Newsletter: Essential California: The costs of drought, end-of-life care, judges behaving badly

Good morning. It is Monday, April 6. The Los Angeles Dodgers will host the San Diego Padres to start the season this afternoon. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Drip, drip, drip: How the drought is changing us

Wealthy neighborhoods use three times more water than less-affluent areas. With the governor's call to cut usage 25%, these cities are rushing to get stricter water laws on the books. The drought has also exposed what happens when a state’s population explodes and so much of its land gets developed. L.A. Times, New York Times

A GOP donor finds it hard to win friends

Charles Munger Jr. has donated $78 million to scores of political campaigns in California, but that has brought him scorn from both sides of the aisle. Still, one GOP strategist says, “If it weren't for Charles Munger, the California Republican Party would have been driven into the sea at this point.” L.A. Times

The author of 'Dying Well' on end-of-life care

Ira Byock, a leading expert on palliative care, has become the public face of doctors' discomfort with physician-assisted death, a matter before the state Legislature. “Many, many people are getting really really good treatments for their disease -- and getting really really bad care during the last months, weeks and days of their lives,” he says. L.A. Times



Missed signs in foster care: Los Angeles County continued to fund a foster care nonprofit despite allegations of child abuse and financial mismanagement. Little People’s World was cut off only once its executive director and his wife were charged with embezzlement and misappropriation of government funds. L.A. Times

Beds and bickering: Rental website Airbnb is using lobbyists and public relations professionals to the tune of $100,000 to protect its interests at L.A. City Hall. On the other side, “housing and neighborhood activists have found allies in labor groups worried about Airbnb rentals becoming an unregulated alternative to hotels where they have won victories.” L.A. Times

An ark for the archbishop: Dogs, cats, goats and turtles -- not to mention two ferrets and a llama named Rama -- were among the hundreds of animals blessed by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez on Saturday. The tradition dates to the 4th century. L.A. Times



He answers to a higher calling: For 30 years, Democratic strategist Garry South has designed elaborate garments used by Christians in religious ceremonies. “South is a person of strong and abiding religious faith, which may surprise those familiar with his pile-driving personality and blast furnace of a mouth, features engaged the past few decades by several California Democrats.” L.A. Times

The down side of star power: Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris has an unusual image problem, as the substance of her accomplishments is often overshadowed by style, even though she’s taken on big banks and international crime rings during her time in office. “After all, state attorneys general don’t typically wind up on ‘Oprah’ -- much less get praised for their good looks by the president of the United States.” Daily News

Tightening the books: The Anaheim City Council is considering three measures that could have a dramatic effect on the city’s finances. If ultimately approved by voters next year, the measures could make it more difficult to enact new taxes and sell bonds. Orange County Register

Friends in blue collars: Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy-cementing projects are intimately tied to trade workers. “They plow money into Democratic politics but court Republicans as well. The blue-collar workforce toils in oil refineries and solar fields, making the group a central player in the debate over the state's energy future.” L.A. Times



Judges' turn to face justice: California reprimanded 43 judges last year. Their offenses included having sex in their chambers, abdicating responsibilities to clerks and excoriating the people appearing before them. “Judges elected by voters to the trial bench are more likely to get in trouble than jurists appointed by governors, and female judges and those with the most seniority tend to have less misconduct, records show.” L.A. Times

Scofflaws may luck out: Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal would allow ticket scofflaws to pay just a fraction of their traffic fines. Nevertheless, the program could raise as much as $150 million for the state. Orange County Register

Grieving in Hawthorne: Friends and relatives are trying to make sense of a shooting that left a single mother dead in Hawthorne. Denise Berry was described as a happy, positive person. L.A. Times

A frightening discovery: Paramedics found a mummified body in a San Francisco home. One neighbor described the scene as “ 'Hoarders 101,’ or even worse than the TV show.” SF Gate



Farmers, the governor and water: Gov. Jerry Brown is hitting back at critics who say California’s farmers aren’t doing enough to conserve water during the drought. “They’re pulling up vines and trees. Farmworkers who are very low end of the economic scale here are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are really suffering.” ABC

Let's split the tab: A Times editorial says that the federal government should help the city pay to restore the L.A. River. “The Army Corps signed on to the project in the first place because it so perfectly fits the Obama administration's direction to all federal agencies to prioritize ecosystem restoration in urban areas and connect urban youths with the outdoors.” L.A. Times



Holding on to its turf: As San Diego campaigns to keep the Chargers in town, it may want to look at Houston to see what happens when a city loses its NFL team. “The key lesson San Diego can learn from all this is that if a city fights enough with its team, that team really might leave. And, in most cases, getting the NFL to come back is going to cost a lot more.” U-T San Diego



In Friday’s Essential California, we asked how the drought is affecting you. Here’s what you had to say:

“Our shower heads are water-saving, and we've cut back to showering every other day. We do the laundry less frequently, combining loads and running all colors in cold water. We're interested in hearing how we can cut back an additional 25%; that will be hard to do.” -- Jeanie Camp

“I started to focus on using more native plants, and then the city offered a rebate for removing turf. So I applied for the rebate, was approved, and have since replaced all of my front lawn with a combination of native and non-native drought-tolerant plants. In January, I received my first 'report card' from the city on our water usage. According to the report we had reduced our water use an astounding 94%.” -- Yvonne Burch-Hartley

In today’s Talk Back: The city of Los Angeles has a rule that cars cannot be parked on the street for more than 72 hours. Should that rule be changed? Have you been affected by onerous parking restrictions? How well do other cities regulate parking?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter with the tag #EssentialCalifornia or send us an email: Alice Walton and Shelby Grad.



Some rain is expected to be heading to Southern California on Tuesday night, bringing .25 to .50 of an inch in the basins and as much as 1 inch in the mountains. It has already started raining (and snowing) in Northern California.


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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