81% of California abnormally dry as seasonal rains fail to materialize
The Chronicle's KURTIS ALEXANDER: "California’s drought-prone hills and valleys are on the verge of another troubling dry spell."
"The U.S. government’s Drought Monitor on Thursday classified more than 80% of California as abnormally dry because rain has eluded the state for most of the fall. Forecasting models, meanwhile, suggest little change in the near future — maybe some drizzle late next week, maybe not."
"San Francisco hasn’t seen real rain since September, when it got only a sprinkle, making it among the driest starts to the wet season that the city has seen in 170 years of record keeping."
Burned-out California town ignores stricter building codes, even with wildfire threat
Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER/RYAN SABALOW: "They evacuated Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood again last month, and it felt like October 2017 all over."
'The sheer smell of smoke is what was the scariest part,” said Steve Rahmn, who lost his home in the Tubbs Fire two years ago and had to leave when the Kincade Fire threatened in late October. “It brought up so many memories."
"Yet Rahmn and his family didn’t hesitate to return to their rental after the Kincade Fire subsided — and are excited to move back to their old place when reconstruction is finished in January. “It’s such a tight community,” he said."
Gay bar and beer joint appearances: 2020 candidates woo Californians before Democrats convene in Long Beach
LA Times's SEEMA MEHTA: "Kamala Harris plans to greet supporters at a historic Long Beach gay bar Friday, and Bernie Sanders will get backing from the East L.A. punk-funk band Ozomatli at a local rally Saturday. Amy Klobuchar met voters at a Bay Area brewery Thursday, and Joe Biden pitched his candidacy to young voters at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College."
"A dozen presidential candidates are visiting California this week — an unusual amount of activity in a state that has been viewed primarily as a source of campaign dollars. Most of the top Democrats in the race are congregating this weekend to woo party leaders and activists at a state convention in Long Beach. Two front-runners, however — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Biden — are skipping the event."
"Californians probably won’t see brightly painted campaign buses crisscrossing the state anytime soon. That’s a factor of the timing of other contests and how difficult it is to meet many of the voters in such a vast state. Even after the state moved the date up to March, its presidential primary still will probably be less of a decisive moment than a rubber stamp on the existing trends in the race."
California voters to get added access in 14 languages for 2020 elections, court rules
Sacramento Bee's THEODORA YU: "Election materials in 2020 will be available in 14 Asian languages for limited-English proficient voters, the California Court of Appeal ruled this month."
"The Nov. 4 ruling stipulated that California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla has improperly used the federal standard’s higher-percentage threshold of voting age citizens to determine which languages receive services, therefore depriving those entitled to access under state law."
"More than 1.7 million foreign-born Californians with their native tongue don’t speak English very well, Census Bureau 2018 estimates show. The languages that will see new or expanded language assistance in the upcoming elections are spoken by nearly 57,000 residents, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice said in a news release."
Sutter Health to pay $30M to settle secret kickback lawsuit; whistleblower to get slice
Sacramento Bee's SAM STANTON/CATHIE ANDERSON: "Sutter Health has agreed to pay more than $30 million to the federal government after an executive at the Sacramento-based health care giant accused Sutter of paying out millions of dollars in kickbacks to doctors in exchange for patient referrals, one of the lawyers in the case said Thursday."
"The agreement settles a secret lawsuit filed against Sutter Health in September 2014 by the federal government and Laurie Hanvey, the whistleblower who once worked for Sutter as its compliance officer."
"The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in San Francisco and remained sealed until Thursday, claims Sutter paid out millions to doctors in Sacramento and elsewhere in California to induce them to refer patients to Sutter hospitals in violation of federal and state anti-kickback statutes."
Spending for California's bullet train is dividing state leaders like never before
LA Times's RALPH VARTABEDIAN: "Even after a decade of abrupt U-turns for California’s high-speed rail project, state leaders are now split like never before."
"Gov. Gavin Newsom insists the state stick with his plan to use all of the remaining funds to build an operating segment in the San Joaquin Valley between Merced and Bakersfield."
