Ready to move, Californians tour their top destination: Texas
LA Times's MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE: "When half a dozen California families arrived in a limo-style bus for a daylong tour of suburban homes for sale north of Dallas, the sun was shining but the temperature had dipped below 50 degrees. Some came unprepared for the cooler weather, shivering in hoodies, flip-flops and one in a Dodgers cap."
"Don’t know how much walking I’ll be doing,” said Paul Paone, 57, a grandfather wearing flip-flops and shorts."
"Californians have been leaving the Golden State for decades in search of cheaper housing, lower taxes and a different way of life. According to a UC Berkeley poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times last year, more than half of California’s registered voters have considered leaving the state. For thousands, that search leads to Texas. California lost 1 million residents to other states from 2007 to 2016, about 2.5% of its total population, and Texas was the most popular destination, according to a 2018 reportfrom the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. The main reasons Californians cited for wanting to leave: high housing costs (71%), taxes (58%) and the state’s political culture (46%)."
PG&E makes breakthrough bankruptcy deal, but Gov. Newsom slams the utility again
Sac Bee's DALE KASLER: "PG&E Corp. made a landmark agreement with its bondholders Wednesday that wards off a hostile takeover attempt, but the utility encountered fresh headwinds from Gov. Gavin Newsom over its plans to exit bankruptcy."
"After months of squabbling with the hedge funds that hold billions in bond debt, PG&E said it secured a compromise plan with those investors. PG&E now has made deals with three of the main groups in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case: wildfire victims, insurance companies and the bondholders."
"This agreement helps achieve our goals of fairly compensating wildfire victims, protecting customers’ bills and emerging from Chapter 11 as the utility of the future,” said PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson. Spokesmen for the bondholders declined comment."
READ MORE on PG&E bankruptcy: Newsom Rips PG&E Plan to Exit Bankruptcy -- MARISA LAGOS, KQED; PG&E Strikes Deal With Bondholders as Governor Blasts Bankruptcy Strategy -- WSJ's PEG BRICKLEY and CHRISTINE MAI-DUC.
Newsom asks Trump's HUD to turn over California land for homeless housing
The Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF/JOHN WILDERMUTH: "
Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the Trump administration to turn over surplus land owned by the federal government in California so cities could build housing for homeless people.
“Emergency shelter solves sleep and we agree this is an urgent priority,” Newsom wrote in a letter Tuesday to Ben Carson, the U.S. secretary of housing and urban development. “But only housing and services solve homelessness.”
The governor launched a similar program last year, identifying vacant state-owned land and soliciting proposals from developers and local governments to build affordable housing projects on the sites."
Newsom wants California to be a no-kill state. How would we end animal euthanasia?
Sac Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the Golden State to become a “no-kill state,” ending the euthanasia of adoptable and treatable animals for good in shelters from Yreka to Chula Vista."
"He’s dedicating $50 million in his 2020-21 state budget proposal to figure out how to achieve his goal."
"The money, to be administered by the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, is intended to pay for a grant program that over five years would “help local communities achieve the state’s policy goal that no adoptable or treatable dog or cat should be euthanized.” according to the budget summary."
No coffee, no cell phones: Harris, Feinstein adjust to Trump's trial
The Chronicle's DUSTIN GARDINER: "It’s the side of a trial that is unfamiliar to California Sen. Kamala Harris — listening silently as a member of the jury."
"Harris, her California colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein and 98 other senators returned to their wooden desks Wednesday for another marathon session in President Trump’s impeachment trial. It could be their routine for a while."
"The third impeachment trial of a president in U.S. history comes with a set of strict rules for the senator-jurors: No cell phones. No talking. No coffee."
READ MORE related to Impeachment Trial: Trump shows anxiety as Dems lay out case against him in Senate impeachment trial -- LA Times's NOAH BIERMAN/CHRIS MEGERIAN
State worker pay database updated with 2019 raises, promotions
Sac Bee's WES VENTEICHER/PHILLIP REESE: "The Sacramento Bee has updated its State Worker salary database with new data up to this month."
