This year's Sierra Nevada snowpack is gargantuan: These numbers prove it
From SF Gate's AMY GRAFF: "A nonstop parade of storms barreled across the Sierra Nevada mountain range in 2019, and on Tuesday California state officials trudged through the snow for an annual survey at Echo Summit to assess the snowpack."
"The April results are a key indicator for the state's water supply over the rest of the year; as the snow melts in spring and summer, the runoff replenishes reservoirs."
"Measurements are taken in the same location at Phillips Station near Sierra-at-Tahoe, and this year the California Department of Water Resources measured a snow depth of 106.5 inches, with a a snow-water equivalent of 51 inches. The result marked the fifth-highest snow water content ever recorded at that location since 1941. (Snow water equivalent is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the snow melted.)"
READ MORE about snowpack: ‘A California Water Supply Dream’: Record Snowpack Measured In Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe Region -- EZRA DAVID ROMERO, Capital Public Radio
A crackdown on misuse of taxpayer money?
From DAN WALTERS, CALmatters: "As documented in this space on several occasions, local government officials throughout California have been thumbing their noses at a state law that prohibits them from using taxpayer funds for political campaigns."
"Officials in cities, counties, school districts and special purpose districts routinely hire campaign management firms, often with multi-million-dollar fees, to manage every stage of their ballot measures seeking voter approval of new taxes or new bond issues (which require new taxes to service)."
"The consulting firms conduct polling of local voters and then draft the ballot measures to conform to what those polls indicate voters would find acceptable. The political pros then design campaigns for the measures, under the guise of “education,” to persuade voters to approve them."
More than 80 women sue San Diego hospital alleging secret camera recordings
From the LATimes' ALEXA DIAZ: "More than 80 women have filed a lawsuit against Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa alleging they were secretly recorded while undergoing medical procedures in labor and delivery operating rooms."
"Patients were filmed without their consent in three private rooms from July 2012 to June 2013, according to the lawsuit filed last week in San Diego County Superior Court. The women allege hidden cameras filmed approximately 1,800 patients undergoing medical procedures — including births, dilatation and curettage to resolve miscarriages, and hysterectomies."
“There are images contained within the multitude of images of women undergoing operations of a very personal, private nature, unconscious and in states of exposure depending on the operating being performed,” the lawsuit alleges."
Bay Area parent indicates he'll be first to plead guilty in admissions scandal
The Chronicle's MATTHIAS GAFNI: "A Menlo Park packaged-food entrepreneur accused of paying $15,000 to have a proctor cheat on his daughter’s college entrance exam indicated Wednesday he will become the first parent ensnared in the school admissions scandal to plead guilty."
"It’s unclear what charge Peter Jan “P.J.” Sartorio, 63, plans to plead to, or whether he is cooperating in the nationwide investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues; but his attorney asked a federal judge to postpone his Boston courtroom appearance until April 30. Sartorio had been scheduled to appear Wednesday, alongside two Hollywood actresses and five other Bay Area parents."
"Large crowds outside U.S. District Court in Boston greeted “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman and “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin. Some cheered the pair; others jeered them. Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez of Atherton and Bruce Isackson of Hillsborough joined the celebrities before a judge, and Gregory and Amy Colburn of Palo Alto appeared at a hearing later in the afternoon."
READ MORE related to Operation Varsity Blues: Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and others face judge in college admissions scandal -- LA Times's MATTHEW ORMSETH/JOEL RUBIN
PG&E shakes up leadership in hedge fund deal to Gov. Newsom's displeasure
Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER: "PG&E named a new chief executive officer and overhauled its board of directors Wednesday. But the move, brokered by three major hedge funds, left Gov. Gavin Newsom saying the utility could still be too beholden to Wall Street."
"Bill Johnson, the retiring head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, was named CEO of the embattled utility, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy under the weight of $30 billion in wildfire liabilities. The company also named 10 new directors to its board."
"“We have heard the calls for change and have taken action today to ensure that PG&E has the right leadership to bring about real and dynamic change that reinforces our commitment to safety,” the company said in a press release."
SF City Hall graft case ends in plea agreements
The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "The City Hall bribery case that unearthed an insider’s grim summary of political deal-making in San Francisco — “you pay to play here” — has ended in plea agreements for the two remaining defendants, with no jail time."
"Lawyers confirmed Wednesday that Keith Jackson, a political fundraiser and former San Francisco school board president, had pleaded guilty in February to the two charges against him, both misdemeanors. Zula Jones, a former longtime staff member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, pleaded no contest to a felony charge of bribery at the same hearing. Jones will be allowed to withdraw that plea and clear her record if she abides by the law through Dec. 20, when the next hearing is scheduled."
"Jackson is already serving a nine-year prison sentence for his guilty plea to federal racketeering charges, in which he admitted arranging bribes from undercover agents to former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and taking his own payoffs from agents to traffic in guns and drugs and arrange a supposed murder for hire. Yee also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison."
California urged to ban hands-free cellphone use while driving
Sacramento Bee's MILA JASPER: "California already busts drivers for holding their phones behind the wheel – but it got a call Wednesday to become the first state to ban even hands-free use of electronic devices by motorists."
"At the kickoff event Wednesday at Sacramento State for Distracted Driving Awareness Month and California Teen Safe Driving Week, Nicholas Worrell of the National Transportation Safety Board urged California to pass such landmark legislation."
"He called distracted driving a “battle of self-defense” for young people."
Newsom ahead of curve on death penalty
The Chronicle's JOHN WILDERMUTH: "Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision last month to declare a moratorium on the death penalty in California drew instant complaints that he was tromping on the will of the people who voted down a ban on capital punishment in 2016."
