Nancy O’Dell to lead Hollywood Christmas Parade

HOLLYWOOD — Entertainment journalist Nancy O’Dell of Entertainment Tonight will be grand marshal of the 87th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, organizers announced Oct. 8.

The parade, which is described as the largest Christmas celebration in America, will take place in Hollywood at 5 p.m. Nov. 25, presented and produced by Associated Television International in association with the city of Los Angeles, according to news release issued by organizers.

The Christmas Parade will be the subject of a two-hour special on The CW Network Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. The telecast will be hosted by Erik Estrada, Laura McKenzie, Dean Cain and Montel Williams, with special co-hosts Elizabeth Stanton and Garrett Clayton, the news release said. It will also air to more than 1 million American servicemen and women worldwide on American Forces Network.

The event will include live musical performances on two stages. An annual Hollywood tradition, the parade attracts more than 1 million fans each year and features large character balloons and celebrity-filled cars over the 3-mile parade route.

“Emmy Award-winning journalist Nancy O’Dell has proven to be a force in all areas of her career as a host, author, producer and entrepreneur,” the news release said. “One of the country’s most respected and leading entertainment journalists, O’Dell is co-host of the most-watched entertainment news program in the world, three-time Emmy Award-winning Entertainment Tonight.”

With more than 20 years of experience, O’Dell also contributes to “CBS This Morning” and is a go-to anchor for live TV specials. She was a special presenter on the Academy of Country Music Awards, as well as a host of the American Country Music Awards. She hosted the 2016 Grammy Red Carpet Live Special on CBS, as well as the live Emmys, Golden Globes and Critics Choice Red Carpet Special for several years.

O’Dell is also best-selling author of the novel “Full of Love: Mom-to-Mom Advice for Enriching Families with Simple Photo Albums and Scrapbooking.” She has also launched her own photo album line titled The Nancy O’Dell Collection.

The latest books by O’Dell are “Secret Ingredients: Step-by-Step Recipes for Creating Meaningful Gifts” and “Here’s To Fabulous You,” which won the Addy Award.

O’Dell has been honored with three Emmy Awards, three Associated Press Awards and two Society of Professional Journalists Awards and has been nominated for several additional Emmys. In 2012, she was honored in New York Moves Magazine: Power Women issue, as one of the most influential and successful women in her field. The Alliance for Women in Media honored O’Dell in 2013 with the Genii Award for Excellence in Television. Also in 2013, O’Dell was asked to host the National Association of Broadcasters Luncheon.

After the death of her mother in 2008 from complications related to ALS, O’Dell became a national vice president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and serves as the spokesperson for In August 2009, O’Dell and her family formed a foundation in her mother’s name called Betty’s Battle: Fighting ALS.

In 2002, O’Dell was inducted into the American Red Cross’s National Celebrity Cabinet and remains in that position today. She also serves as an international board member for Best Buddies, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

A native of South Carolina, O’Dell, now 52, is a summa cum laude graduate of Clemson University, finishing in the top 2 percent of her class.

She began her broadcasting career as a reporter and anchor at WPDE-TV in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and later worked as a morning news anchor and crime reporter at WCBD-TV in Charleston, South Carolina. Before joining Access Hollywood, O’Dell was the evening co-anchor and investigative reporter in Miami for NBC’s WTVJ-TV.

In May 2013, during spring commencement ceremonies, Clemson University awarded O’Dell with an honorary doctor of humanities degree.


Council votes to explore tram to Hollywood sign

LOS ANGELES — With traffic congestion and safety issues worsening in recent years around the Hollywood sign, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Oct. 3 to move forward on exploring an aerial tram, visitor center and various other changes to the area.

“For far too long, our city has gone without a comprehensive plan to address safety, access and mobility around the Hollywood sign and Griffith Park,” City Councilman David Ryu said. “That changes today.”

Dixon Resources Unlimited, a transportation consulting firm, was hired by the city to conduct a comprehensive analysis on how to enhance the visitor experience at the sign and address problems created in surrounding neighborhoods by the thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year, many aided by traffic and ride-hailing mobile apps.

A joint report from the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst and the Department of Recreation of Parks examined the 29 recommendations made by Dixon and found that 20 are feasible, seven others require further study, and two — including a second Hollywood sign — were not feasible.

The council’s vote instructs city departments to take first steps on 19 of the 29 strategies proposed in the Dixon report, including installing new sidewalks, implementing specific ride-hailing zones and traffic calming measures, and creating safer access studies. The city also will study the feasibility of an electric shuttle bus route, visitor center and aerial tram.

“The Hollywood sign is the icon of our city,” Ryu said. “And the resources it has for safety and access should reflect that. We cannot stand by as visitors continue to struggle with access to this world-renowned icon, and neighbors continue to suffer the impacts of lost tourists. We can and we must take action that prioritizes both public safety and park access.”

