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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)
- The McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific
- Executive Director of Government Relations: California State University, Fresno
- California School Boards Association - Public Affairs & Community Engagement Representative (San Diego)
- McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific
- SD30 (Downtown LA-Culver City-South LA): Californians for Sydney Kamlager for Senate 2021, sponsored by Healthcare Providers, Insurance, Energy, and Housing Suppliers reports $15,000 for digital ads (Cumulative total: $307,645)
- SD30 (Downtown LA-Culver City-South LA): California Alliance, a coalition of consumer attorneys, conservationists and food and commercial workers reports $15,486 for digital ads and website
- SD30 (Downtown LA-Culver City-South LA): Nurses and Educators for Sydney Kamlager for Senate 2021 sponsored by labor organizations reports receiving $30,000 from the California Teachers Association (total from CTA: $60,000)
- AD79 (East San Diego): California Medical Association Independent Expenditure Committee reports contributing $200,000 to Frontline Healthcare and Essential Workers Supporting Dr. Akilah Weber for Assembly 2021
The Nooner for Thursday, February 25, 2021, presented by SYASL Partners
-tiers for fears
-have it your way?
- Do you recall?
- The Lincoln Project
- Law and disorder
- Lithium Valley
- Cakeday and classifieds
MAC GEEKS: If any of you have upgraded to macOS Big Sur and use Quicktime for audio or video recording, how did you get the privacy permissions to work? All of the solutions online guide me through the same "Security & Privacy" settings procedure, but Quicktime never shows up under either Camera or Microphone settings. Yes, I've even tried the command-line operation to reset Quicktime's settings to no avail. I need it to put a wrap on Tuesday's podcast with Chris Micheli before I finish the project in Final Cut Pro. Otherwise, I love the OS upgrade, even though Big Sur itself on Highway 1 is broken. Seemingly, a timely computer problem I'm having.
Hey there! Another crazy morning of a mix of politics and policy...let's get to it after the jump!
COVID-19: California added 1,110 deaths yesterday for a total of 50,994 since the pandemic began. Neither your eyes are deceiving nor you need to panic with the daily total. Los Angeles County Public Health reports in its daily release:
Through extensive checks of death records, Public Health has identified an additional 806 COVID-19 -associated deaths that were not initially recorded as COVD-19 deaths. The majority of these deaths occurred during the surge between December 3, 2020 and February 3, 2021, a period when many deaths occurred and not all were reported to Public Health due to the volume of records.
Thus, the normalized daily rate for yesterday is 304. We'll see tomorrow how the state handles this in the 7- and 14-day averages in today's report.
Nevertheless, we blew through that 50,000 California deaths mark unexpectedly. It was clear that it would happen this week, but I wasn't expecting it yesterday.
-tiers for fears: Here are the statuses of California's 58 counties.
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)
- vaccines shipped to California: 10,573,585
- vaccines delivered to administering entities: 10,302,040
- vaccines administered: 7,763,668 (many of the "delivered" above are reserved for second doses)
- In the LAT, Maura Dolan and Alejandra Reyes-Velarde look at post-vaccination life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says [masking and distancing] precautions must continue because of uncertainties, including how long vaccine protections will last. The group continues to advise against unnecessary travel, and federal rules require even vaccinated travelers to show negative tests for the virus before returning from abroad.
But health experts who have been vaccinated say they would feel comfortable flying, particularly after case rates come down. Fully vaccinated people can eat together, have sex with each other and socialize safely, said Dr. Robert Wachter, 63, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at UC San Francisco.
“I think life can be back to normal when you are talking about what two vaccinated people can do together,” said Wachter, who has received both doses and now does all the family shopping.
-vaccine hesitancy: For KQED, April Dembosky finds that placing blame in the African-American community on the horrifying Tuskegee experiments is oversimplifying things and often misplaced.
As more surveys come out showing that Black Americans are more hesitant than white Americans to get the coronavirus vaccine, more journalists, politicians and health officials — from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Dr. Anthony Fauci — are invoking the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study to explain why.
