Supervisors vote to put cross back on L.A. County seal

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A divided L.A. Board of Supervisors has voted to put a long absent cross back on the county seal. The move is expected to be met with a legal challenge from civil libertarians, who see it as an unconstitutional mixing of church and state. The cross will be added to a depiction of the San Gabriel Mission on the seal. Backers say it’s a matter of historical accuracy, since the Mission has a cross. But opponents call it a thinly veiled endorsement of Christianity…A 13-member citizen’s panel has released scathing report on the state of the city. The Los Angeles 2020 Commission says L.A. is “suffering from a crisis of leadership and direction,” with failing schools and a government that can no longer afford to provide public services. The commission is chaired by former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor. It was formed about a year ago by Council President Herb Wesson to provide an independent look at the city’s problems. The report says the city is suffering from unrelenting traffic, crushing poverty and the lack of a coherent approach to job growth…bacaCounty leaders say they’ll act quickly to appoint an interim head of the L.A. Sheriff’s Department when Lee Baca retires at the end of the month. Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas says choosing a person committed to following through on planned reforms will be the Board’s top priority. Baca agreed to the reforms after his department with hit with a series of scandals, including allegations of violence and corruption by deputies inside the jails. Meanwhile, Baca’s surprise announcement has changed the dynamics of the June primary election, opening the door to new candidates aspiring to become L.A. County’s top cop…The L.A. School District will hold a special election to fill the District 1 Board seat left vacant when Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte died last month. After hours of debate and public comments, a divided School Board decided late last night not to appoint a successor for the next 14 months. Instead, the Board will let voters decide who fill the seat. The special election will probably be held in June and could cost the district as much as $2.5 million…The city of L.A. is suing to stop an energy company from resuming drilling at an oil field in the University Park neighborhood. Officials say lax practices at the Allenco field exposed residents to noxious fumes and odors that caused headaches, nosebleeds and other ailments. Allenco voluntarily stopped operations in November at the request of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. But the company says it’s made changes and wants to restart drilling operations…widebeachAnd finally, L.A. can expect local sea levels to rise by as much as two feet by 2050 and up to five-and-a-half feet by the end of the century, due to climate change. That’s the upshot of a new report from USC researchers. They say low-lying coastal neighborhoods like San Pedro, Wilmington and Venice are at highest risk of flooding. They predict storm surges that will overwhelm PCH from Topanga Canyon to Santa Monica. On a brighter note, the report says flooding can be controlled to some extent by maintaining the region’s wide, sandy beaches.