Two million and counting: California's early voters
Capitol Weekly's JOHN HOWARD: "The March 3 primary election is right around the corner, but nearly 2 million California voters have already cast ballots. As these voters mail in their ballots, many are receiving an email to participate in a Capitol Weekly survey asking about their experience, who they voted for and why."
"This survey, conducted since the beginning of the early voting period, has reached more than 7,500 voters, nearly 6,000 who participated in the Democratic presidential primary."
"Note, they are not a group representative of the overall electorate. These are voters who consistently return their ballots early, and they are generally older, whiter and higher in socioeconomic status than the electorate at large."
A new voting system in L.A. raises the stakes for California’s primary
From the LAT's JOHN MYERS and MATT STILES: "When Los Angeles County set out to build a new voting system from scratch more than a decade ago, election officials knew the challenges in serving an electorate larger than those found in any of 39 states."
"But what they didn’t know was that their efforts were on a collision course with a series of statewide election changes and the most consequential presidential primary in modern California history. Should Angelenos not understand what to do or where to go, the effects could be felt both statewide and — in terms of the Democratic presidential race — across the country."
“There’s a lot riding on this,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at UC Irvine. “Any time you’re making so many changes at once, people can lose confidence in the system.”
Feds order South Bay reservoir drained amid fears of catastrophic dam failure
The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO/MICHAEL CABANATUAN: "Federal water officials have ordered Silicon Valley’s chief water supplier to start draining its largest reservoir by Oct. 1 because a major earthquake could collapse the dam and send floodwaters into communities from Monterey Bay to the southern shore of San Francisco Bay.
"But Valley Water, the agency that manages the Anderson Dam and Reservoir, says it has already lowered the reservoir’s water below the level initially sought by federal officials — and that the total drainage the federal government now demands would actually make the dam more vulnerable to earthquake damage, while also reducing water supplies and causing environmental harm."
"The reservoir, in a gorge 3 miles east of U.S. 101 between Morgan Hill and San Jose, is one of 10 storing water for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, now known as Valley Water. Built in 1950, it can hold 89,073 acre-feet of water, more than half of the 170,000 acre-feet stored in all of the district’s reservoirs."
SF expecting first dry February in 156 years, but rain possible Sunday
The Chronicle's ALEJANDRO SERRANO: "As temperatures increase throughout the Bay Area, weather officials spotted something hopeful in the seven-day forecast: a chance of rain."
"The lack of precipitation in downtown San Francisco this month is nearing a historic feat. The city has not had a February with no rainfall since 1864, according to the National Weather Service."
"There is a 20% to 30% chance of rain across the region Sunday, when an upper-level trough of low pressure from the northwest is expected to import cooler temps, according to the National Weather Service. Of course, that would be March 1."
PG&E union resists Bernie Sanders' calls for public takeover
The Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s main union is pushing back forcefully against efforts to make the company, which is currently owned by investors, controlled by the public instead — something Sen. Bernie Sanders, state Sen. Scott Wiener and the city of San Francisco have proposed in various forms.
Most recently, IBEW Local 1245 shot back at a political advertisement from Sanders that criticized PG&E for its role in causing deadly wildfires. The union, which represents about half of PG&E’s 23,000 employees, released its own video in response, criticized Sanders’ endorsement of a public takeover, saying it would be prohibitively expensive and misguided.
Tom Dalzell, the union’s business manager, noted in the video that his labor group represents not only PG&E employees but also workers at numerous publicly owned utilities in Northern California."
Building a house in California is expensive. These new proposals would slash city fees
Sac Bee's HANNAH WILEY: "California Democrats unveiled on Monday a package of eight proposals that attempt to spur construction of new homes by slashing some of the fees that local governments charge for building permits.
Those fees can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per house, driving up the cost of construction and leading developers to favor luxury homes over affordable ones, advocates say.
One new proposal would direct cities to set charges on the square footage of a project, which could free developers to build smaller units for a lower cost. Another would use state funds to reimburse local governments that waive impact fees on affordable units."
READ MORE related to Housing Legislation: Local fees that boost California housing costs targeted by Assembly Democrats -- The Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF
State opens investigation following CalMatters’ report on tech foundation
From CalMatters' LAUREL ROSENHALL: "California’s political watchdog is investigating fundraising practices by Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low after CalMatters reported that he had stopped disclosing donors to a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Legislature’s technology caucus, which he chairs."