“It's ‘Oh, Tuskegee, Tuskegee, Tuskegee,’ and it's mentioned every single time,” says Karen Lincoln, a professor of social work at the University of Southern California. “We make these assumptions that it's Tuskegee. We don't ask people.”
When she asks the Black seniors she works with in Los Angeles about the vaccine, Tuskegee rarely comes up. People in the community are more interested in talking about contemporary racism and barriers to health care, she says, while it seems to be mainly academics and officials who are preoccupied with the history of Tuskegee.
“It's a scapegoat,” Lincoln says. “It’s an excuse. If you continue to use it as a way of explaining why many African Americans are hesitant, it almost absolves you of having to learn more, do more, involve other people – admit that racism is actually a thing today.”
It’s the health inequities of today that Maxine Toler, 72, hears about when she talks to her friends and neighbors in LA about the vaccine. Toler is president of her city’s senior advocacy council and her neighborhood block club. She and most of the other Black seniors she talks to want the vaccine, but are having trouble getting it, she says, and that alone is sowing mistrust.
Those who don’t want the vaccine have very modern reasons for not wanting it. They tell Toler it’s because of religious beliefs, safety concerns or distrust for the former U.S. president and his relationship to science. Only a handful mention Tuskegee, she says, and when they do, they’re fuzzy on the details of what happened during the 40-year study.
-variants: The new California variant that researchers released findings about this week has now made the national news cycle. And, from the reporting and what the experts say, it sounds like we just don't know yet.
- In the Chron, Erin Allday reports that the variant -- known as B.1.429 and B.1.427 -- spreads more easily but should respond to antibodies from either vaccination or prior infection.
Antibodies generated by the vaccines, or by previous coronavirus infection, were two to four times stronger against earlier versions of the virus compared to the new variant, scientists at UCSF found in laboratory studies. They released preliminary results this week.
The finding is disappointing, but not cause for alarm, said scientists involved with the study as well as outside observers. The vaccines are extremely powerful, and even with a drop in antibody strength, they likely will be about as effective against the variant as they are against the original version of the virus they were designed to fight.
If there is a reduction in effectiveness, the vaccines still should prevent almost all cases of severe illness and death, even from the new variant.
“In my opinion it will make no difference in terms of the efficacy of the vaccine,” said Raul Andino, a UCSF virologist who led the variant antibody research. “I would say there is nothing to be afraid of just now.”
- Meanwhile, in The ‘nightmare scenario’ for California’s coronavirus strain: Here is what we know (Melissa Healy @ LAT):
New research strongly suggests that the coronavirus strain now dominant in California not only spreads more readily than its predecessors, but also has the ability to evade antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines or prior infection. It’s also associated with more severe illness and death.
Those attributes have some scientists worried that the homegrown variant could reverse the state’s recent progress in reducing new infections — especially if it’s able to swap mutations with other threatening strains. Experts said it underscores the need to vaccinate people as quickly as possible and to continue wearing masks, maintaining social distance and following other public health precautions as the state begins to reopen more.
B.1.427/B.1.429’s genome includes three mutations that affect the virus’ spike protein, which it uses to sneak into human cells and convert them into factories for its own reproduction. One of those three mutations, dubbed L452R, affects the so-called receptor binding domain, helping the virus attach more firmly to target cells.
The L452R mutations seems to make the California strain more damaging to the body as well.
A coronavirus engineered to have only that mutation was able to infect human lung tissue at least 40% more readily than other variants now in circulation that lacked the mutation. Compared with those so-called wild-type strains, the engineered virus was also more than three times more infectious.
Dr. Bruce Walker, an immunologist and founding director of the Ragon Institute in Boston, said that while viruses often mutate in ways that make them stronger, such genetic changes often impose a new Achilles’ heel. For instance, a strain that spreads more easily often loses some of its virulence.
When the neutralizing antibodies went up against the homegrown strain, their effectiveness was cut in half. By comparison, when these antibodies encountered the coronavirus strain that’s now dominant in South Africa, their effectiveness was reduced to one-sixth of their usual levels.
