Morning Buzz: Tuesday 2.20.07

Sen. Barack Obama will separate Hollywood types from a cool million tonight at the Beverly Hilton. That and the rest of the Morning Buzz after the jump. Programming note: Catch Mark Lacter of LA Biz Observed on the business report this morning on KPCC-FM.

Morning Buzz
Mark Lacter link
Starters
Steve Barr profile
In "Give Him an A for Ambition" the LAT's Joel Rubin examines the founder of Green Dot schools: "Barr is pushy, ambitious and determined to draw attention to his 10 charter high schools, publicly financed campuses that, in exchange for boosting student achievement, are given broad freedom to design their curriculum and to avoid many other restrictions set by school districts....Critics counter that Barr's early success is unsustainable and exaggerated. Barr, they say, is a politician in educator's clothing....It would be easy to dismiss Barr as just a brash salesman, except that people keep listening to him. Philanthropist Eli Broad recently gave Green Dot $10.5 million to help the $34-million-a-year operation triple in size."
Politics
Media op for traffic
Mayor Villaraigosa led a contingent of local pols on Wilshire in Westwood to put pressure on the state's transportation commission to approve more funding for L.A. area freeway and traffic projects, in particular the carpool lane on the 405 through Sepulveda Pass. It worked as a holiday media hook — the lineup, which included Supes Molina and Yaroslavsky and Reps. Berman and Sherman, was all over the news. LAT, DN
No council quorum today?
Council President Eric Garcetti and Councilwoman Wendy Greuel are joining the mayor in Sacramento to lobby for transportation funds. Wonder if they will all be back for the Obama funder (see next item.)
Obama still here
Tonight is the big Geffen-Spielberg-Katzenberg fundraiser for Sen. Barack Obama at the Beverly Hilton, expected to bring in more than $1 million. No comps even for the Hollywood gentry, swears organizer Andy Spahn: "We’ve turned down people who asked to bring a guest." Private dinner follows at Geffen's place for those who sold the most $2,300 seats. The NYT has an advancer.
Don't hold your breath for Wi-Fi
Still think that a city divided by two mountain ranges, where cell phones don't work in many places, that still has many miles of dirt streets, and that screwed up royally on cable TV will successfully provide you with community wireless service you would want? Hahahaha. Consider the San Francisco experience, which isn't pretty.
San Francisco's Ragone in hot water
Peter Ragone III, chief spokesman for Gavin Newsom and a protege of Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, has become controversial for lying about his blog posts under fake names and for saying that Newsom lied to him about the affair. SF Chronicle.
Media
Polk Award for Times
L.A. Times staff writers Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling won the George Polk Award for last year's much-lauded Altered Oceans series, which chronicled the distressed state of the world's seas. LAT, NYT
Gelfand to CityWatch
Bob Gelfand, the San Pedro area neighborhood activist, has begun writing a monthly cultural column for CityWatch. He used do a regular column, often on L.A. media, for The American Reporter.
Spano says au revoir
LAT travel writer Susan Spano is moving to China after three years based in Paris. Her Sunday column talks about what she liked about Paris but doesn't explain why she is leaving. No word on the Postcards from Paris blog she turned over to guest-writer Elliott Hester back in November, but it would be more superfluous than ever now. Actually, look for a bunch of changes when the Times launches its new Travel section next Sunday.
Steve Rushin out at SI
The Sports Illustrated columnist either walked away or was pushed from his lucrative gig. SportsJournalists.com
Personal takes
Back in California
NYT editorial board member Verlyn Klinkenborg, who filed dispatches from a guest teaching spot at Pomona College in 2005, is back in the area and back to musing about our towns for the gray lady back in Manhattan. The subject of today's short Letter from California is ostensibly patterns in ordinary life, but I excerpt it here just to note a visitor's eye on the region.
The other night there was thunder along the lower flanks of the San Gabriel mountains. It began just before dark, and at first I didn’t recognize what I was hearing. I thought it was the sound of Thursday night: the rumble of heavy plastic trash dumpsters, a whole street of them, being wheeled out to the curb.

The rain came and went and came again, throwing the scent of eucalyptus and dust into the twilight, the scent of this dry California winter. We watched the lightning — quick as a lizard’s tongue — from a plastic picnic table at Juanita’s, a taqueria near the San Bernardino Freeway. If you were driving past Juanita’s in a hurry, you might almost mistake it for a bail-bond shop, except that bondsmen are partial to neon and don’t wear hairnets at work.

We are living farther down the alluvial skirts of the San Gabriels than we did when we were here two years ago. In fact, we live down in the part of town that is what tract housing looked like half a century ago — uniform houses, stucco-clad, whose only homage to their location is small windows on the south side, where the desert sun lives. Across the street, a perfectly graceless little two-bedroom, one bath, has been marked down to $465,000.

This was jackrabbit country once, and now it is full of jackrabbit houses. At 7:50 a.m., all the cars back out of all the driveways at once. You can feel the haste — see someone dash from the house to the passenger door even as the car begins to roll backward out of the garage. I’m sure the same thing goes on in the ochre mansions higher up the mountain, where every now and then a cougar steals a Doberman from its own backyard. Everyone can feel the freeway beckoning.

Police beat
Bad day for cops
Two LAPD officers were hurt in a chain-reaction crash in South L.A., and TV reports say as many as five officers earned hospital trips trying to stop the Pacoima suspect who rammed several patrol cars before finally pulling over and asking officers to shoot him. (They didn't — but he did get the pepper spray when he refused to lay down in the street.)
Noted
UCLA rabbi apologizes
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of Hillel at UCLA, apologized in writing to freelance journalist Rachel Neuwirth for attacking her outside Royce Hall after a talk by lawyer Alan Dershowitz in 2003. As the rabbi puts it, "I am deeply sorry that I hit, kicked and scratched you and called you a liar on October 21, 2003." The apology is part of a civil settlement. Daily Bruin, Jewish Journal

Support Morning Buzz


More by Kevin Roderick:
Ralph Lawler of the Clippers and the age of Aquarius
Riding the Expo Line to USC 'just magical'
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