Essential California Week in Review: Kevin de León vows to stay on L.A. City Council

People stand around folding tables near signs that say "Camp out until De Leone is out"
Black Lives Matter protesters camp out near Councilmember Kevin de León’s home in Eagle Rock on Tuesday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Oct. 22.

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

De León said he wasn’t going anywhere as the fallout continued. After remaining silent for more than a week, Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León gave two television interviews during which he repeatedly apologized for his role in a discussion last year in which racist and demeaning language was used but said he intended to stay in office. Colleague Gil Cedillo, also caught up in the scandal, gave no indication he was stepping down, either. The council’s acting president removed De León and Cedillo from an array of committee assignments — the latest in a series of attempts to pressure the two men to step down.


The ports of L.A. and Long Beach revealed an unprecedented surge in harmful emissions. A new report outraged neighborhood activists and clean air advocates, who say the ports are failing on promises to mitigate the effects of port activity on air quality. For their part, the ports said the surge was an anomaly due to the pandemic. But they still face challenges in trying to rein in emissions.

Newsom said he would call off the COVID-19 state of emergency. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he planned to take action in February to end the state of emergency in California that he initially declared in 2020. The timeline should give the healthcare system flexibility to respond to any winter surges of the virus as a result of more indoor gatherings over the holidays, his office said.


California Republicans see a path to reach voters with inflation. Four congressional districts primarily in Orange County are expected to be among the nation’s most competitive in this year’s midterm election as Democrats fight to keep hold of the House. In a place that was once the heart of conservatism in Southern California but is now deeply purple, much will come down to how voters feel about the economy.

Having problems with your gas tax refund card? Try again. The state appeared to have mailed debit cards early to some people who were unable to access the funds over the last few days. The 800 number required for activation had no option to activate the cards but was updated Monday after complaints and an inquiry from The Times.

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A single California fire season wiped out years of progress. A nearly two-decade effort by Californians to cut their emissions may have been erased by a single devastating year of wildfires, according to researchers. The state’s record-breaking 2020 fire season spewed almost twice the tonnage of greenhouse gases as the total amount of reductions made since 2003.

Paul Flores was found guilty of murdering Kristin Smart. A jury on Tuesday convicted Flores of first-degree murder in the death of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student in 1996, ending a more than two-decade mystery. His father, Ruben Flores, 81, was acquitted of being an accessory to murder. Authorities never found Smart’s body, an issue long considered a stumbling block in the case.

A former UCLA gynecologist was convicted of sexually abusing his patients. A Los Angeles County jury on Thursday found Dr. James Heaps, 65, guilty of sexually abusing female patients during his tenure at the university. He was found guilty of five counts linked to assaults dating from 2013 to 2017, the portion of his tenure that fell within the statute of limitations for which criminal charges could be brought.


Shape Your L.A. with our new tool. Learn how to get stuff done in your neighborhood and beyond. Plug in your address to find out who your representatives are, how to contact them and how to engage on the issues you care about most.

Election day is almost upon us. California voters head to the polls Nov. 8 to vote for U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, a handful of ballot measures and more. We’ve gathered what you need to know before you hit the polls or fill out your mail-in ballot. Here are The Times’ guides to:

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

L.A.’s love of sprawl made it America’s most overcrowded place, and the poor pay the price. At the heart of the storied metropolis of single-family-home sprawl, L.A. leaders over decades created a cruel paradox: It is also the country’s most crowded place to live. More homes are overcrowded in Los Angeles than in any other large U.S. county, a Times analysis of census data found — a situation that has endured for three decades, with no sign of abating. In this environment, COVID-19 advanced without mercy.

How do you get rid of stolen gems? Inside the jewelry black market. In July, a Brink’s big rig paused at a Grapevine truck stop while transporting jewelry from a Northern California trade show to the Southland. Thieves swept in, taking 22 large bags of gems, gold and other valuables that have yet to be recovered. And the thieves have options, with a network of fences and buyers waiting for new merchandise. “You don’t go into a robbery of this magnitude without having all your ducks in a row,” one expert said. “Whoever planned this ... planned a good one.”


The “Rust” shooting, one year later. The death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the western “Rust,” outside of Santa Fe, N.M., shook Hollywood to its core and prompted widespread calls for reforms and safer sets. But a year after actor Alec Baldwin shot and killed Hutchins and injured the film’s director, Joel Souza, little has changed for safety procedures involving guns on sets nationwide, according to interviews with several crew members and union officials.

California and other blue states promise safety for trans children. But moving isn’t easy. Families with transgender children are facing a dilemma as governors and lawmakers in conservative-led states propose or enact policies intended to limit or halt access to sports teams, school facilities and medical treatment and in some cases threaten punishment. Some are considering a move to states like California that have branded themselves a “sanctuary.” But the vast majority are staying home — either because they want to or they have no choice.

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

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