Public officials in a wired world How much privacy should they get

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New technology often challenges society’s long-standing assumptions and standards, but sometimes courts — and others — lose sight of common sense as they grapple with the changes. That’s the case in a recent decision of California’s 6th Appellate District, which found that text messages and emails between public officials are beyond the reach of the Public Records Act if they are sent on private devices rather than ones owned by public agencies.

The three-judge panel said that electronic communications between council members and the mayor of San Jose, even those regarding city business, should not be considered “public” records if they are not “used” or “retained” by the city government (the language cited comes from California’s Public Records Act, written long before smartphones existed). Accordingly, the 6th Circuit overturned the decision of the trial court judge and ruled that the city need not turn over the communications to interested members of the public, even though both sides conceded that they involved official business.

That decision hews to the narrow language of the act, but it distorts the act’s larger purpose, which is to ensure that the public can scrutinize the

Garcetti’s budget adds more firefighters overhauls 911 dispatch

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first proposed budget calls for hiring 140 firefighters and the start of a sweeping overhaul of the city’s 911 dispatch system, part of a bid to speed the response to hundreds of thousands of calls for help each year.

The revamped dispatch operation, outlined Monday by the mayor’s office as it presented an $8.1-billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year, would unify separate police and fire emergency call centers and gradually replace some uniformed firefighters with lower-paid civilian phone operators.

The proposal is the latest effort to address studies finding that the Los Angeles Fire Department has lagged behind national standards for dispatching rescuers to those needing emergency medical aid and suffered from repeated breakdowns of an aging computer system that manages calls. Last month, a city-funded consultant called for a series of management and technology reforms at the department, including some of the changes Garcetti is proposing.

Garcetti said his budget, the first to provide a road map for his “back to basics” agenda, would expand library hours, add building inspectors and provide for a modest increase in road repairs. But he delayed for

Valerie Harper signs seals delivers another role

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Valerie Harper is positively radiant these days. There’s a sparkle in her eyes and a genuine warmth in her smile. Why

not? She’s defied the odds.

Early last year, Harper was told she had three months to live. Harper, a non-smoker who had a cancerous tumor removed from her lung in 2009, has a rare form of lung cancer that had spread to areas around her brain.

“I was supposed to be dead a year ago,” said Harper, 74. “We are all terminal, let’s face it.  I did the shock and grief. My husband, Tony, took it terribly. He said, ‘That’s not true. I don’t accept that.’ ”

PHOTOS: Stars who turned down, or were turned down for, ultimately famous roles

Despite the devastating prognosis, “I kept going,” said Harper, who became a TV icon in her Emmy Award-winning turn as the endearing window dresser Rhoda Morgenstern from 1970-78 on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and her spinoff series, “Rhoda.” “I thought it was important.”

And she thought it was important for her fans, whom she calls her “extended” family, to know about what was happening. “People write me letters — not

Women play second fiddle at summer music festivals like Coachella

INDIO, Calif. — Dee Dee Penny, lead singer of the Dum Dum Girls, is no stranger to performing at giant summer musical events. At the first of the two-weekend Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival events last Friday, her retro-rock act played before thousands of ecstatic fans.

She was just one of an eclectic roster of female artists who galvanized Coachella audiences. Teenage provocateur Lorde dazzled amid a howling dust storm in her summer music festival debut. R&B diva Solange got a surprise assist from her superstar sister, Beyoncé Knowles. Alt-torch singer Lana Del Rey turned in a transfixing trip-hop set. And pop-rock sisters Haim were local conquering heroes as they celebrated the success of their 2013 debut, “Days Are Gone,” which embodies the Coachella spirit by contemporizing retro sounds with hipster/hippie chic.

It’s a benchmark year for Coachella. More solo female artists and all-female bands were on the lineup — 16 — than at any other time in the festival’s history.

PHOTOS: Coachella Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Yet that’s just a fraction of the festival’s 166 acts. While the numbers do improve if one includes Coachella’s 19 co-ed acts, which range from celebrator

Buss family faces crucial moment with the Lakers

The six brothers and sisters, with a gap of 31 years from eldest to youngest, gathered in the winter near the first anniversary of their father’s death to discuss some problems about the family business. It’s also the city’s treasured sports team — the Lakers.

