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Essential California: Newsom says state will ‘roar back’

 Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers his third State of the State address at Dodger Stadium
Gavin Newsom delivers his third State of the State address to the Legislature and public from an empty Dodger Stadium.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 10, and I’m writing from Dodger Stadium.

For the record:

9:13 p.m. March 10, 2021An item in this newsletter previously misspelled the last name of poet Audre Lorde as Lord.

Facing the growing threat of a recall election, Gov. Gavin Newsom fought to rekindle faith in his leadership during his third State of State address, delivered Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

[Read the story: “Facing recall, Newsom discusses ‘unthinkable’ pandemic challenges and offers hope for future” in the Los Angeles Times]

Standing in a glaringly empty ballpark whose tens of thousands of vacant seats nearly matched the number of lives lost to COVID-19 in California, the governor spoke plaintively of the pandemic’s toll and promised brighter days ahead. It was a speech notably free of the tech-tinged jargon that typically peppers his COVID briefings.

Newsom is a man whose life and career have often seemed preternaturally charmed — save, perhaps, for a few years in the unsplashy wilderness of the lieutenant governor’s office. But the biblical crises of the past year have left him and the state he leads badly battered. “He’s basically trying to govern in the Book of Revelation,” as one Democratic operative recently told the New York Times.

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The California exceptionalism that so often runs through this sort of speech was still there, but tempered. Yes, there were the requisite nods to the agricultural valleys that feed the nation, the entertainment industry that shapes global culture, the science, innovation and, of course, the sheer concentration of Nobel laureates.

But the tone was markedly different, with the accolades preceded by an admission that the state had already been brought to its knees: “California won’t come crawling back, we will roar back,” the governor said.

This was now a story of California recovery, not limitless ascent.

The governor did not explicitly address the recall effort, though he did make some less-than-subtle nods to the campaign to oust him from office. “I’m not going to change course because of a few naysayers and doomsdayers,” the governor said.

“So, to the California critics, who are promoting partisan political power grabs with outdated prejudices and rejecting everything that makes California truly great, we say this: We will not be distracted from getting shots in arms and our economy booming again,” he continued. “This is a fight for California’s future.”

He defended his handling of the pandemic, saying California’s forceful response — it was the first to issue a statewide stay-at-home order last March — and sacrifices made by front-line workers helped to lessen the potential death toll. As my colleagues detail in their story, Newsom also said his administration “agonized” over the sacrifices Californians were asked to make to stem the spread of the deadly virus. But he said the vaccinations arriving daily and precautions millions have taken over the past year to save lives and reduce the spread will accelerate efforts to lift that burden — allowing people to return to work, visit grandparents and attend proms and graduations.

As Newsom spoke on the near-empty field, two large screens behind him flashed images of the state and, occasionally, a Zoom grid of virtual lawmakers in tiny squares, watching from their respective homes. At certain points, the lawmakers could be seen putting their hands together for an applause line, even as the stadium remained eerily silent.

There was a smattering of staffers and press in attendance, but only four people had proper seats in the wind-whipped stadium’s rows: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, senior Newsom advisor Dee Dee Myers and Newsom’s executive secretary Jim DeBoo. The quartet sat just above the field in the Outfield Pavilion. First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom watched from a folding chair on the field.

After the speech, Garcetti vigorously defended Newsom’s chances in a potential recall election, describing deep support for the governor and saying he believed Newsom would be able to defeat the recall effort even if it does qualify for the ballot.

When asked about the hundreds of thousands of Californians who had signed recall petitions, Garcetti said that people were frustrated, depressed and anxious for the pandemic to end.

“We could find 10% of Californians to be against sunshine right now,” Garcetti said.

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

Coronavirus case rates in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties are now low enough to exit the state’s most restrictive purple tier, but the counties haven’t moved into the red tier yet. The timing of when they officially land in a less restrictive category will hinge on how quickly vaccine can be administered to residents of some disadvantaged areas. Los Angeles Times

[See also: “Disneyland hopes to reopen by late April as COVID case rates fall in L.A., Orange counties” in the Los Angeles Times]

L.A. schools could reopen starting in mid-April under a deal with teachers: Los Angeles students are a critical step closer to a return to campus beginning in mid-April under a tentative agreement between the teachers union and the L.A. Unified School District.

