Essential California is a daily collection of the best reporting on the Golden State. The newsletter is brought to you by reporter Alice Walton and California editor Shelby Grad.
Nightmare of the Toy Gun
The shooting by L.A. police of a teenager standing next to a friend who was holding a toy gun is reigniting a debate about the dangers of realistic-looking replica weapons. There have been numerous cases of police opening fire on kids holding replicas (Los Angeles paid $24 million to the family of a boy shot by police while holding a BB gun that looked real). A push is on to require that the toy guns be made in bright colors to differentiate them from real guns, but backers have struggled to get traction.
A Pledge for Mexican Farmworkers
The Los Angeles Times’ 18-month investigation into the working conditions of Mexican farmworkers has led to an agreement between the Mexican government and Wal-Mart regarding the treatment of laborers. The Times found that workers at many farms whose goods end up in American stores were trapped in labor camps without adequate water or food. Produce industry groups say they will now focus on enforcing wage laws and providing housing, education and healthcare.
Port Strike Felt Far and Wide
The effects of slowdowns at ports along the West Coast are rippling through the rest of the state and the country. The continuing labor disputes are attracting the attention of members of Congress, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). He says his constituents -- farmers in California’s Central Valley -- are losing millions of dollars a day waiting for their produce to be shipped. “Nobody wins by the current situation. This is something that cannot continue,” McCarthy said. If problems do continue, the entire U.S. economy could be affected.
“Measles party” poopers: Among the stranger elements of the measles outbreak traced to Disneyland were reports in Marin County that parents were organizing “measles parties” for infected children. There is no evidence such parties occurred, but that didn’t stop media reports and warnings from health officials. Now, the Marin mother who first reported hearing about the parties is speaking out, saying the stories took what she said out of context and have made her a target.
Right-to-die lobby rising: A group called Compassion and Choices has hired three Sacramento lobbying firms to help pass a doctor-assisted suicide bill in the state Legislature, the Sacramento Bee reports. The effort is a sign that there could be a big fight ahead over Senate Bill 128. State Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) introduced the bill after the death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill cancer patient who last year moved from California to Oregon so she could end her life.
Foreclosures return: Southern California’s foreclosures hit a two-year high in January, but the news doesn’t mean there has been a new wave of bad loans. Instead, lenders appear to be adjusting to the state’s Homeowners Bill of Rights, which had the effect of prolonging the foreclosure process. The number of default notices has remained flat for about six months.
Southland ties to Vietnam: Residents in Orange County’s Little Saigon are upset that Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, who is Vietnamese American, won't formally oppose Riverside’s sister-city relationship with Can Tho, Vietnam. Nguyen says he doesn’t believe that it’s right to tell another city what to do. But one anti-Communist activist told the Orange County Register: “He should remember his roots and why he was born in a refugee camp instead of Vietnam.”
Aggressive note taking: So why did a high-profile investigation into a Department of Water and Power union fund suddenly stall? Sources tell The Times that there were concerns that auditors were taking too many notes.
Butcher to the stars: “Glamorous” is probably not the first word that springs to mind when you think of a meat cutter, but that’s just because you probably haven’t met Harvey Gussman. For six decades, Gussman has provided premium cuts of meat to a who’s who of the Los Angeles culinary world. Gussman has gone so far as to fly to Cannes -- with his beef -- to cater a dinner with chef Wolfgang Puck. “I took him out and told everybody, ‘That’s my meat guy,’ ” Puck said.
Inglewood stadium: Plans to build an NFL stadium in Inglewood remain on a fast track. Supporters have gathered enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. The Inglewood City Council, however, has the option of approving the plan outright as soon as this month. “It has been clear to me from the beginning that the community support for this modification is popular by an overwhelming number of the populace,” Mayor James T. Butts said.
Radio DJ silenced: Art Laboe spent 60 years on L.A.'s airwaves, but a reformatting of his station has left him on the sidelines. “The Art Laboe Connection” aired for 23 years. There is some hope for his fans, who include former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: Laboe is in negotiations for a new radio home.
Blind in L.A.: What’s it like to live and commute in a city like Los Angeles when you’re visually impaired? BuzzFeed made a short-story video on one man’s daily routine.
AND FINALLY …
Measles and adults: Measles was once considered mainly a childhood disease, but new numbers from the current outbreak show that most people who contract measles are adults. Officials say this heightens the need to track the immunization records of adults. From the California Department of Public Health, here’s a breakdown by age of people getting the measles:
-- Younger than 1 year: 9%
-- 1-4 years: 14%
-- 5-19 years: 18%
-- 20 years or older: 59%
Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.