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The Nooner for Wednesday, April 1, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
Happy Census Day! ...and happy day after the quarterly federal campaign finance deadline. It is safe to look at your email again.
On the Census, lots of temporary workers have been hired to do the door-to-door nonrespondents, but obviously can't do it as long as the "stay at home" order remains in effect.
The statewide return rather is 36% and this map shows the response rates thus far by county. My Census tract response is currently 30-40%, while Sacramento County is 50-56.
COVID-19: 8,699 California cases (+1,273 -- [+17.4%] from yesterday), 185 California deaths (+36 [+24.2%] from yesterday). Only 7 rural counties have reported no cases, but there are also fewer testing opportunities there.
- The "stay at home" order: Yesterday, there was increasing chatter among the feds that it's a growing chance that we're staying at home through June.
- The guv: Ben Christopher writes for CalMatters that Governor Gavin Newsom is not ready to go all rainbows and unicorns:
Some evidence now suggests that California’s early decision to adopt aggressive social distancing policies may be helping to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus compared to other key states. But the governor said it’s still too early for optimism.
In striking that cautious tone, Newsom is walking a rhetorical tightrope, one that conveys to Californians that our collective sacrifices are bearing fruit, while in no way intimating that it’s time to stop sheltering in place or compulsively washing our hands.
Governor Newsom's video updates, this week generally daily at noon, are available here. It looks like he'll be doing an interview with CNN at 1pm PDT.
- The toll: The LAT Times team looks at the toll taken on Californians, both those infected and those affected by social distancing.
While there are some early signs that the extreme social distancing rules across the state might be helping, officials said they will probably have to be in place for weeks to come, which will continue to take a devastating toll on the economy.
Across California, there were signs of how COVID-19 was upending life.
As cases continue to rise, six Bay Area jurisdictions announced Tuesday that they would extend their stay-at-home orders through the beginning of May and put new restrictions on such things as residential construction projects and the number of people who can attend funerals.
The counties extending the order are San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin.
Dr. Sara Cody, the Santa Clara County public health officer, said the Bay Area’s strict stay-at-home order was working, but it needs more time.
“I want to say that: The incredible sacrifice that everyone has made, I believe it is starting to bend the curve. But it’s not enough and it hasn’t been in place long enough, so we need to keep at it, we just need to keep at it,” Cody said at a briefing. “I believe it’s beginning to make a difference, and it’s giving our hospitals more time.”
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said Los Angeles may also extend its stay-at-home order.
- Unemployment: The Bee's Sophia Bollag writes that Gavin Newsom said yesterday that 1.6 million initial claims for unemployment have been filed. That is 8.2% of the state's workforce.
California’s steeply climbing unemployment numbers reflect an economy brought to a standstill by the state’s stay-at-home orders that have confined many to their homes and forced businesses deemed nonessential, such as bars, hair salons and movie theaters, to close.
Early numbers indicate California may successfully be slowing its rate of infection, but Newsom said its too early to discuss lifting stay-at-home rules. His administration still predicts the state will need 50,000 more hospital beds on top of the 75,000 that the hospital system already had before COVID-19 began, with a peak anticipated around mid-May.
“Success is defined by buying us time to prepare” Newsom said of the social distancing measures.
- Rent: On this rent and mortgage day for many, it's a scary time for all. Renters in most California cities have a two-month reprieve, which is also what's been provided for FHA-backed mortgages. However, the scary thing is the day when the reprieves are over and everybody has the equivalent of a balloon payment that they won't have the resources to pay.
- PG&E: Dale Kasler writes in the Bee that COVID-19 increases the challenge of selling the victims of the wildfires that the agreement reached by their lawyers is fair. The agreement is a key component for their bankruptcy exit.
PG&E just finished securing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s blessings for its bankruptcy plan, agreeing to overhaul its leadership and beef up its safety personnel. Newsom, who rejected an earlier offer and had spent months blasting the company, said the agreement represents “the end of business as usual for PG&E.”
California’s largest utility now faces a potentially tougher audience: the estimated 80,000 Northern Californians who lost homes, businesses and loved ones to massive wildfires linked to PG&E’s equipment.
A compromise negotiated by PG&E and lawyers representing most of the victims, the bankruptcy plan would pay $13.5 billion for damages not covered by insurance. The money would go to victims of the 2015 Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties, the 2017 wine-country fires, the 2018 Camp Fire and the deadly 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.
The victims will vote on PG&E’s plan in the coming weeks, and their decision could go a long way toward determining whether the troubled utility can meet a state-mandated June 30 deadline for having its bankruptcy plan approved.
