Newsletter: Essential California: Punishment at L.A. County fire, new police chief in Laguna Beach, will UC system see tuition increases?


Good morning. It is Thursday, March 19. In Southern California, dogs are so beloved that many popular restaurants are now offering “secret menus” for canines. Would anyone care for a Puppuccino? Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Fallout at L.A. County fire

Los Angeles County firefighters will be disciplined, possibly even fired, for participating in a cheating scandal. Firefighters allegedly shared confidential exam materials the department uses to hire new recruits. Last year, a Los Angeles Times investigation found 13% of county firefighters were related to someone on the force. L.A. Times

Inglewood mayor’s forceful style

As a former police chief, Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. demands control and order. That quality has worked for and against him as he tries to bring development and fiscal responsibility to the city. His next great challenge will be breaking ground on a proposed NFL stadium. L.A. Times

Fast food failure

Seven years ago, a ban on fast food restaurants was supposed to cut obesity in South L.A. Instead, a new study from RAND Corp. finds, obesity rates increased, as did the consumption of fast food. “What has changed? Well, nothing,” according to the study’s author. L.A. Times



Next stop the Arts District: First came the restaurants, then came the lofts, and next may just be a subway. Metro is considering plans to add one or two Metro Red and Purple Line stops in the growing neighborhood. L.A. Times

AEG's advice on NFL: If AEG can’t build an NFL stadium, then no one can build one. That seems to be the company’s stance, according to a letter sent to the mayor of Carson. AEG wants that city’s stadium proposal to be “thoroughly vetted” by the public with a full environmental study. AEG owns the nearby Carson-based StubHub Center. L.A. Times



Misstep in Durst case: As far back as 2001, Los Angeles police were trying to determine whether real estate heir Robert Durst had penned a letter connected to the murder of writer Susan Berman. With a shoddy analysis of the handwriting, and little else to go on, the case went cold until 2014. L.A. Times

A setback for Stockton: A shooting that left three people dead and four others injured is the latest act of violence for a city trying to right its history of crime. “The city struggles to hire officers when other cities still offer more money and far less stress. The city's unemployment rate tops 15% and violence seems ever present.” L.A. Times

New top cop: The new chief of police in Laguna Beach is also Orange County’s first openly gay chief.  When she joined the police force in Long Beach 25 years ago, Laura Farinella kept her sexual orientation a secret. “It was a double-whammy. I was female and I was gay. I always just did my job,” she said. Orange County Register



Republican recovery: The GOP’s challenges in California have been well documented but George Skelton suggests the party may be turning a corner. Politicians have eased up on social issues, and there’s an effort to find more diverse candidates. Later this year, state Sen. Jean Fuller will become the first woman to lead either party in the Senate. L.A. Times

Blue Shield fallout: Politicians and health experts were shocked to learn that Blue Shield of California lost its tax-exempt status. The state’s insurance commissioner said the revocation was proof that the insurance giant charged excessive rates and acted like a for-profit company. L.A. Times



Mum on tuition increases: No concrete details on possible tuition hikes came out of Wednesday’s meeting between Gov. Jerry Brown and UC president Janet Napolitano. The two-person committee continues to meet on the issue. The governor has proposed increasing funding for the university system by 4% but only if there are no tuition increases. Napolitano believes UC needs more money, which could come through five years of 5% jumps. L.A. Times

Prosecuting Venice High case: It’s been nearly a week since police arrested a dozen male students at Venice High School for allegedly committing sex crimes against two female classmates. Authorities are still trying to sort out which students are most seriously implicated in the case. Another challenge is determining which acts may have been consensual because legally minors cannot consent to sex. L.A. Times



Rude awakening: St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco found an unorthodox, and some say inhumane, way to treat homeless men and women who sleep in the church’s doorways -- overhead sprinklers. Water pours out of the ceiling every 30 to 60 minutes, soaking homeless individuals and their belongings. City inspectors say the system was illegally installed. CBS

Bay Area’s luxury bus: There are new commuter buses on the streets of San Francisco, offering up Wi-Fi, Blue Bottle coffee and a networking app. The buses have an unusual set-up, with unfinished wood interiors and even work stations equipped with USB outlets. Each ride costs $6. SF Gate

Missing car returned: An Orange County couple have their car back, one week after a valet gave the car keys to the wrong person. The Mazda CX-9 was found in a Costa Mesa parking lot. The owner says valuables worth thousands of dollars were taken from the car. L.A. Times



For today’s Talk Back, let’s focus on Metro and the politeness (or rudeness) of riders. A new campaign is underway to remind Angelenos how to behave on public transit. What has your experience been? Have you witnessed bad behavior on the region’s buses and trains? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or send us an email: Alice Walton and Shelby Grad.



The late chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren, was born on this day in 1891. He was the 30th governor of California, and the only person to serve three consecutive terms as the Golden State’s governor.


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.