"The chief of enforcement for the Fair Political Practices Commission wrote in a letter to Low that she had begun “a commission-initiated investigation regarding potential violations of the ‘behested payment’ disclosure provisions of the Political Reform Act” — a state law that requires elected officials to disclose donations of $5,000 or more given to other groups at their request."
"“At this time, we have not made any determination about the possible violations. We are simply providing you with this information as a courtesy and may be contacting you to discuss the matter,” said the letter from Galena West, dated Thursday."
Attorneys for East Area Rapist suspect want more lawyers, investigators to defend client
Sac Bee's DARRELL SMITH/SAM STANTON: "His public defenders call it a David-vs.-Goliath story: the defense team representing the man suspected to be one of California’s most notorious serial killers against the assembled army of prosecutors and investigators whose job it is to convict him.
Now overwhelmed Sacramento defense attorneys for Joseph DeAngelo are pleading with Southern California judges for more resources to represent the man prosecutors allege is the Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist.
DeAngelo’s defense team in court papers filed last week are calling for judges to appoint defense attorneys and investigators from Orange, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to help shoulder the load in a case expected to take years and cost millions of dollars to resolve."
Bernie Sanders wins big in Nevada, rolls toward California with momentum
The Chronicle's JOE GAROFOLI: "Sen. Bernie Sanders scored an easy win in the Nevada caucuses Saturday, giving him momentum going into California’s Super Tuesday primary and putting him potentially on a path to the Democratic presidential nomination."
"Sanders held a lead of roughly 2-1 in the popular vote in Nevada over former Vice President Joe Biden, in second place, with former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in third as the caucus results were slowly tabulated."
"Sanders was supported by a broad coalition of voters in the most racially and ethnically diverse state of the three that have voted. The Vermont senator was backed by 53% of Latinos, who make up roughly a third of Nevada’s population, NBC News entrance polls indicated. The network’s surveys showed him running second among African Americans to Biden and leading among whites, young voters and even moderates."
AOC jumps into California politics to help House Democrats
The Chronicle's EMILIE MUNSON: "Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a hero to many progressives and a prodigious fundraiser, is singling out a California Democrat as one of a handful of “bold swing district” House members worthy of her supporters’ campaign donations."
"With call-outs on her website and on Twitter, the New York Democrat has helped Orange County Rep. Mike Levin raise more than $38,000 for a campaign that could be crucial to Democrats’ hopes of holding the House in November, the congresswoman’s campaign said. Ocasio-Cortez herself gave an additional $4,800 through her political action and campaign committees, Federal Election Commission records show."
"Ocasio-Cortez said she plans to issue similar fundraising call-outs for another first-term California Democrat facing a potentially tough race in November, Orange County Rep. Katie Porter, to her 6.3 million Twitter followers and on her website."
Union funding 'smear campaign' against 1st openly-gay Councilman in Sacramento, mayor says
Sac Bee's THERESA CLIFT: "Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and other local leaders are defending City Councilman Steve Hansen against what they called a “smear campaign” against the council’s first openly-gay member."
"Over the weekend, volunteers placed door hangers on Sacramento homes that read, “We Must Stand Up For Our Values,” above a darkened photo of Hansen’s face and a brightly colored photo of Katie Valenzuela, his opponent for the District 4 City Council seat. The hanger also reads: “Steve Hansen Supports Republicans.” On the other side is a photo of Donald Trump with “RESIST LOCALLY” in big red letters."
"Valenzuela said her campaign did not fund and she does not support the door hangers."
Ex-Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick fires back at critics, weighs lawsuit
The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "Anne Kirkpatrick had nearly finished packing up her downtown Oakland apartment Sunday evening when she stopped to discuss her unceremonious exit as Oakland’s police chief. She’ll soon be moving back to Seattle, she said, but Kirkpatrick’s not leaving the Bay Area without a fight."
"Speaking for the first time to The Chronicle and other outlets since the Oakland Police Commission voted Thursday to dismiss her without cause, Kirkpatrick fired back at her critics and said she’s weighing her legal options. She also intends to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate a federal court’s oversight of the city’s force."
"Kirkpatrick, 60, became the latest Oakland police chief unable to shake the now 17-year hold federal monitors have had on the department, ever since the “Riders” scandal of the early 2000s exposed pervasive racial profiling and abuses by a group of officers in West Oakland. The oversight, which was supposed to span five years, has now outlasted 10 police chiefs and 500 officers. Four mayors, two federal judges and two monitoring teams have also taken part in the process."
