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The Nooner for Thursday, April 2, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
Happy Thursday! I hope you're all hanging in there. I know these are long days and we have much on our minds, such as when we will be able to get a haircut again. I was scheduled to literally the day before the statewide "Stay at Home" order, but after the Bay Area county orders. Of course, it was canceled, and I don't blame Iverson's Barber Shop. That's definitely a high risk, yet unnecessary service. And, since I write words for a living and am not seeing any human these days, it doesn't really matter in the global picture.
That said, I'm fine and have been cooking, one of my favorite things to do to get away from the news. It's 3:30 right now, but my goal this afternoon is to haul three huge bags of potting soil up my stairs to my balcony. When you see the special price on soil, make sure you look for the weight of the bag before ordering. I have one on the stoop in my stairwell and two still in the box on my porch. They arrived while I was in Mexico City in February. Anyway, I can use the workout and I look forward to setting up my second large planter and get these seeds that have been sitting on my desk since January into the dirt. Right now, I still have plenty of kale and salad greens, but I could use a lot more.
Anyway, I'm fine and I appreciate those of you who check in to see how I'm holding up. I've been doing the same with friends and family, including phone calls with my parents several times a week.
I heard something yesterday, we shouldn't call it "social distancing" but rather "physical distancing," as for many of us, this situation has forced us to be more social than in a long time.
When I was lying in bed before crawling out from under the covers, I was listening to "The Axe Files," the podcast (and TV show) hosted by David Alexrod. His latest episode is with CNN's chief medical officer, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. You are probably query why I would want to listen to Gupta after seeing in morning news and night. When I started listening, I wasn't sure I wanted to myself.
I knew he was a child prodigy who was admitted to a combination undergraduate and medical school program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. That was about the extent of my knowledge of the doc neurosurgeon we have come to know quite well. He told Axe the story of how his parents -- both Indian immigrants -- met. I won't share it all because it's worth a listen (pretty early in the episode). Anyway, both parents were engineers and his mother was the first female engineer at Ford Motor Company, getting a job she dreamed of since a child in India.
Just amazing and if you have time on your hands, the program is worth a visit to your ears. I've only listened to the first 21 minutes of the hour-long program, saving the rest for when I'm hopefully playing in soil this afternoon.
Another great listen is yesterday's Chuck "Toddcast" with his guest, ABC Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl. Karl has a new book out "Front Row at the Trump Show" that I look forward to reading. On the pod, he talks about first starting covering Trump in 1994 while a junior reporter at the NY Post. The title of the book sounds like it's Trump-bashing, but that's not how it came across on the pod. It's just different. Karl is also the current president of the White House Correspondence Association, a position that required him to work out with the media members who gets seats and who doesn't in this period of physical distancing. It rotates at each briefing--3 of the 5 networks (ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN/FOX) get a seat on a rotating basis. (MSNBC is considered part of NBC). It was a wild listen.
COVID-19: 9,944 California cases (+1,245 -- [+14.3%] from yesterday), 213 California deaths (+28 [+15.1%] from yesterday). Only 8 rural counties have reported no cases, but there are also fewer testing opportunities there. [SFChron]
- Overview: In the LAT, the team reports on efforts to enforce "stay at home" and the state's preparation for the forthcoming apex:
Coronavirus cases across California barreled toward 10,000 Wednesday — with the death toll topping 200 — as officials desperately tried to keep unprecedented social distancing orders enforced while also trying to get more supplies to hospitals as patient numbers surged.
The rapid spread of the virus brought new concerns about whether the state’s healthcare system could handle the flow of patients. Many California hospitals are grappling with shortages of supplies while rushing to prepare for what is expected to be a deluge of patients in the coming weeks.
As bad as the numbers are, health officials warned it could get much worse if Californians don’t adhere to the stay-at-home orders, which now could last well into May.
California faces 5,000 coronavirus deaths a week if the state’s stay-at-home policies are relaxed too early, according to one Bay Area health officer.
- The guv: Gavin Newsom gets the number two spot behind Ohio governor Mike DeWine in top 5/bottom 5 rankings of response by governors to the pandemic by Politico's Bill Scher. The "headline" of the rankings is that NY governor Andrew Cuomo is on doesn't make the top 5, even though he has been the most visible with news organizations with large NY-based bureaus. Scher explains:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has received the lion’s share of attention, as his informative and emotive press conferences have made him an overnight national political star, albeit halfway through his third term. But his record in responding to the crisis is more complicated than the sheen lets on: his coronavirus containment policies were not the most aggressive in the country, and did not prevent catastrophe. He hesitated to close all schools statewide even as other states began to do so, and resisted a statewide stay-at-home order for a few days before relenting.
