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In L.A., it was a three-column day

The city has seen major news this week. Some of the people who had a part in it will have to share space here.

February 12, 2013|Steve Lopez

You know you live in a wild news town when a massive manhunt for an ex-cop leads to a dramatic shootout and inferno on a snow-covered mountain, the mayor pitches a tax increase that's beginning to look like attempted extortion, and the rebuked local cardinal at the center of a massive molestation scandal announces he's headed to Rome to pick the next pope.

Christopher Dorner, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Cardinal Roger Mahony each could fill my space today, but they're going to have to share it.

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As I write on deadline, a cabin in the mountains is ablaze, and the hunt for Dorner appears to have ended.

The LAPD will take a look at whether Dorner was wronged when he was fired over a dispute with a superior.

It should also take a look at whether cops have a chance when they take on a senior officer, or whether race or department culture can stand in the way of justice.

And it will have to explain why several cops — inexplicably thinking they'd bagged Dorner — fired dozens of rounds at a newspaper delivery truck in Torrance that was the wrong make, the wrong color and contained occupants of the wrong race and gender.

But for now, what weighs most heavily is that four people are dead, victims of unfathomable madness.

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In the last few months of Villaraigosa's second term, how much do you trust him?

The mayor is now shilling for Measure A — a half-cent sales tax increase proposal on the March 5 ballot — arguing that the alternative would be nasty budget cuts.

But Matt Szabo, a former Villaraigosa deputy and current candidate for City Council, told my colleague David Zahniser that voters need to ask themselves if the shortfall is being "overstated for the purpose of passing the sales tax."

What, you mean they'd lie to us?

Eric Garcetti, candidate for mayor, told me Tuesday over breakfast that he thinks the actual budget hole for next year is far less than the $216 million suggested by the Villaraigosa administration. Not that the city doesn't have serious financial problems, Garcetti said. But the worst scenarios, Garcetti thinks, are based on arbitrary numbers.

I agreed to meet with Garcetti after he objected to my Sunday column, in which I said that none of the five candidates for mayor has offered a realistic plan for erasing next year's budget shortfall or a four-year deficit estimated to be $1 billion. Or more.

The councilman said the city's own revised projections on costs and revenue would cut next year's deficit nearly in half. He said he'd negotiate a 10% healthcare contribution from every city employee — no cinch, by the way — to cut another $50 million, and whittle away at the remaining $50 million deficit in various ways.

Easier said than done, especially if Garcetti begins dismantling a business tax that brings in $400 million-plus a year.

But as for Measure A, who's going to vote for it when City Hall insiders like Garcetti and Szabo are saying it's not necessary?

"I'm not voting for it," Garcetti said. The other four mayoral candidates have said the same thing, and you can be the judge of whether they're just pandering.

Not to be too cynical, but Villaraigosa may one day run for governor, or who knows what. A half-cent sales tax increase works out to $200 million a year, and he'd take bows for leaving the city's fiscal house in decent shape.

We'll know more about the truth of the matter, we're told, when the mayor delivers a budget several weeks after the election.

Convenient timing, no?

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It was right there on Cardinal Mahony's blog:

"I look forward to traveling to Rome soon to help thank Pope Benedict XVI for his gifted service to the church, and to participate in the conclave to elect his successor."

I think I'll find out when Mahony is leaving and try to book the seat next to him. I've put in many requests over the years to sit down with His Eminence and ask a few questions, and maybe this will be my best chance. Not that a flight halfway around the world would give me time enough to get through half the questions I've got, but it would be a start.

Just two weeks ago, you may recall, Mahony was rebuked by his successor. Archbishop Jose Gomez had taken a look at the molestation files Mahony fought to keep secret and concluded that the abuse and coverup were "sad and evil" and made for "brutal and painful reading." When forced to settle for $660 million with 500 victims, Mahony quietly raided a cemetery maintenance fund to help pay the tab.

And yet despite being relieved of public duties, Mahony — who helped pick Pope Benedict in 2005 — retains the right to help select the next pope.

In his blog, Mahony referred to Benedict as an "extraordinary successor to St. Peter," but the record actually is mixed. Both before and after becoming pope, Benedict made shocking decisions that gave breaks to suspected and known molesters. And then there was his tolerance, if not protection, of Mahony.

Sergio Hernandez, a reader, sent me a cartoon he had drawn about Mahony at the Vatican, where white smoke pours from a chimney when a new pope is selected.

Mahony, standing next to a chimney with a stack of files on pedophile priests, says:

"I got the perfect fuel right here."

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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