- Schools: For EdSource, Louis Freedberg and John Fensterwald write that yesterday Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is recommending that California schools plan to provide distance learning for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.
“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing, it appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year,” Thurmond wrote in a letter sent to the state’s 58 county superintendents of schools on Tuesday morning.
- Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) said on Fox News yesterday that closing schools is "overkill."
- Higher Ed: For CalMatters, Vanessa Arredondo looks at the debate in higher education how to give out grades given a unique spring semester/quarter.
Stressed out from transitioning to online classes while sheltering in place, college and university students across California are pushing for schools to adopt flexible grading policies that account for the disruption to their school year. Some colleges have responded by giving students the option to take courses on a pass/fail basis. As students come back from spring break or begin new quarters, others are still grappling with how to assess their performance at a time that’s anything but normal.
While pass/fail grading could help students struggling to adapt to remote learning, letter grades are sometimes necessary for those who want to apply to graduate school or maintain scholarships.
Additionally, the University of California has suspended the letter grade and SAT requirements for Fall 2021 admissions, reports the Chron.
- Prisons: Paige St. Johns reports for the Times that the state is planning to provide early release of 3,500 prisoners to reduce the likelihood the contagion takes over the prisons.
- The SF impact: Dominic Fricassa reports for the Chron that the impact on the budget of City and County of San Francisco could be "'1.1 billion to $1.7 billion over the next two fiscal years, city officials said Tuesday."
The grim projections, released by Mayor London Breed and City Controller Ben Rosenfield, accompanied an announcement that San Francisco’s budget-setting process would be delayed for two months to buy the city’s financial experts time to readjust their spending plans in light of stark revenue losses.
In December, the projected budget shortfall over the next two fiscal years was pegged at around $420 million. That gap between the city’s spending plans and available revenue has roughly quadrupled. Last year’s budget, the largest in the city’s history, was $12.3 billion.
- Stockton: For McClatchy, David Lightman looks at the Stockton experience with a universal basis income pilot and whether the federal stimulus checks will make a measurable difference in the region's economy.
And while Stockton recipients and program officials welcome the new federal payment, they don’t see it doing the job they’re aiming to do.
“I don’t think it will work,” said Stacia Martin-West, an assistant professor at the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee who is studying the Stockton program.
The problem with the one-time-only payment is one that experts around the country have lamented for years: It helps people pay bills for a brief period of time, but does not ease their longer-term economic problems.
“$1,200 is great. But it’s only for a month,” said Sukhi Samra, director of Stockton’s Economic Empowerment Demonstration program.
Independent analysts had similar views. “I wouldn’t say it doesn’t do anything, but the idea of having something to rely on does make a difference,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a research group.
- Fresno: For CalMatters, Manuela Tobias writes that the doctor shortage in Fresno County has reduced the number of available beds by 100 during the crisis.
Fresno County has to give away 100 emergency field hospital beds intended to treat coronavirus patients because the Valley’s long-standing shortage of doctors means there aren’t enough medical professionals to monitor the patients.
About 250 beds will be delivered to the county after state officials on Wednesday green light its proposed field hospital location for handling coronavirus patients. But due to a lack of physicians, the county plans to give away 50 other beds to an unspecified Northern California county and another 50 to an unspecified southern county, according to EMS coordinator Dan Lynch.
The new emergency beds are regional assets, originally destined to serve the seven-county San Joaquin Valley.
- Recovery while at home: In the Chron, Sam Whiting reports on the challenge people in recovery are having when the familiar group meetings are forbidden.
Like much of life during these unprecedented times of social distancing, 12-step meetings have gone online in an effort to comfort those in recovery, made worse for some by the upheaval of the coronavirus.
On a normal weekday, there are 100 or more Alcoholics Anonymous meetings from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. at some 50 locations in San Francisco and Marin, according to its online meeting locator guide. The Dry Dock, by comparison, hosted 15 meetings a day at one location, 2118 Greenwich St.
At AA, all meeting groups are autonomous and run by their attendees. Some have put them on the internet through Zoom video conferencing, Facebook Live, Skype and Google Hangout. One day last week, a 7 a.m. meeting conducted via Zoom from Marin County was attended by a person in Scotland, laying that indecipherable brogue onto a testimonial.
The High Noon meeting, which normally draws 50 or 60 people to a church in the Mission District, had 120 people represented by little video boxes on the screen.
At least the smoke isn't wafting in the door as people take their habit outside, as in just outside, the door.