I was initially shocked the Cuomo didn't make the top 5, but it is true that while he was on TV a lot, he was slow to making statewide orders. In contrast, Newsom quickly issued the first statewide "Stay at Home" order after more than a dozen counties issued orders of their own. While the original 6 Bay Area counties adopted a common order drafted by Santa Clara County Health with the assistance of county counsel, there started to be confusing rules among local jurisdictions. For example, as I've written before, my sister is the HR exec for a thirteen-restaurant group with spots in Ventura, Los Angeles, and Orange counties, each with their own rules.
Governor Newsom's statewide order provides minimum guidelines, while local jurisdictions can exceed, but not fall below, the state.
- The "curve": On this page, you can see the oft-talked about curve for the U.S. and each state and resources needed to meet the apex. For California, the apex date is forecasted for April 26.
- The financial impact: We'll see how this morning's initial unemployment claims of 6.648 million (beyond Wall Street's projections, including 10% higher than high forecast of 6 million by Goldman Sachs) added to last week's record 3.3 million for a total of nearly 10 million shakes out.
Bloomberg looks at the impact on state and city governments:
New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, is projected to lose between $10 billion and $15 billion of revenue in the fiscal year that starts Wednesday. Ohio state agencies are looking to cut 20% in spending, and Cincinnati is furloughing 1,700 city workers. Georgia may have to renege on a $1,000 pay raise for teachers that state House lawmakers had budgeted for in the coming year. California is already dipping into reserves and has warned state agencies not to expect full funding next year.
States, cities and counties rely on revenue from taxes on income, sales of goods and even on gains from the stock market -- all sources of money that the virus threatens to wipe out as the U.S. is poised for a recession. Despite the unprecedented federal stimulus package that includes $150 billion for states and municipalities, officials like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio say more help is needed to make up the funds that local governments are losing, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for “significantly more” aid for states.
- Tourism: In the Chron, Gregory Thomas reports that California could lose a daunting $54 billion in tourism revenue in 2020 because of the COVID-19 shutdowns.
California will lose $10.9 billion in travel revenue and 554,000 jobs in April alone, according to new projections from Visit California, the state’s tourism bureau.
By the end of 2020, the state could lose a total of $54.5 billion in travel spending.
The rapidly expanding coronavirus pandemic has effectively frozen the transportation and hospitality businesses, leading to the closures of hotels, small businesses and parks around the state in March.
“This erases more than a decade’s worth of progress and will return California to 2009 levels of travel spending,” according to an analysis overview posted to Visit California’s website on April 1.
- The blame game: For Capitol Weekly, Scott Soriano writes that because the apparent origin of the virus in Wuhan, China, which has been widely reported, the result has been racial attacks against Asian-Americans.
One of the least-talked-about symptoms of the COVID-19 pandemic is the rise in anti-Asian discrimination, harassment and violence. While there has been abundant anecdotal evidence of this phenomenon, only recently has anyone tried to quantify the bigotry. Two California-based groups and a professor from San Francisco State University are taking a lead on the issue.
My attitude is that if COVID-19 is going to be called the "Chinese virus," then the thousands of ventilators being shipped to fill orders from GE and Philips need to be called "Chinese ventilators."
Meanwhile, we have this story from the Dallas Morning News: "FBI says Texas stabbing that targeted Asian-American family was hate crime fueled by coronavirus fears: Two children, ages 2 and 6, were among the victims attacked at a Sam’s Club in Midland."
While a stabbing spree at a Sam's club by a deranged 19-year-old with false pretense is unfortunately shocking, the fact that it was in Midland, Texas right after oil prices crashed because of the war over production between Saudi Arabia is also not shocking. The entire economy of Midland is tied to oil and gas production and the fight on the other side of the world directly affects job prospects as production around $20 a barrel doesn't always support US extraction costs.
- LA-LA Land: Well, while we're on the topic of contagion insanity that we thought was only a feature of movies and The Walking Dead, a train engineer sped the train he was piloting off the tracks on Tuesday to target the hospital ship USNS Mercy. Richard Winton and Matt Hamilton report for the Times:
Prosecutors allege that during an interview he admitted he ran the train beyond the track because he believed the Mercy was part of suspicious activities involving the coronavirus.
