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Newsletter: L.A.'s mayor calls for furlough of thousands

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gives his annual "State of the City'" on Sunday night before a largely empty City Council chamber.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gives his annual State of the City address on Sunday night before a largely empty City Council chamber.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, April 20, and this is your regular newsletter writer, Julia Wick, finally back after a bout with the coronavirus.

Thank you again to my colleagues Laura Nelson, Nita Lelyveld, Gustavo Arellano, Esmeralda Bermudez, Christopher Goffard, Benjamin Oreskes and Laura Blasey for filling in during my absence. And thank you to the hundreds of readers who wrote in while I was out — your words meant so much to me.

Here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

Monday is 4/20, so expect a fair amount of marijuana jokes in your timeline. As my colleagues Susanne Rust and Carolyn Cole report, “If there’s one business the coronavirus has kissed with fortune, it’s weed.” Weeks of indoor isolation have meant boom times for the cannabis industry, whose retailers have been deemed “essential” under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide orders.

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Plus, for anyone who’s ever wondered why so many people celebrate pot on a random day in April, crime reporter James Queally has answers. And yes, all of this reportedly originated in California. (At San Rafael High School in the early 1970s, to be exact.)

Wednesday is Earth Day. This year’s celebration marks the 50th year of Earth Day.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins on Thursday.

Thursday is also the 2020 NFL Draft, which will be held virtually. Want some different and in-depth insights on the NFL draft? Check out The Times’ annual mock draft, where 32 NFL beat writers from around the country made and explained their own first-round picks.

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On Sunday, “American Idol” live shows will resume — remotely. The celebrity judges, host and contestants will all be filming from their homes because of the pandemic.

And in an alternate universe, this week would have also included the London and Boston marathons, the 51st New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and South Korean uber-boy band BTS launching its North American tour from Silicon Valley’s Levi’s Stadium. (All were postponed or canceled because of the pandemic.)

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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On Sunday night, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gave his State of the City address, which included plans for furloughing thousands of city workers as part of a larger effort to ensure the city survives the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. With tax revenues coming in far short of projections, Garcetti said he would seek 26 unpaid days off from the city’s civilian workforce as a way to balance the budget. The move would represent a 10% reduction in pay, he said. Revenue for the coming budget year could be as much as $598 million below projections, depending on how long Angelenos continue staying indoors, according to figures released last week by the city controller.

The mayor’s annual speech came during an extraordinary time for Los Angeles — more than 600 people have already died of COVID-19 across the county, and deaths increased significantly in the county during the last week. As my City Hall reporter colleagues noted, Garcetti’s 2020 address “bore little resemblance to previous State of the City addresses in L.A.”

Gone were the ceremonial pomp and the usual audience of hundreds. Instead, the mayor took a deeply somber tone as he spoke before a mostly empty City Council chamber. “Our city is under attack,” Garcetti said, with the mayor appearing to fight back tears as he spoke of grief for the dead. “But we are not broken, nor will we ever be.” Los Angeles Times

For the first time, state public health officials have divulged the names of nursing homes across the state with COVID-19 outbreaks and the number of cases at each facility. Among the hardest-hit facilities are the Brier Oak on Sunset nursing home in Los Angeles, where 80 residents and 62 staff members have tested positive, according to the state’s list. Los Angeles Times

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L.A. STORIES

This 76-year-old federal judge is risking his life to save homeless people from the coronavirus. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter — the subject of this fascinating profile — runs a courtroom unlike any other. Los Angeles Times

27,525 pounds of carrots a day: How L.A. schools are feeding the masses. Although campuses are closed, school districts throughout the state have taken on a critical role during the coronavirus crisis: feeding children shut in at home and paying for it with money from the federal school-lunch program. Los Angeles Times

L.A. gang intervention workers are helping keep residents indoors and safe during the coronavirus crisis. Many gang intervention workers are still on the streets, tending to the neighborhoods where they grew up, places where historical disparities in access to healthcare, jobs and adequate housing make residents especially vulnerable to infection and death. Los Angeles Times

LACMA has begun the demolition of four buildings to make way for a new $750-million complex designed by Peter Zumthor. But that hasn’t stopped a protest group from seeking an alternate plan. Los Angeles Times

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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Advocates say hundreds of immigrants detained in California are on hunger strike over conditions that leave them vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement says there are only two hunger strikers. Los Angeles Times

U.S. factories in Mexico are still open. As the coronavirus spreads, workers are dying. Los Angeles Times

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

How President Trump let the U.S. fall behind the curve on the coronavirus threat: For weeks, Trump downplayed the coronavirus as his administration delayed or bungled crucial early steps in its response. Los Angeles Times

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The Trump administration and congressional Democrats are near a deal for more coronavirus aid to small businesses. Both sides expressed optimism Sunday that more than $450 billion in loans and aid to Americans most affected by the coronavirus outbreak will be enacted this week, with the bulk of the money aimed at helping small business owners. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

California lessons from the 1918 pandemic: San Francisco dithered; Los Angeles acted and saved lives. Los Angeles Times

People wait in line to get flu masks on Montgomery Street in San Francisco in 1918.
(Hamilton Henry Dobbin / California State Library)

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

The University of California suspended SAT and ACT testing requirements for admission next fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic — but many faculty members want the tests to return for at least the next five years. Los Angeles Times

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Tourist-dependent Solvang struggles through stay-at-home orders: With its windmills and half-timbered architecture, Solvang draws more than 1½ million visitors a year. It’s a virtual ghost town now. Los Angeles Times

NOT EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE

Starting today, we will have a new section in the newsletter solely composed of “good” news and/or fun distraction. It will last as long as we need it. Have some non-terrible news to recommend? Send it here.

Want to host your next Zoom call from inside the Millennium Falcon? Check out these “Star Wars” backgrounds. The Verge

A car dealership in Bakersfield is offering free oil changes and car washes to healthcare workers. It’s Bakersfield Mazda, but the services won’t just be for Mazda owners. Bakersfield Now

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Storytime with Michelle Obama: The former first lady will read your kids a story by video every Monday for the next month. Los Angeles Times

Think lockdown tension is bad in your house? Well, Ernest Hemingway was once quarantined with his wife ... and his mistress. Not to mention Hemingway’s young child and the nanny. Town & Country

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: partly sunny, 68. San Diego: partly sunny, 66. San Francisco: partly sunny, 57. San Jose: partly sunny, 64. Fresno: cloudy, 69. Sacramento: cloudy, 69. More weather is here.

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AND FINALLY

This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (April 20, 1961), actor George Takei (April 20, 1937), Rep. Norma Torres (April 23, 1965) and director-producer Richard Donner (April 24, 1930).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (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, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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