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- Then There's California (Senate Democratic Caucus): Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), who makes a return to the Legislature (2021-02-24)
- Capitol Weekly Podcast (John Howard and Tim Foster): GOP political consultant Rob Stutzman (2021-02-22)
- Political Breakdown (Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos @ KQED): Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) on His Family's Internment History and His Agenda for Military Veterans (2021-02-18)
- Capitol Weekly Podcast (John Howard and Tim Foster): Daniel Zingale on his career in California politics. (2021-02-14)
- Inside Golden State Politics (Bill Boyarsky and Sherry Jeffe): We examine the media's continuing obsession with Donald Trump. And we dig into the current buzz around California politics. (2021-02-18)
- Inside Golden State Politics (Bill Boyarsky and Sherry Jeffe): We examine the impact of the Trump impeachment trial on the country. We wonder if die-hard Republican senators will turn against the president. And we look at how Trump's behavior is impacting two California Republican members of Congress. (2021-02-12)
- Then There's California (Senate Democratic Caucus): Senator Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) on the details of the COVID 19 vaccine and equitable distribution of the vaccine and fighting the disinformation from vaccine deniers (2021-02-08)
- AD64 (Carson): added public school teacher Fatima S. Iqbal-Zubair (D) - challenge to Asm. Mike Gipson (D)
- SD30 (Downtown LA-Culver City-South LA): Keep California Golden reports $71,901 for mail in support of Sydney Kamlager (D) (Cumulative: $201,604)
The Nooner for Wednesday, February 24, 2021, presented by SYASL Partners
-tiers for fears: major changes yesterday
-Sac region restaurants
- Do you recall?
- Too much dough?
- Water woes
- Net neutrality
- Law and disorder
- Policing reform
- Cakeday, farewell, and classifieds
Happy humpday! Another beautiful day in Sacramento, although the wind is starting to pick up and is reportedly going to be crazy this afternoon.
Yesterday, I sat down with Chris Micheli for a Nooner Conversation to chat about the legislative session this year and what we might expect. I was hoping to get it in to today's Nooner, but I'll send out a separate message later, as I have a bit more editing to do with the file.
on to the news after the jump...
COVID-19: California added 342 deaths yesterday for a total of 49,880 since the pandemic began. The 14-day rolling average of daily deaths on 2/22 was 363.3, down from a peak of 533 on 2/3. The 14--day testing positivity rate is down to 3.3% from a peak of 14.0% on 1/8 (during the period of more than 2,000 tests). While the numbers all look remarkably good, each metric is essentially back to the first week of November. [state dashboard]
-tiers for fears: Here are the statuses of California's 58 counties. Yesterday, five counties moved from the purple to the less restrictive red while Trinity moved from orange to the more restrictive red.
You can see what the restrictions mean here, although local health orders may be stricter than the state's orders.
- purple (widespread): 47 counties
- red (substantial): 9 counties (Del Norte, Humboldt, Marin, Mariposa,
Plumas, San Mateo, Shasta, Trinity, and Yolo)
- orange (moderate): 2 counties (Alpine and Sierra)
- J&J: This morning, FDA staff analysis confirmed the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, part of the process for FDA emergency use authorization of a third vaccine. The AP reports:
Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe COVID-19, according to an analysis released Wednesday by U.S. regulators that sets the stage for a final decision on a new and easier-to-use shot to help tame the pandemic.
The long-anticipated shot could offer the nation a third vaccine option and help speed vaccinations by requiring just one dose instead of two. Food and Drug Administration scientists confirmed that overall the vaccine is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and about 85% effective against the most serious illness. The agency also said J&J’s shot is safe.
The analysis is just one step in the FDA’s evaluation. On Friday, the agency’s independent advisers will debate if the evidence is strong enough to recommend the shot. With that advice, the FDA is expected to make a final decision within days.
- code-snatchers: Wick, Lau, and Nelson report in the Times that Governor Newsom yesterday stated that the state was changing the system of distributing codes to underserved communities to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines. The codes have been spreading around on social media with many folks in Los Angeles County and the Bay Area accessing appointments not intended for them. Yesterday's LAT story even caught the attention of Stephen Colbert on last night's "A Late Show."
