Essential California: Legalizing marijuana, fighting wage theft, Catholics make case for sainthood

Good morning. It is Wednesday, April 22. San Francisco’s utility commission wants you to know that “brown is the new green” when it comes to lawns. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Legalizing marijuana

Political observers expect a marijuana legalization measure to be on next year’s ballot, but questions remain: Can competing pot groups coalesce behind one proposal? How will police determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana? Will pot remain a black market product? Los Angeles Times

Fighting wage theft

Senate leader Kevin De Leon wants to make it easier to come after business owners who underpay their employees. “We take a much more targeted approach, by zeroing in on the bad actors,” he said. The U.S. Department of Labor believes California workers are paid less than minimum wage 372,000 times a week. Los Angeles Times

A saintly image

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is undertaking a campaign to build support for the canonization of  Father Junipero Serra, who brought Catholicism to California. But treatment of natives at the mission has drawn scrutiny and protest. Los Angeles Times



Running for supervisor: L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander will run for the Board of Supervisors. He hopes to succeed fellow Republican Mike Antonovich, who has represented the northern part of L.A. County for 35 years. Los Angeles Times

A hipper SOLA: Could rebranding South L.A. as SOLA be the first step toward pricing out working class families? Crime is down and a new light rail line and shopping centers are cropping up. But “South Central” and “South L.A.” still carry the stigma of gangs and drugs. Los Angeles Times

Working actors: Stage actors in Los Angeles do not want to see their minimum wage increased to $9 an hour. Though the wage proposals could quadruple what some actors here make, they could also force theaters with 99 seats or less out of business. Los Angeles Times

New fight club: In Boyle Heights, Lucha Underground blurs the line between fighter and spectator. Promoters there are trying to get more Angelenos interested in the “lucha libre” style of wrestling. “There was no doubt that Los Angeles, more specifically this neighborhood, was the perfect place to start,” said the group’s Dorian Roldan. Los Angeles Times



Sharing the cost: The drought has landlords considering whether they should start charging tenants for water. In Los Angeles, about 60% of renters are not responsible for their water bills. 89.3 KPCC

Top water miser: When it comes to water conservation, the city of Santa Barbara is No. 1 in Southern California. The city achieved this by offering free sprinkler heads, rebates for water-saving washing machines, and as much as $1,000 to make lawns drought-friendly. 89.3 KPCC

Hefty fines: Water wasters in Beverly Hills might soon have to pay $1,000 a day for going against conservation efforts. Los Angeles Times

Shrinking from view: The drought appears to have put the shrinking size of California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, on the back burner. “The current drought is kind of distracting all attention away from the Salton Sea,” according to a researcher with the Pacific Institute. Desert Sun

Paper or plastic: The city of Huntington Beach is getting plastic bags back. The city council agreed to repeal its ban on the product. “The ban has nothing to do with the environment. It has everything to do with a consumer’s freedom of choice,” said Councilman Mike Posey. Orange County Register



Federal inquiry: A senior staffer to Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) was subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury that is investigating whether campaign staffers were collecting paychecks from the congressional office. Roll Call

Fighting words: Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) was caught on camera threatening a group of protesters. “If you touch me again, I'll drop your ass." Washington Post

Rights for immigrants: One writer argues California’s Democrats are no friendlier to immigrants than the Republicans were in the 1990s. “Each camp was more interested in sending a message than making good policy.” Daily Beast



Prison guard shot: A guard at North Kern State Prison was shot Monday night as he patrolled a prison yard. Authorities believe the shots came from a gunman outside the prison. Los Angeles Times

Settlement in beating: A man who was beaten by San Bernardino County deputies at the end of a horse pursuit will receive $650,000. The Board of Supervisors approved the settlement to avoid any potential lawsuits. Los Angeles Times

Patrolling jails: San Francisco jail guards will have to wear body cameras in the wake of allegations that deputies forced inmates to fight. San Francisco will be the first city in the state to try them out. SF Gate

Growing old in prison: There are unique challenges associated with aging in prison, as this photo essay of California prisons shows. “Thanks mostly to increased healthcare expenses, states spend nearly twice as much on incarcerating older inmates as they do on average prisoners.” Governing



Memorable meals: Chef Alice Waters reflects on 10 meals that helped shape Chez Panisse. “Waters has stood at the center of what is now referred to as the Food Revolution — fueled by her counterculture ties to Berkeley, as well as the poets and politicians who have aligned themselves with her vision.” First We Feast

Photographing history: A collection of photos from Ansel Adams, who captured the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. SF Gate

Single lion looking for a mate: P-22 may be the loneliest mountain lion in Los Angeles. “What the lions of the Los Angeles Basin need is new blood, but the man-made barriers around them make immigration unlikely.” The New Yorker

Hunting … lions: Mountain lions have been wondering into Los Feliz area homes for more than 100 years. In 1892, Col. Griffith J. Griffith and Harrison Gray Otis, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, led the hunt for two mountain lions that helped themselves to a few pigs in Rancho Los Feliz. KCET

Ketchup and mustard: 15 classic Los Angeles hot dogs. Los Angeles Times

Shake Shack alert: New Yorkers’ favorite burger spot, Shake Shack, is coming to West Hollywood. The burger joint is often referred to as the East Coast’s In-N-Out. Los Angeles Times



In Tuesday’s Talk Back, we asked you to weigh in on a state bill that would mandate immunizations for children. Here's what you had to say:

“If your child is not vaccinated for any reason, he or she cannot attend public school. Period. Next case.” -- Gregory D. Lee

“Your child's right not to be vaccinated ends where my child's immune system begins!” -- Jeanie Camp

“The state’s role is in providing information, not in mandating and regulating vaccinations. The majority of parents will continue to vaccinate their children with or without government interference and the personal belief exemption should be honored the same as the religious belief exemption.” -- Lori Murchison

Today, we want to hear from you about voting. Specifically, what do you think about a proposal to pay $25,000 to one person who votes in an L.A. school board election? The Los Angeles Times editorial board opines, “The losers are the people who still believe in the integrity of the democratic process.”

Do you think this will improve turnout? Does it harm the democratic process, or simply encourage more people to get involved? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or send us an email: Alice Walton and Shelby Grad.



Today is Earth Day. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin came up with the idea after he surveyed a 1969 oil spill off the coast of California. If you’re looking for a “green” activity today, here's a list of events statewide.


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.