“I do anticipate over time it is going to have an effect on vaccination,” [UCSF's Dr. Charles] Chiu said. Though the magnitude of the effect varied from sample to sample and was less pronounced than with the South Africa strain, “it still is concerning,” he said.
-testing: In The Bee, Ryan Sabalow and Jason Pohl write that Lassen County's public health department has broken ties with the state-hired testing company operating in local clinics:
In a blistering letter sent to reporters on Wednesday, Lassen County officials said they had no choice but to stop working with OptumServe at its Susanville testing clinic because of problems the state and the company refused to address — ranging from mismanagement to testing inefficiencies to potentially spreading the coronavirus to county workers.
The most egregious example came at one of the testing clinics last week, wrote Dr. Kenneth Korver, the county health officer, and Barbara Longo, the county’s health and social services director.
“OptumServe staff were heard throughout the Public Health building coughing violently,” the county health officials wrote. “Several of our staff expressed concerns about the excessive coughing and possible illness transmission. OptumServe staff are exposed to the COVID-19 virus on a daily basis and yet travel from county to county without proper quarantine measures.”
In an emailed statement, the California Department of Public Health said the state’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force “strongly disagrees with the facts and characterization outlined in this letter,” including that OptumServe employees didn’t follow appropriate health protocols.
“Lassen County was provided direct assistance and engagement with OptumServe to remediate initial concerns,” the statement said. “The Testing Task Force was not given the same opportunity to address lingering concerns mentioned by Lassen County.”
-school daze: I know this will come as utterly shocking to you, but kids in wealthier areas are more likely to be back in the classroom. For CalMatters, Ricardo Cano and Jeremiah Kimelman report:
But school districts in wealthier areas are offering hybrid or in-person learning to greater shares of their students compared with those in California’s poorest areas. As the end of the 2020-21 school year inches closer, only about one-fourth of the state’s elementary students have opportunities for in-person instruction. Even fewer high school students have a chance to attend school in person.
Several larger school districts, such as Long Beach Unified, have begun setting return dates in March and April for some students. The proposal by Democratic state legislators calls on school districts to bring students in kindergarten through sixth grade back on campuses by April 15. As of today, however, California remains among states with the fewest public schools open for full-time in-person instruction or hybrid learning, where students split time at home and in school.
Cano and Kimelman take a deep dive into the data.
-influenza: For the AP, Mike Stobbe reports on an unexpected upside of the pandemic:
February is usually the peak of flu season, with doctors’ offices and hospitals packed with suffering patients. But not this year.
Flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades.
Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people traveling, they say.
Another possible explanation: The coronavirus has essentially muscled aside flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter. Scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism behind that, but it would be consistent with patterns seen when certain flu strains predominate over others, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan.
Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
-have it your way? On a split vote, the San Gabriel Valley city of West Covina voted to separate itself from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Kevin Rector reports for the Times:
Alleging the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has failed its residents and harmed its businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the West Covina City Council in a split decision this week voted to begin the process of forming its own health department.
The move would eventually free the 16-square-mile city of about 110,000 residents from health mandates handed down by the county’s health department — such as bar and restaurant closures related to COVID-19 — but not until it creates a department of its own that meets state health requirements. It would not free the city from state health mandates.
The move comes at a time when various small cities in the area have expressed interest in going it alone on health matters, as differences of opinion over pandemic-related shutdowns have caused tensions and disagreements at the municipal level. West Covina could be a test case for them to watch.
Only three cities in California in California -- Berkeley, Long Beach, and Pasadena -- have their own health departments and they each trace back for more than 100 years.
Let's look how West Covina stands on the fiscal health risk assessment performed by the California State Auditor.
Looks like a great city to pilot the first new city public health agency in over a century.
much more after the jumpity jump...
DO YOU RECALL? For the NYT, Shawn Hubler looks at the recall effort that began as a fledgling effort by a retired public employee -- who took early retirement at age 50 under the 3% at 50 formula in 2019 at total pay of $152,896 -- to a serious big-money effort.
Long before Orrin Heatlie filed papers to recall Gavin Newsom, he knew the odds were against unseating the suave ex-mayor of San Francisco who ascended to become California’s governor.
