Essential California Week in Review: The scandal consuming City Hall

An illustration shows closeups of two men and a woman.
Gill Cedillo, left, Nury Martinez and Kevin de León.
(Photos: Carolyn Cole, Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Oct. 15.

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

L.A. councilmembers made racist comments in a leaked recording. Former City Council President Nury Martinez made openly racist remarks, derided some of her council colleagues and spoke in unusually crass terms about how the city should be carved up politically. Martinez subsequently resigned her City Council seat, under pressure from a chorus of political leaders including President Biden.

Our full coverage of the City Hall scandal includes:

What’s keeping some young Californians from voting. Young voters are often seen as too apathetic or self-absorbed to care about elections. But some of the country’s least experienced voters say they feel unprepared to make such weighty choices.

Disneyland resort tickets and parking prices are rising again. Prices are rising as much as 9% for single-day tickets and 11% for preferred parking. The Anaheim resort has also increased prices by up to 25% for the new Genie+ service, which allows visitors to skip long lines on some of the most popular attractions. The hikes come a year after the theme park raised daily ticket prices up to 8% and increased daily parking rates by 20%. The increase also comes only two months after the resort raised prices for annual passes by as much as 16%.


Gas prices were falling in the state. Average gas prices statewide dropped by about 4 cents earlier this week, to $6.29 — even as nationwide gas prices inched upward. Still, California gas prices remained significantly above those in other states, and more than $2 higher than the national average, according to AAA.

The Omicron subvariant BA.2.75.2 arrived in Los Angeles County. Some scientists fear the new coronavirus strain could be problematic. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said what was potentially worrisome was that it might “both evade prior protections” of immunity, such as from past COVID-19 shots or infection, “and not respond to some of our currently available treatments.”

The Doheny Ocean Desalination Project was OK’d. The California Coastal Commission gave the Dana Point facility — which will convert seawater to drinking water — its stamp of approval less than six months after rejecting a proposal for a major desalination plant in Huntington Beach. It’s a different, smaller project and could serve as a model for future projects.

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There’s still no clarity on heat deaths. For 10 grueling days, meteorologists tracked record-setting temperatures as they boiled across the state — 116 degrees in Sacramento, 114 in Napa, 109 in Long Beach. Yet there was little information on the human toll, or how many people had been sickened or even killed. The state’s ongoing struggle to account for heat wave illnesses and deaths — despite promises to improve monitoring — has frustrated public health experts who say the lack of timely information puts lives in jeopardy.

The Supreme Court appeared skeptical of California’s animal welfare law. Justices sounded wary Tuesday of the law and its protections for breeding pigs, warning it could set off a wave of state laws that put a wide array of restrictions on products moving nationwide.


A federal report found that Orange County officials repeatedly violated the Constitution in a jail informant scandal. The U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division confirmed what attorneys, activists and crime victims had long been shouting: that the Sheriff’s Department and district attorney’s office systematically violated the constitutional rights of defendants for the better part of a decade. Federal authorities said deputies built a stable of snitches.

A statewide fentanyl crackdown netted 4 million pills and 217 arrests. A task force seized 52 pounds of fentanyl powder just in Southern California, which is enough to make 250,000 pills, according to the state attorney general. In Riverside, a sting operation resulted in the seizure of more than 110,000 fentanyl pills.

Californians can now get a digital license plate for their car. The plates have been piloted in California since 2018 but are now available to all of the state’s 27 million drivers. A state Department of Motor Vehicles official said the plates would make the DMV process smoother by allowing drivers to renew their registrations without having to step foot inside a DMV.

Some young adults in L.A. will get three years of guaranteed income. The pilot program from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services will provide a $1,000 a month for about 300 people ages 18 to 24, the agency said. Recipients will be randomly selected from among those enrolled in the General Relief Opportunities for Work program.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Students’ demand for more online classes is reshaping community colleges. Thousands of California community college students have changed the way they are pursuing higher education by opting for virtual classes in eye-popping numbers. It’s a dramatic shift in how instruction is delivered but raises questions about how to maintain quality instruction. Also, many students still want an in-person campus experience, making scheduling tricky for colleges.

Two podcasters set out to read every Agatha Christie book. It became much more than that. The L.A.-based friends and podcasters decided to read, rank and expound on every one of the Queen of Crime’s 66 mystery novels. They scored novels in categories including plot mechanics (the way the mystery is crafted), credibility (whether it could happen in real life) and “series-long characters” (i.e. Poirot, Miss Marple), while acknowledging and deducting for xenophobic, misogynist, racist, homophobic and ableist passages. Then the real-life mystery of death intervened.

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

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