Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Oct. 19.
- Oakland police propose arming robots with shotguns.
- Paul Flores convicted in 1996 killing of Kristen Smart.
- And stunning photos of California’s Romani communities.
Newly released scores from tests taken by public school students in the spring showed a big pandemic drop. In Fresno, just 21% of students met the state standard for math, down by a third since 2019. Only 13% of Bakersfield students met the math standard. The share of students that met the reading standard in Long Beach dropped by 11 percentage points. The declines were even more dire when broken out by subgroups such as Black, Latino, and English learners. EdSource
The Biden administration announced a Dec. 6 lease sale for offshore wind farms in California waters, the first off the Pacific Coast. A major step in the move to renewable energy, the sale will target five areas — two off Humbolt County and three off the Central Coast — spanning nearly 600 square miles. Potential bidders range from oil giants like Shell to the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, an intergovernmental group. A.P. | Lost Coast Outpost | The Tribune
Very few Californians are getting the latest Covid vaccine booster. State data showed that as of last week just 5% of the state’s residents had sought the shots designed to immunize against Omicron variants. Even in the highly vaccinated Bay Area, only one in 10 people have gotten the booster. Experts are nervously eyeing a swarm of potential ominous variants that could drive another winter surge. Mercury News | Washington Post
Most birds and lizards know to stay away from super venomous black widow spiders, easily identifiable by their ruby hourglass markings. But in California, alligator lizards eat them like popcorn. Researchers set out to learn if the lizards were immune by injecting them with black widow venom. They were completely unfazed: “Their results suggest that over the course of a long history living with the spiders, alligator lizards have evolved a remarkable ability to shrug off widow venom.” N.Y. Times
In his first public appearance, Wesley Brownlee was charged in a Stockton courtroom Tuesday with fatally shooting three men after his arrest over the weekend in what authorities have portrayed as a killing spree that left at least six dead. More charges are expected. Prosecutors said cellular data placed Brownlee, 43, at the locations of killings. Outside the courtroom, the brother of a victim fought tears. “Trying to stay focused, but it’s kind of hard,” he said. CapRadio | CNN
In a series of meetings this fall, the Oakland Police Department posed a question to a civilian oversight body: Should cops be able to kill people with shotgun-armed robots? The answer: No. But the police are still pursuing the option, insisting that they would only be deployed in emergencies. A skeptic warned that “it in many ways lowers the psychological hurdle for enacting that violence when it’s just a button on a remote control.” The Intercept
San Francisco transit officials are planning to eliminate hundreds of parking spots that obstruct bus stops across the city. At a hearing to discuss the plan on Monday, a transit official explained that it would take as long as seven years and up to $5 million because they would need to have a public hearing for every parking spot removal. “We can’t just paint 1,200 curbs,” he said. Responding on Twitter, the writer Allison Arieff spoke for many by calling the timeline “absurd.” SF Standard
In 1981, a Bay Area illustrator named Marilee Heyer was tapped by Lucasfilm to draw what she referred to as a new version of Princess Leia. “There wasn’t any other work that showed her as a pretty woman,” she said. Lucas reportedly loved Heyer’s renderings, and a new look for Leia was cemented. Yet four decades later, as her work has shown up in books and exhibitions, she says she’s yet to be properly credited for her work. SFGATE
Paul Flores was convicted on Tuesday of killing Kristin Smart, the college freshman who disappeared from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1996. Smart was 19 when she was last seen after an off-campus party over Memorial Day weekend. Suspicion quickly fell on Flores, a fellow student known for his “inappropriate” interest in Smart, but investigators lacked evidence to make an arrest. Then in 2021, searches of the property of Flores’ father, Ruben Flores, found a patch of disturbed soil the size of a casket and human blood. A separate jury acquitted Flores’ father of helping to conceal the crime. The Tribune | A.P.
For years, teachers, counselors, and family told child protective services that little Anthony Avalos was being abused by his mother and her boyfriend in Lancaster. Yet caseworkers repeatedly left him in the home until June 2018, when 10-year-old Avalos died with severe head injuries and cigarette burns covering his body. On Tuesday, the county approved a $32 million settlement for Avalos’ siblings and father. In a statement, the child protective services department said they hoped it would bring closure. L.A. Times | City News Service
In the past two years, activists in Los Angeles had some success in their campaign to eliminate school police, which they say create a climate of fear on campuses. But crime and a high-profile overdose in September have led to pushback from some parents. Supt. Alberto Carvalho seems receptive to their concerns: “Our public safety strategy going forward is currently — and will be even more so — informed by all voices rather than targeted or selected voices. I think that’s fair. We serve the entire school system, right?” L.A. Times
The photojournalist Cristina Salvador Klenz captured the scenes above in El Monte, Long Beach, and Bell Gardens as part of a project chronicling the lives of Southern California’s roughly 50,000 Romani. It’s the low profile of the community that forms the theme of her fascinating photography book: “Hidden: Life with California’s Roma Families.” Huck Magazine | Long Beach Press-Telegram
A caption in an earlier version of this newsletter mislabeled a photo of a lizard. It was a fence lizard, not an alligator lizard. A photo of an alligator lizard has been swapped in.
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
Forward this email to a friend.
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.