Newsletter: Essential California: L.A. leaders ignored a report finding waste in a retirement program

Mayor Eric Garcetti and leaders of the Los Angeles City Council ignored a report urging them to eliminate, or drastically amend, a program called the he Deferred Retirement Option Plan.
(Maria Alejandra Cardona / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, March 3. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


Mayor Eric Garcetti and leaders of the Los Angeles City Council ignored a report urging them to eliminate, or drastically amend, a program that pays veteran cops and firefighters their salaries and pensions simultaneously for up to five years. The Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, was approved by voters in 2001 with a promise that it would keep veteran officers on the job a few years longer with no additional cost to the city. But in 2016, at a closed-door meeting of top elected officials, then-Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana presented a confidential report warning the program “is not and has never been cost neutral.” Los Angeles Times

It’s Mexican election season!


It’s election season in Mexico, which means the funny business has begun. Vote-buying, illegal spending and other forms of cheating are so common that major political parties sometimes reference the phenomenon in their slogans (“Take what the others give, but vote National Action Party!”). Past candidates have been caught wooing voters with handouts of gift cards, eyeglasses, building supplies and even washing machines. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Mexican directors aren’t just finding success at the Oscars. Last year, Mexico made a record 175 films, many earning international acclaim. But distribution and exhibition hurdles mean Mexican audiences are missing out on the new Golden Age of cinema. Los Angeles Times

EPA high jinks

Behind-closed-doors deliberations are a hallmark of the Environmental Protection Agency under Administrator Scott Pruitt, who spent $25,000 to set up a secure phone booth in his office and said security concerns guided his luxury plane travel. Pruitt’s security detail said flying in coach exposed him to too much interaction with hostile members of the public. Under fire for the costly plane tickets, which were revealed in records obtained by the nonprofit watchdog Environmental Integrity Project, Pruitt said this week he would start trying to fly coach when possible. Los Angeles Times


Wild weather: After enduring one of its driest winters on record, California was hit Friday by a frigid storm moving in from the Gulf of Alaska that triggered blizzard and avalanche warnings in the Sierra Nevada and concerns about more mudslides and flash flooding in the southern part of the state. Los Angeles Times

Be prepared: Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday called for Los Angeles to significantly improve its planning for a major earthquake, saying the city should consider mandatory retrofits of steel-framed buildings and earthquake evaluations of private schools and day care centers. Los Angeles Times

Sad story: Two Joshua Tree parents have been charged with child abuse after authorities say they found three children were living in a squalid shack. Los Angeles Times

Oscar weekend: Here are the final predictions for all 24 Oscar categories from L.A. Times awards columnist Glenn Whipp. Los Angeles Times

Wild tale: Feral cattle are terrorizing hikers and devouring native plants in a California national monument. Los Angeles Times

ICE raids: “Fruit is going to die on the vine this year because of this administration,” said David Huerta, president of the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West. Bloomberg

It’s the law: Why can this 95-year-old driver get his license renewed until he’s 100? Orange County Register

Only one in the nation: California’s gun seizure squad has found an arsenal under a bed. CNN

The big picture: “Climate change could decrease the yield of some crops in California by up to 40 percent by 2050. That’s a big deal for farmers in the state, which provides about two-thirds of the nation’s produce.” NPR


1. Oakland’s mayor faces a backlash after notifying residents of possible immigration enforcement. Los Angeles Times

2. He spent five years on the road. Here are the weirdest things he saw in California. Sacramento Bee

3. A peek inside vintage California grocery stores of years gone by. San Francisco Chronicle

4. The mystery of a bound woman found hanged at a Coronado mansion goes to court. San Diego Union-Tribune

5. The Border Patrol is building a barrier in Calexico; is it a fence, or a Trump “wall”? San Diego Union-Tribune


An institution closes: The landscape of Southern California is littered with memories of lost bookstores: George Sand on Melrose, the Bookworm in Upland, Fahrenheit 451 in Laguna Beach, Papa Bach in Santa Monica — shops that reflected a more idiosyncratic city. The Caravan Bookstore, which closed this week, was one of the last, its business never about the bestseller or most popular. Its collection, reflecting the strange and wonderful tastes of its owner, invited visitors to imagine the world as it once was. Sidewalk wayfarers never knew what they were missing until they wandered inside. Los Angeles Times

Amazing exposé: The 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count tallied 4,545 campers and RVs in L.A. County that possibly serve as makeshift dwellings. In short, one of America’s least affordable housing markets forces people to find creative alternatives for shelter. Times photographer Luis Sinco spent a year documenting the lives of people who live in these mobile homes. Los Angeles Times

History lesson: California’s reputation as a Democratic stronghold has relatively recent roots. Though the Democratic Party has held a voter registration advantage since the 1930s, its statewide electoral record leaned conservative for much of the 20th century. Check out this data deep dive to see how the state has swung left. CALmatters

About that threat: Last week, former NFL player and Harvard-Westlake alumnus Jonathan Martin was taken into custody in connection with an Instagram post that displayed a shotgun and referenced a school by name. Here’s more about the struggles Martin has faced since he left the NFL. Sports Illustrated

Spring training: How Kenley Jansen became one of the Dodgers’ most respected leaders. Los Angeles Times

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.