The agreement, which must be ratified by members, establishes safety parameters for a return to campus and lays out a markedly different schedule that still relies heavily on online learning. The school day would unfold under a so-called hybrid format — meaning that students would conduct their studies on campus during part of the week and continue with their schooling online at other times. Los Angeles Times

With the return of high school sports in Southern California, The Times is launching Prep Rally, a newsletter written by the dean of Southland prep coverage, Eric Sondheimer. Sign up for it here.

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

L.A. STORIES

Flooded with line cutters, Pasadena cancels a COVID vaccine clinic: Officials said many of the appointments — which were intended for senior citizens, grocery store employees and other essential workers — were booked by people who worked in the news media and in Hollywood, including at production companies, streaming TV services, news outlets and on the sets of soap operas. Los Angeles Times

South L.A. residents can take free Uber rides to a new USC vaccination site. The site is expected to offer a few thousand doses in its first week, ultimately working up to a pace of 5,000 shots a day. Los Angeles Times

After 90 years, Sears in Boyle Heights is holding its final sale. Workers say the store — which has held the location for more than 80 years — is set to close sometime in the spring, possibly in April. Eastsider LA

A winter storm that doused the Bay Area on Tuesday is moving into Southern California, bringing rain and the potential for hail to much of the Los Angeles area and snow to the mountains. Los Angeles Times

People walking in downtown L.A. with umbrellas
A pandemic PSA: According to the CDC, wet masks are harder to breathe through and less efficient at filtering. For wet weather, the CDC recommends keeping a spare mask with you in case your mask gets wet. They also suggest wrapping a scarf around your mask to keep it dry.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Obamacare premiums go down under the COVID relief bill: The COVID-19 stimulus bill set to be approved by Congress this week will extend short-term economic relief to tens of millions of Americans through a two-year boost in Affordable Care Act subsidies, the first substantive expansion of the law since it was approved in 2010. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

Former Rep. Katie Hill’s lawsuit pits the 1st Amendment against revenge-porn law: “This case is important politically, societally and legally,” said Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

California makes it easier for anyone to get COVID-19 vaccine by volunteering: The state launched a volunteer page on its My Turn vaccination scheduling system last week to streamline the process for medical providers and the general public to volunteer. Los Angeles Times

Environmental racism: Why Long Beach residents of color have worse health outcomes. Long Beach Press-Telegram

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

In Santa Rosa, the Daffodil Man strikes again: Merle Reuser, a 73-year-old veteran, makes gifts of his yellow bounty and hand-delivers them to neighbors in his restored 1954 Chevy pickup. Santa Rosa Press Democrat

College students are bonding with robots: Cal State campuses began using “chatbots” to keep more students enrolled, but after the coronavirus hit, the bots became sources of solace and friendship. Los Angeles Times

UC Davis is paying some students not to travel over spring break. To cash in, students are required to be in Davis over spring break and get a COVID-19 test during that time. Offered in partnership with the city, the $75 grants can be used at local small businesses. SFGATE

A poem to start your Wednesday: “Coping” by Audre Lorde. A Poem a Day

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: cloudy with occasional rain, 55. San Diego: rain, 57. San Francisco: morning rain, 54. San Jose: some light rain, 54. Fresno: overcast with showers, 54. Sacramento: a cold rain, 50.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Donna C. Myrow:

In the summer of 1955, my mother’s family held a reunion: brothers, sisters, cousins, one a Holocaust survivor, all born in Czechoslovakia never to return there after World War II. I was a young child and happy to travel from Los Angeles to Carpinteria Beach to play in the sand dunes, swim and eat delicious traditional European-style food. Stuffed cabbage, cholent and home-baked bread were cooked in the fire pits. Elders played mahjong, gin rummy and chatted with one another in Hungarian, one of the strangest European languages. When I drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, I always stop to walk on the sand and look at the fire pits for memories.

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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