Newsletter: Budget cuts — and butter churns

Carlos Marroquin, owner of Planet Soccer in Newhall, shows his appreciation to customers Benton Watkins and Benton’s mom, Noelle, at Marroquin’s reopened store.
Carlos Marroquin, owner of Planet Soccer in Newhall, shows his appreciation to customers Benton Watkins and Benton’s mom, Noelle, at Marroquin’s reopened store.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, May 15. I’m Christopher Goffard, filling in for Julia Wick, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

As coronavirus deaths topped 3,000 across California on Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked lawmakers for sharp cuts in spending on public schools and government services, including healthcare. The governor unveiled his revised state budget amid predictions that the state will see a drop in nearly $10 billion in tax revenue for the fiscal year that ends in June, as The Times’ Sacramento bureau chief John Myers explains.

[Read “Coronavirus forces sharp cuts to schools, healthcare in California, Newsom says” in the Los Angeles Times]

Since mid-March, 4.7 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits, which dwarfs the numbers seen at the peak of the Great Recession. The governor says California will need $43.8 billion to cover unemployment claims, and will have to borrow heavily from the federal government. “These unemployment numbers are jaw dropping,” Newsom says. “We are at a time that is simply unprecedented.”


In Los Angeles County — where there were 51 new COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, bringing the total to 1,709 — health officials are ordering residents to cover their faces when they go outside. County beaches are open, but masks are mandatory for beachgoers who aren’t in the water. The mandate came a day after L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti issued mandatory face mask orders. The city rule, encompassing even trips to the golf course, is the most restrictive of California’s largest cities, and some residents are chafing.

Meanwhile, the psychological effects of the protracted shutdown continue to show themselves in surprising ways. Beyond a renewed interest in gardening, baking and cooking, there’s a hankering for anachronistic tactile labor of the kind portrayed in “Little House on the Prairie,” that hymn to an earlier, more self-reliant America.

Reporter Daniel Miller, who bought his own butter churn, tells us that the sales of the devices have jumped at a hardware stole in Kidron, Ohio, where the chief executive says: “I think our soul craves a simpler life.” Says another observer: “People right now are feeling like they want to get back to an old-time sense of independence.”

[Read “We’re churning butter and making our own candles. What has coronavirus done to us?” in the Los Angeles Times]

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


Traffic deaths surge: Despite a precipitous drop in traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people killed in car collisions this year in Los Angeles is now about the same as it was at this point in 2019, officials said. Los Angeles Times

An outbreak at Los Angeles Police Department training center has seen 17 police and detention officer trainees infected with the coronavirus, and officials say they are now implementing weekly testing for academy classes and instructors. Los Angeles Times

No fair! Add the Los Angeles County Fair, scheduled for September, to the long list of shelved public events. It’s the first time the fair has been cancelled since World War II. Los Angeles Times

A parade makes its way through the L.A. County Fair at the Fairplex in Pomona. The fair was cancelled this year because of the coronavirus.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

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Politics and COVID-19: From Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, Texas to Michigan, partisanship continues to color the battle over stay-at-home and reopening orders. Los Angeles Times

Richard Burr steps aside. Under investigation by the FBI for stock trades made in February as the coronavirus hit the U.S., the Republican senator from North Carolina leaves his post as GOP chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Los Angeles Times

Campaign slogans. Opinion columnist Nicholas Goldberg shares his thoughts on President Trump’s new one, while revisiting some memorably ill-conceived slogans from American history. Los Angeles Times


The allure of “Outer Banks.” A spirited defense of the soapy Netflix series. SF Gate

The future is now: Television is likely to be remembered as the medium of our own plague year. This is the story of TV’s great adjustment — and what TV will look like next. Los Angeles Times


Behind the scenes with a “COVIDologist.” At United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, a physician describes his hectic work: “No days off, no time for family.” Los Angeles Times


Tech billionaire intends to rent. With seven properties on the market worth a combined $137 million, Elon Musk is selling off his California homes. Los Angeles Times

Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., in December 2018.
(Robyn Beck / Associated Press)

Film critic and columnist Jack Mathews, who covered the world of movies for more than 30 years for such publications as USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News, has died at his home in Oregon. He was 80. Los Angeles Times

Vegas nights return? After a forced hibernation that has lasted about two months, the sleeping giant that is Las Vegas is beginning to stir. About 35 properties, including the Sahara and Treasure Island, will begin accepting reservations May 22. Los Angeles Times


Looking the other way: In Stanislaus County, authorities say they will avert their eyes if some businesses deemed “nonessential,” such as retail stores, choose to reopen. Modesto Bee

Citizen virus hunters: Researchers at San Diego State University have enlisted a team of citizen scientists to collect samples from common surfaces, to study how the coronavirus spreads. San Diego Union-Tribune


Olaf’s lullaby: The lovable snowman from the “Frozen” franchise gets a new song, “I Am With You.” Los Angeles Times

If you happen to be in Copenhagen ... One of the world’s most lauded restaurants, Noma, will reopen next week, with burgers on the menu and picnic-style seating. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: sunny, 79. San Diego: partly cloudy, 74. San Francisco: cloudy, 64. San Jose: mostly sunny, 73. Fresno: sunny, 82. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 81. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from David Ollier Weber:

My wife and I were in Figeac, a picturesque town in southwestern France, looking for a restaurant for lunch. Every one we stopped at was full. Coming upon the local tourist office, we decided to ask for recommendations. The friendly woman at the counter gave us a list and then inquired, for her records, what country we were from. “California,” I replied without thinking. Then added, “California’s a country, right?” “Of course,” she nodded with a broad smile. So, yes, Gov. Newsom: Our view of ourselves as a nation-state is not just one-sided.

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.