MixerBannerIn the midst of growing criticism about his leadership at his department, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca announced this week he’s stepping down on January 31 from the post he’s held for more than 15 years.

Baca says he doesn’t want to be a distraction going forward.

Baca’s been under intense scrutiny for accusations of abuse at jails and, of course, the indictment of 18 former and current deputies on charges of obstruction of justice.

There are lingering questions about why he’s retiring now, and not just letting his term expire later in the year.

And apparently, Baca will remain a reserve deputy in the department. Which means he will still possess law enforcement abilities.

So, who’s running to replace him?

Previously-declared candidates such as former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former Sheriff’s Commander Bob Olmsted were joined this week by LA County Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers. Assistant Sheriff James Helmold, LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara and Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell are also weighing possible runs for sheriff.

Joining us for today’s Mixer is Gene Maddaus, who reports for LA Weekly, and Seema Mehta, reporter for the LA Times.

The head of the LA Department of Water and Power, Ron Nichols, says he’ll also step down at the end of this month.

The DWP has also come under fire in recent months over a pair of union trusts that received more than $40 million in ratepayer money and a problematic overhaul of the utility’s 39-year-old billing and customer information system.

Glitches during the changeover resulted in tens of thousands of ratepayers being charged incorrectly.

We’re curious, of course, about the relationship between the DWP and the largest employees union there – Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, headed up by Brian D’Arcy.

D’Arcy has yet to provide any information about the trusts in question – the Joint Safety and Joint Training Institutes. When he requested information about the money and where it went, City Controller Ron Galperin says D’Arcy sent him a letter, saying the trust does not have to comply with the controller’s request.

A report out this week from the Los Angeles 2020 Commission says that the city of LA is a city – in its words – in decline.

Commission chair and former US Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor  says our transportation system is so broken, the Measure R tax hike will not improve congestion.

And that the education system is lacking and poverty is pervasive.

The commission, convened by City Council President Herb Wesson, says Los Angeles has no clear plans when it comes to economic development, and that the city has missed opportunities to develop our technology sector.

The panel says it plans to release another report with proposed solutions sometime in the next three months.

And finally, LA County Supervisors voted 3-2 this week to add a Christian cross to the official county seal.

There was a cross long ago. Ten years ago, it was taken off the seal because of a threat of ACLU lawsuit. Three of the Supervisors voted to put it back on because they say the current seal is artistically inaccurate because there’s a physical cross that was re-added to the San Gabriel Mission, which has been re-added to the seal, since its last redesign.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich says the change corrects a historically inaccurate portrayal of the mission.

But Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky – who dissented – says “It’s not just about history, it’s about the cross”.

The ACLU — which threatened legal action the last time there was a cross on the seal — says the change violates the separation of church and state.

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