Newsletter: Essential California: UC’s budget woes, Irvine’s painful economics, making rain in California

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.


Port Strike Pain

Biggest losers so far in the port strike? Truck drivers and warehouse workers, who are already seeing their hours cut. Some farmers in the Central Valley can’t get their produce shipped. As Labor Secretary Thomas Perez tries to resolve the dispute, some shippers are paying extra to avoid the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and ship goods via air or through Gulf and East Coast ports.

Boxer Seat’s Hidden Drama

Remember when the pundits said Sen. Barbara Boxer’s retirement would allow a new generation of Democrats to fight it out for her seat? Times political editor Cathleen Decker notes that, so far, the political drama has all been behind the scenes, with only Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris taking center stage.  “A million and one candidates are ’seriously’ considering the Senate race — who would admit to doing so not seriously? — but no one else has formally stepped forward,” Decker writes. As former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa mulls whether to challenge Harris, he has much to think about.


Make it rain: “Atmospheric rivers” are providing a certain level of salvation to drought-plagued California. Times science reporter Bettina Boxall flew into one of the storm systems in Northern California last week with scientists hoping to understand how the rain-making weather phenomenon works.

Sign of the times: A sign - for better or worse - of the improving state budget picture: State legislators are getting new cars to drive.

Unlikely crime magnet: The installation of fancy - and expensive - outdoor restrooms in downtown San Diego has prompted what police describe as a mini crime wave involving drug and sex incidents, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

College budget woes: In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and minority leader Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen call for zero-based budgeting as tuition continues to increase within the UC and CSU systems. “The state must do its part and make higher education a top budget priority. And UC and CSU must do their part to become more efficient and not place cost increases on the backs of students,” they write.

Newsom’s long campaign: The New Yorker did a deep dive on Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s bid for governor: “Newsom’s language and the timing of his announcement were reminders of the dramatic tactics he once successfully deployed as mayor, but has avoided as lieutenant governor— surely calibrated with the headlines in mind (and, this time around, the tweets).”


‘Rock star’ murderer: How a Mexican Mafia killer became the darling of law enforcement has been a remarkable tale. Said one lawman who dealt with him: "He becomes a rock star. Why? What benefit does this give law enforcement? That's really difficult for me to answer."

Painful economics, even in Irvine: After reporting from industrial Long Beach on how the “new economy is hitting Boeing line workers hard, Steve Lopez travels to white-collar Irvine. Here, the economics are different but the despair is similar.

Influence at City Hall: In his First & Spring piece, Times reporter David Zahniser examines how special interests are throwing their money behind two charter amendments that would move L.A.'s municipal and school board elections. Opponents say the influence of interest groups will only increase if local races have to fight for money and attention during presidential and governor races.

Hollyhock House reopens: Angelenos filtered through Hollyhock House at all hours during the  weekend. The architectural treasure was opened for the first time since a five-year, $4.4-million renovation. “Once inside the home, commissioned in 1919, they were free to wander and ask questions of docents and, for this one time only, take photos — as many as they pleased.”

Christian Grey boosts Universal:  "Fifty Shades of Grey” pushed pass some mocking reviews to set new box office records. It’s a victory for Universal Pictures, which moved it from summer release to Valentine’s Day weekend. Will this be the year Universal steps out of its status as a big studio also-ran?

Monster-style Legos: Meet the man who turned his love of In-N-Out Burger into an intricate Lego world, complete with a Double-Double, courtesy of Buzzfeed.


We know the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are big. But how big? Consider that they:

- Handle 40% of the nation's incoming container cargo

- Move $1 billion in goods daily.

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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