Essential California: How to make LAUSD better?

Good morning. It is Friday, Jan. 15. There are two new (and adorable) mountain lion kittens living in the Santa Monica Mountains. But there's an outstanding question: Who's the daddy? Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:



Political pressures

As she prepares for her reelection, L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey is facing increasing pressure to prosecute a police officer who shot an unarmed homeless man in Venice. The decision on whether to press charges could put her at odds with law enforcement or civil rights groups. "Whatever she decides there's going to be very unhappy people," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A. Los Angeles Times

Gas leak conditions

High stakes are involved in Southern California Gas. Co's repair of a leaking well in Aliso Canyon. State regulators now say that a "blowout" is a significant concern. A blowout would increase the amount of gas that is leaking from the well and create the risk of a massive fire. Gas company officials declined to comment or provide media access to the well site. Los Angeles Times

Undercover informant

Huntington Park Councilman Valentin Amezquita is the FBI informant at the center of a bribery case involving the company that tows and stores vehicles for the city's police department. While meeting with the company's owners, Amezquita wore a wire, and details of those recordings are now part of a federal affidavit in the case. Los Angeles Times


Land war: Columnist Robin Abcarian visited a Northern California nursery to see firsthand the dispute that erupted between a farmer and the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers. Farmer John Duarte is the new face of government overreach after he was accused of destroying "wetlands" on his property. "The case has resulted in some spectacularly absurd contortions on the part of the Corps," Abcarian writes. Los Angeles Times

Water diversion: Gov. Jerry Brown is painting a dire picture of what could happen if his $15-billion plan to divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta doesn't come to fruition. "If we don't have the project, the delta will fail, water will not be available and California will suffer devastating economic consequences," Brown said. The move to divert delta resources is opposed by environmentalists. Reuters


Improved LAUSD: Single-sex schools, language programs and more science and math education are among Supt. Michelle King's ideas to make the Los Angeles Unified School District more attractive to parents. Her comments came during a meeting with The Times' editorial board. King also criticized a proposal to turn half of the district's schools into charters. "I don't agree or support any initiative that says we're going to take over or take part of L.A. Unified's kids," she said. Los Angeles Times

An endorsement: Former Mayor Richard Riordan endorsed a proposed ballot measure that would place a two-year moratorium on developments that don't comply with existing planning and zoning rules. The backing came with harsh words for the city's current mayor. "He isn't doing anything for the poor but helping the rich get richer — through these zoning deals on land development," Riordan said. Los Angeles Times

New title: An aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti has adopted the title of "executive vice mayor," something that has never before existed in L.A. city government. Despite the name, Rick Jacobs, a deputy chief of staff, is not the No. 2 official in the city. LA Weekly



Major fine: The California Public Utilities Commission fined Uber $7.6 million for failing to meet data requirements in 2014. Representatives for the ride-sharing company plan to appeal the decision. The commission had required Uber to turn over driver data that would show whether drivers were serving all "manner of passengers." Los Angeles Times

Legal fees: Litigation against the Sheriff's Department helped increase Los Angeles County's legal fees — including attorney's costs, settlements and judgments — 24% last year. The county spent $118.9 million in fiscal year 2014-15. "Every cent the county spends on litigation is precious funding that we cannot use to house the homeless, promote better health and wellness for children, upskill our workforce, and provide countless other needed services to our communities," said Supervisor Hilda Solis, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors. Los Angeles Times


Abuse lawsuit: A woman is suing Orange County billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III for $70 million, alleging that he abused her during their relationship and then reneged on a promise to financially support her for the rest of her life. In her lawsuit, Melissa Montero states she quit her job as a restaurant manager after Nicholas promised to support her if she devoted her life to him. Los Angeles Times

New names: There are some new names coming to Yosemite National Park. The Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, and Curry Village will be known as Half Dome Village. The changes come amid an ongoing lawsuit with the park's outgoing concession company, which argues it owns the intellectual property rights to the original names. Los Angeles Times

Religious liberties: Doctors at a Catholic hospital do not have to perform sterilization procedures on women. A San Francisco judge has ruled Mercy Medical Center did not engage in sex discrimination when it denied a woman a tubal ligation on religious grounds. Associated Press



Oscar goes to … : What does critic Kenneth Turan take away from Thursday's Academy Award nominations? "Despite the mysterious exclusions, despite the perplexing and continually disturbing absence of people of color from the acting nominations, the voters in the specific branches gave indications of taking their jobs seriously, of looking past the obvious films to make their choices," he writes. Los Angeles Times

Buy you a drink: Time to find a new pickup bar. Foxfire was known as a place for older, experienced women and the younger men who love them. Now, the restaurant is closing. "Foxfire became code in the male Southern California world for fun, for men to try their Leykis 101 moves and get lucky again and again. And there was fun for ladies who were looking for sugar daddies, too!" OC Weekly

Government cheese: Should people be guaranteed a small paycheck from the federal government? It's an idea that's taken root in California. "California offers perhaps the most likely venue to try such an idea at the state level; we have a powerful ballot initiative system that would allow for the quick advance of such a proposal, and deep-pocketed potential backers to campaign for it," writes Joe Mathews. Zócalo Public Square

City as a muse: The late David Bowie lived in Los Angeles for 10 months during the mid-1970s. "David Bowie came to Los Angeles to get involved in the movie business, and things didn't work out the way he expected. In the process, though, he made one of his best albums and gave a definitive performance in what became an unquestionable movie masterpiece." LA Weekly


San Francisco will have clouds and sun with a high of 57 degrees. Los Angeles will be sunny and 64. In Riverside, there will be sunshine and 63 degrees. San Diego will have clouds and sun. Temperatures are expected to reach 63 degrees.


Today's California Memory comes from Connie A. Summer:

"I came to California on a bus with a few other women Marines fresh out of boot camp. Another bus took us to Orange County. I could smell orange blossom for the first time and saw my first palm tree. I will never forget that first moment we set foot in the Pacific Ocean. I fell in love with California, and it loved me back. I am 81 now and only returned to New York to visit. Guess California is in my soul."

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (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 and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.