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The Nooner for Sunday, April 5, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
Hello again, hello. I just write to say hello. Well, maybe more than that. For those of you who think that all I do is watch the news and read the interwebs, I sat back and watched "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot" last night on Amazon Prime. It was great adolescent humor and was great medicine. The cameos including Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Fred Armisen, Rosario Dawson, and so many folks who have been in Kevin Smith's movies was a great trip down memory road.
This morning, I know many of you are sorrowfully observing Palm Sunday from your domiciles rather than church and that next weekend will break a generation of traditions even more. My thoughts are with you.
My thoughts are also with dozens of food, flower, and palm frond vendors who usually fill T Street about a block from me on this day during services that occur throughout the day at Our Lady of Guadalupe. While today and a few other times a year there is a surge of such vendors, it is the regulars who I'm most concerned about. It's the faces usually selling mangonadas, equiste/elote, tamales, hot dogs, mango-on-a-sticks, and other goodness. (The tacos and menudo that I write about likely too much in this space are sold by church volunteers.)
The individual vendors are often out from 8am until after 8pm, selling both to parishioners who come from throughout the region each Sunday and those of us who live in the neighborhood. I only know what one of about five I regularly buy from does during the week, and she works at the Amazon distribution facility near the airport. I don't know what the others do. Likely a combination of domestic and restaurant work. I don't ask for citizenship papers before I buy my mangonada on a warm Sacramento day or that bacon-wrapped hot link when a fall or spring chill calls for something spicier.
I know, I know... Why should we care about folks that may not be in the United States legally? Of course, we all know that they make our country work. They will not benefit from any of the governmental benefits, from unemployment insurance to the stimulus checks. I understand why, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't care. Most of us have had gardeners, housekeepers, or eaten in a restaurant where we didn't check the documentation of every person. While gardeners may still be out (I've heard the leaf blowers), as people stay at home, many housekeepers are losing their work -- for an unknown period of time.
I am familiar enough with the teachings of Jesus to inform me that while a gathering for Palm Sunday is not possible, it does provide a day for all of us from a variety of faiths to think about those among us in the shadows who may be hurting the most.
On a lighter subject, I am ruing past Sundays that I did not stock my freezer with tamales for a pandemic. Who woulda thunk?
"California is getting some recognition for all that we are doing, but we can do better." -- Gov. Gavin Newsom
TESTING: Yesterday's press conference by Governor Gavin Newsom was an update on what the state is doing to increase testing and the return of results therefrom in California. Governor Newsom said that 126,700 tests have been conducted, which Newsom said "sounds low to me." The backlog in results has been reduced and stands at 13,000, down from 59,100. Some results were taking up to 10 days, with 5-7 day waits common. Obviously, this created both uncertainty for those tested, but also took up healthcare resources as ERs had to decide whether to admit those with flu-like symptoms or send them home awaiting tests.
The tone from Governor Newsom was noticeable and echoed that heard from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Newsom said "It is on me" and "We can do better" whenever a shortcoming was mentioned. Of course, fingers easily could have been pointed elsewhere, but it was a strikingly different tone from elsewhere.
The governor also announced a new workgroup to make recommendations on the issues relating to testing, which is led by Dr. Charity Dean, Assistant Director of the California Department of Public Health and Dr. Paul Markovich, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California.
MONDAY'S PRESSER: The governor said that Monday's press conference will focus on the state's efforts to procure more hospital bed availability, ICU and otherwise.
PROPERTY TAX: With the looming April 10 property tax deadline, the California State Association of Counties has issued a statement that counties "will use all existing authority to cancel penalties and other charges for homeowners, small businesses, and other property owners that are unable to pay their property taxes due to circumstances caused by COVID‐19 on a case‐by‐case basis." In response to the CSAC announcement, Governor Newsom said "This is good news for Californians. I would like to thank the California State Association of Counties and the California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors for committing to providing economic relief for residents and small businesses facing hardships due to COVID-19."
On both sides of the equation of local governments and property owners who have both borrowed are loan covenants that automatically trigger if either revenue does not come in in the case of the former or tax is not paid in the case of the latter.
CHILD CARE: Yesterday, Governor Newsom signed an executive order to pave the way to prioritize state subsidized child care slots for essential workers.
PRO SPORTS: There was a sporting battle yesterday, but it wasn't on a field. At noon Eastern, President Trump held a conference call with the commissioners of the professional sports leagues around the country. In between that conference call and the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing (which is now quarterbacked by the President rather than Veep Pence), Governor Newsom held his 12pm press conference.
One of the reporters asking questions during Newsom's presser was Ron Brownstein of The Atlantic, who cited the call Trump had with the sports commissioners, and the expected push from the President to reopen professional sports as soon as possible. He asked for Governor Newsom's perspective.
Newsom responded "I don't anticipate that happening," referring to a quick return to pro sports. He went on to say that a lifting of gathering restrictions would be "based on the facts" and "based on what the experts have to say." Finally, to make it even clearer that the April 30 end of the current Stay at Home order and the limitations on gathering the preceded it likely does not apply to pro sports, even if Stay at Home is lifted, saying that pro sports are "not something I anticipate happening in the next few months."
The transcript of the President's comments yesterday at his presser are not yet available, but Bloomberg's Justin Sink reports "'We’re not going to have to have separation for the rest of our time on the planet,' Trump said. 'It would be great if we could' have stadiums full by August, he said."
