Warren and Biden lose ground, Sanders moves ahead in California’s shifting 2020 Democratic race
LA Times' JANET HOOK: "The Democratic presidential contest in California remains extremely fluid — but not enough, at least so far, to provide an opening for Michael Bloomberg, who entered the race two weeks ago and was banking on winning big in the delegate-rich state, a new poll for the Los Angeles Times has found."
"The survey by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that both Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — the commanding front-runner in a September California poll — and former Vice President Joe Biden have lost ground among the state’s likely Democratic primary voters over the last two months."
"That erosion has benefited Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who narrowly tops the primary field, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who doubled his support since the September poll."
Bankruptcy judge weighs PG&E's $11B insurance company deal
The Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "PG&E Corp.’s bankruptcy judge grappled Wednesday with whether he should sign off on an $11 billion insurance deal that the company says is essential to moving its case forward despite forceful opposition from wildfire victims and Gov. Gavin Newsom."
"The settlement would resolve claims from insurance companies that say they have already paid billions of dollars to people who lost homes in wildfires started by PG&E power lines in recent years."
"But attorneys for individual fire victims who are still seeking payment from PG&E have argued the deal would lock down too much cash, imperiling their clients’ ability to receive what they are owed, among other concerns. Newsom has criticized the agreement as well."
Is Sacramento's new economy recession-proof? These are the jobs driving the region's boom
Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER/PHILLIP REESE: "Barely a decade ago, if you wanted to be where the economic action was in Sacramento, you probably worked in real estate. You were working construction, selling houses, developing shopping centers or writing mortgage loans. It was the mid-2000s, before the housing bubble burst and the economy collapsed, and real estate was Sacramento’s growth engine."
"Nowadays, in the new Sacramento economy, you’re more likely to find yourself working in a hospital. Or a medical clinic."
"Or at a company like Blossom Ridge Home Health Hospice. The 7-year-old Sacramento company deploys a growing army of 200 nurses, therapists, health care aides and other workers to patients’ homes across Northern California. Business at Blossom Ridge is up 30 percent this year."
Newsom hires adviser forced out by Trump in latest homelessness dustup
Sacramento Bee's SOPHIA BOLLAG: "Amid an escalating fight between California and the federal government over homelessness, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced he’s hiring a former Trump administration official as a homelessness adviser and expediting funding to build shelters."
"The announcement comes as Newsom’s office accuses the federal government of withholding data on homelessness populations that the state uses to allocate aid money."
"Local governments survey their own homeless populations once every two years to determine how many homeless people live in their area. Sacramento County announced the results of its survey in June, which found a significant increase from 2017."
Need a job? Tahoe ski resorts are scrambling to hire early-season help
The Chronicle's TOM STIENSTRA: "To get a job right now at a ski area, about all you need to do is walk up and say, “I’ll show up."
"The big Thanksgiving holiday snows brought nearly 80 inches to some mountains in the high Sierra and caught so many ski areas and resorts by surprise that many are now scrambling for seasonal workers. In fact, several ski areas list themselves online as “urgently hiring.” As winter ramps up, the annual ski industry staffing spree will produce thousands of jobs in the region."
Losing CalPERS candidate drops challenge
Sacramento Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "A former state government union leader who lost an election for a seat on the CalPERS Board of Administration in October has withdrawn a challenge he filed alleging state officials and pension board members helped his opponent win."
"J.J. Jelincic, a past board member and investment officer at the $380 billion pension fund, lost to Henry Jones, the incumbent, by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin."
"Jelincic filed a formal protest over the result on Nov. 4. He withdrew the challenge Monday, a day before an initial hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings, according to a letter his attorney filed with the office."
Harris' backers are up for grabs. They could swing California
The Chronicle's JOHN WILDERMUTH: "Kamala Harris may be gone from the presidential race, but her California backers are about to become some of the most popular people in politics."
"Harris, the state’s junior senator and former two-term attorney general, had locked down the endorsements of most of the state’s leading Democratic officeholders. But after her decision Tuesday to end her campaign, Harris’ supporters are back on the market."
"Those potential endorsements from the nation’s largest and most ethnically diverse state make an attractive package, especially since most of the remaining Democratic candidates are from the East and the Midwest, with few ties to California."
Camp Fire failure part of PG&E's 'pattern' of poor maintenace, regulators say
The Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "Pacific Gas and Electric Co. failed to properly inspect and maintain the high-voltage power line that started the Camp Fire amid systemic problems at the utility that caused it to miss a chance to avert the historic disaster, state regulatory officials have determined."
"Crews examined the Butte County transmission line from the ground and sky in recent years but had not conducted a detailed climbing inspection of the aging tower located at the fire’s origin point since at least 2001, according to safety and enforcement staff at the California Public Utilities Commission."