"But others, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, are calling for limiting that $20.5 billion blueprint and shifting a quarter of the investments to high-speed rail segments in Southern California and the Bay Area."
Pelosi ups the ante against Trump: 'It's bribery'
The Chronicle's TAL KOPAN: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is escalating her rhetoric against President Trump as the House conducts its impeachment inquiry into him, calling his actions bribery."
"I am saying that what the president has admitted to and says, ‘It’s perfect,’ I say it’s perfectly wrong,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said at a news conference Thursday. “It’s bribery."
"Pelosi’s word choice reflected a broader move among House Democrats to simplify their language when criticizing Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine — and ditch clunky legalese — as they make a case to the American public that the president should be removed from office. “Quid pro quo,” a Latin phrase meaning something favorable being traded for something else, had been the primary allegation of choice against Trump for Democrats in recent weeks."
How a Bloomberg presidential bid could upend California's primary
McClatchy's EMILY CADEI/BRYAN ANDERSON: "Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has already dipped a toe into the 2020 Democratic contest. If the multi-billionaire decides to jump all the way in the race, he could make a big splash in California’s primary."
"The main reason: money. Forbes estimates Bloomberg’s net worth, earned from his eponymous financial media conglomerate, at more than $52 billion. And the one-time Republican turned anti-Trump activist reportedly sees a path to the Democratic nomination through Super Tuesday, focusing on delegate-rich states like California, where his personal wealth could make him a factor."
"Bloomberg “doesn’t have to worry about coming into Iowa, he doesn’t have to worry about going to New Hampshire or Nevada or South Carolina,” Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders predicted during a recent rally in Iowa. “He’s just going to spend, I suspect, hundreds of millions of dollars in media in California because he’s a billionaire,” a tactic Sanders said reflected “the corruption” of America’s current political system."
Oakland council approves plan for new parcel tax to pay for homeless services, parks
The Chronicle's SARAH RAVANI: "The Oakland City Council approved a plan Thursday to add a March 2020 ballot measure for a 20-year parcel tax that would fund parks maintenance and homeless services."
"The measure would levy $148 per parcel and give the city about $21 million annually. The funds would be allocated to maintaining storm water, removing trash and reducing homelessness in parks. The city attorney’s office will return to the council with language for the ordinance."
"This is an opportunity for us to do more than we’ve been doing when it comes to maintaining and enhancing our parks,” said Councilman Dan Kalb. “We have been underfunded when it comes to park maintenance and trees and gardeners and cleaning up our parks, picking up our litter.”
Supervisor Vallie Brown finally concedes: 'He ran a strong campaign'
The Chronicle's TRISHA THADANI: "Six days after her opponent claimed victory in the tense battle to represent San Francisco’s District Five, Supervisor Vallie Brown put an end to one of the closest district races in recent City Hall history and finally conceded."
"Tenants Rights Activist Dean Preston squeezed out 187 more votes in the Nov. 5 election than the incumbent — a margin so small that Brown’s campaign considered calling for a recount. But on Thursday, Brown told The Chronicle in an interview that her team didn’t think the results would change."
"It was disappointing, but we both had really strong campaigns,” she said. “Recounts are expensive and the results are the results. And that’s it, let’s move on."
Anti-fascist protesters take deals in California Capitol clash with white nationalists
Sacramento Bee's DARRELL SMITH: "Three years after white nationalists and anti-fascists spilled blood in a violent brawl on the grounds of the state Capitol, the case ended in Sacramento on Thursday with misdemeanor plea deals for the three protesters arrested in the clash."
"Berkeley teacher and activist Yvonne Felarca; student Porfirio Paz and Michael Williams, who provided security for counter-demonstrators protesting the June 2016 rally of Golden State Skinheads and Traditionalist Worker Party members at the Capitol, each pleaded no contest to single counts of misdemeanor unlawful assembly."
"The pleas before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Richard Sueyoshi avoided a certain trial for the trio – the case was assigned earlier Thursday to Sueyoshi’s courtroom for trial on felony assault charges."