The team was nose-diving in the standings, losing the interest of fans, and grinding toward its worst season since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960.

So Jeanie Buss posed an elementary question to her siblings: What was going on with the Lakers?

Her older brother Jim Buss, 54, in charge of the Lakers’ basketball operations, spoke up in the boardroom of the team’s El Segundo training facility and pledged to resign in a few years if the suddenly dark fortunes of the franchise weren’t reversed.

“I was laying myself on the line by saying, if this doesn’t work in three to four years, if we’re not back on the top — and the definition of top means contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship — then I will step down because that means I have failed,” he told The Times about the meeting. “I don’t know if you can

Bill seeks to ease California’s affordability housing crisis

Most Californians can’t afford their rent.

The state’s affordability crisis has worsened since the recession, as soaring home prices and rents outpace job and income growth. Meanwhile, government funds to combat the problem have evaporated.

Local redevelopment agencies once generated roughly $1 billion annually for below-market housing across California, but the roughly 400 agencies closed in 2012 to ease a state budget crisis. In addition, almost $5 billion from state below-market housing bonds, approved by voters last decade, is nearly gone.

A state bill seeks to replace some of those funds and create more than 10,000 low- and moderate-income homes annually through a $75 fee for recording real estate documents. But the proposal has drawn criticism from some in the real estate industry who say it unfairly saddles homeowners and businesses with added costs.

“It disproportionally burdens one segment of the society with something that should be borne by the entire population,” said lobbyist Alexander Creel of the California Assn. of Realtors.

The bill, SB 391, would replace a portion of lost funds, $300 million to $720 million annually, depending how many documents are recorded. Those involved in a sale are exempt from the $75

Saku Koivu’s defense could make difference in Ducks’ bid for the Cup

Saku Koivu saw his retiring teammate, friend and Finnish countryman Teemu Selanne skate around the arena bathed in cheers last week in the Ducks’ final regular-season home game.

Moved, of course, Koivu quickly set aside the moment that’s so close to home.

Because there are still games to win.

Koivu, 39, could be just as close to retirement as Selanne, but the 18-year NHL veteran center hasn’t officially announced his intentions.

“Very private guy, very unselfish — been like that a long time,” Koivu’s linemate Andrew Cogliano said. “And because he is, he’s a leader on this team.”

Koivu’s team-first mentality has functioned like the quiet heartbeat for the Ducks, who for the first time in franchise history earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and take a 2-0 first-round lead over the Dallas Stars to Texas when the series resumes Monday.

The former Montreal Canadiens captain has never won a Stanley Cup.

Twelve times in his career, Koivu has produced 30 or more assists in a season — he had a personal-best 53 in 2006-07 — and his 11 goals this season marked the 15th time he’s reached double figures.

Yet, in this campaign,

Business Briefing

IMac delays blamed on its popularity

Apple Inc. said the popularity of its new iMacs has led to shipment delays, causing two-week waits for customers ordering a 27-inch version of the desktop computer through the company’s website.

Apple started selling updated versions of its all-in-one iMac computer in October. The Apple fan site AppleInsider.com, citing resellers, said some buyers of the 27-inch models have complained about flickering screens and yellow-tinged displays — problems that Apple may be delaying production to fix. Users also have reported screen malfunctions on the iMac discussion board at Apple’s website.

A spokesman declined to comment on the cause of the shipment delays.

AUTOMOBILES

Ford executive praises Obama

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. met with President Obama and endorsed the administration’s handling of the struggling auto industry.

Ford credited Obama for stepping in to help General Motors and Chrysler and prevent auto suppliers from collapsing. Ford said the administration acted “swiftly and forcefully and it worked.”

Bill Ford delivered a list of recommendations to the Commerce Department developed at a Detroit business summit on ways to revitalize the economy.

AEROSPACE

Maiden flight for Boeing 787 is set

Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner is ready to

What next for the company and its hometown Wolfsburg?

The city of Wolfsburg in Lower Saxony is not merely the hometown of Volkswagen. Wolfsburg is Volkswagen, Germany’s answer to Detroit – but rather more prosperous.