In Los Angeles, the rumor spread like wildfire through group texts and email chains: The government was testing the appointment system at a new COVID-19 vaccination site at Cal State L.A., and you could help by using a special access code to sign up for a shot.
In the Bay Area, the gossip took a slightly different form: Doses at the Oakland Coliseum were about to expire, and you could do your part by making an appointment, again, with a special access code.
The problem, of course, was that none of this was true. There were no expiring doses at the Oakland Coliseum earmarked for use with special codes, and the Cal State L.A. site had no appointment testing program.
The loophole in the program came about due to its reliance on special access codes to allow users to book appointments through the state’s vaccine appointment registration system, called My Turn. State officials then asked non-profits, faith-based groups, labor unions and other organizations to circulate the codes to their members for the appointment at the sites in Oakland and Los Angeles.
But those codes also began circulating in emails and group texts among the wealthier, work-from-home set in Los Angeles who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. Many were younger than 65.
Reminds me of trading activation codes for software downloaded over a dial-up modem from local BBS's. On that note, there is a very sad news story this morning. Fry's Electronics, the haven for many of us geeks in our youth, suddenly shut all of its stores nationwide. CNN reports:
Oh, the days when you literally could assemble a computer from each component or upgrade the processor or RAM or video card. Now I have a stack of defunct MacBooks under my desk. Don't get me wrong, I love the MacBook and operating system, but those Fry's days were literally the good old days.
Based in San Jose, California, the privately held company was a family business. It was founded in 1985 by the three Fry brothers with the goal of being a "Silicon Valley retail electronics store to provide a one-stop-shopping environment for the Hi-Tech Professional."
The retailer didn't innovate its online operations as rapidly compared to its larger rivals. Best Buy (BBY), for example, recently reported its best quarter in 25 years as home-bound customers snapped up laptops, home theater systems and kitchen appliances.
"It is hoped that undertaking the wind-down through this orderly process will reduce costs, avoid additional liabilities, minimize the impact on our customers, vendors, landlords and associates, and maximize the value of the company's assets for its creditors and other stakeholders," Fry's explained on its website.
Many of its retail locations had wacky themes. For example, its Burbank location was inspired by 1950s sci-fi movies and had a UFO decoration crashing through the exterior of the store. Its Phoenix, Arizona, location had an ancient Aztec temple and its Houston, Texas store was inspired by the state's oil history.
- under pressure: For KQED, Guy Marzorati reports on the pressure local school boards around the Bay Area region are facing to reopen schools to in-person instruction.
The status of public schools in California has remained largely static in the year since the pandemic began: Most remain shuttered, and large Bay Area districts like San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont have been in distance learning throughout the pandemic.
But the political landscape is shifting rapidly as local and state officials attempt to chart the course for a potential return to class. Finding a consensus among parents on such an emotionally charged issue is proving impossible, with surveys and polling providing limited guidance.
Meanwhile, increasingly organized groups of parents advocating for an immediate return to class are emerging as a potent political counterweight to teachers unions that have so far resisted those calls until members are vaccinated. In San Francisco and the East Bay suburb of San Ramon, parent groups have vowed to derail the political careers of board members standing in the way of reopening.
The only sure thing in the debate over reopening schools, [Fremont Unified superintendent CJ] Cammack said, is that, “Any return to on-campus learning will not be fast enough for some, and far too soon for others."
- San Francisco: The Chron's Nanette Asimov and Jill Tucker write that the San Francisco Unified School Board yesterday approved a health and safety plan agreed to with the district's unions, a major step toward a return to in-person instruction.
Any return to in-person instruction — which is not a certainty — is likely at least two months off.
The district and board have faced increased pressure from parents and city officials to reopen schools — including a lawsuit and possible recall — and continue to face several hurdles before returning students to the classroom. They’re now struggling to reach an agreement with teachers union officials, who have expressed both concern over learning loss as well as possible outbreaks among staff and in the community when students return.
