Essential California Week in Review: Newsom bets on schools


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, March 6.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

Schools deal. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders announced a $2-billion deal Monday to incentivize school districts to open for the youngest students by April 1. Getting children back to class has become a priority for Newsom as he faces a recall effort.

But it’s not a given. Schools still have final say. And the Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers’ union may open later than other districts, though teachers became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in L.A. County this week.

Vaccine strategy in flux. President Biden promised a faster national vaccination timeline, though California’s sign-up system remains flawed and the approach continues to shift. The state, which has administered more than 10 million vaccines, plans to devote 40% of available COVID-19 vaccines to disadvantaged residents — but will it work?

Reopening again. Parts of California were allowed to reopen their economies further this week, with more expected soon amid both growing optimism and concern over new variants of the virus. Theme parks and stadiums could reopen April 1. Despite a drop in new daily cases, Newsom acknowledged that “we are seeing a little bit of a plateau.”

Rising hate. Hate crimes against Asian Americans and other members of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in Los Angeles rose sharply in 2020, mirroring a national trend that reached nearly all major American cities. In Orange County, neighbors stand guard for one family after they faced anti-Asian harassment.

Deadly crash. A collision between a big rig and an SUV carrying more than two dozen people near the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday morning killed at least 13 and injured several others. The family of one woman killed says she was trying to reach the United States.

Understanding inequality. California’s high poverty rate, low wages and frayed public safety net require a new “social compact” between workers, business and government, according to a report by a blue-ribbon commission.

A dry 2021. The winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain across California early this year are probably not enough to prevent what’s shaping up to be a critically dry year, state water officials said. Our graphics show just how dry it is, and why March doesn’t look much better.


Protest response lawsuit. More than 40 people arrested in L.A. County for curfew violations during last summer’s mass protests against police brutality say the curfews were an unconstitutional and coordinated tactic to stifle legitimate political speech.

More Golden Globes fallout. The organization behind the awards show voted not to hire a diversity consultant last summer, The Times has learned. The revelation comes after a Times investigation found that, among other things, it has zero Black members.

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1. An Orange County woman purchased $23,000 garage doors. It sparked a battle with her homeowners’ association. Orange County Register

2. These parts of L.A. barely felt the winter coronavirus surge. Here is why they were spared. Los Angeles Times

3. Ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview, revisit their year in L.A., including their Montecito home purchase. Los Angeles Times

4. “Munich, Winter 1973 (for Y.S.)” by James Baldwin. Poetry Foundation

5. California museums are starting to reopen. Here’s the list. Los Angeles Times

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Vegas parties, celebrities and boozy lunches: How legal titan Tom Girardi seduced the State Bar. Los Angeles Times (Note: This story is available only to Times subscribers.)

“I lost my sense of smell in my twenties. Here’s my advice for COVID-19 survivors.” Some suggestions from someone with years of experience getting by with anosmia. BuzzFeed

Why vaccine passports could be the pandemic’s next political flashpoint: “A world divided between the vaccinated and unvaccinated promises relief for economies and families, but the ethical and practical risks are high.” New York Times

Poem of the week: “I Live My Life in Widening Circles” by Rainer Maria Rilke. Poem a Day

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. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)