The Roundup

Nov 8, 2019

Westlands wins big

Interior proposes coveted deal to ex-client of agency head

From AP's ELLEN KNICKMEYER: "The Interior Department is proposing to award one of the first contracts for federal water in perpetuity to a powerful rural water district that had employed Secretary David Bernhardt as a lawyer and lobbyist."


"Environmental groups and a California Democratic lawmaker oppose giving the contract to the California’s Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest agricultural water supplier. The water supplier serves some of country’s wealthiest and most politically influential corporate farmers."


"Bernhardt served as a lobbyist for Westlands until 2016, the year before he joined Interior, initially as deputy secretary."


Lose power during the first PG&E shutoff last month? Here's how much money you're getting back


Sacramento Bee's MICHAEL MCGOUGH/DALE KASLER: "PG&E Corp., reporting a $1.6 billion loss for the third quarter of 2019, said Thursday customers will receive bill credits totaling $90 million for the first of the widespread “public safety power shutoffs” last month."


"Under pressure from Gov. Gavin Newsom, the utility had already announced it would compensate customers for a deliberate blackout it imposed in early October. The blackout was plagued with communications snafus as PG&E’s website crashed and its call center was overwhelmed."


"The bill credits amount to an average of $122 for each of the 738,000 homes and businesses affected by the blackout, which began Oct. 9. Newsom had demanded $100 per household and $250 per small business. PG&E said it won’t offer compensation for any of the other power shutoffs it imposed in October as high winds buffeted its service territory."


Criticism of Newsom, sanctuary laws at indictment for 4 tied to El Dorado deputy's slaying


Sacramento Bee's SAM STANTON: "A federal grand jury in Sacramento on Thursday indicted four men who authorities blame for the death of El Dorado Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Ishmael two weeks ago, part of a concerted effort by federal and local prosecutors to bring maximum penalties against the suspects."


"The indictments came as Sheriff John D’Agostini and other law enforcement leaders severely criticized California’s sanctuary state laws for hindering their investigation. D’Agostini also singled out Gov. Gavin Newsom for failing to attend Ishmael’s funeral Tuesday."


"He had an important meeting with PG&E,” the sheriff said. “One morning out of his busy schedule to respect my deputy and his family I don’t think is too much to ask."


'The heart is still pumping'


The Chronicle's LIZZIE JOHNSON: "A year after the Camp Fire, only 14k ruined homes have been rebuilt. Residents struggled with grief and financial hardship. But many are committed to restoring their community, making it stronger along the way."


"Jerry Wilson gripped a walking stick in one hand and a sweating Keystone Light in the other. He strolled from room to room in his house — half a house, really — gesturing at what was not yet there."


"He pointed through the wood wall framing to the kitchen. This is where the long dining table will rest, replacing the one that burned. He pointed to the back wall. Here is where the bar will go, 32 feet of granite, so his grandchildren can gather as he cooks tacos or lasagna."


SF election thriller: 35-vote lead in supes race, DA contest nearly as tight


The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA/EVAN SERNOFFSKY: "Two days after the polls closed, a pair of pivotal elections in San Francisco remained too close to call Thursday afternoon, following the latest release of vote tallies."


"Both races pitted candidates backed by Mayor London Breed against more progressive competitors."


"Interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus, appointed by the mayor last month, held on Thursday to a lead over Chesa Boudin, an attorney in the public defender’s office."\


Homicides more common in childhood gun deaths in California than rest of nation, data show


Sacramento Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "Homicides are more common in childhood gun deaths in California than in the rest of the U.S., according to new data published by Everytown, a nonprofit that advocates for reducing gun violence."


"About 76 percent of gun deaths among children and teenagers in California are homicides, compared to 58 percent nationally, according to the data, published Thursday. An average of 246 children and teens die from guns in California each year, according to the data."


"Everytown, which advocates for stronger background checks, red flag laws and other gun control measures, included the stat in an overview of gun violence in California. The group posted similar data for every state on a new website and database titled EveryStat."


Orinda shooting: Following criticism, Airbnb says it will pay for funerals and counseling of victims


The Chronicle's ANNA BAUMAN/ALEJANDRO SERRANO: "Airbnb said Thursday it will pay funeral expenses for the five victims of the Orinda shooting and will cover counseling bills for their families after a victim’s lawyer blasted the company’s response to the Halloween massacre at one of its rental properties."


