Newsletter: Democratic debate in L.A., maybe, and more in the week ahead

Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles
Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles is the site of a labor dispute between union cooks, dishwashers and servers and the company that runs the school’s food service.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Dec. 16, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

On Monday, the “Hollywood Black List” — an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in town, as voted for by more than 250 studio executives — will be released.

On Thursday, the next Democratic presidential debate will be held in Los Angeles. Or will it?

All seven of the Democratic presidential candidates who have qualified for the scheduled debate threatened Friday to skip the event to express support for union workers involved in a contract dispute at Loyola Marymount University.

And this isn’t the first labor issue with the Los Angeles debate: In November, the Democratic National Committee moved the debate to Loyola from UCLA because of a contract dispute at UCLA. The DNC and university learned of the latest issue Friday, committee officials said.


Friday is the deadline for a new funding deal to avert a potential government shutdown.

Hanukkah begins at sundown Sunday.

And if you haven’t already shared, we’d love to hear about your experiences for a year-end feature we’re working on. Use this form to tell us about how a news event or issue affected you, and we’ll share some of the responses in the coming weeks.

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


PG&E’s future remains in doubt: Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected PG&E’s proposal to pull itself out of bankruptcy, saying its reorganization plan falls “woefully short” of safety requirements set under state law and demanded the company make major changes if it wants to access billions of dollars in a fund to pay wildfire claims.

The move complicates PG&E’s ability to remain in control of the company in a bankruptcy process that has seen financial interests vying to take over and local politicians preparing models for an entirely new utility. Los Angeles Times



Beverly Hills police are investigating vandalism of Nessah Synagogue as a hate crime. Damage inside the synagogue was “ugly,” according to one witness who had conversations with people who saw the damage firsthand, and will require extensive cleanup. Los Angeles Times

Here are some of the best places to drink in Los Angeles, from a mammoth industrial warehouse that’s “peak craft brewery,” to a dark, velvet-trimmed cocktail lounge that aims straight at the hearts of tequila and mezcal lovers. Los Angeles Times

L.A. arts journalist Scott Timberg has died at 50. Timberg was a ferocious listener and reader whose cultural appetites fueled his career as an author and journalist and led him to question the future of the arts in the internet age. Los Angeles Times

[See also: Timberg’s 2015 essay “Leaving Los Angeles” in Los Angeles Magazine]



It has been almost a year since the federal government began sending asylum seekers back to Mexico, and only 11 people have been granted asylum. That accounts for a grant rate of 0.1%. San Diego Union-Tribune

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Scuffles broke out Saturday during a Glendale town hall event on the Armenian genocide that was attended by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who is at the center of the effort to impeach President Trump. Los Angeles Times

Sen. Bernie Sanders has retracted his endorsement of Cenk Uygur, a California congressional candidate who defended crude sex ratings of women. Uygur, founder and co-host of “The Young Turks” online talk show, is running to fill the seat of former Rep. Katie Hill of Santa Clarita. Los Angeles Times

Battery dangers got little attention from the Coast Guard despite red flags before the Conception fire. Lithium-ion batteries have been banned from cargo areas of commercial planes and become the subject of tighter regulations by the U.S. Navy, but the U.S. Coast Guard didn’t sound major alarms about the fire risk of the batteries until after the Labor Day fire aboard the Conception, the worst maritime disaster in modern California history. Los Angeles Times

Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) lives on a congressman’s salary. How is he funding so many lawsuits? “Rep. Devin Nunes’ critics have obsessed over how he is paying for the six lawsuits he filed this year, but there are no public records showing how he has paid his Virginia lawyer.” Fresno Bee


Riverside’s mayor spends several nights a week sleeping in an 8-by-8 metal shed outside a local homeless shelter. His goal is to draw attention to the urgency of the city’s homeless crisis and to promote what he sees as one part of the solution — shelters like the one he’s used as a temporary second home. Riverside Press-Enterprise


Will California have a white Christmas? Or a wet one? The short answer is that it’s too early to be sure. Los Angeles Times

Kaiser’s 4,000 behavioral health workers are launching a five-day strike statewide. Here’s what to expect. Sacramento Bee

How a Chula Vista doctor spotted a deadly black tar heroin outbreak over lunch. The infectious disease specialist has his own theory about how patients got infected. San Diego Union-Tribune



A proposed TV show about the Ghost Ship fire tragedy has been called off, after sparking intense backlash. Berkeley husband-wife author team Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman had announced plans for the show as part of a multi-year production deal they recently inked with CBS Television Studios. KQED

The life and death of Lowrider: How the Chicano car magazine shaped California. Los Angeles Times

You turn 150 only once. Modesto has big plans for its 2020 sesquicentennial. Modesto Bee

Burbank Unified school officials have removed a mural of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi from a local campus, the action coming the same week that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate appeared at the International Court of Justice to denounce genocide charges levied against her country’s military. Los Angeles Times

Two horses died in the first race Saturday at Los Alamitos Race Track in Orange County, adding to a string of fatalities this year at California tracks. Los Angeles Times

The Raiders’ finale in Oakland punctuates an emotional journey for the team and fans. The Raiders plan to move to Las Vegas next season. San Francisco Chronicle


Rosa Porto has died at 89. The baker and Cuban émigré founded the popular Porto’s Bakery & Café chain in Southern California with her family. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: sunny, 69. San Diego: sunny, 68. San Francisco: sunny, 56. San Jose: partly sunny, 58. Sacramento: sunny, 52. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Former Rep. Steve Knight (Dec. 17, 1966), director Steven Spielberg (Dec. 18, 1946), singer Billie Eilish (Dec. 18, 2001), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Dec. 21, 1947), former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (Dec. 21, 1948), producer Jeffrey Katzenberg (Dec. 21, 1950) and former Dodger and Padre Steve Garvey (Dec. 22, 1948).

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.