Newsletter: Essential California: Cops and firefighters doubled their pay, and taxpayers got stuck with huge bill


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Feb. 5, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Double the pay

A cop falls out of an office chair and misses more than a year of work. A firefighter takes injury leave for a bad knee, then apparently runs a half-marathon. They’re among hundreds of veteran public safety officers who have turned a city of Los Angeles program designed to retain experienced officers into an extended leave with nearly twice the pay, a Times investigation has found. Los Angeles Times


Vicious cycle

Arrests of homeless people in Los Angeles have jumped 31% since 2011, a Times analysis of police data shows, often for minor offenses like failing to appear in court for an unpaid citation. In 2011, 1 in 10 arrests citywide were of homeless people; in 2016, it was 1 in 6. Some question the effectiveness and fairness of this rise in arrests. Los Angeles Times

Off the rails

The California High-Speed Rail Authority now owns more than 1,272 parcels stretching from Madera to south of Wasco, a 119-mile corridor of abandoned commercial buildings, vacant lots, dying orchards, boarded-up homes and construction sites. Someday it may be the path for a gleaming bullet train system, but today much of it is an eyesore and a magnet for criminal activity that is affecting the surrounding areas. It has put stress on already hard-luck communities that grapple with poverty, homelessness and crime. Los Angeles Times


It’s still hot: Unseasonably warm and dry temperatures blanketed California over the weekend, shattering daily records — and in one town, a monthly record — and bringing clear blue skies that were expected to linger through next weekend. Los Angeles Times


New vision: Urban theorist Joel Kotkin argues L.A. is wrong to chase dreams of becoming Silicon Valley or Manhattan. Instead it should follow its suburban DNA. Orange County Register

On the case: The Sternwood family were the rich villains of Raymond Chandler’s L.A. classic “The Big Sleep.” Was this fictional family really from Mexico? A literary sleuthing. Boom California

Never give up: A former Long Beach high school football player is now a quadriplegic. But he’s still inspiring people on the field. Press Telegram

Second life: A new fancy hotel in downtown L.A. is part of a larger trend: old, ornate but long ignored office buildings being remade into luxury lodging. Los Angeles Times


DiFi update: Sen. Dianne Feinstein is seeking a fifth full term. With only days to go before the formal filing season opens, there’s not a single California Republican with any name I.D. who seems prepared to run against her. Will the GOP sit this race out? Los Angeles Times


Exceeds expectations: To the surprise of many, California’s newest rail line, running from Santa Rosa to San Rafael, is generating more riders than expected. San Francisco Chronicle

Break up the breakup: A battle within the California breakup movement. Record Searchlight

Hero to some: The mainstream media might be attacking Rep. Devin Nunes after “the memo.” But the events have made him a hero of the Trump right. New York Times

Caught up: The Trump administration calls immigrants who are not the original targets but are swept up during enforcement actions “collateral arrests.” While some do have criminal records, some have none. Los Angeles Times


Parole hearing: Officials concluded that killer William Bradford, 84, deserved parole, saying they found no evidence he’d be a danger to the public — a decision that shocked not only his victims but also the L.A. County deputy district attorney who prosecuted him. Los Angeles Times


Unusual “burritos”: The 14 tightly wrapped foil packages looked just like burritos when officers found them during a routine traffic stop in Angelino Heights, but on closer inspection it turned out to be methamphetamine, police said Sunday. Los Angeles Times

Looking back: The Dorner rampage, five years later. Orange County Register

Quite a twist: She was missing, then found as a contestant on “The Bachelor.” SF Gate

Freedom of speech: Did retweeting Snoop Dogg get this Central Valley high schooler kicked off the basketball team? Fresno Bee


Nice scenery, ugly traffic: Is there anything we can do to reduce the Yosemite gridlock? Sacramento Bee



Thanks but no thanks: The Museum of Contemporary Art recently mailed May 12 “save the date” invitations to its 2018 gala honoring one of its artist board members, Mark Grotjahn. But Grotjahn, who agreed to be honored last year, has since declined to accept the award. His reason: a lack of diversity in the museum’s recent gala honorees, who have been straight, white men — Jeff Koons last year and before that, Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari. Los Angeles Times

Ready to talk: Uma Thurman’s shocking allegations against Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino. New York Times

Plus: Actor Tim Robbins, the dean of liberal Hollywood, insists the town is changing, slowly. New York Times

Behold the tacro: Leave it to the San Francisco food scene to invent a French taco. “Part-taco, part-croissant.” Is it good or is it heresy? Huffington Post

In memoriam: A tribute to acclaimed L.A. poet Wanda Coleman. L.A. Taco


New study: How serious is the “Asian glow”? Huffington Post


Los Angeles area: sunny and 76. San Diego: sunny and 70. San Francisco area: partly cloudy and 65. Sacramento: mostly sunny and 72. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: L.A.

Mayor Eric Garcetti (Feb. 4, 1971), boxer-turned-promoter Oscar De La Hoya (Feb. 4, 1973), L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl (Feb. 9, 1941) and Disney Chairman Bob Iger (Feb. 10, 1951)

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 Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.