"The regulatory officials said a climbing inspection should have occurred and might have revealed the presence of a worn hook that broke on Nov. 8, 2018, leading to the ignition of a fire that killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings. “Timely replacement” of the hook “could have prevented ignition of the Camp Fire,” commission staff said in a recently revealed report."
Attorneys say this photo shows the PG&E hook that started the Camp Fire
The Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "A photograph included in a recent letter to a federal judge purports to show the broken hook on a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. power tower that led to the ignition of the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history last year."
"The letter sent last week to U.S. District Judge James Donato, who is overseeing a proceeding related to PG&E’s bankruptcy case, also includes a second photograph that purports to show a different worn hook, apparently from another one of the company’s transmission towers."
"Attorneys who submitted the letter, representing insurance companies and wildfire victims involved in the bankruptcy case, said the two images show equipment that “PG&E allowed to disintegrate until eventually disaster struck."
Kate Steinle case: DA defers to feds on gun case against Jose Inez Garcia Zarate
The Chronicle's EVAN SERNOFFSKY: "The San Francisco district attorney’s office formally dropped a lone gun possession charge Wednesday against Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, the man acquitted of killing Kate Steinle on the city’s Pier 14 more than four years ago."
"Dropping the case was essentially a formality given that Garcia Zarate already served the maximum time in jail for the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and is currently in federal custody."
"The federal government has charged the defendant for the same conduct, so we’re going to step aside and let the federal government take the case,” said Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office."
Davis considers drastic security upgrades after series of violent robberies
Sacramento Bee's ALEXANDRA YOON-HENDRICKS: "Davis may install surveillance cameras throughout the city, after a series of armed robberies in the last two months have prompted officials to find more ways to deter crime."
"In a presentation to the Davis City Council this week, Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel asked city officials to consider buying more cameras or automated license plate reader technology to deter certain criminal activity and assist in investigations."
"I’m very aware of the budget situation. ... I’m not here asking for more cops,” Pytel told the council. “This is a new, emerging way to use technology to increase our eyes in the sky and monitor areas that we simply don’t have the personnel to do it.”
Son's epilepsy upends Napa family's finances
The Chronicle's SARAH RAVANI: "When her husband called unexpectedly in the middle of a workday in April, Eva Espinosa didn’t know what she would hear on the other line. Within seconds, her life was changed."
"Her 18-year-old son had suffered a seizure and had fallen and hit his head on the floor, Espinosa said."
"It was the first time her son, Miguel Angel Torres, had had one."
Big atmospheric rivers do a lot of damage -- especially in NorCal
The Chronicle's KURTIS ALEXANDER: "During the first week of January 1995, a powerful storm lashed Northern California, pushing the Russian River over its banks for seven straight days and damaging more than 4,000 properties, what scientists now say is the costliest atmospheric river the West has seen."
"A first-ever economic analysis of atmospheric rivers, released Wednesday as another series of these potent weather systems emerged over the Pacific, finds that such events have caused an average of $1.1 billion of flood damage annually over 40 years. The hardest-hit place, across 11 Western states with losses, was Sonoma County."
"The 1995 atmospheric river alone resulted in $3.7 billion of damage, according to the study, from a storm that had mudslides covering roads, winds toppling trees and swollen creeks inundating homes. The event, which made landfall in Southern California and moved north, contributed to the total $5.2 billion of losses that Sonoma County has sustained from atmospheric rivers during the study period — 1978 through 2017."
Downtown Sacramento using falconry to clear the sky of pooping crows
Sacramento Bee's VINCENT MOLESKI: "When the sun sets on downtown Sacramento and the inky blackness of night creeps in overhead, another shadowy force fills the air – murders of jet-black crows."
"At dusk, thousands of these crows take to the sky in huge flocks to find a place to roost. But with thousands of crows comes thousands of droppings raining down on the city."
"As they gather in increasing numbers, what they leave behind is sort of unsightly and quite frankly can be a mess on the sidewalks, benches, signs, you name it,” Downtown Sacramento Partnership spokeswoman Emilie Cameron said. “When you see K Street covered in the crow droppings, it’s not a pleasant experience, and then also you don’t want to have to dodge as you’re going down there."
Barr's handpicked prosecutor tells inspector general he can't back right-wing theory that Russia case was US intel setup
WaPo's MATT ZAPOTOSKY/DEVLIN BARRETT: "The prosecutor handpicked by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize how U.S. agencies investigated President Trump’s 2016 campaign said he could not offer evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, people familiar with the matter said."
"Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office contacted U.S. Attorney John Durham, the prosecutor Barr personally tapped to lead a separate review of the 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, the people said. The inspector general also contacted several U.S. intelligence agencies."
"Among Horowitz’s questions: whether a Maltese professor who interacted with a Trump campaign adviser was actually a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to ensnare the campaign, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the inspector general’s findings have not been made public."