A key component of the agreement approved Tuesday allows a return to classrooms once the city reaches the red tier, the second most restrictive level of California’s reopening blueprint, if coronavirus vaccinations are made available to on-site school staff. San Francisco is expected to reach the red tier within the next week.
If the city progresses to the orange tier, a less restrictive category with “moderate” virus spread, teachers and other staff would return without demanding vaccinations.
-"hero pay": In the Times, Jaclyn Cosgrove reports that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has adopted an ordinance requiring grocers to pay employees an extra $5 per hour as "hero pay." The measure, which takes effect Friday and last 120 days, applies in unincorporated areas of the county to employers of 300 or more nationwide and more than 10 employees per store site. Supervisor Hilda Solis authored the resolution and Kathleen Barger was the lone dissenting vote. Cosgrove writes:
The county’s ordinance will probably be challenged in court in the coming days by the California Grocers Assn., which has sued the city of Long Beach after it passed its “hero pay” measure.
“We’re going to be forced to sue [the county] if it passes, and that’s just unfortunate because it means we will comply obviously with an ordinance that has been passed legally, and the time clock starts as to making it harder for independent businesses doing business in the county of Los Angeles,” said Ron Fong, president and chief executive at the California Grocers Assn., which represents more than 300 retailers operating more than 6,000 stores.
The association and local Chamber of Commerce groups have resisted these mandates, arguing that they unfairly target grocers who operate businesses with low profit margins and thus do not have the capital to absorb these costs. Opponents have also pointed to millions of dollars that grocers have already provided in pay increases, bonuses and paid leave since the pandemic began.
-Sac region restaurants: With the move of adjacent Yolo County from purple to red allowing restaurants to open at 25% capacity today, Sacramento County residents were clamoring this morning about how to get a coveted indoor spot in Davis, West Sacramento and Woodland. For Sacramento County, the 7-day average case rate (adjusted for tier) is currently 15.3, more than double that required to move to red.
much more after the jumpity jump...
DO YOU RECALL? In the SDUT, Michael Smolens looks at the possible candidacy of former Trump Admin official with San Diego political roots Richard “Ric” Grenell in a possible recall campaign.
Grenell has such extensive political and diplomatic history — he was director of communications under four U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations — that his Wikipedia page doesn’t even mention he was an aide to San Diego Mayor Susan Golding in the late 1990s through 2000.
He has a long history of involvement in San Diego, having also served as spokesman for Titan Corp. and as a consultant on radio talk-show host and former City Council member Carl DeMaio’s 2014 congressional campaign against Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego.
Grenell has been an outspoken critic of Newsom. He has not said whether he will run, but left the door open. Asked about entering the recall race, Grenell told former Trump press secretary Sean Spencer on Newsmax, “I’m going to focus on the recall signatures at this point, Sean. That’s as far as I’m going to go.”
He has discussed the possibility with political consultants and is being encouraged by major Trump donors, according to Politico.
TOO MUCH DOUGH? In 2003, California's voters recalled Governor Gray Davis over rolling blackouts caused by a flawed deregulation scheme that led to market manipulation (largely by Texas-based Enron) and an awful budget deficit. In 2020, California has a large budget surplus while Texas had a deadly catastrophic electrical system failure by a flawed deregulation scheme. Meanwhile, there's another recall effort underway, now against Governor Gavin Newsom. That's just an aside into The Twilight Zone.
However, the budget surplus is not necessarily an asset to Governor Newsom as he faces an early test of his governorship but could also be a threat to antsy governors and local government officials across the country. David Lightman reports in The Bee:
The Democratic-run House is expected to vote later this week on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief plan, which includes $350 billion for state and local governments. California’s state and local governments would get an estimated $41 billion.
If approved, the Senate would consider the package early next month, and its chances are considered good since the Senate has 50 Republicans and 50 members who caucus with the Democrats--and Vice President Kamala Harris, who until last month was a senator from California, would cast a tie-breaking vote.
That's assuming Senate President Jr. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is on board... Lightman continues:
Despite California’s sunnier budget outlook, its congressional Democrats insist the federal aid is badly needed.