And Reverend Matt is still doing online Dharma messages while the Sacramento Buddhist Church is closed.
more after the jump...
THE LEGISLATURE: Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom said that he has talked to legislative leaders and is prepared to extend deadlines for legislative action. Let's look at upcoming legislative deadlines through June 30:
The one deadline that is relevant for gubernatorial action is August 31, the last day of the session. Article IV, Sect. 10(c). "No bill may be passed by either house on or after September 1 of an even-numbered year except statutes calling elections, statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for the usual current expenses of the State, and urgency statutes, and bills passed after being vetoed by the Governor."
However, the Legislature could work after August 31 on bills that basically are urgency (2/3), appropriations for the usual current expenses (2/3), tax levies (2/3). The constitutional deadline for the end of session is November 30. So, a special session is not really required to be called by the governor and the new session begins December 7, 2020. While work in December is usually pro-forma for adoption of rules and election of officers, there's no requirement that they not work between December 7 and the usual post-New Year return that falls on January 4, 2021.
If a new bill is introduced in a regular session, the 31 days in print rull can be dispensed with on a three-fourths vote. (Article IV, Section 8) From what I can tell and remember, there is no 31 days in print rule for special sessions, as constitutional provision states "At regular sessions no bill other than the budget bill may be heard or acted on by committee or either house until the 31st day after the bill is introduced unless the house dispenses with this requirement by rollcall vote entered in the journal, three fourths of the membership concurring."
BALLOT UPDATE: We're getting closer...today was the original deadline for counties to report election results to the state. Because of COVID-19, the deadline has been postpone to 4/21. Additional ballots were reported yesterday in Merced, Riverside, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Yuba.
BALLOT MEASURES: The hard, can't be waived, constitutional deadline for initiatives is 131 days for the Secretary of State to certify it. (Art. II, Sec. 8(c)) That date is June 25. However, the counties have to tabulate signatures by May 1, although that date CAN be changed as it's not in the Constitution.
The only ballot measure to qualify is the referendum to change money bail to risk assessment. (SB 10) Three others are eligible based on signatures: repeal of criminal justice reforms, split roll 2018, and expansion of rent control. Those are being held for negotiations with the Legislature and a modified split roll measure is currently in circulation.
There are 22 other measures in circulation. Of these, 8 have reached the 25% signature threshold when they must update their status. It's pretty clear that the 14 that have not reached 25% have no chance. Of those that have, the stem cell bond effort has reportedly ended its signature campaign.
The other 7 reaching 25% include:
I haven't totaled up the money spent but it's big. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the word was that some groups were paying $5-6 dollars on the street.
It's too early to say that all of these are dead, as some have June-July deadlines (MICRA, plastics, sports-wagering) when life may have returned to normal. But, no amount of money per signature can collect signatures in this environment. Even those who are shopping are running in and out and avoiding contact with anyone. MICRA will likely not make it, as it has an June 1 deadline. The others might get enough signatures depending on when "stay at home" is lifted but, if qualified, are looking at 2022.
Split roll 2020 is likely dead as its deadline is in two weeks. That raises the question whether they move forward the previously qualified 2018 measure, although 2020 changes moved off some opposition. Further the words "tax" or "bond" now likely won't be strong in November.
Beyond the disappointment of sponsoring groups, huge consulting and ad buys are mostly off the table for 2020 because our world unpredictably changed in two months.
IN OTHER NEWS: Kevin Ryder, the former morning co-host at KROQ opens up about getting canned after 30 years, writes Kelly Frye Fadroski for the Register. It's an end of the era for SoCal, although I was more of a Mark & Brian on KLOS fan.
“I’m trying my best, but sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the fact that I had a bizarrely entertaining, crazy ride doing a morning show in Los Angeles for over 30 years,” he said. “That’s unheard of, and I’m trying desperately to keep my focus there.”
Ryder, along with most of the Kevin in the Morning with Allie & Jensen show crew, were abruptly let go after the show aired on March 17. When the station allowed Ryder the chance to say goodbye the following morning, he thanked listeners and the talent he’d worked alongside for more than 30 years, including his co-hosts Allie Mac Kay, Jensen Karp and Gene “Bean” Baxter. Ryder also got in a few jabs at his previous employers, calling the unexpected “firing” in the thick of the global coronavirus pandemic “heartless.”
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY AND CLASSIFIEDS: Happy birthday to Hilary Hodge, Justin Fanslau, Debby Marroquin, Leslie Smith, and Rick Wathen! Yes, I listed Rick yesterday. The new Facebook layout has made looking ahead at birthdays.