Newsletter: Essential California: A shift on child sex crimes in L.A. County

Good morning. It is Thursday, Oct. 22. Comedian Chris Rock will host the 88th Academy Awards next year. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Political support

Los Angeles is the biggest city in America to embrace a minimum wage of $15 an hour, so as efforts get underway to take a similar proposal statewide, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti seemed like a natural advocate. But the mayor says he hasn't yet taken a position on the proposal, going so far as to say he hasn't even read it though it has been publicly available for four months. "The ballot initiative comes at a time when broader political calculations could be influencing the mayor's decision-making.” Los Angeles Times

Rising water costs

Angelenos did such a good job of conserving water that the Department of Water and Power's revenue dropped. Now, the utility will add a charge to customer bills to make up the difference. The so-called pass-through is in addition to a five-year water and electricity rate increase that utility officials are seeking. Los Angeles Times

Fresh & Easy over?

The end appears near for Fresh & Easy, the grocery chain that has struggled for years. Stores are being liquidated and closed over the next few weeks, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Industry experts speculated that the chain could shortly file for bankruptcy protection. More than half of Fresh & Easy's 97 stores are in California. Los Angeles Times


Drought shaming: Last week, the East Bay Municipal Utility District released the names of some of its most prodigious water-pumping champions, all of whom are being fined for missing the memo on California's punishing drought. Steve Lopez asks: Why doesn't the L.A. Department of Water and Power do the same thing for water wasters in Bel-Air and other parts of the city? Los Angeles Times

Severe thunderstorms: They caused more flood damage in northern Death Valley National Park than initially thought, park officials said. The visitor center at Scotty's Castle, a Spanish-style mansion that offers guided tours, was inundated with about 2 feet of mud in Sunday's storms. Los Angeles Times

Trail closed: The Trail of 100 Giants in the Giant Sequoia National Monument was shut down out of fear of falling trees. Drought-stricken pine trees are susceptible to attacks from bark beetles. "We need to close the trail for public safety," said Denise Alonzo, a Forest Service spokeswoman. Fresno Bee


Policy change: Recognizing that minors cannot consent to sex, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will no longer arrest children on prostitution charges. "They are child victims and survivors of rape," Sheriff Jim McDonnell wrote in a letter to his employees. Los Angeles Times

A salad grows: The latest attraction at the Getty Center? A vegetable garden. An organic, heirloom vegetable garden, to be exact. Los Angeles Times

Big-city living: It's too good to be true: an Echo Park apartment that comes with a washer and dryer, hot tub and beautiful citrus trees. For $850 a month, this Winnebago motorhome parked in the backyard of a triplex could be yours. According to the Craigslist ad, "This is a perfect situation for the right person." LAist


No reelection: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will not seek a third term. He said that he reached the decision after a trip to Phoenix, where he once played point guard for the NBA's Suns. The announcement coincides with renewed attention on allegations that Johnson molested a 16-year-old girl almost 20 years ago. Los Angeles Times

Admissions relief: UC President Janet Napolitano said she is preparing a plan to significantly increase the number of California undergraduates in the 2016-17 school year throughout the university system, including at UCLA and UC Berkeley, where admission is the most difficult. Los Angeles Times

Wedding gifts: Assemblyman Ian Calderon got married about a week ago. The ceremony at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood was attended by all sorts of political heavyweights, including lobbyists. Calderon and his new bride asked their guests for cash, rather than the more traditional fine china or stemware. The assemblyman says he asked his lobbyist-friends not to give gifts. If the Calderon name sounds familiar, it's because Ian's uncles, Ron and Tom, are facing corruption charges. LA Weekly


Back in the news: Remember the man whose beating by San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies following a horseback pursuit was captured by a TV news helicopter? Authorities say he has been arrested on suspicion of assault in a new incident. The county had recently agreed to pay him $650,000. Los Angeles Times

Guilty plea: A former teacher at the private Marlborough School pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two students more than a decade ago. Joseph Thomas Koetters was sentenced to one year in jail. One of his victims spoke in court, describing how Koetters impregnated her when she was 16 years old. (She had a miscarriage.) "I developed an intense hatred for myself that haunts me to this day," she said. Los Angeles Times

Three convicted: Three members of a "master-slave" sex cult in San Diego were convicted of killing the 22-year-old wife of a Marine. The body of Brittany Killgore, who was not a part of the cult, was found four days after she was reported missing. Los Angeles Times


Future of Fox: James and Lachlan Murdoch sit down for their first interview since it was announced that they would take over the 21st Century Fox empire created by their father. "It's a new way of working together. But as partners, so far, so good," James Murdoch said. Hollywood Reporter

Family dynasty: Elon Musk is an incredibly successful businessman, but that's hardly unusual in his family. Ever since he was a child, Musk, his brother and three cousins have brainstormed ways to create companies and make money. "How did five of them grow up to take on some of the knottiest problems on the planet, setting goals so lofty as putting civilians in space and transforming household energy use?" Vanity Fair

Charismatic leader: What is it about American Apparel's Dov Charney that inspires cult-like devotion from employees? "The fact that employees would go to such lengths to reinstate an abusive leader makes no sense, until you realize one thing: Charney wasn't just running a cult brand -- he ran his company, in several meaningful ways, like an actual cult." Refinery29


Character counts: With former Laker Lamar Odom back in the news, columnist Bill Plaschke reflects on how the NBA star reacted when he trashed the player's choice to appear on reality television with his wife, Khloe Kardashian. "Odom could never stay mad, not with me, not with the Kardashians, not with anyone. He was deeply loving, fiercely loyal, and if you wonder why seemingly the entire NBA family has been rooting so hard for him this past week, that is why," Plaschke writes. Los Angeles Times

Reality show twist: Remember when Odom and Kardashian announced that they were splitting up? Court records show that the couple have formally called off their divorce. Los Angeles Times


San Francisco will be partly cloudy and 72 degrees. In Los Angeles, there will be low clouds and a high of 79. Riverside will be mostly sunny and 81. San Diego will have clouds and humidity; highs are expected to reach 76 degrees.


Today's California Memory comes from Hubert Hudson:  

"As a teenager living in Watsonville, an agricultural town, I worked summers nailing shook for apple boxes, packing and loading tomatoes and lettuce in packing sheds, sometimes working 80 to 90 hours a week. I later used my 'stash' to travel to South and Central America with two good buddies."

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.)

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