Report card: Year One

Jan 6, 2020


How Nesom's campaign promises have fared one year into term


The Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF: "When Gavin Newsom was sworn in as governor a year ago, he vowed to confront the problems that California “deferred for too long” and make the state a “progressive, principled” beacon for the rest of the country."


“It’s up to us to renew the California dream for a new generation,” he said in his inaugural address last January. “We will aim high and we will work like hell to get there."


"His sweeping agenda quickly differentiated Newsom from his predecessor, as he embraced a liberal wish list of policies that had proved a step too far for fellow Democrat Jerry Brown. He also turned his attention frequently to the national stage, charging into battle against President Trump."


High Cost of Wildfire Insurance Hurts California Home Sales


From the Wall Street Journal's NICOLE FRIEDMAN: "Home sales are slowing in wildfire-prone areas of California as insurers retreat from high-risk regions, say real-estate agents and homeowners."


"Insurance companies have continued to reduce their wildfire exposure in the past two years after paying more than $24 billion for California wildfire losses in 2017 and 2018. Home insurers have declined to renew policies for tens of thousands of homeowners across the state, and regulators expect more nonrenewals in the coming months."


"Real-estate agents say potential buyers are having difficulty obtaining insurance and are backing out of purchases or lowering their offers after realizing how much insurance would cost, which can be thousands of dollars a year or more in wildfire-prone areas."


State Democratic Party settles sexual assault complaints against former leader


Sac Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "California’s Democratic Party announced on Friday that it has reached settlements with five staff members who accused the party’s former leader of discrimination, assault and unwanted sexual advances."


"In a statement, the party said it supports “fairness, respect and dignity for all” but did not elaborate on the credibility of the harassment claims. It also declined to release details about the cost of the “equitable settlements” and how the claims would be paid out."


"Eric Bauman, who resigned as chairman in November 2018 following a slew of complaints, has previously said through his attorney that he “looks forward to complete vindication once the facts come out."


Human-caused ignitions spark California's worst wildfires but get little state focus


LA Times's  BETTINA BOXALL: "It could have been another bad wildfire year in California. A bountiful summer crop of quick-to-burn dead grass carpeted the hillsides. Autumn was warm and dry. A record-breaking stretch of fire weather hit the Bay Area in October."


"But it wasn’t. California wildfires charred about 270,000 acres in 2019, the smallest number since 2011. The three fatalities and roughly 735 burned structures were a fraction of the catastrophic losses of the previous two fire seasons."


"The lower than expected toll followed an unusually wet spring and big snowpack, which slowed the start of the fire season. The installation of backcountry fire cameras gave firefighting crews early notice of ignitions. When flames approached, evacuation orders were swift and sweeping."


How state lawmakers are trying to make housing cheaper in 2020


Sac Bee's HANNAH WILEY: "Gov. Gavin Newsom signed housing laws during his first year in office that aimed to protect tenants from egregious rent increases, prevent discrimination against people who pay rent with vouchers, and block cities from stymieing new construction."


"But the year concluded without Newsom signing a game-changing law that would spur construction of new homes, which is largely seen by advocates and lawmakers as the key to solving California’s housing crisis."


"The 120 members of the Legislature are reconvening in Sacramento on Monday for the second half of a two-year session with increased pressure to focus their attention on speeding production of millions of new housing units."


What landlords and tenants need to know about California's new rent-control law


The Chronicle's KATHLEEN PENDER: "Associations representing tenants and landlords are getting flooded with questions about the statewide rent- and eviction-control law that took effect in California Jan. 1."


"The most common one is: “Does this apply to me?”


"The answer generally depends on the type of property, its age, whether the owner is a person or business entity and how long a tenant has occupied th


Ballot measure would tighten up rules for dealing with bad street behavior


The Chronicle's PHIL MATIER: "In a move that could radically change California’s approach to homelessness, a former assemblyman has started a signature-gathering drive for a November ballot initiative that would call for the strict enforcement of “quality of life” laws, which deal with behavior such as public drunkenness or drug use and defecating in public.

"Offenders would be to be sent to special courts, where they could be sentenced to shelter programs or mandatory rehab."


“It would treat such behavior as a cry for help and a sign that the person cannot make wise decisions,” said former state Assemblyman Mike Gatto, the initiative’s author.

Once a defendant has completed his sentence, his conviction would be expunged, so he would have no criminal record that might hinder him from getting a job, housing or public benefits."


Bay Area lawmakers slam POTUS for drone strike that killed Iranian general


The Chronicle's DUSTIN GARDINER: "Lawmakers from the Bay Area were quick to criticize President Trump on Friday, calling his authorization of the drone strike that killed Iran’s top general a blunder that could plunge the country into war."