“Democrats have a supermajority here — it’s one-party rule,” said Mr. Heatlie, a Republican and retired Yolo County sheriff’s sergeant. Voters had elected Mr. Newsom in 2018 by a record 24-point margin. As recently as April, 70 percent still approved of his performance. Plus, just to trigger a recall election, Mr. Heatlie’s petition would require about 1.5 million valid voter signatures.
Lately, however, Mr. Heatlie has been feeling lucky.
California has been upended by the coronavirus. Most of the state is waiting — impatiently — for vaccinations. Schools in big cities have yet to reopen their classrooms. Prison inmates and international fraud rings may have looted as much as $30 billion from the state’s pandemic unemployment insurance program.
And then there was that dinner at the French Laundry restaurant that the governor attended, barefaced, after telling Californians to stay in and wear masks to avoid spreading the virus.
“This is an easy sell,” reported Mr. Heatlie last week, speaking by phone from rural San Joaquin County, where he was delivering petitions that he said pushed his haul over the 1.7 million-signature mark with three weeks to go before the deadline.
“I like to say we have nobody to thank but him,” he said, “and he has nobody to blame but himself.”
Mike Madrid, a former state Republican Party political director who co-founded the Lincoln Project, said that even if the pandemic ebbs, that partisan zeal could propel the recall onto a ballot.
“Right now, we are so polarized that you could basically sell a Republican voter anything you want as long as it takes down a Democrat,” he said, “and vice versa.”
Winning in deep-blue California, however, would be another matter.
“Look, Newsom came into office dealing with wildfires and spent the past year trying to handle a pandemic — he’s basically trying to govern in the Book of Revelation,” said David Townsend, a Democratic consultant who specializes in ballot measures. “I think voters will see that.”
In the article, Hubler also looks at the challenges governors are facing around the state. And, it's worth remembering that Heatlie's first recall effort was on February 13, 2020 -- a month before anything in California closed because of the pandemic. Heatlie was considered just another Erin Cruz (former CA36 candidate) who filed nine recall petitions over 2019-20, on the fringe, and dismissed by moneyed interests needed to qualify a statewide recall. But, things certainly changed in a month...
THE LINCOLN PROJECT: In the Chron, GOP political consultant Rob Stutzman shares his perspective on the rise and fall of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project.
The depth of the crater from the detonation may not be known for weeks or months to come, as more victims of co-founder John Weaver’s sexual advances come forward and the group’s craven cash grab is unwound.
The group’s questionable spending and tactics were in plain sight last year even before the election.
Public disclosures showed that the Lincoln Project was not making strategically minded media buys, but rather was producing provocative ad content, usually targeting Donald Trump, that brought cathartic joy to millions of Americans and helped pry donations from them. And in the end, the founders paid themselves millions of dollars while probably creaming unreported millions more in “commissions” from ads and fundraising.
But it wasn’t just the hinky self-dealing finances that went ignored. The group’s tone and crass language regularly mirrored Trump’s own demeaning rhetoric. Founder Rick Wilson called Trump supporters “tin-toothed rubes” and mocked them by using a stereotype Southern accent. Senior advisor Jeff Timmer’s constantly profane tweets included one directed at Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., with the sentiment to “f— yourself.”
I could go on with other countless examples of crassness and bullying.
Although the premise was that they were Republicans, or former Republicans, fighting Trump, the group found a mother lode in shifting into essentially being a Democrat Super PAC going after incumbent GOP senators.
The group hired Democratic fundraisers and contributions poured in from big-name Democrat donors. Groups aligned with Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority PAC and Majority Forward, plowed almost $2 million into the Lincoln Project.
At this point, it was clear to many of us anti-Trump Republicans that the Lincoln Project was not interested in fighting for the GOP, but rather burning it to the ground for its own gain.
For those of us who vehemently despise Trump and his hijacking of the GOP, the Lincoln Project was obscene. They had taken the anti-Trump category and turned into a huge money maker for themselves while cultivating a multitude of fans who sincerely believed they were doing virtuous work. Meanwhile, others were left to do the difficult work of trying to save the party from within.
