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Essential California: Nice work if you can get it

Essential California: Nice work if you can get it
Los Angeles City Hall is reflected in the windows of the LAPD headquarters. (Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Monday, April 16, and here's what's happening across California:

TOP STORIES

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A controversial program that pays veteran Los Angeles police officers and firefighters nearly double for the last five years of their careers received a flood of new enrollees in February, records show. The rush came amid questions about whether the plan might be altered or eliminated after a Times investigation into the so-called DROP program. Los Angeles Times

Sad state of journalism

"The body count is staggering. In my 43 years as a journalist, armies of trained bloodhounds have been run out of newsrooms where I've worked, victims of layoffs, and buyouts, and battle fatigue. I've lost so many hundreds of colleagues, I can't keep track of where they ended up." — Columnist Steve Lopez on what is happening to the newspaper business and local democracy. Los Angeles Times

In Iowa

Mayor Eric Garcetti says he's not worried about the glare of being a presidential candidate. Being mayor is also high-profile. "People see you at the market, people see you at the diner, people see you wherever you are, talk to you. You don't shave, they're taking selfies of you. You come back from your jog, they're talking to you." Los Angeles Times

Future of filmgoing?

Big bargains have proved enticing for moviegoers, who have signed up in droves since MoviePass slashed its price from $30 a month to $9.95 last summer. The service, which allows subscribers to see as many as 31 movies a month, currently counts more than 2 million subscribers, up from 20,000 last year. Sometimes billed as the Netflix of cinemas because of its low-cost, high-volume strategy, the service could dramatically change the way Americans go to the movies and increase admissions — if it survives long enough. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

Mr. Gold ponders: Does L.A.'s hottest new restaurant tell us what is right — or all wrong — about the celebrity-driven dining scene? Los Angeles Times

Land, lots of land: A huge win for conservationists in the Valley as Big Tujunga Canyon land will be preserved as parkland. Los Angeles Daily News

Down by the sea: San Pedro's famed "Sunken City" is in need of repairs. Daily Breeze

Pilot program: A "safe parking" program that allows homeless people to live in their vehicles is launching on the Department of Veterans Affairs' West Los Angeles campus. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

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High-profile case: As Los Angeles County prosecutors pieced together their murder case against Robert Durst — the eccentric New York real estate scion accused of killing his best friend Susan Berman in 2000 — they followed a path that led to the opposite coast and decades into the past. Los Angeles Times

On suspicion of murder: Los Angeles police have made an arrest in a fire that left two dead Saturday in a Studio City recording studio. But questions remain about what exactly happened. Los Angeles Times

Path to prison: The story of a former Vietnamese gang member serving life: 'I couldn't claim I was Vietnamese because I barely spoke Vietnamese, and I couldn't say I was American because I wasn't born here and barely spoke proper English." Boom California

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

The price of water: The Metropolitan Water District is committed to spend $11 billion on the delta tunnels. How will it cover those costs? And who will ultimately pay? Los Angeles Times

Plus: Why the tunnel plan has not been more of an issue in the governor's race. Los Angeles Times

Mistakes were made: In the vast majority of elections, it's the simplest rule of all: You can only vote for one candidate. Make a mark beside the name of more than one person, and that vote doesn't count. Such mistakes are usually rare, which is what made California's U.S. Senate primary in 2016 so worrisome. In that one race, close to 250,000 confused voters marked their ballots for multiple candidates. Los Angeles Times

In the spotlight: Less than two months from his first statewide election, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra has become adept not only at challenging President Trump but also at using the bully pulpit of his office to raise his profile with voters. Los Angeles Times

Feud: The war between Tesla and the National Transportation Safety Board over a fatal Bay Area crash. Wall Street Journal

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

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Queen Bey: "Look, there's really no other way to say it: Beyoncé's headlining performance Saturday night at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was one of the most impressive things I've seen in 20 years of professional show-going." — Times music critic Mikael Wood on Coachella's most talked-about performance. Los Angeles Times

Drink it in: At Coachella, making a wine for music fans — that you can chug. The New Yorker

Time of renewal: After devastating fires, a superbloom of wildflowers in wine country. SF Gate

RIP: A final farewell to a beloved surfing preacher. Orange County Register

Found: Footage sheds new light on the destruction of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. New York Times

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles area: Sunny, 65, Monday. Sunny, 69, Tuesday. San Diego: Mostly sunny, 64 Monday. Sunny, 65, Tuesday. San Francisco area: Scattered showers, 54, Monday. Sunny, 58, Tuesday. Sacramento: Thunderstorms, 56, Monday. Partly cloudy, 64, Tuesday. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

This week's birthdays for those who made a mark in California: Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (April 16, 1947), former Dodger manager Don Mattingly (April 20, 1961) and Rep. Norma Torres (April 23, 1965).

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.

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