California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, Feb. 19.

Bay Area school board members trash parents on hot mic.
A thrilling scene at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
And new legislation aims to decriminalize psychedelics.



California lawmakers announced a plan on Thursday to compel school districts to resume in-class instruction by April 15 — with or without Gov. Gavin Newsom's support. Under the proposal, schools that miss the deadline would be barred from a multibillion-dollar pot of state funding. Newsom, who has argued that schools could open now, said the plan isn't urgent enough. A.P. | EdSource


Sang Lee was inoculated at Kedren Community Health Center in South Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

On Thursday, vaccine shortages across California led to thousands of appointment delays and forced the closure of several mass vaccination sites, including Petco Park, Disneyland, and Dodger Stadium. To blame is the brutal winter storm that plunged much of Texas into darkness while also disrupting major shipping hubs for vaccines. Press-Telegram | Mercury News


Members of a Bay Area school board thought their conversation over Zoom was private. It wasn't. Video of their comments on school reopening have now sparked a petition calling for them to resign. A sampling of what they said:

One board member on a critic: “Bitch, if you’re going to call me out, I’m gonna f--- you up.”
Another member on the real reason parents want schools reopened: "When you got your kids at home ... no more smoking out."
A third member: “It’s really unfortunate that they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back.” Politico |

Diners ate in the covered patio at the International House of Pancakes in Hollywood on Jan. 29.

Myung J. Chun/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Other odds and ends:

California is now the only state to ban indoor dining. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he expects restrictions to loosen next week, when a "substantial" number of counties move from the purple to red tier. S.F. Chronicle | A.P.
A San Jose gym closed after drawing nearly $1 million in fines for operating indoors. Officials were unmoved by a sign on the gym window that read, "We are exercising our constitutional right to peacefully protest." A.P. | Mercury News
Gov. Newsom has been on a vaccination road show the last two weeks, presenting a campaign-friendly image amid sagging approval ratings. At a stop on Wednesday, Rep. Raul Ruiz told reporters that Newsom “saved millions of lives.” A.P.



As NASA’s Perseverance Rover descended toward Mars Thursday, some of the most exhilarating scenes were back in La Cañada Flintridge. There, a hush fell over the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Then: "Touchdown is confirmed!" Team members erupted in cheers and fist-pumps. "This is what NASA does," an engineer said. "This is what we can do as a country on all of the problems we have." The historic moment. 👉 YouTube

Etched into a chip onboard the rover are the names of the 85 people who died in the 2018 Camp Fire along with the words "Paradise Strong." KRCR


Proponents of mushroom legalization tout its mental health applications.


A California lawmaker introduced a bill Thursday that would decriminalize psychedelics across the state, building on successful campaigns in Oakland and Santa Cruz. The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Scott Wiener, said he would challenge the stigma of psychedelics with testimony from veterans who have used them to treat PTSD. The measure would also expunge related criminal records. “People should not be going to jail for possessing or using drugs,” Wiener said. The Guardian


In 2019, Monsignor Craig Harrison, a popular Bakersfield priest, faced a series of accusations of sexual abuse of children, which he denied. On Thursday, he announced his resignation from the Catholic Church. He was never given the chance to defend himself, Harrison told reporters, his voice shaking with emotion. “To this day, right now, no one in the Diocese of Fresno has ever even asked me a question about the allegations." Bakersfield Californian | KGET


The N.Y. Times investigated how Erewhon, an upscale health food store where you can “buy orange cauliflower that’s more photogenic than you,” became the embodiment of what people think Los Angeles is. Eater LA's Farley Elliott wasn't having it: “We’re a majority-Latino county with 10 million people,” he said. “The idea that Erewhon is a baseline for how the majority of Angelenos eat is not only absurd, it’s beyond offensive.”


Photo: Yunfei Ren

The photographer Yunfei Ren explored the RV culture of Northern California and found two subcultures colliding: liberals from coastal cities and conservatives from the rural interior. Yet everyone gets along, he said. Ren's photo series celebrates how the RV lifestyle seems to serve as an antidote to polarization. It's Nice That


Aphonopelma johnnycashi is the spider in black.

Wikimedia Commons

Fun fact: There's a California spider species named after Johnny Cash.

Aphonopelma johnnycashi, a tarantula, lurks on roads and in burrows near Folsom where Cash delivered his landmark prison performance in 1968. One can assume that Cash, who died in 2003 before the spider's discovery, would have welcomed the honor, given the creature's brooding reputation and coat of black. Jerry Garcia wasn't so lucky. He got a cockroach. National Geographic


On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Jill Tucker, a veteran education reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle. She discussed how the city's school board has reacted to becoming a symbol of liberalism gone too far. San Francisco has always been a punching bag, she noted. "So I think they may be looking at it from the perspective of, 'Oh that's just the same old national attack on San Francisco.'"


In case you missed it


Paul Williams at his desk in 1969.

Five items that got big views over the past week:

Paul Williams was born in Los Angeles on this week in 1894. He overcame the barriers of racial prejudice to became one of the finest architects of the 20th century, shaping the look of Los Angeles. California Sun
Political reporter Mark Z. Barbarak on the tragedy of Sen. Dianne Feinstein: "... times and the political world have changed and Feinstein, whether unwilling or unable, has failed to change along with them." L.A. Times
Juan Toscano-Anderson, an Oakland native, was an unremarkable college basketball player. Now he's a starter for the Golden State Warriors and the league's first player of Mexican descent in years. The Undefeated
The founder of a well-known coffee shop in Joshua Tree was killed by sheriff's deputies on Tuesday. Officials said Royce Robertson, 33, threatened another motorist then tried to evade authorities before being shot. Desert Sun | KESQ
North Hollywood welcomed the first residents to a new tiny home village for the homeless with an unusually cheerful color scheme. "Beauty is a rudiment of human dignity,” one of the architects said. Architect's Paper | Dwell

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The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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