"But the real worry for death penalty supporters should be Newsom’s long record of getting in front of controversial social issues and bringing them into mainstream acceptance. Same-sex marriage, legalized marijuana and tougher gun-control rules are all issues the governor identified early and turned into popular, voter-friendly causes."
"Those who successfully opposed the Proposition 62 death penalty ban in 2016 also passed Proposition 66, which was designed to trim the number of appeals for Death Row inmates and speed up executions. Now they say their concerns are all about fairness."
Is the cost of gas about to rise? Washington prepares for tax-increase talks
Sacramento Bee's DAVID LIGHTMAN: "The Trump administration and congressional Democrats have found something they agree on — and it could mean higher taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel."
"Last week, President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, Elaine Chao, told senators that a gas tax hike was on the table when asked whether the White House would support such a move."
"And this week, Democrats are indicating that they too are ready to consider a tax increase — an effort that would fund publicly popular infrastructure improvements but has hit a hard wall of opposition for years from fiscal conservatives and advocates for low-income people alike."
Breed shouted down over proposed Embarcadero Navigation Center
The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "An unexpected appearance from San Francisco Mayor London Breed incited an already tense crowd that packed a community meeting Wednesday night to hear city officials detail a plan to bring a 200-bed Navigation Center to the Embarcadero."
"Breed addressed the hundreds of people who filled the Delancey Street Foundation’s auditorium to capacity after a mostly subdued presentation from officials representing the city’s homelessness, public works and police departments about how the center would operate and what it might look like."
"Her surprise arrival was met with cheers and jeers and she was repeatedly shouted down by some attendees opposing her proposal to build the Navigation Center on a site controlled by the Port Commission and currently used as a parking lot."
SF Prop C. waiver moves to Board of Supes
The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s elaborate proposal to unlock some of the money raised by Proposition C — the November ballot measure taxing big businesses to fund homelessness programs — sailed unanimously through the Board of Supervisors’ budget subcommittee Wednesday."
"The first Prop. C payments should begin flowing into the city’s coffers this month. Back in January, Breed introduced an ordinance that would give companies subject to Prop. C a tax break if they agree to let the city keep the money they pay — even if the courts strike down the measure and order the funds to be repaid."
"Voters passed Prop. C by more than 61 percent in November, creating a tax on the city’s biggest businesses that would bring in between $250 million and $300 million annually for supportive housing and homelessness services. Hearst Corp., the parent company of The Chronicle, is subject to the tax. But the city will not spend the money until a prickly legal dispute over the measure’s margin of victory gets resolved. Breed opposed Prop. C in the run-up to election day."
ACLU claims immigration officers at SFO retaliated against Apple employee
The Chronicle's TATIANA SANCHEZ: "Federal immigration officers at San Francisco International Airport violated the civil rights of an Apple employee when they asked to see the contents of his phone and computer after a trip abroad, according to a complaint filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union."
"Andreas Gal, an entrepreneur, artificial intelligence technologist and former Mozilla executive, alleges officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained him and demanded to search his employer-issued Apple iPhone XS and MacBook Pro after returning from a business trip to Sweden Nov. 29."
"The complaint, filed by the ACLU on behalf of Gal, said officers eventually let Gal go with his devices but revoked his Global Entry privileges. The federal program allows preapproved, low-risk travelers to get expedited clearance when they arrive in the U.S."
READ MORE related to Immigration: Border Patrol agents are granted wide latitude when trying to catch drivers seeking to enter US illegally -- LA Times's BRITTNY MEJIA/JAMES QUEALLY/ProPublica's KAVITHA SURANA
Baby sex surgery sparks clash at California Capitol
Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "Who should get to decide what to do when a baby is born with atypical genitals?"
"That’s the question lawmakers are grappling with as they consider a measure that would ban doctors from performing genital-altering surgeries on infants unless deemed medically necessary."
"Senate Bill 201 is aimed at preventing parents and doctors from operating needlessly on intersex infants. The bill defines intersex as “an individual born with sex characteristics, including genitals, gonads, and chromosome patterns, that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies...."
READ MORE related to Health: State surgeon general gives prescription for a healthy Sacramento -- Sacramento Bee's CATHIE ANDERSON
Pregnant prison guards are forced to choose between their jobs and their babies
Sacramento Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "Correctional officer Sarah Coogle was seven months pregnant when an alarm sounded during her shift at a California state prison in Tehachapi."
"Coogle ran toward the ringing and fell. She felt pain in her abdomen immediately. Two months later, in her 38th week of pregnancy, her baby was still-born."
"She believes she wouldn’t have lost the baby had the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation provided her the same accommodations the federal Bureau of Prisons and other state and local law enforcement agencies routinely provide pregnant women, including letting them transfer temporarily to positions with lighter workloads without losing seniority."
READ MORE related to Prisons & Public Safety: LA County Sheriff Villanueva reinstates second deputy fired for misconduct -- LA Times's MAYA LAU
Kushner identified as WH official who was denied security clearance
WaPo's TOM HAMBURGER/RACHAEL BADE/ASHLEY PARKER: "The senior White House official whose security clearance was denied last year because of concerns about foreign influence, private business interests and personal conduct is presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to people familiar with documents and testimony provided to the House Oversight Committee."
"Kushner was identified only as “Senior White House Official 1” in committee documents released this week describing the testimony of Tricia Newbold, a whistleblower in the White House’s Personnel Security Office who said she and another career employee determined that Kushner had too many “significant disqualifying factors” to receive a clearance."
"Their decision was overruled by Carl Kline, the political appointee who then headed the office, according to Newbold's interview with Oversight Committee staff."