"The update incorporates raises for about 46,000 workers in five state worker unions who received pay raises through new contracts last year. The database also includes new job titles and salaries for people who were promoted."
"Investment experts and leaders at CalPERS and CalSTRS remained at the top of the list for pay in 2019. California’s rules for paying people in those jobs differ from the rest of the state’s civil service, to enable the retirement funds to hire in the competitive world of finance."
SF DA Boudin ends cash bail for all criminal cases
The Chronicle's EVAN SERNOFFSKY: "Two weeks after Chesa Boudin took the oath of office as San Francisco’s newest district attorney, the city’s top prosecutor announced Wednesday that his office will no longer ask for cash bail as a condition for defendants’ pretrial release."
"The policy, in which prosecutors will use a “risk-based system” that weighs whether a defendant might flee or poses a threat to public safety, fulfills one of Boudin’s key campaign pledges before his election in November. The former public defender has often said the cash bail system unfairly affects indigent defendants and people of color."
"For years I’ve been fighting to end this discriminatory and unsafe approach to pretrial detention,” Boudin said in a statement. “From this point forward, pretrial detention will be based on public safety, not on wealth."
Why Mayor Steinberg is supporting Biden in 2020
Sac Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has decided to throw his support behind former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of California’s March 3, 2020 primary election.":
“I thought long and hard about this and talked with several of the candidates,” Steinberg said. “For me, Vice President Biden is the best candidate. This country desperately needs both strong leadership and a voice of healing. This country is so badly divided in large part because of the current president.”
"Steinberg declined to name the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates he spoke with but said a “number of them” reached out to him. One strong consideration for Steinberg was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been courting California lawmakers and business leaders behind the scenes and has secured the public support of big-city mayors from Stockton, San Jose and Riverside."
Health insurers take on Big Pharma, plan to manufacture their own drugs
LA Times's NOAM N LEVEY: "A group of leading U.S. health insurers, frustrated by the high cost of prescription drugs, plan to start manufacturing versions of popular generic medications, hoping the competition with pharmaceutical companies will bring down costs."
"The move — the latest salvo in the escalating battle to control drug prices — highlights the failure of the Trump administration and Congress to deliver relief for millions of Americans struggling to afford their medications."
"The announcement also comes as the state of California is exploring its own drug manufacturing plan."
Fentanyl crisis grips SF as body count skyrockets
The Chronicle's EVAN SERNOFFSKY: "Deadly fentanyl overdoses that began spiking in 2018 appear to have more than doubled last year in San Francisco, a signal the nation’s opioid epidemic has completed its westward expansion, and a grim reality that has left city health, government and law enforcement officials struggling to respond."
"The city medical examiner’s office released stunning data this week, showing deaths from fentanyl increased from 90 to 234 from 2018 to 2019, raising concerns and new calls for intervention."
"While the rest of the nation was caught in the grips of a deadly opioid epidemic over the past decade, California largely avoided the staggering spike in overdose deaths ravaging the Northeast and Midwest. But San Francisco’s increase in fatal overdoses over the past two years shows the epidemic is now firmly entrenched in the Bay Area and California, officials said."
What Folsom Dam being raised means for droughts, boating and flood insurance
Sac Bee's TONY BIZJAK: "Folsom Dam has long quietly served as a backstop for Sacramento, offering critical flood protection to one of the most at-risk metropolitan areas in the country. But a few scary winter storms in the 1980s and 1990s proved that the dam and the region’s extensive system of river levees weren’t as fail-safe as thought."
"That’s prompted several billion dollars of flood control work since then. Now, as part of that, the dam itself is about to get a major makeover that could lead to lower flood insurance rates and more time on the lake for boaters."
"Federal officials have launched work on a $373 million project to raise the dam 3.5 feet. The project will take five years to complete and will include rock and soil fill and rip-rap on the eight earthen berms that bracket Folsom Lake."