California has been overspending for years, GOP lawmakers and conservative analysts contend, citing long-term debt such as pension obligations. With the latest data showing the state’s revenues exceeded projections, thanks to higher-than-expected income, corporate, sales and insurance tax collections, Republicans said the state hardly needs more money.
“The hardworking people of Southwest Florida should not have to bail out the mismanaged and disastrous policies of (New York Gov. Andrew) Cuomo and (California Gov. Gavin) Newsom, and the politicians in Washington willing to throw them a bone,” said Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Florida, as the House Budget Committee debated the plan this week.
He was following a long line of critics.
For now, it appears that Manchin's only major critique of the package is the $15/hour minimum wage, which likely is being dropped because of the rules of the application of the filibuster to budget reconciliation in the Senate.
- Newsom's chance to lead? For CalMatters, Dan Walters suggests a way for Governor Newsom to get back out ahead on the effort to increase California's housing stock.
Newsom and other politicians talk a good game, but don’t back up their words with action. What happened, or didn’t happen, to last year’s major housing bill is a telling example.
The measure, carried by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, was a modest stab at the housing issue’s biggest roadblock — the not-in-my-backyard attitudes in local communities. The bill would have made it easier to build duplexes and other low-impact multi-family projects on lots zoned for single-family homes.
Atkins’ measure cleared the Senate easily and had enough votes to pass the Assembly. However, due to conflict between Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon over legislative procedures, it was held in the Assembly on the last night of the session until just minutes before the midnight deadline, leaving too little time for a final Senate vote.
Newsom could have intervened in the petty squabble to get the bill to his desk, but didn’t, for reasons best known to himself.
That was a "fun" night watching the clock expire on a few bills.
- cities push back: For Voice of OC, Hosam Elattar writes that Newport Beach has joined over 40 other cities in passing resolutions calling for greater local control over local housing issues.
The item was put forward by Councilwoman Diane Dixon who told the Voice of OC before the meeting that the city wants to be in control of its own destiny.
“Sacramento is passing laws in the dozens that are stripping cities from their local governance role,” Dixon said. “We know best how to preserve and protect our neighborhoods, and build the necessary housing that we need to build.”
The fight for municipal control has been spearheaded by Torrance City Councilman Mike Griffiths who created an organization last year called California Cities for Local Control. The group argues that city governments should be the decision makers on how their communities are built.
The organization is “seeking out allies for possible legal action against the state and/or to promote efforts for a ballot initiative to legislate the desired results,” according to its website.
Order in the court. Next on the docket is NIMBY v. YIMBY, part ∞.
WATER WOES: While last month's storm had folks rushing to the Sierra, it didn't make much of an appreciable dent in the overall water situation facing the state. For The Bee, Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow write:
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that most of the water agencies that rely on the Central Valley Project will get just 5% of their contract supply, a dismally low number. Although the figure could grow if California gets more rain and snow, the allocation comes amid fresh weather forecasts suggesting the dry winter is continuing.
The National Weather Service says the Sacramento Valley will be warm and windy the next few days, with no rain in the forecast.
“Although we had a couple of precipitation-packed storms in January and early February, we are still well below normal for precipitation and snowfall this year,” said Ernest Conant, the regional director at the Bureau of Reclamation, in a prepared statement.
Farm groups that purchase water from the Central Valley Project complained mightily about the announcement, arguing that the miserly allocation isn’t simply about unfortunate weather patterns. Rather, they said the CVP is also being hemmed in by stringent environmental regulations governing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the estuary that serves as the hub of the state’s elaborate delivery network. A small allocation could prove especially difficult for the San Joaquin Valley, where agriculture dominates an economy that’s already struggling.
“Today’s announcement is no surprise given current hydrologic conditions and regulations that restrict operations of the Central Valley Project, but it is devastating nonetheless for farmers and communities across the region that rely on water from the CVP and jobs created by irrigated agriculture,” said Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands Water District, which delivers water to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
In a prepared statement, Birmingham said Westlands has received its full allocation just once in the past decade. Twice, during the last officially declared drought, Westlands got no CVP water at all. That drought was declared over in spring 2017 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.