Asylum officers rebel against Trump policies they say are immoral and illegal
LA Times's MOLLY O'TOOLE: "It only took Doug Stephens two days to decide: He wasn’t going to implement President Trump’s latest policy to restrict immigration, known as Remain in Mexico. The asylum officer wouldn’t interview any more asylum seekers only to send them back to danger in Mexico."
"As a federal employee, refusing to implement the government policy probably meant that he’d be fired, and an end to his career as a public servant. He’d only been assigned five of the interviews so far. But it was five too many — to the trained attorney, the policy officially termed “Migrant Protection Protocols” was not only unethical, it was against the law."
"When Stephens told his supervisor in San Francisco his decision, he said he was stunned."
New scams target PG&E customers' financial and personal info, authorities say
Sacramento Bee's MITCHEL BOBO: "The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday detailed a phone scam targeting the personal and financial information of PG&E users."
"According to authorities, a customer reported a suspicious phone call received Nov. 5, where the suspect called from a phone number that mimicked one from the utility company. Deputies say the suspect informed the customer that their account was suspended due to a company data software issue."
"The customer was informed that their account was several days past due and that immediate payment was required, according to the release. Authorities say the customer was directed to pay the balance over the phone, as local PG&E office systems were currently down."
UC plans to enroll 1400 more California undergrads with no tuition increase
LA Times's TERESA WATANABE: "The University of California plans to enroll 1,400 more California undergraduates next year with no tuition increase under a 2020-21 budget approved Thursday by the board of regents."
"The UC system also will enroll 1,000 additional graduate students and expand mental health services and academic support in its drive to increase graduation rates and close the achievement gap among diverse student groups."
"The UC Student Assn. successfully lobbied regents to ask the state for $43 million for services for students living in the U.S. illegally and those who were formerly incarcerated or in the foster care system."
Police arrest 5 linked to Halloween shooting at Orinda Airbnb party
The Chronicle's EVAN SERNOFFSKY/MATTHIAS GAFNI: "Police arrested five men Thursday in connection with the deadly Halloween shooting at an Orinda house party that killed five people, while revealing that two of the victims were armed with guns when they were slain."
"Four suspects were booked on suspicion of murder and conspiracy and were being held without bail: Lebraun Tyree Wallace, 28, of San Mateo; Jaquez Deshawn Sweeney, 20, and Jason Iles, 20, both of Marin City; and Shamron Joshua Mitchell, 30, of Antioch."
"The fifth, Devin Isiah Williamson, 21, of Vallejo was arrested on suspicion of being an accessory, officials said. He’s being held on $500,000 bond."
Man detained by BART cop for eating sandwich says he'll sue over racial discrimination
The Chronicle's MICHAEL CABANATUAN: "The man famously detained for eating a breakfast sandwich on a BART platform plans to sue the transit agency for racial discrimination, his attorney said Thursday."
"Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris said he filed a claim that precedes suing a government agency in California. He said he will file the lawsuit on behalf of Steve Foster, 31, of Concord if BART officials deny the claim — which is likely."
"He declined to say how much money Foster is seeking. BART has 45 days to settle or reject the claim. Burris could then sue the agency in either state or federal court."
Democrats portray ousted Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as the first victim of Trump's scheme
LA Times's SARAH D. WIRE: "The career foreign service officer whom Democrats are framing as the first victim of President Trump’s scheme in Ukraine takes the stand Friday morning in the second day of public hearings for the House impeachment inquiry."
"Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was recalled by Trump in May after a weeks-long campaign by former Ukrainian officials that was amplified by conservative media outlets, the president’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. The abrupt removal came just two months after Yovanovitch was asked by the State Department to stay on through 2020."
"Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are weighing whether to file articles of impeachment against the president after learning that for months he and allies worked to leverage $400 million in aid and a White House meeting to coerce new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into publicly committing to begin investigations into the 2016 election and a natural gas company that employed the son of a potential 2020 Trump rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. The inquiry continues next week with three days of public hearings."