Victim who lost home, vehicles in 2018 Carr Fire faces insurance fraud charges
The Chronicle's LAUREN HERNANDEZ: "A Redding man who lawfully collected $1 million in an insurance payout after the Carr Fire destroyed his home in 2018 is facing insurance fraud charges for unlawfully trying to get another $43,000 — by buying insurance for his four cars after they burned, officials said Wednesday."
"Stephen Cortopassi, 64, learned the fire had destroyed his home and vehicles on July 27, after he was evacuated. The next day, he called his insurance provider and purchased a new policy for one of the vehicles then added coverage for the other three, which only had liability insurance, according to the state Department of Insurance, which investigated the case. The coverage took effect two days after the vehicles were destroyed, officials said."
"Cortopassi waited three weeks to report the losses, claiming the fire burned his vehicles on Aug. 9 — and suspicions on part of the insurance provider prompted an investigation, which resulted in nine felony charges."
Why Jeff Goldblum wants California to ban even more plastics
Sac Bee's HANNAH WILEY: "
What’s more frightening than a T-Rex chasing you through a dinosaur park?
For Jurassic Park actor Jeff Goldblum, it’s single-use plastics.
Goldblum visited the California Capitol on Wednesday to advocate for a pair of bills that would more aggressively push the state toward ending single-use packaging by 75 percent in the next decade."
City OKs $5.75M settlement in death of Marine veteran stun-gunned by LAPD
LA Times's RICHARD WINTON: "The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $5.75-million settlement with the parents of a Marine veteran who died after an LAPD officer stunned him six times with a Taser during a Christmas Eve altercation five years ago."
"Michael Frederick Mears, 39, went into cardiac arrest about an hour after he was detained on Dec. 24, 2014, and died two days later. A Los Angeles County coroner’s report determined Mears died from ventricular dysrhythmia because of an enlarged heart and noted that cocaine intoxication and police restraint by a Taser were contributing factors. His death was ruled a homicide by the coroner."
"A federal jury in November 2017 awarded Mears’ family $5.5 million after finding that officers used excessive and unreasonable force while seeking to restrain him."
FBI: No agent spoke to Kristin Smart family in missing college student case
The Chronicle's MATTHIAS GAFNI: "Contrary to recent reports, federal agents told The Chronicle on Wednesday that they did not tell the family of missing Cal Poly freshman Kristin Smart that a big break in the 23-year cold case was imminent."
"The agency’s comments raise questions about whether an announcement is forthcoming in the cold case, as reported by several news outlets this week — including The Chronicle — after the missing woman’s mother was quoted in a Stockton Record news story saying that the FBI advised the family to prepare for a major development that would bring closure to the case."
"A spokesman for the family confirmed Wednesday that the person who advised Smart’s mother, Denise, was not an active FBI agent."
Meet the woman who brings thousands together to count LA's homeless population
LA Times's DOUG SMITH: "The hand-drawn thermometer on the wall had just jumped to 7,100, assuring everyone in the command center that this year’s homeless count would have enough volunteers. But for Clementina Verjan, in charge of every count since the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority began conducting them in 2005, that didn’t mean all was well."
"She knew it would be next to impossible to spread that many people across Los Angeles County in an even manner. Some locations would have too many volunteers and some would have too few."
"We never have a shortage of volunteers for skid row,” she said Tuesday."
Waterboarding of detainees was so gruesome that even CIA officials wept
LA Times's TERRY MCDERMOTT: "The architect of the Central Intelligence Agency’s post-9/11 interrogation program said Wednesday that the waterboarding technique he employed was so gruesome that people — including CIA officials — cried when they witnessed it."
"James Mitchell testified at a pretrial hearing here in the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammed and four other defendants are charged with nearly 3,000 murders."
"Mitchell and another psychologist, John “Bruce” Jessen, designed, oversaw and frequently participated in what the CIA termed enhanced interrogation techniques. Waterboarding, a simulated drowning, was one of them."