In 2017, a lawsuit filed by the operator of Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables, which provides horseback rides in Griffith Park, complained that the city was funneling hikers onto its “exclusive easement road.”

In February 2017, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that hikers could not be barred from using the easement area. However, the judge also concluded that the city had channeled thousands of pedestrians toward the ranch every month, blocking access to the property.

The next month, the city agreed to spend $100,000 on a traffic study in and around Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign.

In April, the city announced it would permanently close the Beachwood Drive gate to the Hollyridge Trail to obey the court order issued in February.

But a motion filed in Los Angeles Superior Court May 1 by Friends of Griffith Park, the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust and the Los Feliz Oaks Homeowners Association claimed that the city’s action directly contradicted the judge’s ruling.

“A basic right of Angelenos is access to its public parks. Any access threatened by special interest groups to Griffith Park land is a violation of Colonel Griffith’s declaration that the park be free and open to all,” said Clare Darden, a trustee for the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust.

Teachers’ union accuses superintendent of lavish spending

LOS ANGELES — As state mediation efforts continued in hopes of resolving a labor-talk stalemate between the Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers’ union, the union accused Superintendent Austin Beutner of holding a lavish series of meetings with charter-school advocates.

Citing information taken from Beutner’s official district calendar, obtained following a public records request and lawsuit, United Teachers Los Angeles officials noted that over a four-month period, the superintendent held meetings at restaurants including Pacific Dining Car, the members-only California Club, the Hilton Checkers and the Bel-Air Bay Club in Pacific Palisades.

Union officials said Beutner’s calendar revealed 34 meetings at restaurants during the four-month period, compared to 29 visits to school campuses.

Beutner “must explain to the public why he was at these expensive restaurants and clubs during school hours,” teacher Victoria Casas said Oct. 3 at a news conference at UTLA headquarters.

She also questioned whether district credit cards were used to pay for meals.

Union officials also said Beutner’s calendar showed he met with a variety of charter school supporters, including the president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, the heads of charter-school management companies and prominent charter backers including Eli Broad.

As part of the ongoing labor negotiations, UTLA officials are calling for increased accountability measures for charter schools. They have also been critical of school board members for what they see as a movement toward charters and away from traditional schools.

The district did not respond to the union’s criticism of Beutner. Following labor talks, the district issued a statement saying only that another mediation session is set for Oct. 12.

“L.A. Unified remains committed to resolving the issues through the mediation process,” according to the district’s statement, echoing the comment it issued after last week’s mediation session.

The union’s statements escalated its criticism of Beutner, an investment banker and former Los Angeles deputy mayor who took over as LAUSD superintendent in May amid criticism of his lack of experience in education. Following the first mediation session last month, the union sent a letter to the district accusing Beutner of spreading “disinformation” about the labor talks and calling on the district to “reinvest in our schools.”

Last week, the district updated its contract offer to UTLA, with Beutner saying the proposal includes a 6 percent pay raise over two years and class-size reductions at 15 middle schools and 75 elementary schools determined to have the “highest need.”

“The offer shows our commitment to helping students most in need,” Beutner said. “Our offer creates a pathway for L.A. Unified and UTLA to avoid a strike that would hurt L.A.’s most vulnerable students and families.”

UTLA, however, called the proposal “insulting” and a “stunning example of disrespect” to its 33,000 members.

“Beutner’s proposal does nothing to make our schools better,” said Arlene Inouye, chair of the union’s bargaining team. “This is an insult to our members, to our students and to our parents. This stunt reveals he is more interested in fighting against educators at any cost than saving our school district.”

The district’s proposal includes a 3 percent pay raise retroactive for the 2017-18 school year, and another 3 percent for 2018-19. The second increase is contingent on the district’s financial picture, noting the raise will take effect “if the board’s spring 2019 second interim financial report shows positive projected ending balances for 2018-19 and 2019-20.”

According to the district, the proposal also includes the chance for teachers to earn extra pay for taking science, technology, engineering, math or dual-language instruction courses.

Union officials said the district’s offer regarding class-size reductions means no improvements for 90 percent of campuses, and the district would still have the ability to increase class sizes at any time. The proposal would also make it “more difficult to quality for secure health care in retirement,” according to the union.

The union is asking for a 6.5 percent pay increase retroactive to July 1, 2016, along with provisions for class-size reductions, accountability measures for charter schools and limits on standardized testing, among other provisions.

District officials said the union’s salary proposal would increase the LAUSD’s existing $500 million deficit in the current school year by another $813 million. But the union says the district can easily afford more investments in salaries and classrooms, pointing to a recent audit indicating the district has nearly $1.9 billion in reserve funds.

The district contends its reserve funds are already being used to cover budget shortfalls, which are expected to continue over the next three years — a claim also strongly disputed by the union.

UTLA’s members have already overwhelmingly authorized a strike, but that possibility will remain on hold pending the mediation sessions and a subsequent fact-finding period if the mediation effort fails.


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