"In a statement, Airbnb said it has set aside funds for funeral expenses and counseling for the victims’ families and has been in contact with Jesse Danoff, a lawyer who represents the family of Raymon Hill Jr., one of the people killed when gunfire erupted at the party on Oct. 31."


Sacramento City Council to vote on $27.2M loan to MLS investor group


Sacramento Bee's TONY  BIZJAK: "Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg will ask the City Council on Tuesday to agree in principle to loan the city’s Major League Soccer investment group up to $27.2 million to pay for infrastructure around a planned stadium in the downtown Railyard."


"The funds, to come from a city risk management fund, would finance roads, water and sewer lines, pedestrian walkways and a light rail station near the 20,000-plus seat stadium."


"The soccer group would pay the city back with interest either from their own pockets or by taking advantage of new state infrastructure law that would permit the use of future increased property tax revenues from the site for the loan repayment."


Bay Area homes are getting more affordable, closing gap with rest of state


The Chronicle's KATHLEEN PENDER: "This may sound hard to believe if you’re house hunting, but Bay Area homes got significantly more affordable in the third quarter, thanks to a big drop in mortgage rates, rising incomes and lower home prices, according to a report issued Thursday by the California Association of Realtors."


"The region is still the least affordable in California, but it’s closing the gap with the rest of the state."


"In the Bay Area, 29% of households theoretically could buy a median-priced, single-family home in the third quarter, up from 24% in the second quarter and 21% in the third quarter of last year, according to the association’s “affordability index."


As LA ports automate, some workers are cheering on the robots


LA Times's MARGOT ROOSEVELT: "Day after day, Walter Diaz, an immigrant truck driver from El Salvador, steers his 18-wheeler toward the giant ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Will it take him half an hour to pick up his cargo? Or will it be as long as seven hours? He never knows."


"Diaz is paid by the load, so he applauds the arrival of more waterfront robots, which promise to speed turnaround times at a port complex that handles about a third of the nation’s imported goods."


"I’m for automation,” Diaz says. “One hundred percent. One hundred percent."


Coastal cities give in to growth. SoCal favors less housing in Inland Empire


LA Times's LIAM DILLON: "In a dramatic shift to how Southern California cities plan to grow over the next decade, a regional agency decided Thursday to push for more housing in coastal rather than inland communities."


"Under the plan, communities in Los Angeles and Orange counties will have to accommodate more than 1 million new houses — more than triple the amount of both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Culver City, for example, will have to zone for 3,300 new homes, more than double the number than under an alternative plan, which would have given a much larger responsibility for new housing to the Inland Empire."


"This is a moment of our growing up,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said after the vote. “I understand the fear where people are like: ‘No, just keep [housing] out and maybe my traffic won’t get worse.’ Well, we’ve tried that for three decades and it’s failed. This is a new beginning."


House Dems subpoena Mick Mulvaney in impeachment investigation


AP: "House Democrats have subpoenaed acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney in their impeachment investigation, demanding his testimony Friday as they wrap up closed-door interviews and move into a public phase of the investigation."


"Despite the late-night subpoena, Mulvaney isn’t expected to appear for the interview Democrats have scheduled. The White House instructed its officials not to comply with the investigation, which is looking at President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine."


"An official working on the inquiry said the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Mulvaney because other testimony indicated he “could shed additional light on the president’s abuse of the power of his office for his personal gain."


Hong Kong protestors call for 'renvenge' after 22-year-old student dies in fall


LA Times's RYAN HO KILPATRICK: "A 22-year-old Hong Kong student died on Friday morning after falling from a multistory parking lot during a protest on Sunday night. It may be the first confirmed death directly linked to police action in Hong Kong’s five months of escalating political unrest."


"Spontaneous demonstrations mourning the man’s death and condemning police erupted throughout the city, with hundreds chanting: “Murder must be compensated with life! A debt in blood must be paid in blood!” and “Hong Kongers, revenge!"


"Alex Chow Tsz-lok, an undergraduate student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, reportedly plummeted from the third floor as he attempted to escape tear gas that police had fired into the building. But key circumstances surrounding his fall remain unknown."

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