Good morning. It’s Friday, Feb. 9.
- Copious rain and snow bulks up water supplies.
- Democratic mayors endorse rollback of Proposition 47.
- And two more women accuse Jonathan Majors of abuse.
Please note: The newsletter will be off on Monday. Back in your inbox on Tuesday.
In California’s U.S. Senate race, Adam Schiff is trying to lift up Republican Steve Garvey in the primary to set himself up with a weak opponent in the general election. Two opinions:
- Schiff parlayed his role as a Trump antagonist to amass a $35 million war chest. Now he’s using that money to juice Republican turnout, not just for Garvey but also down-ballot races, wrote Alexander Sammon. “It’s diabolical.” Slate
- Is it brazen? “Sure,” wrote Mark Z. Barabak. But candidates must navigate the election system as it is, which in California means the top two primary vote getters advance — regardless of party. “This is politics, after all. Not patty-cake.” L.A. Times
For all of the project’s flaws, high-speed rail is being seen as a game-changer in the San Joaquin Valley. Local officials believe the first operating segment from Bakersfield in the south to Merced in the north “will open all sorts of horizons: making it easier for people to live inland, where housing is relatively affordable, and still work on the coast. Access to jobs — particularly nonfarm jobs — and top-notch colleges will expand. And a region notably lacking in hospitals and healthcare professionals will have more options,” the L.A. Times reported.
Copious rain and snow has helped bulk up California water supplies:
- All but three of the state’s major reservoirs have risen above their historic norms for this time of year. The two largest, Shasta and Oroville, are now 125% and 130% of their historic averages.
- The Sierra snowpack, just 28% of normal at the start of the year, surged to 75% as of Wednesday.
- And the latest federal drought assessment found that the entire state remains solidly drought-free.
Explore a California water supply dashboard. 👉 CalMatters.
Jonathan Majors has maintained his innocence since being found guilty in December of assaulting and harassing a girlfriend. But two actresses who dated the California actor before his rise to stardom described him as a threatening figure who isolated them from friends and career pursuits, reported Melena Ryzik, who spent more than four months interviewing people who knew or worked with Majors. One of the women, Emma Duncan, said he choked her during an argument. “‘I’m going to kill you,'” he said, she recalled. N.Y. Times
A poultry plant in the San Joaquin Valley city of Sanger touts organic, free-range chickens. But a journalism investigation found that the workforce of mostly Latino immigrants faces grueling and often dangerous conditions. Employees are pressured to skip lunch and forced to log every minute spent in the bathroom. Eyes water from airborne chemicals. Last May, a 66-year-old worker drowned “in an unthinkable way” after falling into a waste pit. “It was the most brutal work I’ve ever done,” said former employee Moises Hernandez. Fresno Bee
Two days after announcing a law enforcement surge in Oakland, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Thursday that he would also send prosecutors to the city to ensure that criminals face justice. “An arrest isn’t enough,” Newsom said. Justin Berton, a political consultant, said the governor’s focus on Oakland reflected how the narrative around rising crime has become a political liability for Democrats. “The national story about Oakland is horrific right now, so that’s going to rub off on [California Attorney General] Rob Bonta and Gavin Newsom, and clearly their offices decided ‘no more,’” he said. Politico
Democratic Mayors London Breed of San Francisco and Matt Mahan of San Jose on Thursday added their support to a legislative proposal to roll back parts of Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that reduced penalties for drug and property crimes. Breed, who is facing challenges from tough-on-crime candidates, said she initially supported the measure but reevaluated her stance over its unintended consequences. “Our goal is not to keep people locked up,” she said. “But when there are no real consequences for crimes that are committed in this city, that’s a real problem.” S.F. Chronicle | SFist
On this week’s California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman chats with Matthias Gafni, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote an ambitious feature on 24 people who died during one of city’s deadliest weeks for overdoses in 2023. Of them, 19 died alone. Gafni talked about how addiction makes it increasingly hard to be around other people; in time, even friends and family fall away. “That just accentuates and propels mental illness, loneliness, which could further push them to use,” he said.
The military confirmed Thursday that all five Marines were killed when their helicopter went down in the mountains east of San Diego. “We will forever be grateful for their call to duty and selfless service,” Maj. Gen. Michael Borgschulte said. The helicopter, a CH-53E Super Stallion, is designed to operate in bad weather. But investigators will be looking into whether it was appropriate to conduct the training flight during a record-shattering storm on Tuesday. “You have to ask, why fly in this weather now?” said Timothy Loranger, a former Marine and lawyer who specializes in aviation crashes. S.D. Union-Tribune | A.P.
In the early 1900s, it was commonplace across Los Angeles County to include certain requirements in housing deeds: that fences should be properly maintained, that no liquor be sold from the property, and that “no part of said premises shall ever at any time be sold, conveyed, leased or rented to any person of African, Chinese or Japanese descent.” Such housing covenants lurk to this day in millions of county records. This year, officials are starting the process of scouring every single document dating back to 1850 for racist language to be redacted. It’s expected to take at least seven years. L.A. Times
The Washington Post on downtown Los Angeles’ graffiti towers:
“To the graffitists participating and the experts watching, the ‘bombing’ — as it’s called in the graffiti world — is more than a stunt or a crime. In a culture where visibility rules, the painted skyscrapers have become a landmark, literally taking the art form to a higher level. For them, it’s a historic moment.”
In case you missed it
Five highlights from the past week:
- The storms draped California’s wild places in glistening blankets of fresh snow. Photographer Jake Edwards captured a series of exquisite photos around the Shasta Cascade’s Lake Almanor basin and nearby Mount Lassen. @scenescapery
- Tracy Chapman’s duet with Luke Combs at the Grammys on Sunday drew rapturous applause and sent her song “Fast Car” to No. 1 on iTunes. Amid the renewed attention toward Chapman, 59, many San Franciscans were surprised to learn that she lives in their city. N.Y. Times
- Steve Garvey, a former Dodger and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has touted himself as “a devoted family man.” But two of his adult children, fathered with two women in between marriages, say he has declined to communicate with them. L.A. Times
- Last summer, a pack of gray wolves appeared in the southern Sierra. At the time, biologists investigating the Yowlumni pack had only a grainy photo, fur samples, and droppings. Now wildlife officials have released video from a trail camera showing the wolves howling in the wilderness. YouTube | Field and Stream
- A Bay Area elementary school used $250,000 in federal funds to hire an organization called Woke Kindergarten to train its teachers in “abolitionist education.” Two years into its contract, English and math scores have fallen to new lows. S.F. Chronicle
An earlier version of this newsletter misstated the levels of two California reservoirs. On Feb. 7, 2024, the levels of Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville were 125% and 130% of their historic averages for the date, not 125% and 130% above their historic averages.
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
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