Good morning, California, on this MLK Day, a day dedicated to service.

“In the final analysis I must not ignore the wounded man on life’s Jericho Road because he is a part of me and I am a part of him. His agony diminishes me and his salvation enlarges me.”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kamala Harris watch

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has an announcement today.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris announced today on Good Morning America  that she is running for president. She’s the highest-profile Californian since Jerry Brown and Pete Wilson in the 1990s to run for the nation’s highest office, and the fourth female member of Congress to join this campaign’s crowded Democratic field.

  • The MLK Day announcement in New York not only maximized attention for the Oakland-born Harris, but honored the first African-American woman to run for president, Shirley Chisholm, who launched her campaign 47 years ago this week.

Without mentioning President Donald Trump, Harris drew a sharp contrast, highlighting her experience as California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney.

Harris: “The American people deserve to have somebody who is going to fight for them, who is going to see them, who will hear them, who will care about them, who will be concerned about their expeience and will put them in front of self-interest.”

A heartwrenching medical mystery

Newsom proposes $7.5 million to fight black infant mortality.

African-American women experience a far higher risk of pregnancy-related death than women in other ethnic groups, and black infants die at far higher rates, a threat that has promped Gov. Gavin Newsom to propose spending an extra $7.5 million to confront the issue next fiscal year.

  • It’s a fraction of the $209 billion budget. But the augmentation would push overall state spending on the problem to $15.5 million.

Here are a few eye-opening facts via the California Department of Public Health, which sought the extra money:

  • The white infant mortality rate in the U.S. was 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016, similar to other developed nations.
  • The black infant mortality rate in the U.S. was 11.4 per 1,000 live births, a rate comparable to that of such nations as Libya, Albania and Tonga.
  • In California in 2015, the infant mortality rate among African-American infants was 9.3 for 1,000 births, compared to 4.5 per 1,000 for Latinos and 3.5 for white infants.

The reasons are the stuff of medical mystery. One researcher cites 59 separate causes.

  • Perhaps there’s a correlation between infant and maternal deaths and poverty. But the state Public Health Department said in a memo to Newsom that “insured, educated, or employed Black women with high levels of economic security continue to have higher rates of death or complications in pregnancy compared to matched women in other races.”

From the memo: “Black mothers who do not smoke, a major risk for prematurity, have worse perinatal outcomes than White women who do smoke. Finally, prenatal care, while important, is not sufficient to narrow the disparity.”

Babies' chances as a budget priority

Black infant mortality has long been a cause for Sen. Holly Mitchell.

As the Great Recession struck in 2007, California lawmakers stripped $3.9 from the budget to combat black infant mortality. That money got restored as the economy rebounded in 2014.

  • In 2018, Sen. Holly Mitfchell, Senate Budget Committee chairwoman, pushed for another $4 million, for an annual total of $8.1 million.

Virtually all of it goes to local health departments to focus on improving the chances of African-American mothers and their babies.

Mitchell: “My hope is that once and for all there will be a sustained investment and that we will practice what we preach.”

“We fight for and talk about the importance of women being empowered and listened to and believed,” said Mitchell. She cites the case of tennis great Serena Williams who nearly died after giving birth to her daughter in 2017. It’s tougher for African-American women, no matter their station in society, the result of “racism and implicit bias.”

  • The program pays for itself, health experts note: A state Senate report on the issue noted that even babies who survive but are born early with low birth weight are more likely to suffer from long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism, and chronic medical problems, such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer.

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Commentary at CALmatters

Businesses ask if CARB rules are worth the cost.

Allan Zaremberg, California Chamber of Commerce: The California Air Resources Board has adopted an aggressive regulation, baking in higher consumer and industry costs in the hope of squeezing out more emission reductions. This approach not only flouts the express will of the Legislature, but undermines the moral authority for engaging in state-level greenhouse gas regulation.

Fred Keeley, former Assemblyman: PG&E’s bankruptcy in 2001 and the one to come are at once similar and very different. But we did learn lessons the hard way in 2000 and 2001. Having lived through the last bankruptcy, my suggestion to policymakers is to slow down and conduct a thorough analysis to fully understand the nature of the problem.

Gregory Favre, CALmatters: What if Donald Trump had used those nine minutes, or even a portion of them, to convey a different message, one that reminded us of what binds us rather than what separates us, reminded us to help those, as the song says, who are walking on the boulevard of broken dreams?

Dan Walters, CALmatters: A strike by Los Angeles Unified School District teachers and Pacific Gas and Electric’s announced intention to declare bankruptcy are symptoms of a larger malady of arrogance and irresponsibility by large institutions.

Note: This newsletter has been updated with details of Kamala Harris’ campaign announcement.

Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.