Good morning, California.

“I’ve made some mistakes in my life. But that’s affected my personal life. I wasn’t the mayor of a major city.”—Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, responding to a KQED-KPCC question about why he criticized frontrunner Gavin Newsom for his 2007 affair when his 1997 divorce included allegations of an extramarital affair. 

Housing the homeless in your neighborhood

Kelly Thomas, beaten to death in 2011 in Fullerton

In 2011, Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic man who lived on the streets of Orange County, died after being beaten and tased by Fullerton police. Captured on video, he cried for help by calling out, “Dad, Dad, Dad.”

  • Against that memory, KPCC reporter Jill Replogle details what happened when Pathways of Hope, which provides shelter to homeless people, proposed building housing for 60 chronically homeless people, some of whom may be mentally ill, on a vacant lot in Fullerton. Carve out some time to read and listen to her report.

This week in Venice, a standing-room-only crowd booed and catcalled a West Los Angeles City Councilman, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, and the city’s police chief during a Wednesday night town hall on a proposal to build a 154-bed homeless shelter on an abandoned MTA yard, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Garcetti told the raucous gathering: “The easy thing to do politically is to walk away. We can’t afford to walk away from homelessness.”

What’s ahead: Such fights could play out across California, if voters approve Propositions 1 and 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

  • The measures would earmark a combined $6 billion for a variety of affordable housing including some for mentally ill people.

Meanwhile, cities are feeling the effect of a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in September that restricts criminal prosecutions of homeless people for camping on sidewalks if they can’t otherwise obtain shelter.

  • A San Francisco judge dismissed charges on Thursday against three homeless people who had been arrested for sleeping on the street, The Chronicle reports.

San Francisco Assistant Public Defender Brian Pearlman: “The court said that if a city doesn’t have enough resources to house all of its homeless people, you’re punishing people for their (homeless) status.”

'Old trees are sitting there, rotting and dry'

The 2017 La Tuna fire in Los Angeles.

President Donald Trump threatened this week to withhold unspecified funding from California because, he theorized, California’s forest fire management strategy is lacking.

Trump: “It’s a disgraceful thing. Old trees are sitting there, rotting and dry. And instead of cleaning it up, they don’t touch them.”

Paul Wade, U.S. Forest Service spokesman: “This is of national importance, and it affects the entire Forest Service. Our team is looking into this and trying to figure out how to respond.”

Scott McLean, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection: “It’s hard to say, exactly, what he’s talking about.”

The federal government owns the bulk of forest land in California. The feds also own more than half of the forest land scorched by fires during the past two years, The Los Angeles Times notes.

  • 4 million acres in California burned in 2017.
  • Of forests, Uncle Sam owns 742,000 of the 1.366 million acres that have burned.

Legislation signed into law in September allocated $200 million to prevent fires and improve forest management, on top of hundreds of millions allocated in the budget approved this summer.

The president might want to read this quick overview of the issues, by CALmatters’ Julie Cart. Or go really deep by reading the 2018 Little Hoover Commission report on forest management.

Tracking California’s deadly wildfires

Because wildfire season is year-round now in California, the statistics never stop in their awful aggregation. Virtually everything related to fires is on the rise: acres burned, lives lost, cost to fight the blazes.

  • The state has 78 more “fire days” annually now than it had 50 years ago.

CALmatters’ Julie Cart is keeping a running log. Notice how costs in lives and dollars are soaring by clicking here.


When syphilis was all but eradicated

Illustration of syphilis bacterium.

Mothers infected with syphilis are passing the disease to newborns, leading to an outbreak of congenital syphilis and 30 stillbirths in 2017, as CALmatters reported earlier this week.

How quickly public health emergencies emerge.

  • In 1994, the Health Officers Association of California was so confident that penicillin had rendered syphilis a disease of the past that it sponsored legislation lifting a century-old requirement that people get tested for the disease before obtaining marriage licenses.
  • A legislative staff analysis that year quotes the health officers as saying “evidence clearly indicates premarital blood tests no longer are medically justified or cost-effective.”
  • The cost of finding one case of syphilis was estimated to be $413,122. Physicians supported the legislation. The Committee On Moral Concerns was the only opponent.

Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of Hillsborough, then an assemblywoman, carried the bill. Gov. Pete Wilson, who like Speier championed public health causes, signed it into law.

“Premarital blood testing, once a justifiable tradition, has become an unnecessary drain on personal finances,” Speier said then.

Now, public health experts cite addiction and prostitution as two factors for the outbreak, not the 1994 legislation.

  • But a former lobbyist for the Health Officers Association, Bruce Pomer, is having second thoughts about the bill that seemed so logical.
  • More education, screening, and public health nurses are needed. Certainly, norms around marriage have changed. But perhaps returning to some sort of testing could be “part of a solution,” Pomer says now.  “We need to at least look at it.”


They don't build 'em like they used to

Benicia-Martinez Bridge. (Photo, circa 1930, courtesy of the California State Library)

People who use the Capitol Corridor train between Sacramento and the Bay Area cross the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, completed in October 1930.

  • Owned by Union Pacific Railroad, it is the only train bridge with tracks crossing the bay, and the second-longest railway bridge on the continent, wrote James Quinn in Local Happenings Magazine.

Historic comparison: Public works projects today often run years behind schedule. The Benicia-Martinez Bridge began construction in April 1929—and was open to the public after just 19 months.

Tuck and Thurmond: A CALmatters face-off

Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond

Democrats Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck are vying to be the next Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a race that has drawn tens of millions of dollars in campaign money and evolved into a proxy battle between organized labor and education reformers.

CALmatters interviewed both for our voter guide, and video journalist Byrhonda Lyons pulled together this side-by-side comparison of their positions. For a quick but comprehensive look at the two, click here.

Commentary at CALmatters

Marshall Tuck, candidate for California schools chief: Too many of our high poverty children-of-color have been stuck in failing public schools. The middle class and upper class have good options and opportunities. But public charter schools can most help our children with the greatest need.

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See you on Monday.