March 1, 2010 |
California's hands-free cellphone law has been a lifesaver. According to California Highway Patrol statistics, the law has helped reduce the number of annual fatalities on our roads by 700 and collisions by between 75,000 and 100,000. CHP data also show that traffic fatalities and crashes in California were each down by roughly 20% in the first six months since the law took effect on July 1, 2008, compared with the same six-month periods of previous years. These statistics are all the more compelling when you consider the steady increase in the number of licensed drivers in California over the last several years, and the fact that there are more than double the number of cellphones out there today than there were just a decade ago. Although compliance with the new law has been good, it certainly could be better.
February 6, 2010
If you're caught running a red light in Los Angeles, be prepared to shell out $446, up from $271 eight years ago. Make a rolling right turn at a stoplight and the ticket comes to $381 -- more than double what it cost in 2008. Park at an expired meter, pay a $50 fine. It's getting so a person can't even drive badly in this town anymore. Officials have been jacking up traffic fines recently as a budget crunch encourages creative methods of raising municipal revenue. Not only are fines going up, but the city is considering ways to nab more people to pay them.
December 24, 2009 |
On this glorious day before Christmas, I have a message for all you sales tax scofflaws out there: Pay up. This means you. You, who bought your big-screen TV online from Amazon.com instead of at Best Buy and your fleece-lined parka from L.L. Bean instead of Eddie Bauer because Amazon and Bean don't charge you sales tax and the others do. Guess what. You owe it anyway. Skipping out on the sales tax due on online purchases is the single biggest category of "noncompliance" with California sales tax law, according to the state Board of Equalization, accounting for nearly 30% of all unpaid tax. The board estimated lost revenue at $1.1 billion annually.
December 3, 2009
Obama's war escalation Re "Obama vows to break Taliban," Dec. 2, and "Obama puts Afghan plan in motion," Dec. 1 At last, a president who speaks to us as if we are adults. It seems clear there are no good choices regarding Afghanistan, but we know the president listened to multiple points of view and required participants to provide alternatives and data to justify those alternatives. I have believed we should get out now, but the president made clear that the situation in Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons, is a key element driving his decision.
September 19, 2009
Only about 1,400 of Los Angeles' 4 million residents have been cited by the Department of Water and Power for violating the city's new watering restrictions, which allow property owners to run their lawn sprinklers just twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Recently, The Times' editorial writer on water policy -- me -- became one of them. My husband and I awoke on a Tuesday to the sound of running water and an aquatic display in front of our house that rivaled that at the Grove.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 16, 2009 |
It was just after 9 a.m. when William Mims got busted in a Hancock Park driveway. Slowly, he set down the gushing hose, which lacked an automatic shut-off nozzle, stepped away from the gray BMW he was washing and put his hands up. "Hey, man, I confess. I confess. I was using just the hose" he told Kevin Cato, a Department of Water and Power water conservation officer. "I won't do it again." Since June 1, Cato and about a dozen other workers -- water cops, as some residents call them -- have been on the prowl in search of lawn-loving Angelenos who don't know or don't heed the city's tightened water restrictions.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 23, 2009 |
Los Angeles collected nearly $3 million from delinquent business taxpayers in the last four months, Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel has announced. Greuel said the city now is trying to collect an additional $107 million in delinquent taxes from 126 scofflaws, and posted their names on the city's website. Greuel said the city is taking legal action against many of the scofflaws, and also rescinding business permits for those who owe the city money.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
July 19, 2009 |
It's a beautiful summer day and tourists are enjoying the waterfront delights: harbor cruises, the carrier Midway museum, seafood restaurants, the tall ship Star of India. A quaint addition to the scene are the pedicab operators eager to pedal visitors to their next destination: a restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter, perhaps, or the stores of Seaport Village. Or maybe back to their hotel. But the tourist tradition has become a civic nuisance as the number of pedicabs has soared in recent years.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 5, 2009 |
Not long ago, an irate customer expressed his displeasure with the tiny Cabazon Water District by dropping a live rattlesnake through the mail slot. "It was pretty good size, too, slithered right under the desk," said R.D. Cash, president of the water board. A thick pane of glass, dubbed "the rattle trap," was swiftly installed over the slot to prevent any further reptile deliveries. "No matter what you do, you'll always have irate customers," Cash said.
September 8, 2008 |
The tax man cometh -- right to your door, if you operate a business in a target ZIP Code. Next week, the first of 8,000 small retailers and other businesses targeted can expect state workers to come calling as part of a new program by California tax collectors to catch scofflaws. The investigators from the state Board of Equalization will be checking for seller's permits, business licenses and evidence that the businesses are collecting and paying enough sales tax and the often-overlooked use tax. The campaign is the start of a three-year program that state officials say will eventually reel in $223 million in previously uncollected taxes.