It was founded in the 1930s as a place to house workers building the KdF-Wagen – the car which became the VW Beetle after the Second World War.

Even today, more than half of the town’s 120,000 inhabitants work at the local VW plant, a sprawling complex that covers some 6.5 sq km. Many of the rest provide the services which those employees need, such as shops and restaurants.

It goes without saying that the VW logo is more than a little prominent here. It is the first thing you see when you arrive at the central station, looming over the platforms from the building opposite. It’s on offices, car dealerships and pretty much every vehicle on the roads here.

So a crisis at Volkswagen is a crisis for Wolfsburg.

It threatens the entire social and economic fabric of this town. People here are reluctant to speak about the scandal in the United States, wary of showing disloyalty. But it is clear the events of the past week have taken a heavy toll.

“The people and the employees of

Volkswagen The scandal explained

What is Volkswagen accused of?

It’s been dubbed the “diesel dupe”. The German car giant has admitted cheating emissions tests in the US. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some cars being sold in America had devices in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results.

VW has had a major push to sell diesel cars in the US, backed by a huge marketing campaign trumpeting its cars’ low emissions. The EPA’s findings cover 482,000 cars in the US only, including the VW-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW brands Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat. But VW has admitted that about 11 million cars worldwide are fitted with the so-called “defeat device”.


The device sounds like a sophisticated piece of kit

Full details of how it worked are sketchy, although the EPA has said that the engines had computer software that could sense test scenarios by monitoring speed, engine operation, air pressure and even the position of the steering wheel.

When the cars were operating under controlled laboratory conditions – which typically involved putting them on a stationary test rig – the device appears to have put the vehicle into

Dump media ownership restrictions to save those suffering with TV blackspots Liberal MP says

The Government should dump media ownership restrictions in order to fix TV blackspots across the country, a Federal Liberal MP says.

Successive governments spent almost $1 billion switching televisions from analog to digital, but the Federal member for Hume, Angus Taylor, says many regional people have been left worse off.

“There are tens of thousands and perhaps more Australians across regional areas who are suffering from poor TV coverage, and I think it’s time for the Government to fix it,” he told ABC Rural.

He has managed to secure funding for a new tower in Crookwell in regional NSW, where locals say reception is hopeless.

“If you’re watching something like the Antique Roads Show and the fella’s explaining some technical thing about something, the sound goes and it’s very annoying,” local resident Bryan Kennedy explained.

Ron Cummins has lobbied for a new tower for the past three years. He said the offer of government subsidies during the digital switchover did not help.

“If you weren’t on a full-time pension, then you had to pay for the installation of the VAST system. And that could work up to $650 to $900 for the black box and satellite dish,” he said.

“And we didn’t think that was

South Australian Government shifts focus to rail not roads following toppling of Tony Abbott

The South Australian Government’s lobbying efforts for federal transport funding have switched focus onto tram and rail projects, and away from roads, following the departure of Tony Abbott from the prime ministership.

Acting Premier John Rau said the State Government would make new submissions to Infrastructure Australia to significantly expand Adelaide’s tram network and complete the electrification of the Gawler railway line.

“Mr Abbott as prime minister wasn’t very interested in rail,” he said.

“The fact that we now appear to have a different attitude in Canberra is very welcome and that means we shift our emphasis now from road projects that we’ve got sitting there, over to rail projects.”

Mr Rau said he had been encouraged by comments from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and recently appointed Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, Jamie Briggs.

The tram network expansion plan was unveiled in 2013 and would see new lines branching out to destinations including Semaphore, Blair Athol, Mitcham, Magill and the airport.

But Mr Rau said he was happy to consider alternatives.

“If the Commonwealth’s happy to talk about going up O’Connell Street, so are we,” he said.

The full electrification of the Gawler rail line was announced in 2008 but later delayed for budgetary

Small businesses warn they are at risk of being left behind as corporations embrace social media

ppitt (L) and Todd Sainsbury are developing a platform to help small businesses engage with social media. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)

“Hospitality by nature, is a younger person’s domain and we’ve seen over the last five years in particular, how wedded they are to their mobile phones,” he said.

