Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Total recall

Gov. Gavin Newsom stands behind a cluster of microphones
Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters Tuesday at the John L. Burton California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento after beating back the recall attempt.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 18.

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

Beyond recall. California Gov. Gavin Newsom survived a historic recall election Tuesday, winning a major vote of confidence. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the Republican-led effort to replace him. More to read:

  • California’s costly, confusing recall election has sparked an effort to rethink the rules: “That money could be spent on housing, on homelessness, on combating climate change, forest fires, early childhood education, you name it.”

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KNP Complex fire. Flames tore through Sequoia National Park this week, threatening some of the world’s largest trees. Fire crews prepped the famed Giant Forest for flames by wrapping some of the massive sequoias in fire-resistant aluminum material.

A grave error. Los Angeles police badly miscalculated the amount of fireworks they placed into a containment vessel before detonating them and causing a massive explosion that destroyed part of a South L.A. neighborhood in June, according to a new report.

New fire behavior. Experts said the Caldor fire’s extreme behavior is part of a worrisome trend driven by the state’s warming climate, in which rapid snowmelt and critical dryness are propelling wildfires to ever-higher elevations that previously were too wet to burn.

Will other schools follow? The assertive move last week to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students at the Los Angeles Unified School District — the first large school system in the nation to do so — has thrust the issue before education policymakers. If L.A. did it, should they?


Continued mandate controversy. Law enforcement in Southern California continue to push back on vaccine requirements, with thousands of LAPD employees saying they plan to seek exemptions. In Riverside County, Sheriff Chad Bianco says he will not enforce mandates.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Hollywood says its antiracism push is not a “fad.” Is the industry keeping its promises? Many charitable donations continue, as do most of the pipelines and programs initiated in the wake of antiracism protests. But the jury is still out on whether Hollywood’s actions will result in meaningful change.

An eco jackpot, but will it harm desert sheep? A proposed high-speed electric rail line connecting Southern California and Las Vegas promises green transportation. But it could also restrict animal species that are being forced to search ever more widely for food and water under severe drought and record-breaking heat.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Laura Blasey. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to