Newsletter: Essential California: Where’s Gavin?

California Lt. Governor and University of California Regent Gavin Newsom listens to speakers during the UC Board of Regents meeting at UCLA on March 14.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, April 21. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom has had a bit of an attendance problem as lieutenant governor — a largely ceremonial job with few official responsibilities. Newsom, now the front-runner in the governor’s race, missed scores of meetings held by the University of California Board of Regents, the California State University Board of Trustees and the California State Lands Commission, according to a Times review of attendance records. Los Angeles Times

Coming this weekend!


There’s an unkind stereotype out there that Angelenos are loath to crack open a book. If that’s true, how do you explain the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books? Last year, 150,000 people flocked to the city’s biggest celebration of reading and storytelling. This year, the 23rd Festival of Books will be at USC today and Sunday. More than 500 authors and performers will be there, including Diana Gabaldon, Jorge Ramos, Patton Oswalt, Junot Díaz, Reza Aslan, Maria Shriver and Leslie Odom Jr. Los Angeles Times

Beverly Hills man in the news

Meet the Beverly Hills attorney who played a key role in making President Trump’s sex scandals disappear. That was, until they returned with a vengeance and are now casting a harsh spotlight on Keith Davidson. Los Angeles Times

Plus: A federal judge postponed a ruling on a request by President Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is now the subject of a federal investigation, for a 90-day delay of a lawsuit filed against them by porn actress Stormy Daniels. Los Angeles Times


This offseason: It’s time for the Lakers to make a big move — for Kawhi Leonard, argues columnist Bill Plaschke. Los Angeles Times

Someone’s in trouble! He charged tuition for help getting student visas in a “pay-to-stay” scheme. A judge gave him 15 months in prison. Los Angeles Times

LOL: At UC Berkeley, a squirrel ran for student Senate and won — driving some people nuts. Los Angeles Times

Fun! “Thousands of music fans who drove to Indio for the second weekend of Coachella were delayed from checking into the campgrounds due to severe winds. With nowhere to go, they flooded a nearby Walmart parking lot.” CBS LA

In Sacramento: Targeted by Stephon Clark protests, Sacramento’s district attorney’s office has erected a fence around its building. Sacramento Bee

Charged: A Los Angeles police officer was arrested Friday and charged with three counts of murder in connection with a suspected DUI crash on the 605 Freeway in Whittier last fall, authorities said. Los Angeles Times.

Losing steam? California lost 7,200 net jobs in March, although the unemployment rate held steady from a month earlier at a record low of 4.3%. Los Angeles Times

Good news for students: Cal State, the nation’s largest public university system, will no longer consider a plan to raise tuition for the 2018-19 academic year. Los Angeles Times

The boys in blue: What will it take for the Dodgers to be the Dodgers again? ESPN

Kamala update: Sen. Kamala Harris’ “rapid rise — she’s just 15 months into her first term — has created an awkward issue: Even as progressives tout her as one of the top 2020 contenders, Harris remains something of a mystery back home.” Politico

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1. The last member of a missing Santa Clarita family is found in a Northern California river. Los Angeles Times

2. At Majordomo, Jonathan Gold is unsure whether to praise chef David Chang — or bury him. Los Angeles Times

3. Norm Langer guides Langer’s Deli through changing tastes. Los Angeles Times

4. The staggering body count as California newspapers founder, and democracy loses. Los Angeles Times

5. L.A., long a destination for young people, is becoming increasingly out of reach, a survey finds. Los Angeles Times


Weed 101: What you need to know about recreational pot. This semester, the Los Angeles Times graphics department teamed up with the advanced programming class at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. Students produced these stories, which required reporting, storytelling, design and development, and were guided and advised by Times reporters. Los Angeles Times

Plus: “In a state heavily invested in optimizing personal experience, cannabis offers a new path to sublime good health.” The New Yorker

Wild story: Nearly four years after it began, a task force targeting corruption in Orange County collapsed amid growing distrust between local and federal investigators before ever announcing a single prosecution. The initiative’s demise marks the latest blow to anti-corruption efforts in the county and comes as Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas is seeking reelection while his office is under federal scrutiny. Los Angeles Times

Wild story, Part 2: “California’s wildlife detectives have cracked an international plant heist, sleuthing from the most curious clues — spilled dirt from mailed packages, stuffed backpacks left on ocean bluffs, a suspicious van filled with big boxes, and holes in the sand. It’s the Golden State’s first-ever undercover plant investigation — and a tale of amazing obsession, where vigilant authorities, passionate plant lovers and an irked postal customer discovered that foreign thieves are slipping into California’s wild landscapes, fueling a budding black market in the lucrative exotic plant industry.” Mercury News

Zooming out: “Los Angeles County’s transportation choices more closely resemble those of the Midwest and the South than the Northeast: 77 percent of L.A. County residents commute to work by driving alone. In Harris County, Texas (Houston), 79 percent of commuters drive alone and in Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit), 81 percent of drivers do.” Many Angelenos recognize that needs to change. American Prospect

Taking stock: SB 827, which would have made sweeping changes to land use zoning, is dead. Matthew Yglesias writes that “without it or some comparably sweeping reform, California will continue to suffer from exorbitant housing costs that contribute to the highest poverty rate in the nation when judged by the Supplemental Poverty Measure.” Vox

Looking back: Here are 13 defining moments in Los Angeles’ history. Curbed LA

California Sounds 1968: Ten essential Los Angeles-infused records from a kaleidoscopic era. 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.