“Sometimes you just get a little snap and man, it was fricking exciting . . . I just had it and I was committed. I just went for it, I had one chance,” Moreno said when interviewed by authorities.
According to the affidavit, he said he thought his act would bring media attention and “people could see for themselves,” referring to the Mercy.
The Mercy and its sister ship Comfort at port in NYC are there to accept patients who are not COVID-19 positive from hospitals to make room for those patients who are. Reportedly, the ships are not equipped to handle to the quantity of patients needing isolation for COVID-19, but have operating rooms and can accommodate most other hospital admits.
- Form 700s: Due to interruptions caused by COVID-19, the Fair Political Practices Commission has delayed the filing deadline for financial disclosures for elected and officers who are required to follow until June 1, a two-month delay.
CA'S STOCKPILE: Joel Fox looks at whether the allegations that the state would have been better prepared for COVID-19 had Gov. Jerry Brown not slashed funding for the emergency services stock pile when he took an axe to the state budget to fix a perennial budget deficit.
Should Gov. Jerry Brown be blamed for the lack of California medical supplies? Hindsight is an unsympathetic observer. It often measures past events by current circumstances. Brown’s decision of not continuing the funding of the state’s built-up medical supply reserves at the time he was facing a huge budget deficit is understandable—but an opportunity to replenish later was ignored.
With a dramatic increase in state revenue, Brown didn’t take the opportunity to replenish the backup medical supplies. Even worse, instead of building back the medical supplies ready for an emergency, the governor used his influence to find funding for the still useless high-speed rail project. That money would be better spent—and would still be better spent today– re-establishing the medical backup plan that Schwarzenegger envisioned.
Of course, the other side of this is that largely because of Brown, the state's in a strong cash position to handle this, at least in the short-term. From a Newsom press release yesterday:
At the Governor’s direction, on March 25, 2020, the Department of Finance transferred $1.3 billion from the Special Fund for Economic Uncertainties, the state’s traditional budget reserve, into the DREOA subaccount in preparation to pay for costs associated with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this transfer and the $99 million available balance, a total of $1.4 billion is now available in DREOA.
IMMIGRATION: The AP reports that the California Supreme Court has declined to review an appeal by the City of Huntington Beach that argued that charter cities don't have to comply with 2017 state law prohibiting local law enforcement agencies from collaborating with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“This is tragic for the rule of law and for local control efforts,” Huntington Beach City Atty. Michael E. Gates said in an email. “Now the lower court ruling stands, which opens the floodgates for the state to legislate and control every aspect of local governance.”
The Orange County city of 200,000 people sued claiming that California’s so-called immigrant sanctuary law, the 2017 California Values Act, interfered with its authority to enforce local laws and regulations.
SPLIT ROLL: The "Schools and Communities First" (split roll property tax change for most commercial/industrial property) campaign reports submitting 1.7 million signatures to qualify for the November ballot. They need 997,139, so the measure will almost certainly be on the very unpredictable November California ballot.
And no, it will not be "Proposition 13." November begins with Proposition 14. Here is the ordering in the Elections Code:
Elections Code §13115. The order in which all state measures that are to be submitted to the voters shall appear on the ballot is as follows:
(a) Bond measures, including those proposed by initiative, in the order in which they qualify.
The measure sponsored by the California Association of Realtors to allow seniors to transfer their property tax assessed value to a new "replacement" home looks to almost certainly qualify. It is a constitutional amendment. Thus, if no legislatively placed measures are submitted, it would be Proposition 14. The others in the pipeline are statutory, so assuming no legislatively placed measures are submitted, the split roll would be Proposition 15.
Again, don't count on those numbers until they come from the Secretary of State. I'm just using this opportunity to explain how the ordering works.
Under Elections Code §13117, ballot measure numbers reset to "1" every ten years and the next time that will happen is 2028 -- November 2018 had 1-12.
After the failure of the school bond in March that was labeled "Proposition 13," AB 2088 (O'Donnell and Obernolte) is a gut-and-amend bill and has bipartisan authorship. It would remove the 13 from the sequence used in ballot numbering. No action has been taken on the bill yet, but there is no urgency since it wouldn't be used again until 2028 at the earliest.
BALLOT UPDATE: Additional ballots were reported yesterday in Imperial, Modoc, San Bernardino, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Sierra. The delayed deadline for counties to report is 4/21.
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Assembly member David Chiu, Senator Bill Monning, and Jerry Seedborg!