LAW AND DISORDER: The Bee's Hannah Wiley writes that the California Department of Justice says that even after the governor's budget proposal, it still doesn't have the money to investigate fatal police shootings under a new law.
The state Department of Justice says it still doesn’t have enough money or agents to fulfill a new law requiring it to investigate deadly shootings by California cops.
In his 2021-2022 January budget proposal, Gov. Gavin Newsom set aside $13 million to establish three units of state prosecutors and staff — one team each in the northern, central and southern parts of California — to review these incidents.
That’s about half what the Department of Justice says it’ll need to build the new teams, according to a recent letter it sent to a Democratic lawmaker.
The new law represents a shift from the common practice of having county district attorneys investigate shootings by local officers, a system that critics said rarely resulted in discipline over questionable incidents.
Amid last year’s nationwide protests against police brutality, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, wrote Assembly Bill 1506 to establish a “uniform standard for independent investigations into police killings.”
[I]n a Jan. 26 letter to McCarty, the department said the law’s requirement will initially cost $26 million. The agency said it would struggle to “stand up professional teams to perform these new investigative and prosecutorial duties” without additional money.
UNEMPLOYMENT: For CalMatters, Lauren Helper provides an explainer on what went wrong at the Employment Development Department that allowed for widespread fraud and led to long waits for desperate Californians to receive earned benefits.
"Lithium Valley," cakeday, and classifieds after the jump...
"LITHIUM VALLEY": For CalMatters, Julie Cart looks at the hopes of some -- including state leaders -- who see an economic future in the long-beleaguered Imperial Valley through extraction of lithium from the receding Salton Sea and the ensuing debate of whether it is worth it.
State officials envision not just lithium extraction and power plants, but also constructing links along the supply chain, battery-building facilities, electric vehicle manufacturing plants and everything else local authorities can dream of.
Such an expansive project would transform the entire Imperial Valley, home to 174,000 people, 85% Latino, who face chronically high unemployment and few job opportunities outside farm fields.
But environmental justice advocates worry about the potential impacts of additional waste and air pollution from extracting and processing lithium at the Salton Sea. Since it’s an experimental technology, the environmental effects have not been analyzed yet.
The Imperial Valley already is perennially ranked at the top of California’s most polluted places — with all the serious health problems that go along with it.
“Disadvantaged communities are always going to be on the losing end,” said Luis Olmedo, executive director of Comite Civico Del Valle, a health and social services organization in Brawley.
“Do we see opportunity for jobs, do we see opportunity for economic benefit for community development? We see all of that, but unfortunately the way the system is set up right here in this region, the monies are not reaching those vulnerable disadvantaged populations.”
Although the costliest of clean energy options, geothermal is in many ways the ideal renewable energy — not dependent on wind blowing or sun shining, and ever-ready to provide reliable power.
“Lithium is the oil of the clean energy future,” [California Energy Commission chairman David] Hochschild said. “I do think the revenue from the industry as it grows can be part of the solution. What I think you’re going to see over time is rather than geothermal facilities that produce lithium on the side, it will be that lithium facilities produce geothermal power on the side.”
CalEnergy’s 23 geothermal wells pull up naturally superheated water from deep beneath the salty lake and use the steam created to run turbines, providing reliable renewable energy to the state’s power grid. The brine is brimming with lithium and other coveted elements, including cobalt and zinc.
The pilot project will extract lithium from the brine, then, in a two-part process, convert the raw material first into lithium chloride and then into battery-grade lithium hydroxide. The company aims to have the two small processing plants operating next year.
CalEnergy hopes that lithium plants will have the side benefit of lowering the price of geothermal energy, making it a more competitive renewable power source.
“If successful, lithium could be the tail that wags the geothermal dog,” said Jonathan Weisgall, vice president for government relations at Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which has committed $40 million to the ongoing research. The federal Energy Department awarded its Salton Sea project a $15 million grant.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Rebecca Alcantar, Mario Guerrero, Assembly member Patrick O'Donnell, Harrison Pardini, and Jocelyn Twilla!
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