Big Bears bald eagle eggs aren't likely to hatch, US Forest Service says
LA Times's COLLEEN SHALBY: "For nearly two months, a pair of bald eagles in the San Bernardino National Forest have watched vigilantly over two eggs laid in early January, but officials say it’s looking like the eggs aren’t likely to hatch."
"The chicks should have been born around Valentine’s Day, but on Feb. 21 — more than 40 days after the eggs were laid — the U.S. Forest Service delivered the disappointing news."
“It’s hard to say this,” the officials wrote on Facebook in announcing that the odds were against the eggs hatching. The chances “are diminishing each day,” they wrote. “The window of successful hatching is closing."
PG&E fires debris hauler on California wildfire cleanup, alleging over-billing and payoffs
Sac Bee's DALE KASLER: "PG&E Corp. said Monday it fired a company that was hauling Camp Fire debris from Paradise after discovering the company was over-billing the utility and paying “large sums of money and gifts” to two PG&E supervisors.
The two employees “are no longer with the company,” said PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson in a memo to his workforce.
Johnson said PG&E severed its contracts with Bay Area Concrete Recycling after looking into allegations about payoffs and over-billing. The preliminary in-house investigation confirmed the allegations."
SF's new eviction-prevention program is working, but is it enough?
The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "In the midst of a punishing housing crisis and deepening concerns about displacement, a program to give free legal advice to those facing eviction helped nearly 730 people stay in their homes in a six-month span last year.
A new report released Monday from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development looked at how San Francisco’s voter-approved tenant right-to-counsel program has been working.
Officials dissected the report at a hearing at the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee Monday. Supervisor Dean Preston, who wrote the ballot measure that created the program, called for the hearing shortly after his November election."
Anti-vaccine protesters get assurances from Jennifer Siebel Newsom during impromptu chat
LA Times's MELODY GUTIERREZ: "California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom told anti-vaccine protesters rallying outside her Sacramento-area home that her husband’s administration is looking into their concerns about California’s new laws limiting who can be exempted from shots required for school, while also saying she believes there needs to be more dialog about whether some immunizations are unnecessary.
In a video taken Monday, Siebel Newsom is seen talking with the protesters about the vaccine laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year before she asks that they not post the video online.
“I think there needs to be more conversation around spreading out vaccines, around only giving children the vaccines that are most essential,” Siebel Newsom says in a portion of the short video posted on the Facebook page of one of the protesters."
A Valencia Street bike shop owner has launched an unlikely crusade
The Chronicle's RACHEL SWAN: "The owner of a 35-year-old bike shop on San Francisco’s busy Valencia Street is driving a neighborhood crusade against an unlikely enemy: the city’s plans for a protected bikeway outside his store.
Valencia Cyclery owner Paul Olszewski wants to torpedo the barricaded lane idea, which he says would take 14 parking spaces out of the 29 on his block, along with a center turn lane that doubles as a loading zone. He spent hours last week hoofing up and down the 2-mile artery, knocking on every merchant’s door from Market Street, on the north end, to the southern boundary at Cesar Chavez Street.
The consensus, he maintained, was clear."
Five things that have changed in Hollywood since the Weinstein case broke
LA Times's RYAN FAUGHNDER/STACY PERMAN: "Once known for Oscar winners like “Shakespeare in Love,” disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein’s most lasting legacy will surely be the rise of the #MeToo movement triggered by his downfall.
On Monday, a New York jury convicted Weinstein of two of five counts. Weinstein was found guilty of one count of rape and one count of committing a criminal sexual act, with each crime connected to an individual allegation made by Mimi Haley or Jessica Mann. He was acquitted on the more serious charges of predatory sexual assault, which each carried a potential life sentence.
More than two years after accusations of sexual harassment and assault ended Weinstein’s career as a movie mogul, the ripple effects of the revelations continue in casting meetings, executive suites and writers rooms. Weinstein, who also faces charges in Los Angeles, denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex."
Weinstein verdict in NY makes a convinction in LA more likely, experts say
LA TImes's LAURA NEWBERRY/MAURA DOLAN: "Monday’s verdict in Harvey Weinstein’s New York rape trial will likely help Los Angeles County prosecutors secure a conviction against the disgraced movie mogul in his California case, legal analysts said.
“This is very bad news for Harvey Weinstein,” said USC law professor Susan Estrich, who has written extensively about sexual assault cases. “The defense Weinstein tried to use failed. And if it didn’t fly in New York for rape, it is not going to fly in California for sexual battery.”
On the eve of Weinstein’s New York trial, L.A. County prosecutors charged Weinstein with forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of restraint and sexual battery by restraint."