Newsletter: Essential California: New costs for the bullet train

Good morning. It is Monday, March 28. Here’s what is happening in the Golden State:


Costly change orders

The California rail authority is facing hundreds of millions of dollars in potential change orders and other prospective cost increases on the first 29 miles of the bullet train system, state and private contractor documents show. Higher costs for the first construction phase of the project would carry implications for the entire $64-billion system. Los Angeles Times 


Killing rocks San Bernardino

The senseless slaying of a sixth-grader has outraged residents. It marked the 15th homicide this year in a city already coping with economic struggles, persistent crime and the tragedy of last December’s terrorist attack. Los Angeles Times

Economic policies

The prospect of the minimum wage across California rising to $15 has employees at some restaurants around L.A. excited. But their employers worry about how they will absorb the extra costs in what is already a low-margin business. Los Angeles Times 



Overflowing good fortune: El Niño has been good to Lake Shasta, where the reservoir is swelling with water -- so much water, in fact, that the Federal Bureau of Reclamation is releasing water at a rate not seen since 2011. It’s the state’s largest reservoir and a key source of water. Los Angeles Times


Reality of caring: A custody battle in Santa Clarita has underscored a tough reality. Foster care asks caregivers to perform an almost impossible task: Love the child as your own, but relinquish the youth without delay or protest when social workers say the time has come. Los Angeles Times

House party: The Sheats Goldstein house in Beverly Hills had its own party last week. The landmark residence was designed by John Lautner and renovated by its colorful owner, James F. Goldstein. “I’ve been working on this donation for many years, trying to figure out who to give it to,” Goldstein said. “I’m very happy it ended up with LACMA.” Los Angeles Times

Campaign donations: At least five staffers of L.A. City Councilwoman Nury Martinez sought the $5 and $10 donations that are now the focus of a federal inquiry, according to constituent interviews. The councilwoman needed 200 small donations from her constituents to make her campaign eligible for as much as $100,000 in taxpayer funds. Los Angeles Times


Support for Trump: A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times statewide poll finds Donald Trump’s campaign leading here less than three months before the California primary. However, a quarter of the Republicans polled said they would not vote for Trump if he was the party’s nominee. Los Angeles Times


Divided house: The Republican Party in California is split over Donald Trump. “Such discontent can ease, but that process is smoother if trouble hasn’t been brewing for an awfully long time. And the Republican split has been at a threatening burn for so long that an explosion was nearly inevitable,” writes columnist Cathleen Decker. Los Angeles Times

Political expectations: The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll also found that most of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters in California expect that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee -- and they’re OK with that. “By contrast with the civil war that divides Republicans, Democrats in the country’s largest state have begun to coalesce behind their front-runner.” Los Angeles Times

Questionable spending: Between 2009 and 2014, 83% of the purchases made with city-issued credit cards in the City of Industry were considered questionable, according to a new audit. Most charges did not include receipts or even a valid reason for existing. “City officials paid for iPads, MacBooks, car speakers, massages, donations to charities, golf tournaments, wine tastings and many meals at expensive restaurants, according to a review of credit card statements by this news organization.” San Gabriel Valley Tribune


Coroner’s findings: The human skull discovered in Griffith Park was identified as that of an adult woman, authorities said. The coroner’s office believes she was at least 20 years old and had been dead for at least one year but no more than 10. Investigators are still trying to piece together who she was and how she died. Los Angeles Times

Animal abuse: A man allegedly swung a rabbit by its ears and then set the animal on fire, police said. Juan Lemus, 29, was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty, arson and burglary. Los Angeles Times


Magic carpet ride: A viral video shows a man dressed as the character Aladdin riding a motorized magic carpet through San Francisco. He hops a cable car, rides down Lombard Street and finally ends up at the Palace of Fine Arts to pick up his date, Jasmine. SF Gate


Unusual instrument: It’s considered the most inaccessible instrument in Orange County. It’s the carillon at Christ Cathedral. And Melissa Weidner is one of only 150 people in the United States who is certified as a carillonneur. Orange County Register

Props saved: A robot from television’s “Lost in Space” was reportedly among the props saved during a Valley Village fire. The electrical fire started in a home owned by a prop designer and special effects artist. Daily News

Movie history: Reflecting on the production of “All the President’s Men,” 40 years after it was made. “An impossible conjunction of talent and opportunity, collaboration and ego, trust, power, and luck. And then more luck.” LA Review of Books


Sacramento will have clouds and a high of 65. In San Francisco, it will be partly sunny and 61. Riverside will have some clouds and a high of 65. Los Angeles will be 65 degrees. San Diego will have clouds and a high of 65.


This week’s birthdays of notable Californians:

Lakers coach Byron Scott (March 28, 1961), Rep. Ted Lieu (March 29, 1969), Rep. Janice Hahn (March 30, 1952), Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (March 31, 1952), Rep. Tony Cardenas (March 31, 1963) and L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz (April 3, 1955).

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.

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