Newsletter: Essential California: When it’s safe to get drunk in front of a cop

Good morning. It is Tuesday, Aug. 18. Will the voice of the Dodgers return for his 67th season? Vin Scully says he hasn’t made up his mind -- yet. Here's what is happening in the Golden State:


Refund on its way

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will refund tens of millions of dollars to customers who were overcharged after a new billing system was implemented. An estimated $36 million is owed to customers. The utility will spend an additional $20 million to correct the faulty billing system. “It’s a home run. It’s not often you get 100% recovery for customers,” said Jack Landskroner, an attorney representing one of the customers who sued the utility. Los Angeles Times

Justice delayed

It took decades for the LAPD to find the man authorities say preyed on vulnerable women in South Los Angeles. When Lonnie Franklin Jr., dubbed the Grim Sleeper, was arrested five years ago on suspicion of committing the crimes, the victims’ families thought they had closed a chapter. Now, his trial on 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder has again been delayed. “He turned it into a circus for a long time,” one victim’s sister said of Franklin’s defense attorney. Los Angeles Times

Political divisions

In his State of the City address, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti promised that rideshare apps would have access to the airport and that companies such as Airbnb would have to pay taxes. But those policies have stalled, in part because of the division between the mayor and City Council. Garcetti is seen as tech-forward, while council members are more attuned to the concerns of neighborhood groups as well as the organized lobbies for taxis and hotels. Los Angeles Times


Collecting snowfall: A coalition of environmental groups just purchased more than 10,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada range to see how tree thinning could ultimately allow more snow to accumulate and then melt into rivers. Los Angeles Times

Experts weigh in: What are the best ways to conserve water? Six policy experts weigh in. “The time has also come to get serious about recycled water as a source. On a macro scale, reuse can supplant other strained water sources. On a micro scale, greywater reuse can help homes and businesses save water and enjoy sensible landscaping,” writes Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal. Zócalo Public Square

Saving the fish: Thousands of rainbow trout hitched a ride from the San Joaquin Hatchery to Shaver Lake. The waters of Millerton Lake had become too warm to sustain the trout. “The drought is having a devastating effect but this is something we’re trying to do positively,” said Andrew Hughan with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Fresno Bee


Daily ritual: One of the most powerful people in City Hall begins each day with a bubble bath. Council President Herb Wesson uses the time for meditation. “I don’t want to say, ‘Zen out,’ but that’s kind of what I try to do. ... Then I’m in a real good mood for the rest of the day,” he said. Daily News

Policy argument: In an op-ed piece, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin writes that he wants his colleagues to embrace new technologies and allow companies such as Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at LAX. It’s the taxi industry’s last stronghold in Los Angeles. “More and more people are choosing to live car free, routinely using their rideshare apps when they need to go somewhere mass transit does not. We should not construct a government roadblock for them at the airport,” he writes. Los Angeles Business Journal

Hippie dippy: The latest trend in Los Angeles: sound baths. Participants meditate to the sounds of  bowls, chimes, tuning forks and gongs. Enlightenment starts at $10 an hour. New York Times


Direct democracy: Upset over an anti-gay ballot proposal, the state Senate voted to increase the filing fee required for any state initiative. By hiking the fee from $200 to $2,000, senators said they believed they would no longer get frivolous proposals. Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) disagreed and joined his Republican colleagues in voting against the fee increase. “What my challenge is, on a personal level, is this sends a message to the public that we as a Legislature are telling them that we want to put barriers up against their right to participate in the system,” he said. Los Angeles Times

Job creation: Three years ago, California voters approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which was intended to create new green jobs by funding energy-efficient projects at schools. Instead, just one-tenth of the promised jobs have come to fruition. Associated Press

Job protection: A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will protect the jobs of grocery store employees for at least 90 days after a change in ownership. The bill was backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers. Los Angeles Times

