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Newsletter: Essential California: Goodbye to the gas tax increase and the bullet train?

Gas Prices Rise 13 Cents In Two Weeks As Oil Rebounds
A motorist prepares to pump gasoline at a Chevron station in San Rafael. Opponents of higher fuel taxes are proposing a second initiative.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Sept. 25, and here’s what’s happening across California:

TOP STORIES

Conservative California has a new trick up its sleeve. Backers of a November initiative to repeal the gas tax increase said they will also seek a measure for the 2020 ballot that would provide funds to fix roads and bridges without charging Californians more at the pump, in part by halting the state’s high-speed rail project. High-speed rail has struggled to get off the ground but has remained a favorite of outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown. Los Angeles Times

-- Trying to shape the gas tax battle as public safety issue. Los Angeles Times

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-- The gas tax is complicating Democrats’ efforts to flip the House in California. Bloomberg

-- Full coverage: California’s troubled high-speed rail project. Los Angeles Times

‘Like’ and limb

“People will post videos of themselves jumping off of Hermit Falls or the Malibu rock pool, and they post it in the springtime when there’s a decent amount of water. But now, the water is a lot less, so what used to be a 10-foot pool is now a 5-foot pool,” said an L.A. County sheriff’s rescuer, who has seen a big jump in rescues across Southern California recreation areas, fueled by social media. His team conducted 681 missions in 2017, up 38% since 2013. Los Angeles Times

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Drying up

For nearly a century, land east of Yosemite has been made green thanks to annual flooding by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, helping maintain cattle forage and keeping alive a culture of ranching in southern Mono County. But, citing climate change, LADWP this year shifted its irrigation policy, saying ranchers who lease grazing areas should no longer bank on the promise of ample water when they renew. This has caused a new water battle with a deep historical backdrop. Los Angeles Times

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LeBron James checks his phone during media day in El Segundo.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

L.A. STORIES

New King in town: “Learning new streets, learning new routes, new people, being around a different environment. It’s always a new experience when you have to change locations. It’s an adjustment.” -- LeBron James on his new life in L.A. Los Angeles Times

Heat death: The coroner said a mail carrier who died on one of the hottest days ever recorded succumbed to the heat. Los Angeles Daily News

Team effort: Matt Kemp played in his third All-Star game this year, but has been relegated to starting against left-handed pitchers. He’s now a platoon player, which describes every position player on the team outside of Justin Turner and Manny Machado. Los Angeles Times

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Surprise! Or not: The 405 and 5 win the distinction of L.A.’s slowest freeways. Crosstown Traffic

Will it be saved? The fight to preserve a birthplace of L.A.’s Chicano movement. Los Angeles Times

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Do the math: The Inland Empire used to be an oasis of affordable housing. Not anymore. Press Enterprise

High risk: California knows where fires are most likely to burn. But we keep allowing homes to be built there. LAist

Killer commute: How the Central Valley became home to some of California’s worst commutes. Sacramento Bee

Towering plans: Downtown San Jose’s skyline is expected to get taller, perhaps a lot taller. Mercury News

CRIME AND COURTS

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Homeless beatings: A man suspected of pummeling homeless men with a baseball bat in downtown Los Angeles last week, leaving two dead and a third critically injured, was captured by police in Santa Monica after allegedly committing a similar attack Monday morning, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

Facebook lawsuit: A woman who worked as a content moderator for Facebook has filed a lawsuit against the social media giant, claiming she developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of “disturbing” images the job required her to view. Los Angeles Times

Act now: Attorneys and judges are scrambling to finalize a flood of accelerated divorces prompted by new federal tax laws that eliminate the spousal support deduction starting Jan. 1. Beating the Dec. 31 deadline will allow people expecting to pay spousal support to annually deduct the money from their taxable income, which can mean many thousands in tax savings for high earners. San Diego Union-Tribune

Eesh: How California’s probate system drains senior citizens’ money. Orange County Register

Untold story: Bearing witness to the high school students who left San Francisco for Jonestown and never came back. Los Angeles Review of Books

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Stand and deliver: In a crazy summer of upheaval, Los Angeles artist EJ Hill stood quietly on a winner’s podium inside a gallery at the Hammer Museum every hour that the museum was open — that’s 11 weeks or 78 days or 621 hours of standing, depending on how you do the math. Los Angeles Times

Ripped from the headlines: The Hollywood scramble to tell the story of the Thai cave rescue. Wall Street Journal

Unlike: The founders of Instagram say they’re leaving Facebook Inc. Los Angeles Times

Bicoastal: An artist’s take on the battle between San Francisco and New York. SFGate

Don’t think too much about this: The particles in the air that are all around us. Wired

Whoa: A whale of a story from the Monterey Bay. San Francisco Chronicle

Reality and illusion: A new view of the Huntington’s Chinese garden. Los Angeles Times

Keep it clean: Apple’s TV ambitions will be on the decidedly family-friendly side. More Disney than HBO. Wall Street Journal

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 77, Tuesday. Partly cloudy, 84, Wednesday. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 73, Tuesday. Partly cloudy, 76, Wednesday. San Francisco area: Sunny, 69, Tuesday. Mostly sunny, 70, Wednesday. San Jose: Sunny, 85, Tuesday. Mostly sunny, 88, Wednesday. Sacramento: Sunny, 94, Tuesday. Sunny, 96, Wednesday. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Nancy Quesenbery:

“When I was a little girl, I remember my dad telling me the story of why he moved to the San Gabriel Valley. He told me of driving his ’42 Ford over Kellogg Hill, and there stretched before him were acres and acres of flowers and orange groves. Imagine the clear blue sky, vivid color and fragrance that met his senses! To see the valley now, it is almost impossible to picture how beautiful it once was. Hopefully there are some great-grandparents around that will share this memory with the children who now live in the San Gabriel Valley.”

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.


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