What, us worry?: Wasn't it just a few months back when the Dow topped the 14,000 mark for the first time, only to nosedive after the housing-induced credit crunch ruined all the fun? Well, the Dow topped 14,000 again this morning (it has since slipped back), and the interesting thing is that it came on a day when both Citigroup and UBS reported weak third-quarter numbers because of all the credit market turmoil this summer. Way too weird. (AP, NYT)
Big labor hearing: This could be the day that a U.S. district court in San Francisco rules on a planned government crackdown on illegal immigrants in the workplace. The immediate issue is whether the Social Security Administration can send out letters to employers whose workers' names don't jibe with their Social Security numbers. The notices are part of an effort by the Department of Homeland Security to enforce rules on hiring undocumented workers. Many small business owners say they don't have the resources to sort out problem cases. From the WSJ:
The work-site program was supposed to roll out in September with the mailing of 140,000 no-match letters to employers. But the AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit alleging the new policy could lead to discrimination against or firing of native-born U.S. workers and legal immigrant workers. The program was delayed when a federal judge in August blocked the new policy until questions about its legality had been addressed. The hearing that opens today is aimed at clarifying this.
In early September, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several trade groups representing small businesses that employ low-skilled immigrants joined the lawsuit. Among others, the United Fresh Produce Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association and the Association of Nursery and Landscapers allege the Department of Homeland Security failed to perform a financial-impact assessment, as required under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, to measure the impact of the new rule on small businesses. "This is a hollow argument coming from businesses who want to avoid liability for employing unauthorized workers," said a Department of Homeland Security spokesman. "The rule does not impose an expense for employers."
DWP salaries: Er, did Sunday's Daily News story on what everybody makes at the Department of Water and Power really begin with an editorial?
Editor's Note: If you read only one story today, I hope it will be this one. The DWP's bloated salaries, poor management and soaring rates are the most glaring example of what's wrong with Los Angeles city government. We think this is so important we've put up the salaries of all 8,500 employees here at dailynews.com. See how your pay compares with theirs. - Ron Kaye, editor
So much for fair and balanced. Actually, the numbers are high, though not outrageously so for difficult work (I for one wouldn’t want to play with electric wires). The average DWP worker makes $76,949 a year, which according to the paper "is nearly 20 percent more than the average civilian city worker" (whoever that is). What makes the numbers stand out are the DWP's proposed rate hike and the recent spate of power outages.
Talk about mismanaged: L.A. has a terrific traffic signal system that can somehow adjust the timing of lights based on congestion that's picked up when cars pass over sensors embedded in city streets. There's just one problem: the city only saves the information for a few days. After that, it's thrown out, so there's no way to know where traffic is increasing or by how much. At a time when developers have basically taken over the city, wouldn't you think that such data might be important? From the LAT:
"It's appalling," said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. The chronic lack of information makes it impossible to determine "where density should go and where it shouldn't go." Consider Hollywood. Over the last decade, several huge developments have been built, including the Hollywood & Highland shopping center, the ArcLight movie theater and the W Hotel complex at Hollywood and Vine, a mixed-used project now rising at the famous intersection. But city officials said that they don't know how much the boom has affected traffic, because there is little historical data.
WP catches up on downtown: The paper tends to be a little late on the trend-setting front, which may explain why it's finally getting around to the predictable piece about the downtown hipsters. It's all the usual hyperbole - skinny jeans, galleries, pricey condos, rooftop party pools - with only passing mention of the conflict between Skid Row and the cool zones. From the Washington Post:
Now there are chic restaurants and underground dance clubs with dress codes and guests lists. Downtown is an official destination for scenesters -- and almost every newbie to DT (that's what some bloggers call it) blurbs the same thing. "I can't believe I didn't know about this," said Nili Martin, a Web designer, as she sat with friends at Warung Cafe in the Old Bank District (formerly a half-abandoned slum), listening to the Pan-Asia house music while grazing on ahi tapas and sipping soju. Martin has lived 12 miles away for the past seven years: "I've never been downtown, but this is so much fun. It's like New York . . . almost." Why are they here? The newcomers are drawn by the insidery buzz of the next cool place, by a desire for authenticity and a specific vibe -- arty, multiculti, a bit scruffy but not hairy. They want to be around their own kind -- employed college graduates -- but they want to live in a neighborhood with an edge. They want to feel as if they are discovering something. That they are unique. When asked, that's what the new downtowners say: They like how it feels.
Bev Hills bans smoking: No more puffing in most outdoor dining areas, starting today. Hotels where food or beverages are served poolside can designate up to 25 percent of the deck area for smoking. The ordinance imposes a $100 fine for the first offense, a $200 fine for a second offense within one year and a $500 for fine for each additional violation within one year. Bev Hills restaurant owners say the ordinance could prompt smokers to eat at restaurants in L.A. or West Hollywood. (DN)
Plane crashes way down: I always get worried after reading these kinds of stories because it seems like we're tempting the fates. But for what it's worth, the accident rate over the last 10 years there has been one fatal accident in about 4.5 million departures, from one in nearly 2 million in 1997. From the NYT:
“This is the golden age of safety, the safest period, in the safest mode, in the history of the world,” said Marion C. Blakey, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, in a speech to an aviation group in Washington on Sept. 11, two days before her five-year term ended. Some of the improvement may be luck, as there is an element of randomness to crashes. But part of the explanation certainly lies in the payoff from sustained efforts by American and many foreign airlines to identify and eliminate small problems that are common precursors to accidents. Airlines around the world, even in less-developed nations, have also benefited from equipment improvements, like cockpit instruments that help planes steer clear of mountains when visibility is poor, and jet engines that are so reliable that pilots can go through their entire careers without seeing one fail.