Fisch, Lee win Culver City Council seats

CULVER CITY — Alex Fisch and Daniel Lee were elected to the Culver City Council April 10 by local voters who also approved municipal tax rates for marijuana businesses in the city.

Fisch, an attorney for the California Attorney General’s office, was the leading vote-getter with 3,183 votes, according to preliminary unofficial vote counts. Lee, a social worker and filmmaker who failed in his bid for a council seat two years ago, was second with 2,768.

Businessman Albert P. Vera was third, 170 votes behind Lee, and Marcus Tiggs was fourth with 1,790 votes.

Daniel Lee

Fisch and Lee will replace Jeffrey Cooper and Jim Clarke on the City Council. Cooper and Clarke were prohibited from seeking re-election because of the city’s two-term limit for City Council members.

Voters also approved Measure A which establishes tax rates for marijuana ranging from 5 to 8 percent at medical marijuana businesses and from 6 to 10 percent at recreational marijuana retailers. Also under the measure, cultivation businesses would be taxed on a square-foot basis.

The measure was favored by 85 percent of those casting votes.

The city clerk’s office will continue to count late absentee ballots and any provisional ballot that was cast by April 10. The final vote count is expected to be announced by April 20.

Fisch and Lee are expected to be sworn in to their council seats at a special City Council meeting April 30, at which time the council also will elect a new mayor and vice mayor.

Overtime costs lead to Sheriff’s Dept. budget deficit

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is running a projected $40 million budget deficit and using dollars allocated for services, supplies and equipment to pay out an estimated $142 million in unbudgeted overtime, according to a report presented to the Board of Supervisors April 10.

Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai told the board that the numbers reflect a historical imbalance in place for the last 20 years, long before Sheriff Jim McDonnell was elected in 2014.

“The sheriff’s budget does not reflect the actual spending in many of the line item categories,” Hamai said, pointing to $260 million in overtime spending, more than double the amount budgeted.

The department says it uses overtime to make up for hundreds of vacant sworn and civilian positions.

In response, the board unanimously voted to hire an independent consultant to develop strategies to recruit and retain more deputies.

The department is also struggling to absorb cost increases in retiree health care and workers’ compensation, with Hamai projecting $100 million in cost overruns.

McDonnell pledged to collaborate with Hamai and the auditor-controller on a sustainable budget, but he also raised “the very real possibility that the [Sheriff’s Department] is underfunded.”

Pressures include an “exponential rise” in the jail population and a growing number of mentally ill inmates requiring additional services, and the sheriff suggested that the scope of the department’s work might need to be cut back to right-size the organization.

“We want to be many things to all people, but we need to ask ourselves if can we afford to do that,” McDonnell said. He later added, “We have reached a fiscal tipping point.”

The sheriff said the organization — which has a $3.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2017-18 — is among the leanest when compared with law enforcement agencies in New York, Chicago and other big cities, which have an officer-to-population ratio of 4 to 1,000 or more, versus the Sheriff’s Department’s ratio of one to 1,000.

“Los Angeles taxpayers are getting a true bargain,” McDonnell said.

The sheriff, the board, city officials and labor leaders all agreed that deputies are being asked to work too much overtime, which hurts morale and creates the risk of bad decisions.

The union believes another 1,500 deputies need to be hired, according to Derek Hsieh, executive director of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. There are currently 9,295 sworn personnel working for the department, according to department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.

“It’s reached the point to where it’s a crisis,” Hsieh told City News Service.

Deputies are being asked to work as many as six to eight extra shifts a month, Hsieh said, which is just “not healthy.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger agreed, saying, “It is not fair to ask them to work large amounts of overtime” to make up for unfilled positions.

Significant mandatory overtime is one of the things that makes it hard to hire new deputies, Hsieh said. The personnel shortage also hamstrings the department from instituting changes — including adding more mental health evaluation teams and upgrading equipment and technology — a point echoed by McDonnell, who cited an “already archaic information infrastructure.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis noted that difficulties in hiring enough officers is “not unique to this department, but part of a national trend,” and urged McDonnell to “focus on quality.”

McDonnell said the department has been searching college campuses and military bases nationwide to find the best recruits, in addition to boosting its social media presence to attract interest.

Keeping deputies from leaving the department is also critical, the sheriff said, telling the board he worries that “deputies are chronically tired” and spending too much time away from their families, especially since many have long commutes to work.

“We cannot achieve full staffing and reduce overtime just by increasing the number of people coming through the front door,” McDonnell said, before making a pitch to would-be deputies.

“It’s one of the rare careers where you get to make an immediate positive impact on the lives of people who need your help,” he said.

A report from the recruiting and retention consultant to be hired by the CEO’s office is expected back in 90 days.

Hamai pledged to work with the auditor-controller and sheriff’s department to bring the budget into balance by June 30.

The CEO said the collaborative review would include an analysis of whether the overtime costs are directly tied to vacancies and an effort to match ongoing revenues to ongoing expenses.


Kamlager wins 54th Assembly District seat

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Community College District trustee Sydney Kamlager is expected to be sworn in to the Assembly next month after winning the 54th District special election with more than two-thirds of the vote April 3.

Kamlager received 68.93 percent of the vote in the field of four, according to semi-official results released by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

“I am deeply grateful to the voters of the 54th Assembly District for their humbling vote of confidence at the ballot box in today’s special primary election that has been of great importance to residents of South Los Angeles, West L.A. and Culver City,” Kamlager said in a victory statement.

“The voters clearly expressed their desire to choose a demonstrated leader who will fight hard for their interests in Sacramento and who’ll work hard to reflect their voice in our state Capitol.”

Kamlager also thanked her volunteers, supporters, endorsers, contributors, staff and consultants for helping propel her to victory.

Fellow Democrat Tepring Michelle Piquado, a neuroscientist and professor, was second with 14.4 percent. Republican Glen Ratcliff was third with 12.98 percent of the vote and Democrat Grayson Pangilinan finished fourth with 3.68 percent of the vote.

Kamlager is also a district director for state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and a member of the county Commission on Children and Families. She is expected to be sworn in in early May after the county Board of Supervisors declare the election results official.

The 54th District includes Culver City, West Los Angeles, Westwood, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista and Windsor Hills.

The special election was prompted by the resignation of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, a son of county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, in December. The younger Ridley-Thomas said he resigned because he had just undergone his fifth surgery of the year and was facing “persistent health issues.”

Kamlager’s term ends in December. She will face Piquado, Ratcliff and three other Democrats who were not candidates in the special election in the June 5 primary ballot, seeking a spot on the November general election ballot in the race for a full two-year term.