“The traditional weekly or monthly media wasn’t dynamic enough, things like Instagram, Facebook became more viable options, and they are more cost effective as well and have an instantaneous reach to a wide demographic.

“I still think the word of mouth is important, but social media reinforces that.

“We had a target to get to 10,000 followers, then 15,000 followers, and I think it is north of that figure now.”

50pc of consumers access social media daily: report

Almost 50 per cent of consumers now access social media every day — up to 79 per cent for the 18-29 age group — according to a report on social media by marketing company Sensis (formerly yellow pages) released in May.

But the survey found only 31 per cent of SME (small to medium size enterprises) businesses actively operate a social media plan.

The report found Facebook users were spending the equivalent of a full working day

Vocus-M2 merger to create $3b telecommunications firm

Telecommunications firms Vocus and M2 are planning to merge to create a $3 billion company that can better compete with industry giants Telstra and Optus.

The boards of the two firms are unanimously recommending an all share merger deal that will see M2 shareholders receive 1.625 Vocus shares for every M2 share they own.

If shareholders agree, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) gives its blessing, the deal would create the fourth biggest integrated telecommunications company in Australia.

ACCC approval appears highly likely given comments this morning from its chairman Rod Sims, distinguishing this deal from an earlier observation about telecommunications takeovers.

“The comment around reluctance about more mergers was certainly about a four to three [player shrinking] and therefore is not relevant to this transaction,” he told Fairfax Media.

“So obviously if it was Telstra, Optus or TPG acquiring M2 I would say that it fits straight under what I was talking about and would be something we would have strong concerns about.

“Having said that, I’m going to be neutral and say we’re going to look at it … with an open mind.”

Top 100 company

The two firms say the combined entity would easily sit within the ASX 100 index of Australia’s

Junk food, alcohol and gambling advertising banned on Canberra’s ACTION buses

Junk food, alcohol and gambling advertisements will be banned on ACTION buses under a strict new ACT Government policy.

Under the new rules, fossil fuels and weapons advertisements will also be prohibited.

Minister for Territory and Municipal Services Shane Rattenbury said buses were a government provided service and it was important that the products and messages promoted were appropriate.

He said the policy was particularly important given a significant number of ACTION passengers were school children.

“Across the board we’re looking to promote healthier food to school children and so leaving junk food advertising off the buses helps contribute to that overall objective of delivering a healthier message to our kids,” he said.

“It’s quite clear that junk food advertising is targeted at children, in many many places it’s quite pervasive and I think the buses are just another example of that and we need to make sure that kids are getting a healthier message given the level of childhood obesity we see in our community.”

Mr Rattenbury said advertising on government assets needed to be in line with community expectations.

Government following lead of community campaign

The ACT Government recently decided to divest from fossil fuels due to their environmental impact.

Mr Rattenbury said similarly, it

NSW Government cracks down on illegal ride-sharing puts Uber on notice

The New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has put controversial ride-sharing giant Uber on notice, issuing 40 suspension notices against offending drivers.

RMS Director of Safety and Compliance Peter Wells said ride-sharing services were illegal and the Government was cracking down on those allowing their vehicles to be used.

“Taxi and hire car services in NSW must be provided by an operator accredited by Roads and Maritime, in a licensed and insured vehicle which is driven by an authorised driver,” Mr Wells said.

“Thousands of dollars in fines have already been issued to drivers offering illegal ride-sharing activities and compliance actions will continue.

“If drivers continue to offer illegal ride sharing services – they will continue to risk registration suspensions and fines.”

Mr Wells said 40 drivers have already been issued with suspension notices.

“The vehicle suspensions will take effect from midnight 30 September and will be in place for three months.

“The suspension notices have been issued to registered owners of vehicles found to be operating a privately registered vehicle for business purposes.

“If a suspended vehicle is found on the road after 1 October, the vehicle is deemed unregistered and uninsured, with penalties of $637 for each offence, increasing to around $2,200

Volkswagen staff warned about emissions cheating software years ago German media reports

The New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has put controversial ride-sharing giant Uber on notice, issuing 40 suspension notices against offending drivers.

