Newsletter: Essential California: Scandals put scrutiny on USC leadership, culture

USC President C. L. Max Nikias is facing criticism over the handling of a campus gynecologist accused of mistreating student patients for years before he was quietly forced out in 2017 with a financial settlement.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, May 21, and here’s what’s happening across California:


USC’s handling of George Tyndall, the longtime campus gynecologist accused of making sexual comments and touching patients inappropriately during pelvic exams, has sparked outrage and demands for change in the university’s leadership and management culture. To some, it is part of a troubling pattern. Los Angeles Times

Bumpy ride

Los Angeles and other cities are trying to build a fleet of electric transit buses in hopes of bringing cleaner air and more manufacturing jobs. But a Times investigation found some of these buses have been plagued by poor performance and mechanical problems.  Buses have stalled on hills, required service calls much more frequently than older buses and had unpredictable driving ranges. Los Angeles Times

Avoiding a backlash


Half a dozen U.S. representatives and senators have already been driven from office over #MeToo claims. But Capitol Hill appears to be reacting differently to Tony Cárdenas, a Democrat from the San Fernando Valley who flatly denies the allegations as the invention of a disgruntled former staff member. Why has the reaction been so different this time? Los Angeles Times

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L.A. transportation officials have announced safety measures for Baxter Street, one of the city’s steepest roads.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times )


Bleeding blue: “In the previous four seasons, the Dodgers were winners, and for fans, missing out on televised games was painful. So far this year, the team is a smoldering wreck, hovering near last place in the division and getting kicked around by the worst clubs in baseball. Finally, the interminable TV blackout is a gift.” — Steve Lopez on the curse of the Dodgers on TV. Los Angeles Times

Baxter Street: Los Angeles transportation officials announced several changes to the notoriously steep Echo Park street and others nearby to mitigate what they called “a major safety concern for residents, emergency vehicle access and those using the roadway.” Los Angeles Times

Blast from the past: An old JC Penney, perfectly preserved from the Art Deco period, is a landmark and a missed friend in San Fernando. Los Angeles Daily News


Another hit-and-run: Authorities were searching for a motorist responsible for a hit-and-run crash that killed a cyclist in Compton early Sunday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Los Angeles Times

Bar set too high? The bar exam is becoming too difficult for many. Pass rates for the law test are plummeting in California. Sacramento Bee


Tweet equals endorsement: President Trump endorsed Republican John Cox for California governor on Friday. Cox, who did not vote for Trump for president in 2016, said he was “honored and deeply grateful” for the endorsement. Los Angeles Times

It’s baaaack: California Republicans are trying to navigate the issue of illegal immigration. Is the Trump line the only line? Los Angeles Times

The L.A. network: Can Hollywood help fuel L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s long-shot presidential bid? Politico

A sure thing: If there is one sure bet Californians can make now that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for legalized sports gambling, it’s this: Months, if not years, of haggling lie ahead before residents can wager a dime on any game. Los Angeles Times

The latest annoyance: Getting texts from candidates running for office. Sacramento Bee


Heroic rescuers and harrowing escapes: Videos offer a new terrifying look at the Santa Rosa wildfires. Mercury News

Not too popular: In coastal Del Mar, talk of a “planned retreat” amid rising sea levels. Los Angeles Times


Tapping into the market: Latino moviegoers make up a disproportionate share of the U.S. box office, boosting ticket sales for films such as Pixar’s “Coco” and Universal’s “The Fate of the Furious.” A cinema chain has been building with them in mind. Los Angeles Times

SloCal: The ultimate California road trip has it all. Los Angeles Times

Ca-razy: Celebrating the crazy side of California architecture. Wall Street Journal

Star turn: How two L.A. podcasters turned “My Favorite Murder” into a sensation. New York Times

Wired: Where to find the cutting edge of “smart” homes? Go to a new tract in Ontario. Orange County Register

It’ll do: “Deadpool 2” rides to Hollywood’s rescue, but not by as much as some hoped. Los Angeles Times

High-minded art: The magic going on atop San Francisco’s new tallest building. San Francisco Chronicle


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 69, Monday. Partly cloudy, 68, Tuesday. San Diego: Cloudy, 64, Monday. Partly cloudy, 66, Tuesday. San Francisco area: Sunny, 64, Monday. Partly cloudy, 61, Tuesday. Sacramento: Mostly sunny, 83, Monday. Mostly sunny, 80, Tuesday. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: actor Mr. T (May 21, 1952), former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (May 24, 1972), former L.A. City Councilman Felipe Fuentes (May 25, 1971).

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.