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Essential California: A $1.5-million price tag for 7 days of work at a local water agency

Essential California: A $1.5-million price tag for 7 days of work at a local water agency
Ron Beilke being deposed in 2016 by a water district lawyer for the wrongful termination lawsuit he filed against the agency.

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Wednesday, Jan. 31, and here's what's happening across California:



Second chances

After being convicted of political misconduct, former Pico Rivera Mayor Ron Beilke got hired to a $98,000 job at a public water agency. It lasted about seven days — and ended up costing the water district more than $1 million. Should have he been hired to begin with, given his record? A look at a troubling revolving door. Los Angeles Times

Problematic plan

California has proposed a new method of lethal injection, but the two drugs that could be used to execute inmates are extremely difficult to obtain. The new protocol, slightly revised from a previous proposal, would allow executioners to use a single infusion of Pentobarbital or Thiopental to put condemned inmates to death. Both drugs are barbiturates. Los Angeles Times

Insurance woes

The typical homeowners insurance policy doesn't cover flood damage, which would include some mudslides. You'd need supplementary coverage for that. But the typical home insurance plan does cover fire-related damage. So the case many Montecito residents will be making — as evacuation orders are finally lifted and people get their first up-close looks at their properties — is that the mudslides wouldn't have happened, or been so severe, if not for the catastrophic Thomas fire. Los Angeles Times

Pot bank?

California's state treasurer and attorney general will study whether the state should create its own publicly owned bank to serve its now-legal cannabis industry. Los Angeles Times


Key budget official: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is on the verge of filling one of the most important posts in the city — one that has huge influence over how much money is available for police patrols, street repairs, park programs and an array of other basic services. But some are questioning how thorough the search for city administrative officer was. Los Angeles Times

Deadly crash: A helicopter with four people onboard crashed into a Newport Beach home, killing three people, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

Pedal power: With sea levels rising and the temperatures getting hotter, Long Beach is trying to cool down. And one way is by pushing bikes. Wired

It's complicated: Food critic Jonathan Gold on the Hearth & Hound, a much-anticipated L.A. restaurant that has been swept up in the #MeToo moment. "I had difficulty processing my thoughts about the meal. This was only a week or so after the sexual misconduct allegations against the restaurant's co-owner, Ken Friedman." Los Angeles Times

In the LAUSD: Two senior administrators have resigned amid allegations that they tolerated a climate of sexual harassment in the procurement division of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Los Angeles Times



Wedge issue: Democrats are divided on immigration reform, and that is giving Trump and the Republicans an opening. Sacramento Bee

In Santa Rosa: A major milestone in the cleanup from the wine country fires: Debris has been cleared in devastated Coffey Park. The Press Democrat

Changing assumptions: At UC Berkeley, older students — including one who is 70 years old — are banding together. East Bay Times

Charging forward: California is on pace to exceed its goal of 1.5 million electric cars on the streets by 2025. Los Angeles Times


Operation Reclaim and Rebuild: More than 500 criminal arrests were made and 56 people rescued in a statewide human trafficking crackdown. Los Angeles Times

Plus: A man who was in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and another man whose DACA protections had expired, were arrested on suspicion of human smuggling in two separate incidents last week. Los Angeles Times

Unequal treatment? A WalMart in Perris puts certain cosmetics behind a glass case, and one African American woman claims its an act of racism. New York Times

Abuse claims: Inside the ugly sexual abuse battle between former TV co-stars Nicole Eggert and Scott Baio. The Hollywood Reporter



Tough question: One of the biggest challenges is what to do with the homeless who don't want our help. A look at fixing the way we deal with the gravely mentally ill. Los Angeles Times

Tiffany's and tents: San Francisco is supposed to be one of the richest places on earth. But officials are struggling to explain to tourists about the homelessness and misery on the streets. San Francisco Chronicle

Plus: In Sacramento, librarians become key in helping the homeless. Sacramento Bee

Lawsuit: A nonprofit that advocates for the homeless sued Orange County, hoping to stop officials from clearing an encampment with more than 500 people along the Santa Ana River. Los Angeles Times


Roll out the barrel — or not: A major U.S. beer manufacturer's decision to build a giant production plant in Baja California's desert capital has been cause for much celebration in Gov. Francisco Vega de Lamadrid's administration. But not everybody is applauding. Opponents are determined to shut it down, saying the plant will use a large amount of water that should go to local farmers. San Diego Union-Tribune

Off with their heads: Several visitors to Disneyland Resort shared images of animatronic ride characters with their heads dangling from their robotic bodies. CBS Los Angeles

Highflying: Inside the strange world of drone racing. The New Yorker

La Casa Pacifica: Richard Nixon's Western White House is up for sale. Price: $63 million. Orange County Register

Not your father's Olds: There are a lot of distinct cars in L.A. But this 1973 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight is as "cocky as they come" — and for good reason. Wall Street Journal

He drives a Tesla, but ...: Apple founder Steve Wozniak is not exactly a huge fan of Elon Musk. The Mercury News


Los Angeles area: sunny and 80. San Diego: sunny and 75. San Francisco area: foggy and 61. Sacramento: partly cloudy and 66. More weather is here.


Today's California memory comes from Mark Koppel:

"As a lifelong New Yorker, I've always been jealous of L.A.'s warm winters. Movies would show people shopping for Christmas in little jackets. My jealousy was heightened when I was in L.A. for the first time in winter in January 1986. It was 80 degrees and sunny. Perfect, except for that brown haze and strange burning smell. :) I made it worse by driving right to the beach in Santa Monica. 'Fortunately,' the rest of the week was in the 50s and 60s. Still, it was so beautiful."

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.