RMS Director of Safety and Compliance Peter Wells said ride-sharing services were illegal and the Government was cracking down on those allowing their vehicles to be used.

“Taxi and hire car services in NSW must be provided by an operator accredited by Roads and Maritime, in a licensed and insured vehicle which is driven by an authorised driver,” Mr Wells said.

“Thousands of dollars in fines have already been issued to drivers offering illegal ride-sharing activities and compliance actions will continue.

“If drivers continue to offer illegal ride sharing services – they will continue to risk registration suspensions and fines.”

Mr Wells said 40 drivers have already been issued with suspension notices.

“The vehicle suspensions will take effect from midnight 30 September and will be in place for three months.

“The suspension notices have been issued to registered owners of vehicles found to be operating a privately registered vehicle for business purposes.

“If a suspended vehicle is found on the road after 1 October, the vehicle is deemed unregistered and uninsured, with penalties of $637 for each offence, increasing to around $2,200

NSW Government to sell off luxury hotels in Sydney to fund projects

The New South Wales Government has announced it will fund an upgrade of Sydney’s Circular Quay by selling off several sites, including luxury hotels.

The Shangri-La and Four Seasons hotels in the city’s CBD, the Novotel and Mercure hotels at Darling Harbour, and commercial offices at Darling Quarter are among the properties owned by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) that will be put on the market.

The Government said it would raise $200 million to fund the construction of new state-of-the-art ferry wharves, with construction expected to begin in 2019.

Premier Mike Baird said the Government did not need to be the landlord for luxury hotels and the money raised would be put to good use.

“For those of us that looked at the wharves for a long time, we know that they’re functional but we think they can do much, much more.” Mr Baird said.

“They can provide the sort of gateway you see in global cities around the world that’s attractive, that’s inviting, that’s vibrant.”

The Government’s vision for the wharves included double-storey buildings with new retail facilities.

Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet said the SHFA assets were deemed to be not of long-term strategic importance.

“There is absolutely no reason in the 21st century

Pro-business groups urge ACT Opposition to abandon plans to tear up light rail contracts

Three prominent pro-business groups have urged ACT’s Liberal Opposition to reconsider its plans to tear up light rail contracts if they win the 2016 territory election.

Earlier this year, the Canberra Liberals said they would cancel any light rail contracts signed by the current Government.

The move attracted a stern rebuke from then prime minister Tony Abbott, who said all contracts should be honoured.

But the Liberals went on to formally warn two consortia shortlisted to help construct it the light rail project that a change in government would put an end to the project.

Now the Business Council of Australia (BCA), the Australian Industry Group (AIG) and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) have weighed in, asking the party to change its policy.

IPA chief executive Brendan Lyon said Australia needed investment to fill the infrastructure gap and grow the economy beyond the resources boom.

He said for this reason, voiding light rail contracts would damage the national interest, and cost Canberra dearly in compensation.

“Australia has a hard-won reputation as one of the world’s safest places to invest, but the axing of Victoria’s East West Link contract has already damaged that standing,” he said.

“We have no tradition of incoming governments using their lawmaking powers to dud

Housing market slowdown not sharp, mortgage arrears as good as it gets

Despite a large number of auctions over the weekend, clearance rates around the capital cities managed a small bounce back above 70 per cent.

With the spring selling season in full swing, 2,820 auctions took place last week, with almost 1,200 each in Sydney and Melbourne dominating the figures.

The rise in auctions reflects a spring surge in the number of Sydney homes listed for sale, with plenty of homes on the market in Melbourne as well.

The national average clearance rate was 71.3 per cent, up from 69.9 per cent the previous week, according to preliminary figures from CoreLogic RP Data.

Sydney (74.2 per cent) and Melbourne (73.3 per cent) continued to lead the national market, with Adelaide just under 70 per cent and Brisbane just under 60 per cent.

About half the 58 homes auctioned in Canberra sold, while few homes were up for auction in Perth and Tasmania with well under half reported as selling at auction.

Auction clearance rates in Sydney were consistently well above 80 per cent for much of the year, pulling the national rate to a peak around 80 per cent.

However, despite the auction clearance rate falling from earlier highs, home price growth remains fairly robust.

CoreLogic RP