"They made it clear that California’s delegation, which makes up much of the House’s Democratic majority, will attempt to block any rush toward large-scale conflict. The House must authorize a declaration of war, but Trump has broad powers to approve military strikes in the case of a “national emergency.”


"Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was one of the swiftest and fiercest lawmakers to condemn Trump’s actions. She said the strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani is a “dangerous escalation of tensions with Iran that brings us close to the brink of war."


READ MORE related to Warpath Escalation: Analysis: Will Iran resume and accelerate its race for nukes? -- LA Times's TRACY WILKINSON/MELISSA ETEHADIraq vote, Hezbollah threat leveled at US troops in Mideast - AP's QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA/BASSEM MROUE; Nationwide protests against war with Iran - Sac Bee's JASON ANDERSON/DANIEL HUNT 


LA to curb developer donations, but some fear corporate contributions could mask source of giving


LA Times's EMILY ALPERT REYES: "Real estate developers pushing to get new projects approved at Los Angeles City Hall will be banned, under a new law, from giving campaign contributions to the council members vetting their projects."


"But Los Angeles leaders have held off on another change that critics say is needed: Barring donors from giving through limited liability companies and other business entities that can make it difficult to tell who is donating."


"Doing so, they argue, would prevent prohibited donors from using LLCs to camouflage their campaign contributions. Banned donors are not legally permitted to give through such entities, but it could be tougher for the city and watchdogs to detect them."


Skeletal remains of Japanese American incarcerated at Manzanar found in mountains


LA Times's HAILEY BRANSON-POTTS: "In the treeless, boulder-strewn Williamson Bowl near California’s second-tallest mountain, Giichi Matsumura stopped to paint."


"It was Aug. 2, 1945, in the waning days of World War II. The 46-year-old Japanese American man from Santa Monica had been incarcerated with his family for three years at the Manzanar War Relocation Center and had set out with a group of men who left camp to go fishing near Mt. Williamson, 14,380 feet above sea level."


"When Matsumura stopped, the group kept moving. But a freak summer blizzard moved in. The fishermen hid in a cave, hoping Matsumura had returned to camp. He had not."


Bay Area doctors target health consequences of childhood trauma


The Chronicle's ERIN ALLDAY: "A screening tool developed by Bay Area pediatricians to identify adverse childhood experiences, ranging from homelessness and food insecurity to physical and sexual abuse, will now help doctors statewide address trauma affecting patients’ health."


"The California Department of Health Care Services approved the tool — called PEARLS, for Pediatric ACEs and Related Life-Events Screener — last month. As of Jan. 1, its use is covered by Medi-Cal, and it will be available to pediatricians at 8,800 California clinics."


"Researchers and public health advocates have known for more than 20 years that traumatic childhood experiences are associated with greater risk of certain diseases such as asthma, diabetes and depression. But only in the past decade or so have doctors begun to understand just how closely connected trauma is to long-term health outcomes, and what they can do to protect their patients."


Rudy Giuliani mixed WH role, personal business in cybersecurity


The Chronicle's TAL KOPAN: "Rudy Giuliani’s mixing of his business interests, closeness with President Trump and involvement in government actions involving Ukraine is the subject of much attention from Congress as the impeachment case against the president moves toward the Senate."


"But a Chronicle investigation has found that Giuliani’s blurring of White House and personal business didn’t start with Ukraine. It began in the early days of the Trump administration, when Giuliani was named as a White House adviser in an area where he had limited experience but was trying to build a clientele: cybersecurity."


"His unpaid position with the new administration was vague, because Trump never gave him an official title or created a formal advisory committee for him to serve on or to chair. If Trump had done so, federal ethics laws would have obliged Giuliani to reveal any financial connections that might enable him to profit from his position."


These musical instruments survived the Holocaust. Now they honor the musicians who did not


The Chronicle's JOSHUA KOSMAN: "The violin had been in Auschwitz, and unlike so many human beings, it survived."


"One of the prisoners, his name now unknown, had been assigned the task of playing music while the other inmates were marched to the gas chamber. Once the camp was liberated, he immediately unburdened himself of the instrument. Years later, in the 1980s, the man he sold it to brought it to the atelier of the violin maker and restorer Amnon Weinstein in Tel Aviv."


“I opened the violin, and it was full of black ashes inside,” Weinstein, 80, recalled in a recent interview. “Because he was playing beside the crematorium, the ashes were in the air, and they settled inside the instrument."

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