism.
PPS: And while we’re on the coverage by or of the LA Times, Kevin Roderick at LA Observed deserves a yearly award for the ongoing work he does making sure we’re informed of the ongoing and loathsome dismantlement of our hometown newspaper. Here’s a link to his report on the exit of LAT Editor-in-Chief Russ Stanton, merely another in the parade of editors and/or publishers who’ve left rather than make more staff cut backs.
“I WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO YOU WOULD GIVE UP ON” – SHOULD WE AMEND THREE STRIKES?
KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has an excellent, informative and very balanced report on the efforts to put an initiative on the ballot to modify California’s Three Strikes law. It is the first of two such reports by Stoltze, and very much worth your time.
Below is clip from the written version of his radio broadcast. But listen to the podcast as, with this story, it’s better when you can hear the voices behind the words.
This week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris is expected to issue the title and summary for the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012. The initiative would require that a criminal’s third strike be serious or violent for him or her to receive a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, bringing California in line with other states. Backers will need to collect more than half a million signatures by April to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
For years, activists have contended Three Strikes in the Golden State casts too wide a net — that it scoops up people convicted of minor crimes and tosses them into prison for life.
Amberly McDowell worries about that all the time. The owner of Rush Hour Transport in Montebello employs dozens of ex-cons on 13 moving trucks, hiring unemployable men and helping them stay clean. His crews are the kind of guys he ran with as a kid.
“We all liked to do bad things together,” McDowell said. “We all liked to push each other to do bad things.”
McDowell grew up in L.A.’s Harbor Gateway neighborhood. He was a member of the notorious 204th Street Gang, and a methamphetamine addict. Dressed in a pressed shirt and tie for work, McDowell described how he loved stealing car stereos back then.
“I was one of those people that you can give up on,” he said. “I would steal. I would get into fights. I would do anything that you can imagine. And I had no plans in the near future of quitting that.”
McDowell earned 16 trips to jail, two years in state prison and two strikes under California’s Three Strikes law. Under threat of a third strike, he entered rehab and cleaned up.
By his own description, the 30-year-old entrepreneur is drug free, a law-abiding homeowner with a wife and twin daughters. But McDowell lives with the possibility of a 25-years-to-life sentence. Any felony conviction would send him away, including petty theft conviction…..
Happy weekend, y’all.
THE NEW JAILS/LASD STORY IS COMING EARLY NEXT WEEK.