NET NEUTRALITY: AP's Adam Beam reports that Eastern District of California Judge John A. Mendez issued a final ruling yesterday upholding the state's net neutrality law aimed and ensuring that broadband carriers deliver content equally and not favor vertically integrated content or that of contracted providers. Judge Mendez's ruling follows the withdrawal of a legal challenge filed by the Trump Administration but withdrawn by the new administration. Beam reports:
California state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco and the author of the law, called the ruling “a huge victory for open access to the internet, our democracy and our economy.”
“The internet is at the heart of modern life. We all should be able to decide for ourselves where we go on the internet and how we access information,” Wiener said. “We cannot allow big corporations to make those decisions for us.”
In a joint statement, multiple telecom industry associations said they will review the judge’s decision “before deciding on next steps.” They urged Congress to set net-neutrality rules for the country rather than relying on states to come up with regulations on their own.
“A state-by-state approach to Internet regulation will confuse consumers and deter innovation, just as the importance of broadband for all has never been more apparent,” read the statement from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, ACA Connects, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and USTelecom.
California’s law was spurred by the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 decision to repeal net-neutrality rules that applied nationwide. The telecom industry fought hard against the bill, arguing it would discourage companies from investing in faster internet speeds.
But advocates say without the rules, it would make it easy for internet providers to favor their own services by making it harder for customers to access their competitors’ websites and apps.
LAW AND DISORDER: The Bee's Jason Pohl looks at a new LAO report identifying weaknesses in state oversight of local jails around the state:
The California board that oversees local jails does not have clear goals, lacks authority and needs to diversify its leadership or else it risks continuing the allow inhumane conditions in county lockups statewide, a nonpartisan review has found.
Because of its ambiguous mission, the Board of State and Community Corrections too often defers to people from law enforcement backgrounds instead of those with medical expertise on mental health or substance use disorders — conditions disproportionately found in county jails, the Legislative Analyst’s Office found.
At the same time, California lawmakers have not given the corrections board enforcement power and failed to set clear expectations, undermining the Legislature’s ability to know what the corrections board is accomplishing at all. “This includes whether the program is appropriately structured and resourced or should even continue to exist,” the analyst’s office wrote in its report.
The report echoes much of what a 2019 Sacramento Bee and ProPublica investigation revealed about the jail oversight board’s inability to enforce its own rules.
Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged last year to improve how county lockups are inspected, strengthen health standards and hold sheriffs accountable when they break the rules. He said he wanted the board to “step things up.”
POLICING REFORM: The Chron's Sarah Ravani reports that the Berkeley City Council yesterday adopted policing reforms including taking police officers off routine traffic stops.
The Berkeley City Council adopted sweeping reforms to the city’s Police Department on Tuesday that will require written consent for police searches, the firing of racist officers and elimination of police stops for low-level offenses — such as failing to wear a seat belt or driving with expired license plate tags.
The council’s unanimous vote directs the city manager to develop a plan for implementing the changes, and Mayor Jesse Arreguín said he hopes some will be seen this year. The action comes amid calls from the public to reform police departments across the country to end abuses of people of color — a demand driven by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last Memorial Day.
In addition to the changes adopted Tuesday, Berkeley has also created a task force to cut the police department’s budget in half to $36 million by this summer. The task force met for the first time last week.
On a similar note, during my walk around town, two bike SacPD officers parked their bikes in the middle of the sidewalk (why they felt the need to obstruct the sidewalk was beyond me). There was a Black woman seeded on a planter curb and talking to herself, and she wasn't cuffed. Drugs and/or psychosis wasn't clear from my layman observation. The officers were standing about ten feet behind the woman and just watching. I went in to Rite-Aid to look for a birthday card for my mom and, after waiting, emerged ten minutes later. By then, a SacPD SUV with two other officers arrived to put her in.
What a perfect moment for a health -- including mental health -- evaluation, rather than four officers and a booking before a possible health intervention.
cakeday, farewell, and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: No Nooner birthdays I know about today!
FAREWELL: Casey McKeever, former chief consultant of the Assembly Committee on Human Services, attorney and legislative advocate for numerous nonprofits including the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and administrative law judge. (1951-2021)
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