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Essential California: LAUSD has a watershed moment

The White House scandals have not yet led Republicans to break ranks. If North Korea launched the massive WannaCry ransomware attack, why? USC next month will dedicate the new Robin Williams Endowed Chair in Comedy. And the only giraffe that lives in the Vegas area is painting original works of art.

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Wednesday, May 17, and here's what's happening across California:



L.A. schools' political earthquake

Tuesday was shaping up to be a watershed election for the Los Angeles Unified School District, where supporters of charter schools were on track to win a majority on the school board, based on early ballot tallies. It would mark a political earthquake with big implications for how students are taught in America's second-largest school district.

Some key takeaways:

-- L.A. Unified has more charters and more charter students than any other school system, but they still account for only about 16% of enrollment. With a majority on the board, charter forces could significantly increase those numbers.

-- Teachers unions have long been a dominant force in school politics. But this time, charter forces significantly outspent the unions. Campaign spending was expected to top $15 million, making this the most expensive school board election ever.

-- Charter forces have long been critical of how the LAUSD is run. Now they will have to show they can steer the massive, often frustrating, bureaucracy better. Los Angeles Times

Dealing with LAPD's problem officers

A ballot measure that would significantly change the way the Los Angeles Police Department handles serious officer misconduct was leading in early returns Tuesday, despite misgivings from some community activists that it would result in more lenient treatment for problem cops. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Gil Cedillo appears to have beaten back a challenge in an especially ugly City Council race in northeast L.A. Los Angeles Times

The GOP tent

We hear a lot about Trump voters and how experts say they were ignored before election day. But columnist Steve Lopez goes to Orange County to meet two self-proclaimed Reagan Republicans who feel ignored from the party they've long called home. Should they be allowed into the tent? Los Angeles Times


Comedian's honor: Nearly three years after his tragic death, actor Robin Williams will have a chair endowed in his honor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Los Angeles Times

Slow down: City officials are trying to crack down on street racing on one notorious boulevard by adding special strips to the roadway. Will it work? Daily News


Bookish: Touring the surprising number of vintage bookstores in L.A. New York Times

Hotel stories: Unlocking the many mysteries that lie inside the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. "The '80s were bad for our hotel." LAist


Presidential highway: The renaming of a stretch of the 134 as the Obama freeway in L.A. looks as if it's going to happen, despite the Obamajam jokes. Los Angeles Times

Old school vs. new age: A pivotal election is underway that could push the Democratic stronghold of California even further left and recalibrate the direction of arguably the most influential state political party in the nation. Staunchly liberal and pro-union, the top two contenders for chair of the California Democratic Party offer a sharp contrast in style and strategy. Los Angeles Times

Homeless test: Plans for a homeless shelter in the heart of Irvine are shaping up to be a big political test for Orange County. Orange County Register

Iger's not going anywhere: Amid the talk of political office, it appears longtime Disney chief Bob Iger is in no hurry to leave his day job — and has no clear plans for what happens when he goes. Wall Street Journal


Busted: Authorities swarmed a remote compound in northeast Los Angeles County and seized 7,000 birds in what officials described Tuesday as a raid on the largest illegal cockfighting cache in U.S. history. Los Angeles Times

Execution ruling: A judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that gives prison authorities responsibility for establishing procedures for lethal injection executions. Los Angeles Times

Snapchat and murder: An Escondido teen accused in his friend's murder posted cryptic messages on Snapchat about the killing, as well as images of bloodied clothes and an audio recording of the victim crying during the attack, police testified Tuesday. San Diego Union-Tribune

Oakland tragedy: Does this video catch the operator of the Ghost Ship — where 36 people died in a fire last year — in a lie? East Bay Times

Costly plan: A new legislative committee analysis predicts that overhauling the bail system in California could be costly, adding a significant hurdle for Democratic lawmakers seeking to pass sweeping reform in the face of heavy opposition from law enforcement and the bail industry. Los Angeles Times



Grave warning: California's native trout and salmon could be pushed toward extinction in the next century, some experts say. Sacramento Bee


Hollywood hack: Hackers have once again struck at Hollywood, this time claiming one of the summer's biggest blockbuster releases — Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," the fifth installment in the highly profitable swashbuckling franchise, starring Johnny Depp. Los Angeles Times

New beach thing: With better technology and a lot of sharks off the Southern California coast, "sharkwatching" has become a new ocean obsession. Orange County Register

Rivalry fail: This effort by Dodger fans to troll the Giants didn't work out so well. SF Gate

New winner: Depending on who you talk to, In-N-Out Burger might have just lost its crown to Five Guys in the epic burger battle. Business Insider

The mothership: Inside Apple's wild new headquarters. Crazy good or just a little crazy? Wired


Los Angeles area and San Diego: partly cloudy with highs in the mid- to upper 60s. San Francisco area: cloudy with highs in the mid-60s. Sacramento: partly cloudy with highs in the upper 70s. More weather is here.


Today's California memory comes from Dave Linton:

"I have fond memories of our 2nd-grade field trips during the 1950s. A dusty tour of Albers Mill, where we each were given a bag of flour to take home. The Southwest Museum, where we viewed dioramas peopled with topless Indian maidens. And the Barbara Ann Bakery, famed for piping the smell of baking bread out over the adjacent Arroyo Seco Parkway. Best of all, we each got a box of donuts. Not all of them made it home."

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.