Newsletter: Essential California: LAPD’s diversity, courting Asian American voters, helping skid row’s mentally ill


Good morning. It's Monday, March 30. Dolphins and sea lions are participating in training exercises with the U.S. Navy in San Diego. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Transforming the LAPD: The racial makeup of the LAPD better reflects the city it patrols, but that doesn’t mean communities are any more trusting of the police. “The department has moved away from being an occupying force in South L.A. and East L.A. to one that interacts and is more representative of those communities,” said John Mack, a former police commissioner. L.A. Times

Profile of a fugitive cop: Before he became a murder suspect, a rookie LAPD officer was a war veteran with a spotless disciplinary record. Even police say Henry Solis’ background gives little indication that he would allegedly shoot a man outside a Pomona nightclub and then flee to Mexico. “I don't know if there's a threat to the general public at large. His past behavior doesn't indicate that — other than that one night,” an FBI agent said. L.A. Times



Mayor vs. gadfly: The “gadfly” is a mainstay of local city council meetings. In Baldwin Park, however, gadfly Paul Cook ended up in small claims court against the city’s mayor, Manuel Lozano. The court appearance after the mayor filed a temporary restraining order against Cook. L.A. Times

Skid row’s mentally ill: Why was a mentally ill man released from prison onto the streets of skid row in downtown L.A.? And what were police supposed to do when they encountered him March 1? The police shooting of 43-year-old Charly Leundeu Keunang was a reminder that skid row is a minefield for the police and homeless. L.A. Times

DWP’s solar project: In the three years since the Department of Water and Power launched a 150-megawatt solar project, just 6.5 megawatts have been installed. That’s the finding of a new report. The DWP has also hired only three people to run the program, even though money was allocated for 30 positions. L.A. Weekly



Courting Asian voters: The influence of Asian American voters is growing in California, and that presents a unique opportunity for both political parties. Writes Cathleen Decker: "The rise of Asian American voters has spurred the same arguments that Republicans have long made about Latinos — that they are culturally conservative, share business-oriented values and should be our voters. But they're not." L.A. Times

California’s wage inequality: An analysis shows that although state legislators are calling on employers to end the wage gap between men and women, women continue to be paid less than their male co-workers in the state Legislature. In both the Assembly and Senate, the five highest-paid employees are men. Sacramento Bee

Electing Latino candidates: In this Q&A, the executive director of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials talks about getting Latino candidates elected to higher office. “I now say we will absolutely have a Latino president within my lifetime, and I want to be a special guest at her or his inauguration,” he said. L.A. Times



Punishing cops: The LAPD’s disciplinary system is so out of whack that last week a jury awarded two officers $4 million for how they were treated after they shot an unarmed African American man. “The perception of unfairness can taint everything it touches. This verdict may be a crazy but inevitable consequence of unseemly compromise and uncertain standards,” writes Sandy Banks. L.A. Times

Asking questions in Fresno: The city manager in Fresno is in hot water after telling reporters they shouldn’t look into the Police Department’s management structure and personnel. “At a time when Fresno City Hall should be as transparent as possible about the operations of the Fresno Police Department, Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd would rather limit inquiries into how a deputy police chief could be dealing drugs right under the noses of the department.” Fresno Bee



Cheating scandal: Stanford University administrators are looking into allegations that an unusually high number of students cheated during winter courses. In one case, an instructor believes 20% of his class may have participated. “In violating academic integrity," university Provost John Etchemendy wrote in a letter to faculty, "they are cheating themselves of the very core of our mission -- the process of learning and discovery -- as well as risking severe consequences.” San Jose Mercury-News

Boyle Heights readers: Columnist Steve Lopez profiles a high school reading club. “They meet on Mondays at lunch. They remove their earbuds, hide their smartphones and communicate without the aid of electronic devices. They are the coolest kids at Mendez High School in Boyle Heights.” L.A. Times

School funding up in smoke: As smoking declines in California, so does funding for preschools. In 1998, voters agreed to tax cigarettes and direct that money to early education programs. Funding has dropped to $350 million this year, down from $650 million in 1998. KPCC



Assimilating the undocumented: As states become more polarized over how to handle immigrants in the country illegally, California is leading the way in integrating them into mainstream society. Immigrants who are in California illegally can drive, attend college and practice law. “Let’s get everyone on board with the fact that they’re here and we’re not going to deport them. Let’s figure out how to transition them in and get them to the point of assimilating,” said state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris. New York Times



Paved paradise: From Brea to San Clemente, the worst places to park in Orange County. Orange County Register

Opera’s garage sale: Hundreds showed up this weekend to the L.A. Opera’s costume sale. Hoop skirts, devil horns and military-style jackets were just a few of the items snapped up by curious shoppers. L.A. Times

Dancing around Los Angeles: This ballet dancer took to the streets of Los Angeles to dance around famous landmarks and make this video. LAist

Red Building gets tenants: The “red building” at the Pacific Design Center opened two years ago but is just now getting occupants. “The Red Building has been essentially unoccupied since it was completed as landlord Charles S. Cohen held out for the tenants and rents he wanted.” L.A. Times



A crash this weekend between a car and the Metro Expo Line will likely reignite debates over the safety of at-grade crossings. What can public transit agencies do to make rail safer? What about the role of the distracted driver? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or send us an email: Alice Walton and Shelby Grad.



Los Angeles is now officially home to Sawtelle Japantown. Japanese immigrants settled in this Westside neighborhood in the early 1900s when they were prevented from moving into whiter areas including Westwood and Brentwood.


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.