Newsletter: Essential California: Pumping the brakes on bullet train

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he intends to scale back the high-speed rail.

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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Feb. 13, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in his first State of the State speech that he intends to scale back California’s $77-billion high-speed rail system, saying that while the state has “the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield … there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A.” In another break from his predecessor, Jerry Brown, the governor also announced in his speech that he will downsize the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta twin tunnels project to one tunnel. While he hit the brakes on the bullet train, the Democratic governor said he still supports finishing the Central Valley portion of the project. Los Angeles Times

Plus: No Californian alive today was around the last time two Democrats were elected to back-to-back terms as governor — which means Newsom is in uncharted waters. In his State of the State speech, Newsom made it clear he’s ready to step out of former Gov. Jerry Brown’s shadow. Los Angeles Times


— Scaling back the troubled high-speed rail project solves some problems, but creates others. Los Angeles Times

— Newsom’s State of the State, annotated. CalMatters

The wall debate continues

President Trump on Tuesday said he was “unhappy” with the border security funding agreement crafted by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, throwing the fate of the spending plan into doubt just four days before the government would shut down again. “I have to study it. I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick, but I’m adding things to it,” Trump said at the White House. “Am I happy at first glance? I just got to see it. The answer is no. I’m not. I’m not happy.” Los Angeles Times

Plus: Unable for two years to force Congress to approve billions for a border wall, Trump is nonetheless making big claims that construction is underway. The truth is something else. Los Angeles Times

Stormy weather


The strongest and potentially wettest storm of the winter season is bearing down on Southern California, threatening to unleash debris flows in burn areas in Orange and Riverside counties as the region’s wild winter continues.The atmospheric river-fueled storm, packed with subtropical moisture, will take aim at large swaths of the already-soaked state beginning early Wednesday and lasting through Thursday. Los Angeles Times

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Big announcement: How will L.A. replace three gas plants that Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to shut down? Los Angeles Times

See you in court: In another blow to USC’s student health clinic, six male graduates filed a lawsuit this week accusing a men’s health doctor of sexual battery and harassment during appointments. Los Angeles Times

My minks! Los Angeles will become the biggest city in the United States to ban the sale of animal fur, under a new law backed Tuesday by the City Council. Los Angeles Times


Steve Lopez reports: In Pasadena, the fight for a higher minimum wage gets an assist from the Rose Queen. Los Angeles Times

Following up: What is USC doing to care for L.A.’s most important architecture? Curbed LA

Major debate! The official fast food French fry power rankings. Los Angeles Times


Locked up: Jurors in the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman found the notorious Mexican drug lord guilty on all 10 counts in his international narcotics smuggling trial in a capstone triumph for the U.S. Justice Department. Los Angeles Times


Speaking out about the conditions: More than 70 people being held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center while they wait for immigration court hearings have signed a letter decrying conditions at the facility. Los Angeles Times

Stopped at the border: Volunteers, activists and journalists have all been interrogated at the border about their interactions with migrants in Tijuana. San Diego Union-Tribune


Jumping in again: Down in San Diego, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar is running again despite racist attacks in the midterms. He lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter. Los Angeles Times

Cash moves everything: California government lobbying rose again last year. Who spent the most? Sacramento Bee

Who knew? Why auto insurance premiums are growing more slowly in California than elsewhere. Marketplace



Big bid: A Ferrari seized by the FBI and featured in a TV show has sold for $760,000 at a U.S. Marshals auction. Los Angeles Times

Sad story: “The bruises on his face soon may heal, but the broken heart of Victor Vasquez — the Birdman of San Diego’s East Village — may take a while longer.” San Diego Union-Tribune

Maybe street racing: Police are searching for the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash that killed a bicyclist in South Los Angeles late Monday. Los Angeles Times


Cougar killed: A young mountain lion was shot and killed by a Napa homeowner days after it was collared for a study. The animal had been preying on the family’s sheep, and state investigators determined the killing was justified. Los Angeles Times



Fighting words? Columnist Bill Plaschke says all the LeBron James hype hasn’t lived up to reality for the Lakers. Los Angeles Times

Oscar predictions: Times critics pick who will and who should win this year. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Women and people of color led 2018 movies in record numbers. Los Angeles Times

Classic: “Private investigators working for Jeff Bezos have concluded that the brother of the Amazon chief executive’s paramour leaked the couple’s intimate text messages to the National Enquirer.” Associated Press

Yum: “The old-school reasons to love Los Angeles restaurants.New York Times


Those saps: Succulent smugglers descend on California. The New Yorker

Bookmark: 21 things to do in the California desert. Curbed LA


Los Angeles area: Rainy, 58, Wednesday. Rainy, 62, Thursday. San Diego: Rainy, 63, Wednesday. Rainy, 64, Thursday. San Francisco area: Showers, 58, Wednesday. Showers, 57, Thursday. San Jose: Showers, 61, Wednesday. Showers, 58, Thursday. Sacramento: Showers, 57, Wednesday and Thursday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Judy Myton:


“My childhood memories: a school ‘snow day’ in Altadena in January 1949, when Christmas Tree Lane became a sledding run. Viewing the Rose Parade in person before TV. Trips to Pasadena to buy school clothes and have lunch at the Pig ’n Whistle. Chicken dinners at Knott’s Berry Farm and visiting Ghost Town. Visits to Grandpa’s ranch and finding kittens in the hayloft and picking oranges. Visits to my cousins in Anaheim meant riding horses through the orange groves and, years later, sitting in their backyard watching Disneyland’s nightly fireworks. Visits to Newport Pier and finding starfish and sand dollars.”

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.