Two years and $1.1B later, water flows down Oroville Dam spillway
Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER/RYAN SABALOW: "Oroville Dam’s main flood-control spillway reopened for business Tuesday morning, releasing a gentle sheet of water into the Feather River for the first time since the 2017 crisis that sent 188,000 people fleeing for their lives."
"As a media throng and a passing parade of motorists watched from across the river, a siren sounded and water began cascading down the rebuilt spillway shortly before 11 a.m. The water flowed evenly, without drama, before hitting the concrete “teeth” at the bottom of the concrete chute and turning into foam as it spilled into the river."
"It was a far cry from the scene two years ago, when the massive sinkhole in the spillway turned water releases into an angry, boiling mess that sparked the evacuation and ultimately destroyed the lower half of the structure and much of an adjoining hillside."
Speaking of water, state adopts new wetlands protections as Trump administration eases them
The Chronicle's KURTIS ALEXANDER: "California water regulators adopted a far-reaching plan Tuesday to prevent more of the state’s creeks, ponds and wetlands from being plowed or paved over, a move that comes as the Trump administration scales back protections under the federal Clean Water Act."
"The new state policy targets the rampant spread of suburbia and agriculture across California’s watery landscapes, areas that have become increasingly sparse yet remain important for drinking water, flood protection, groundwater recharge and wildlife."
"The regulation, to the chagrin of many industry groups, establishes strict rules for virtually any human activity that could disrupt the natural flow of water, like farming, home building and highway construction, on public and private property."
Judge takes oversight of PG&E’s wildfire prevention plans
From the AP: "A federal judge Tuesday said that he will closely monitor Pacific Gas & Electric’s tree-trimming this year and barred the utility from paying out dividends to shareholders as part of a new, court-ordered wildfire prevention plan."
"U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the new plan during a hearing in San Francisco to consider terms of the utility’s felony probation for a deadly natural gas explosion. The judge stopped short of adopting more stringent conditions initially proposed, including ordering PG&E to inspect every inch of its power grid."
"Alsup modified the terms as part of an effort to cut down on wildfires started by the company’s equipment, mostly by trees falling onto power lines. Alsup called the utility’s efforts to prevent trees from hitting power lines dismal while it was paying dividends to shareholders."
Top USC officials stepping down as university tries to set new course
LA Times's MATT HAMILTON/HARRIET RYAN: "In yet another sign of upheaval at USC, two top administrators announced Tuesday that they were leaving their posts."
Gun control advocates criticize high capacity magazine ruling
Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "Gun control advocates expected U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez’ ruling striking down a California initiative restricting the size of firearm magazines. But they didn’t anticipate the way he did it."
"In a fiery 86-page decision released last week, Benitez — appointed to the bench by George W. Bush in 2003 — cited a number of burglary-homicides where he said the amount of ammunition available made the difference between life and death."
"He said high-capacity ammunition magazines are protected by a Second Amendment drafted by “colonists who cherished individual freedom more than the subservient security of a British ruler."
California ordered to use settlement money as it was intended -- to help homeowners
The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "California is wrongly holding on to $331 million from a nationwide bank settlement and must use the money for its intended purpose: to help homeowners victimized by foreclosures during the Great Recession, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday."
"The money was part of the state’s share of a settlement in 2012 with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC — that had been accused of abusive lending practices. The settlement also contained more than $20 billion in direct aid to homeowners nationwide who had been harmed by a wave of foreclosures that started in the recession of 2008-09."
"Sen. Kamala Harris, who was state attorney general at the time, negotiated the terms for California that directed $331 million to programs such as hotlines to help foreclosed homeowners, legal aid, consumer education and efforts to combat financial fraud. Legislators also passed a law in 2012 directing the settlement funds to programs directly helping the homeowners."
California bans travel to South Carolina over adoption law, making 10 states on no-go list
Sacramento Bee's ADAM ASHTON/WES VENTEICHER: "Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Tuesday extended California’s ban on taxpayer-funded trips to a 10th state, adding South Carolina to a list of mostly southern states where public employees and college students can’t travel for official business."
"Becerra’s office contends a South Carolina law allowing private faith-based groups to withhold adoption services over moral objections effectively permits discrimination against gay and transgender people."
"That determination allows him to restrict taxpayer-funded travel to the state under a 2016 law that forbids public agencies from paying for business travel in states that have laws that California leaders view as discriminatory against gay and transgender people. The restriction goes into effect April 15."
Bernie Sanders campaign co-chair Ro Khanna: no mud-slinging against Democrats
The Chronicle's TAL KOPAN: "When Fremont Rep. Ro Khanna agreed to be co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, he had a requirement: no mud-slinging against fellow Democrats."