That's technically consistent with Newsom's comments of "a few months," but many believe that's still optimistic. If the state's order is lifted, all eyes will be on Santa Clara County, which is the hardest hit in the state with 39 deaths and 1,148 confirmed cases. At the end of the day, it's the county health director's call whether or not fans can pack Levi's Stadium. Similarly, the hard-hit Los Angeles County houses the other two NFL teams, the Chargers and the Rams.
This morning on Meet the Press, Ashish Jha, M.D., MPH, director of the Harvard Institute of Global Health, said that he did not believe it would be wise to have any professional sports this year.
SKI RESORTS: As the spring storm moves through, snow is being dumped in the northern and central Sierra Nevadas which would be perfect in a normal year in the weekend preceding Passover and Easter. A check last night found all of the resorts from Mammoth north reporting snow, but of course they are all closed to the public. It's salt on the wound of an already poor ski season that was already leading to economic woes to the communities that support the industry. In a dry winter, one last gasp over the spring holiday week is something that dreams are made of in the resort towns.
This was the week scheduled for the Legislature's spring recess, and lots of people in the Capitol community have cabins or rent them dream of a weekend like this to wind down the ski season. Last month, the Lake Tahoe Visitor Authority took the unprecedented step to affirmatively tell visitors to stay away as lowlands folks sought refuge in the mountains.
Laney Griffo reported in the Tahoe Daily Tribune on March 19:
We prayed for snow in March, but as the miracle snow dumped, ski resorts closed. Diamond Peak, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Northstar and Kirkwood will not reopen this season and there is a good chance Heavenly and the rest are done too, meaning hundreds of seasonal workers are out of work sooner than expected.
Vail Resorts will be paying all of their employees through Sunday, March 22 and lodging employees will be paid through Tuesday, March 24.
Beyond the slopes, of course, are the casinos, which are shut throughout Nevada, making the Vegas strip and historic downtown ghost towns. Similarly, one place of refuge for skiers when the wind conditions close the slopes is gone. The Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel (formerly the Embassy Suites), a preferred location for California government-related conferences that like the location because it's next to the casinos but still on the California line, is closed for the month.
There are also the dozens of small inns and motels strewn along Highway 50 around the lake that are more financially vulnerable and likely unavailable to assist employees in the same way that the resorts and larger hotels have been.
DOMINOES: I noticed this morning that the Sacramento Buddhist Church's popular annual Bazaar in August has been canceled. The event draws throngs from all faiths to eat, watch performances, and play games. This raises the issue that, even if the Stay at Home orders are lifted in May or June, a lot of summer events will be canceled because the planning for such events can't take place.
While I haven't kept track, I've seen a few announcements of county fair cancelations. This starts to raise questions about the California State Fair, which is scheduled for July 17-August 2. The fair has been bleeding money amidst declining attendance. Dan Walters actually wrote about this back in February, in no relation to the COVID-19 crisis, but rather in the context of using at least a portion of the sprawling complex's land to address the state's housing crisis.
While the fair is supposed to be a showcase for California’s agricultural output, artistic talents and crafts, attendees are mostly drawn by the carnival and arrays of trailers serving deep-fried everything. It doesn’t generate enough money to pay for Cal Expo’s upkeep and its managers have been desperately seeking new revenue streams.
Last year’s version of Cal Expo’s annual financial audit contained this gloomy passage: “Cal Expo has suffered recurring losses from operations, has aging infrastructure which requires significant capital improvements and has stated that doubt exists about Cal Expo’s ability to continue operations into the future.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he wants vacant state-owned land to be made available for shelters to house the homeless. Cal Expo’s crisis is an opportunity for him to take that notion a bit further by offering its mostly unused property as a showcase of how streamlined housing regulation could work.
Selling off land for housing, even cheaply, would provide Cal Expo with much-needed money to reconfigure the fairgrounds for a smaller but more focused annual exposition of California’s bounty — a source of pride rather than of derision.
The same is true with many county fairs. I used to love/hate the Yolo County Fair when I was chair of the Yolo County Democratic Party. Rarely was it worth the headache of staffing the booth and putting it up and tearing it down, often something done very late at night with just a few of us, including my friend and predecessor chair former Assembly member Mariko Yamada.
Both the state and county fairs have highlights of student-submitted art that draw families to see kids' work hanging among others. Even if the events do occur, these student projects likely won't draw the families who also spend money at food vendors and amusements. It's a perfect storm for a financial disaster. People aren't going to want to congregate and even those who are willing to may not have their normal purpose for doing so.
While I am absolutely not calling for a cancellation of the state and county fairs, many of these events will be canceled this year. It may be a good time to look at the bottom line of the land set aside for their use and how often it is used. I did go to a fantastic crawfish festival at the Yolo Fairgrounds last summer, so I definitely am not calling for selling all land off. I'm just saying that we may have time to think about it.
THE HOLDOUTS: I had a long item for today on a Lodi church that was insisting on moving forward with services today but then I saw conflicting late reports about whether or not it was moving forward with services and didn't want to comment on it unless it was actually the case. I'll come back to it and the analysis under the First Amendment and strict scrutiny analysis of the applicability of government orders to stay at home and prohibiting gatherings on religious institutions.
However, in SoCal, Rob McCoy has resigned from the Thousand Oaks City Council in order to offer communion today at his Godspeak Calvary Church in defiance of Ventura County orders. I'll probably come back to the fascinating legal issues involved if there are attempts to actually enforce one of these cases.
If McCoy's name sounds familiar, he was the GOP general election candidate in 2014 for the open AD44, which is now served by Jacqui Irwin (D).
BALLOT UPDATE: With the deadline to count ballots extended to 4/24, there are 67,748 ballots remaining among eight counties.
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to David Graham-Caso!