Essential California: 'The Jinx' arrested, organizing charter school teachers, Exide's history of violations

Good morning. It is Monday, March 16. Mayor Eric Garcetti will be in Washington, D.C. today to meet with lawmakers about trade, transportation and infrastructure. Here's what else is happening today in the Golden State:


Exide’s history of violations

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control knew for years that the Vernon-based Exide plant was violating environmental laws but it only recently took any steps to shut down the operation. That’s led some to question whether the department is doing enough to properly oversee hazardous waste. L.A. Times

 'The Jinx' lives up to his name

New York real estate scion Robert Durst was arrested this weekend in connection with the 2000 killing of crime writer Susan Berman. At the time of her death 15 years ago, Berman was believed to have information about the disappearance of Durst’s wife. The case received renewed attention thanks to HBO’s documentary “The Jinx,” which focused on Durst and his connection to a trio of murders. L.A. Times

Organizing at charter schools

Teachers at the largest charter school in Los Angeles are taking steps to organize. It’s setting up a major battle between United Teachers Los Angeles and charter schools, which have traditionally hired staff who are not part of a union. Nationwide, just 7% of charter schools were unionized as of 2012. L.A. Times



L.A. as a tech hub: While at the South by Southwest conference, Mayor Eric Garcetti pitched Los Angeles the way some executives pitch their start-ups. “You can't afford to not be in L.A. We have space, weather, diversity, geography and innovation on every single block,” Garcetti said. Hollywood Reporter

Donations to a city campaign: Money plays a big role in politics and elections but what happens when that money comes in at the last minute, once voters have already filled out their ballots? That happened in Los Angeles’ most recent race. Forty percent of the money behind two charter amendments that would move city elections came in on election day or one day later. L.A. Times



Diamonds are forever: Elizabeth Taylor’s  "Taj Mahal" diamond is at the center of a dispute between Christie’s auction house and the Taylor estate. The diamond was sold to an anonymous buyer after the actress’ death. However, the buyer later canceled the sale. Now, the auction house wants the estate to return the $7 million it made from the heart-shaped diamond. L.A. Times

Text troubles for SFPD: Four San Francisco police officers are under investigation for allegedly sending racist and homophobic text messages. “It makes me sick to my stomach to even have these guys around,” said police Chief Greg Suhr. SF Gate

Officer “person of interest” in shooting: An off-duty LAPD officer is considered a person of interest in the killing of a man in Pomona. The rookie cop has been missing since Friday. L.A Times



Democrat vs. Democrat: Democrats are battling one another for a state Senate seat in the East Bay. And a major sticking point is union support. “Like a family gathering where niceties suddenly give way to an explosion of long-nurtured grievances, it has gotten quite brutal.” L.A. Times

New rules in Sacramento: Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen wants to change the way the state Legislature does business. She wants state leaders to move to a two-year budget cycle, and state departments to practice “zero-based budgeting.” She also wants to cut down on the number of bills a state lawmaker can introduce in a two-year period. “I think every Californian would agree we don’t need that many new laws,” Olsen said. Sacramento Bee

Santa Monica’s exotic animals: Handlers would no longer be allowed to bring parrots, snakes and other exotic animals to Santa Monica’s beaches and parks under an ordinance being considered by the city council. Elected officials say some handlers are too aggressive and their animals pose safety hazards to tourists. L.A. Times



Marathon: Runner Daniel Limo of Kenya won the L.A. Marathon Sunday in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 35 seconds. L.A. Times

Basketball: UCLA earned a spot in the NCAA basketball tournament. The Bruins will play Southern Methodist, which is coached by former UCLA coach Larry Brown. L.A. Times



Climbing Morro Rock: Two Native American tribes are split over whether Morro Rock may be climbed. The Northern Chumash Tribal Council is now suing the Salinan Tribe of Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties, alleging that the climbs “desecrate a registered Chumash Nation sacred site.” L.A. Times

WeHo’s reigning feminist: West Hollywood is known as “Boystown” but its second longest-serving politician is a heterosexual woman. Abbe Land is now leaving the council after 23 years. During her tenure, she was an outspoken advocate for reproductive rights, and pushed West Hollywood to declare itself the first “pro-choice city” in 1993. L.A. Times

Old is new again: One Orange County man has revived trademarks for lapsed brands, from Hydrox to Astro Pops. Now, he’s trying to do the same for brands once owned by Macy’s. Orange County Register



In Friday’s Essential California, we asked for your feedback on giving homework to students in elementary school. Reader Stephanie Olivas had this to say: “I believe students need homework. It helps reinforce what they learned in the classroom. So their brain doesn't ‘shut down’ when they get home. With their free time they'll just spend it on video games and social media. Probably not on sports, reading, family time, chores.”

For today’s Talk Back, we want your thoughts on saving water. California has one year of water supply left in its reservoirs. Does that stat make you want to save water? Do you already take shorter showers and forgo regular car washes? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or send us an email: Alice Walton and Shelby Grad.



Alpine County, the state’s least populous county, was established on this day in 1864. It is home to 1,159, according to the 2013 estimate from the U.S. Census.


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.