"Khanna signed on early to Sanders’ campaign, having also backed the Vermont independent in his 2016 run against Hillary Clinton. But Khanna said part of the deal was that he wouldn’t attack other Democrats in the race. Those include at least one candidate from his home state, Sen. Kamala Harris, and probably Rep. Eric Swalwell of Dublin, who is expected to run."
"I said to Sen. Sanders ... when I accepted this position as co-chair that I would only say positive things about other Democrats running,” Khanna said. “And I wasn’t going to disparage other people, who I think are very talented, but I would stick to making the positive case for him."
Harsh exchange with Democrat lands a California Republican in the Capitol 'dog house'
Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "Go to the fifth floor of the Capitol, turn left at the elevators and make another left until you hit Room 5126."
"Walk inside, locate a tiny two-person cubicle and take a few steps to enter an intimate room barely able to fit a conference table. That concludes your tour of the most desolate space a California lawmaker could have."
"The cramped corner office dubbed “the dog house” is now home to a Republican who offended the top Democrat in the California Assembly."
Ghost Ship trial: Defense makes 'cover-up,' 'scapegoat' claims on Day 1
The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "In the run-up to trial, defense attorneys for the two men charged in the deadly Ghost Ship fire cultivated a public defense strategy around one central argument: Their clients were scapegoats in the warehouse inferno that killed 36 people because Oakland officials were negligent in enforcing the city’s fire code."
"The centerpiece to the defense’s strategy will likely be presented to a jury as well, after presiding Judge Trina Thompson on Tuesday — the first official day of the long-awaited Ghost Ship criminal trial — said she’d allow “cover-up” arguments, with some limitations."
"Thompson, sitting in an Alameda County Superior courthouse in downtown Oakland, heard motions on potential witnesses and evidence, while jury selection and opening statements won’t begin for weeks. Defendants Derick Almena, 48, and Max Harris, 29, are each charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the Dec. 2, 2016 fire."
Sex abuse victims back California priest accountability bill
Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "A procession of sexual assault victims on Tuesday urged the Senate to pass a law requiring priests and other religious leaders to report child abuse, ending a legal exemption that allows them to keep information confidential if they learn it during confessions."
"One speaker, Kameron Torres, told lawmakers that he was sexually abused twice while growing up in a Jehovah’s Witness community. When his mother learned of the abuse and tried to report it to the church elders, “They told her, ‘It’s in God’s hands now,” Torres said."
"Torres has since left that community, but said his abusers are still there and still in positions of power over potential victims."
California schools find success building student confidence and campus culture
EdSource's JULIE PATEL LISS: "When Christopher Gonzalez first entered John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, he noticed that students generally kept to themselves and their own cliques."
"It was like a line you didn’t cross,” said Gonzalez, now a senior."
"The climate began to change more than a year ago: More greetings are exchanged in hallways. Virtually no one sits alone at lunchtime. Students from various cross sections of the school — gamers, artists, dancers, jocks and others — gather together in a small grassy courtyard called “the mound” for a monthly “Hey Day” event. At the event, which Gonzalez helps organize, people sit on blankets and benches nearby, eating lunch and mingling."
More money to fight homelessness could come California's way under this bipartisan plan
Sacramento Bee's KATE IRBY: "Congress is considering giving a $750 million bump in help to comprehensive programs to help the homeless, with agreement from both Democrats and Republicans that it’s an innovative approach to a persistent issue."
"The bill, introduced last week by California Democrats Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Ted Lieu, would give the grant money to localities, such as local governments and nonprofits, who could then dole the money out to programs that provided housing, mental health services, substance abuse services, case managers and more to the homeless. Its goal: To comprehensively address the issues that contribute to chronic homelessness."
"The bill emphasizes the services as well as the housing, which makes it stand out from other bills we’ve seen,” said Robert Friant, spokesman for the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a vocal supporter of the bill."
BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas to retire from the transit agency next month
The Chronicle's RACHEL SWAN: "BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas will retire from the transit agency on May 6, General Manager Grace Crunican said on Tuesday."
"Rojas, 50, arrived at BART two years ago from the Santa Ana Police Department, where he had been chief for five years after serving as an officer since 1990. He steered the transit system’s police department as it grappled with high-profile violent crimes — including last year’s fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson — and tried to build trust with commuters who are peeling away from mass transit."
"The outgoing chief also helped pioneer BART’s controversial fare inspection program in which teams of civilian officers cite riders who cannot present proof of payment. Records reviewed by The Chronicle show that few people pay the fines, and nearly half of the citations go to African American riders— a disparity that troubles some board directors."