Newsletter: Essential California: Will L.A. County’s new sheriff weaken reforms?

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2018: Alex Villanueva, challenger for Los Angeles County
Alex Villanueva, above, will take office as Los Angeles County sheriff next week after defeating incumbent Jim McDonnell in a historic upset.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Nov. 28, and here’s what’s happening across California:


In his longshot bid to become Los Angeles County sheriff, Alex Villanueva succeeded by appealing both to a heavily Democratic constituency and the rank-and-file deputies he hoped to lead. But as he prepares to take office next week, there are growing concerns about the future of reforms imposed after a federal investigation found serious wrongdoing by top department officials and a culture of violence against inmates in the jails. On the campaign trail, Villanueva, 55, lamented that deputies were being unfairly treated, criticized the requirements for reporting minor uses of force and suggested metal flashlights be reintroduced so that deputies could defend themselves against jail inmates. Los Angeles Times

If Trump closed the border …


The San Diego customs district, which includes the border station of San Ysidro, where the caravan of would-be refugees is gathered, accounts for 12.1% of all U.S. imports from Mexico, including aerospace components and avocados. So even the threat of a border shutdown as Christmas season picks up could have a catastrophic effect on the California economy, with local business saying this disruption would create a great deal of chaos. Los Angeles Times

Plus: “Sunday’s shutdown of the U.S.-Mexico border meant a $5.3-million loss for businesses in the area.” New York Times

-- Seeking to better explain their side of a clash Sunday at the border, Homeland Security officials Tuesday doubled down on their use of tear gas on migrants and painted the group as large and violent. Los Angeles Times

-- The number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally dropped to the lowest in more than a decade in 2016, according to a new report. Los Angeles Times


Schools alone can’t solve it

In the final installment of a four-part series on childhood poverty, Steve Lopez goes deep on Telfair Elementary in Pacoima, which, like some schools in the state, lacks resources and lags behind the district and state averages in student performance. Even though educators work long hours to provide more support, students may find it harder to break free from poverty. The solution, Lopez writes, will have to come from society as a whole. Los Angeles Times

Judith Ayala, 10, and classmates prepare for an experiment in the Do It Yourself Girls program at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

How Kim and ’Ye protected their home

With California experiencing two years of unprecedented wildfires that have left more than 20,000 homes destroyed and scores dead, the private firefighting business is booming. These brigades work independently from county firefighters; their job is to protect specific homes under contract with insurance companies. Their work can vary from pushing back flames as they approach properties to reaching the site before the blaze arrives and spraying homes with fire retardant. But the private forces have generated complaints from some fire departments, which say they don’t always coordinate with local crews and amount to one more worry as they try to evacuate residents and battle the blaze. Los Angeles Times

Plus: The search for Paradise fire victims slows. Some may never be found. Los Angeles Times

-- In a motel about 40 miles from Paradise, Bill Krulder and other refugees of the worst fire in California history wait for when they can return to what’s left of the town. Los Angeles Times

-- “The future of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., in jeopardy after two years of devastating wildfires, will be one of the most pressing concerns before California lawmakers when they resume meeting next week.” San Francisco Chronicle


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Borderline update: A former U.S. Marine machine-gunner who opened fire inside a packed Thousand Oaks bar this month stabbed one of his victims in the neck during the rampage that left 12 people dead, authorities revealed Tuesday. The Borderline Bar and Grill was hosting line-dancing lessons for college students as young as 18 on Nov. 7 when the crack of gunfire echoed through the business about 11:20 p.m. Los Angeles Times

Roadblock: Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s tunneling company has dropped its plans to dig beneath Sepulveda Boulevard on the Westside, months after a lawsuit alleged that the city of Los Angeles violated state law when it sought to exempt the tunnel from environmental review. Los Angeles Times

Perspective: We frame California’s history as romantic more than xenophobic. We need to feel the shame. Los Angeles Times


Crisis averted: Los Angeles County officials and the labor union representing the county’s nurses reached an 11th-hour deal Monday night to avert a strike that was set to begin Tuesday morning. Los Angeles Times

Homeless policy: L.A. County is considering universal health standards for homeless shelters. LAist


The big picture: It’s been decades since Democrats had this much power at the Capitol. Sacramento Bee


Did he do it? Sam Little, the convicted murderer who earlier this year claimed he had killed at least 90 women across the U.S., has confessed to slayings in at least 37 cities stretching back decades, according to an FBI timeline made public Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Chain-reaction crash: A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy was found to be at fault in a crash that left two children dead in Boyle Heights last year, but she will not face criminal charges, court records show. Los Angeles Times

He lost. Now this: A wealthy Republican businessman from San Marino who finished third in the California lieutenant governor’s race during the June primary is in a legal and financial dispute with a campaign consultant after his failure to make the general election. Los Angeles Times


A bad grade: California is failing to meet its goals to reduce vehicle travel, imperiling efforts to achieve ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, according to a state report released Monday. Los Angeles Times


Golden ticket: Netflix is turning Roald Dahl works such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” into animated shows. Los Angeles Times

A dream deferred: Pioneering all-female San Francisco rock band Ace of Cups is finally having its moment. Los Angeles Times

Plus: The oldies used to be the soundtrack of Southern California. Now there is just one AM station catering to nostalgia for that old LA. L.A. Taco

Location, location, location? “In a head-spinning mega-deal, Google has paid $1 billion for a huge Mountain View business park, the Bay Area’s largest real estate purchase this year.” Mercury News

“Hamilton” meets “Mary Poppins”: “The supercalifragilistic Lin-Manuel Miranda.” Vanity Fair


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 67, Wednesday. Rainy, 65, Thursday. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 67, Wednesday. Rainy, 65, Thursday. San Francisco area: Scattered showers, 59, Wednesday. Rainy, 57, Thursday. San Jose: Rainy, 60, Wednesday. Rainy, 58, Thursday. Sacramento: Rainy, 59, Wednesday. Rainy, 56, Thursday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Tom Davis:

“My dad fell in love with California during his time in the Army. Immediately after his honorable discharge, he scooped up my mom and me, age 2, from New Jersey, and we relocated in Southern California. In 1954, dad bought our first home for around $9,000 near La Palma and Brookhurst in Anaheim, surrounded by orange groves. Orange wars were common. Among my first memories, with older children or adults, we would cross Manchester, soon to be the Santa Ana Freeway, and go to the dairy. As a 5-year-old it was some fun to watch the cows and see them getting milked, but the big treat was getting a fudgesicle or a popsicle for 5 cents or splurge and get a drumstick or sidewalk sundae for a dime. Anticipation was great that a big amusement park by Walt Disney was opening soon.”

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.