Essential California: Compton firefighters lack medical skills, restrictions on sex offenders relaxed, big payouts for workers compensation claims

Good morning. It is Friday, March 27. Here's what is happening in the Golden State:



Firefighters lack medical skills: An investigation by the Los Angeles Times finds nearly one in four Compton firefighters is working without the certification needed to perform emergency medical services. That includes fire Chief Jon Thompson, a former paramedic. Under state law, firefighters do not have to carry EMT cards. However, most departments require it. L.A. Times

Keeping their distance: The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is loosening restrictions on how close some sex offenders may live to schools and parks. Under Jessica’s Law, sex offenders must live at least 2,000 feet from these  locations regardless of whether their crime involved a child. Now, the rule will apply to only high-risk offenders and child molesters. A report from the department found the homeless rate among sex offenders increased 24 times after Jessica’s Law took effect. L.A. Times

Big payout for workers comp: Los Angeles taxpayers are shelling out $28 million a year to police officers and firefighters for preventable injuries. Audits from Controller Ron Galperin found some city firefighters hurt themselves while preparing food or playing racquetball. A disproportionate amount of injury pay goes to city workers who file consecutive claims. L.A. Times



Drones welcome here: Work began last week on a new high-rise in downtown Los Angeles. When it’s completed, the 25-story condo will include a unique feature -- a landing pad for drones. Curbed LA

Just what we need -- more flies: In just a three-month span, 30 new species of flies have been discovered. The flies were named after the residents of the homes where they were found. “Describing 30 species in a single paper is rare, but what's especially striking is that all these come from urban Los Angeles,” according to the Natural History Museum. LAObserved

Campaign to save Norms: The creator of "Mad Men" says he  sketched out the hit show on a napkin while sitting at a Norms on La Cienega Boulevard. That’s why he wants the Googie-style building to be preserved as a landmark. YouTube



A run for the Senate? Rep. Adam Schiff is considering a run for the U.S. Senate. He told writer Bill Boyarsky that he’s waiting to see who else may be jumping into the race. “There is a real opportunity for a candidate from Southern California. The biggest influence [on his decision] is what the field will look like,” he said. Jewish Journal

Opening door to Cuba: State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins will lead a delegation on a five-day trade mission to Cuba. California state officials are hoping to establish business ties with the country. L.A. Times

A fight between Republicans: In San Diego, two Republicans are fighting it out over a seat on the Board of Supervisors and just one of them has the support of the party. State Sen. Joel Anderson received $200,000 from the state Republican Party just one day before new contribution limits took effect. He is challenging incumbent Supervisor Dianne Jacob. San Diego Union-Tribune



Fight club behind bars: Four sheriff’s deputies staged brutal fights in San Francisco County jails. Even worse, the deputies would place bets on the brawls. San Francisco’s sheriff called the fights “barbaric.” L.A. Times

Twists in Vallejo kidnapping? She was missing, then found, then missing again. Police say they know where 29-year-old Denise Huskins is. Once police said they believed her kidnapping was a hoax, Huskins and her family disappeared. “The fact that we essentially wasted all of these resources for really nothing is upsetting,” said an officer with the Vallejo Police Department. L.A. Times



Religious outrage in the Bay Area: Parents are pleading with the Archdiocese of San Francisco to remove two religious leaders who they say have disrupted the tolerant atmosphere at their school. The problems at Star of the Sea School come as new morality clauses are being inserted in school handbooks and teachers’ contracts. San Francisco Chronicle



Wasting water: California is full of water wasters, at least according to other Californians. About 66% of those surveyed by the Public Policy Institute of California said residents could be doing more to conserve water during the drought. “People take their cues from their social surroundings, and they are looking for evidence that other people are making sacrifices,” according to the PPIC president.  L.A. Times

Weather extremes: From snow to sand, a look at springtime in Boston and Los Angeles. “Spring is finally here, which is an obvious fact in Los Angeles and a confusing and sad one in Boston.” Curbed LA



Celebrating a berry: Knott’s Berry Farm is celebrating the boysenberry, planted on the site by Walter Knott in the early 1930s. It wasn’t long before boysenberry pie became the specialty of  Cordelia Knott’s The Chicken Dinner Restaurant. That restaurant and the attractions surrounding it soon became the famous theme park. The Boysenberry Festival will start tomorrow. Orange County Register

Good fortune awaits: The Farmacia Million Dollar in downtown Los Angeles promises to help you with love, wealth and health. To help you find just the right candle or spiritual water, check out this handy (and interactive) guide. L.A. Times

Thanks, China: Writer Joe Mathews penned a tongue-in-cheek thank-you note to Chinese President Xi Jinping for allowing so many of his citizens to buy homes in California and attend the state’s universities. “In all these ways, you keep putting money in our pockets, while the folks in Sacramento and Washington keep trying to take money out,” he writes. Zocalo



In Thursday’s Essential California, we asked for your thoughts on plans to increase the minimum wage. Here’s what you had to say:

“I truly believe that increasing the minimum wage will help our overall economy and lower wage earners.” -- Simone Best

For today’s Talk Back, a Los Angeles Times editorial revisits the way California punishes people who commit crimes as juveniles. There are 300 prison inmates who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were minors. What’s the appropriate way to deal with juvenile offenders? What role should rehabilitation play in these cases?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or send us an email: Alice Walton and Shelby Grad.



The city of Los Angeles has seen its workers compensation payments increase dramatically, according to audits from the city controller. Here are figures from the L.A. Times:

In 2009:

-- Injury payments: $32.3 million

-- Average leave: 7.1 weeks


In 2013:

-- Injury payments: $42.3 million

-- Average leave: 8.7 weeks


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.