Learn the lingo: Want to sound like a Capitol insider? This cheatsheet is for you. Sacramento Bee


Police actions: An independent review has concluded that the 600 rounds fired by Stockton police last year in a gun battle with bank robbers were “excessive” and “unnecessary.” One hostage was killed when she was struck by 10 bullets fired by police. Los Angeles Times

Specialized training: It’s not too often you’re encouraged to get really drunk in front of a police officer, but this is an unusual training assignment. Five volunteers spent hours drinking vodka and whiskey so deputies with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office could learn the signs of intoxication. “At the end of the day, it’s about knowing when to get people off the road. I go to far too many accident scenes that I shouldn’t have to,” said instructor and police Officer Josh Enea. SF Gate

Towing charges: Four people are accused of engaging in “predatory practices” that targeted drivers who left their cars in a Northridge parking lot. “Holding vehicles ransom and charging excessive fees for their release is an outrageous and unscrupulous business practice,” said L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer. Los Angeles Times


No summer vacation: More than a decade ago, 227 L.A. Unified School District campuses were on year-round schedules due to a massive explosion in the district’s enrollment. Bell High School is now the last of those campuses. “We get more learning time -- a lot more one-on-one tutoring. When everyone comes back, we’re ahead of them,” said one student who returned to the classroom July 1. Los Angeles Times

Old problems: As the new school year begins today, L.A. Unified will try to overcome two major technological meltdowns from last year -- its failed rollout of the iPad program and a malfunctioning student records system. “After months of tireless repairs, our heart has some new stents, replaced valves, a pacemaker and reduced cholesterol, and it is pumping much stronger,” Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said of the records system. Los Angeles Times

There’s a new home for the Los Angeles Times’ education coverage. Find it here at


Right to self-defense: When a California teenager moved away to college, harassment from her stalker followed. Taylor Woolrich appealed to her university to allow her to carry a concealed weapon on campus but was denied. It was then that she spoke at a pro-gun convention and her story went viral. BuzzFeed

Big issues: L.A. Kitchen is a charitable organization taking on three big issues -- food waste, job training and feeding the hungry. “We’ll buy local. We’ll employ men and women who would normally cost the state large amounts of money if they went back to prison. We’ll prepare a healthier meal at a competitive price,” said Robert Egger, the man behind the project. Los Angeles Times

Off menu: A new app will clue you into the “secret menus” of restaurants throughout San Francisco and Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times


STEM access: In a Times op-ed article, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan notes the successes at the Incubator School in West L.A. and laments the lack of access many communities have to such cutting-edge programs. Duncan calls for greater partnerships between the federal government, states, local governments and the private sector to close the gap in STEM access -- high-quality instruction in science, technology, engineering and math. Los Angeles Times

Affordable housing: L.A. desperately needs more of it, and the state Supreme Court recently removed an obstacle to providing it by allowing cities to pass “inclusionary zoning” laws that require new housing developments to have a certain percentage of units set aside for sale at below-market prices. The Times’ editorial board encourages City Hall to pass such ordinance for Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles will start with some clouds. The sun will come out later and temperatures are expected to reach 83 degrees. Riverside will have plenty of sunshine and 92 degrees. San Diego is expected to have low clouds followed by sunshine and 79 degrees. Clouds will break for the sun in San Francisco, where temperatures should reach a high of 73 degrees.


Today's California Memory comes from Ellen Girardeau Kempler:

“When I moved to L.A. in 1983, driving the freeways terrified me. In my hometown, Eugene, Ore., there was one straight interstate. You merged on once and then you got off. L.A. traffic was one big tangle. I drove hunched over, gripping the steering wheel with two hands. I had to sing to the radio to keep myself from hyperventilating as trucks rumbled by. Getting lost became so routine that I got used to pulling over to consult my dog-eared, phonebook-sized Thomas Guide. I worked the puzzle of side streets and onramps so many times that finally the pieces fell into place and I could breathe again.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state.(Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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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