Newsletter: Essential California: Kamala’s quest

Kamala Harris
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speaks to members of the media at her alma mater, Howard University, on Monday after she announced her run for president.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Jan. 22, and here’s what’s happening across California:

TOP STORIES

When Sen. Kamala Harris looks back on her first campaign, a run for San Francisco district attorney, she remembers a brutal awakening. “San Francisco is hard-knocks politics,” the freshly declared 2020 White House hopeful once said in an interview. “People sling mud. They punch the gut.” San Francisco is indeed a crucible that has forged state and national political leaders in numbers far out of proportion to the city’s relatively small size, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Harris’ fellow U.S. senator, Dianne Feinstein. If she wins, Harris, 54, who announced her candidacy Monday, will be the first to take the lessons of San Francisco close-quarters combat and apply them at the presidential level. Los Angeles Times

A potential problem for Harris: “Can a prosecutor become president in the age of Black Lives Matter?” The Intercept

That’s fast: CNN will host a Iowa town hall with Harris next week. CNN

The 2020 candidates: Who’s in and who’s on the fence? Los Angeles Times

Congestion charges?

Transportation officials say congestion has grown so bad in Los Angeles County that politicians have no choice but to contemplate charging motorists more to drive — a strategy that has stirred controversy but helped cities in other parts of the world tame their own traffic. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is pushing to study how what’s commonly referred to as congestion pricing could work in L.A., including converting carpool lanes to toll lanes, taxing drivers based on the number of miles they travel, or charging a fee to enter certain neighborhoods and business districts. Los Angeles Times

The strike goes on

L.A. teachers will continue to stay off the job Tuesday, even if a settlement is reached before the school day begins. That means the first L.A. teachers’ strike in 30 years will continue into a sixth school day and that, for one more day at least, skeleton crews made up of administrators, a small number of substitutes and non-teaching employees will watch over campuses. Fewer than a third of students came to school last week. Los Angeles Times

-- During the L.A. teachers’ strike, a child went to a museum. Here’s what she missed at school. Los Angeles Times

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Ignacio Gordillo, dean at Gage Middle School, shouts to the lawmakers at City Hall as thousands of educators with United Teachers Los Angeles rally on Friday, the fifth day of the teachers' strike.
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

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L.A. STORIES

Homeless count begins: Around 7,000 volunteers will fan out across Los Angeles city and county over the next three days to get a barometer of whether the government’s efforts to curb homelessness are working. Los Angeles Times

Plus: “Hospitals are striving to comply with new homeless patient laws, but say a lack of resources makes it tough.” Capital Public Radio

Critics speak: UCLA and the Brentwood School are under fire from advocates who say that neither institution is providing the veteran services they agreed to under their leases on the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ West L.A. property. Los Angeles Times

MLK Day: A Mass at Los Angeles’ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels honored the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Los Angeles Daily News

Rams don’t care: Saints fans are urging Roger Goodell to call for an NFC championship redo after Sunday’s game. Los Angeles Times

IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

From the trial of the moment: $100 million is ordinary money in the world of El Chapo. Los Angeles Times

More from the trial: “The strange, terrifying tale of the mistress who flipped on El Chapo.” Vice News

A step back: “The U.S. is fascinated by Mexican cartel bosses. The truth is less entertaining.” BuzzFeed

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Already? Political ads featuring California Gov. Gavin Newsom are popping up on Facebook in Ohio, Florida and other swing states in the 2020 presidential election, stirring speculation about whether the Democrat is testing the waters for a potential White House run. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Newsom’s struggles with dyslexia prompt a “very personal” quest to fund early screening. Los Angeles Times

Funding request: The governor wants to use state funds to help migrant families arriving at the California border. Los Angeles Times

CRIME AND COURTS

End of an era: Three years after he went to prison following a political corruption scandal, former state Sen. Ronald Calderon completed his sentence and was released from a halfway house Friday, ending a dark chapter in the history of the California Legislature that ended with four ex-lawmakers behind bars. Los Angeles Times

Robbed: Manny Pacquiao’s Hancock Park home was burglarized this weekend while he was retaining his welterweight title with a convincing victory over Adrien Broner, two members of his promotional company said Sunday. Los Angeles Times

Zooming out: “In California, criminal justice reform offers a lesson for the nation.” New York Times

THE ENVIRONMENT

Beautiful: Storms transform Northern California’s rivers, lakes and peaks. San Francisco Chronicle

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Welcome! Check out the first column from our newest sports columnist LZ Granderson. Los Angeles Times

What we’re into: Village Bread bakes European classics for the Inland Empire. Los Angeles Times

History lesson: A legacy of mistreatment for San Francisco’s black special education students. KALW

Keeping it green: WeedMaps’ grip on the highflying marijuana industry. Wired

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles area: Sunny, 68, Tuesday. Sunny, 69, Wednesday. San Diego: Sunny, 66, Tuesday. Sunny, 68, Wednesday. San Francisco area: Partly cloudy, 58, Tuesday. Sunny, 58, Wednesday. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 59 Tuesday. Sunny, 63, Wednesday. Sacramento: Partly cloudy, 58, Tuesday. Partly cloudy, 59, Wednesday. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Thomas Bonsell:

“While a short-time resident of Los Angeles, I learned ’fornians can be a bit weird. In college at Woodbury College of Los Angeles (now Woodbury University of Burbank), I was named editor of the college newspaper. A friend proposed a column on surfing, and as an Oregon boy out of his element, I was skeptical surfing would provide enough information to sustain a column but agreed to see what could happen. What happened was that surfing column became one of the newspaper’s most popular features. My first act as editor was to name a Beverly Hills Jewish debutante as the sports editor. She did a wonderful job. Yes, ’fornians are a bit weird, but they deliver.”

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.