Fire costs, Brown’s oil issue, surfer equity, alcohol matters


Good morning, California.

“It’s all solar-powered, 100 percent. We may get some wind power in there as well, and the water we’re collecting off the roof.”—California First Lady Anne Gust Brown, describing the home she and Gov. Jerry Brown are building on the family ranch in Colusa County to Will Hearst in Alta Magazine.

Migrant families get a small break

Migrant housing, Watsonville

As the new school year begins, migrant families will be able to take advantage of a new law that offers some stability for their children, CALmatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports.

Background me: Under Gov. Pat Brown, California in the 1960s built housing for migrant farm workers, so they’d have safe, clean places to live. Now, 24 housing centers in the Central Valley house 10,000 farm workers.

The housing came with a hitch, known as the 50-mile rule. Residents had to relocate at least 50 miles away every few months. It was a vestige of a time when single men dominated the work.

Today, more families follow the harvests. But the rule remained. As a result, children were uprooted from their schools mid-year. No more. Under a bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Caballero of Salinas, half the housing can be used year-round by families.

Caballero: “It’s my hope that what we’ll see is migrant students doing better in school, and a stability in their educational experience.”

Ilene Jacobs, of California Rural Legal Assistance, says the solution is more housing: “We shouldn’t be pitting one group of farmworkers against another group of farmworkers and allowing them to win out in eligibility.”

Click here for a video by CALmatters’ Byrhonda Lyons on the farmworker rule.


CA is burning through its wildfire budget

California wildfire

Cal Fire is about to exceed its budget, the head of the state firefighting agency said in a letter to lawmakers on Thursday. The agency had spent $432 million by the end of August, with only about $11 million left. (Associated Press)

California wildfires have caused at least $845 million in property damage so far this summer, with months left in the fire season. “The worst may well be yet to come,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. Meanwhile, San Diego Gas & Electric says it has spent about $1 billion in ratepayer money since 2007 on fire safety and plans to spend about $3 million more. (Sacramento Bee and San Diego Union-Tribune)

Fire is only one line item in the damage ledger. Climate change is going to cost California, and the bill will be staggering, warned a backgrounder last week by CALmatters Laurel Rosenhall.


This week's fire impact, from nursing homes to I-5

And more wildfire

A nearly 50-mile stretch of I-5 remained closed late Thursday, as three fires that converged near the Shasta-Trinity National Forest devoured more than 22,000 acres of timber and brush in two days. Terrified motorists found themselves trapped in gridlock when the fire erupted Wednesday and more than a dozen big rigs were abandoned on the interstate. (Los Angeles Times)

Two nursing homes abandoned residents during the wine country fires, according to a complaint released on Thursday. None of the residents died. The state Department of Social Services is seeking to revoke the licenses of the Santa Rosa facilities.

Only you can prevent mega-fires, according to a cool San Francisco Chronicle map, which looks at the causes of California’s biggest blazes over the past three decades. Among them: target shooting, faulty hot tub wiring and riding a lawn mower on dry grass.

Greens pressure Brown, with summit ahead

Anti-oil demonstrators outside Brown's office

How green is Brown? California’s governor champions clean energy, energy efficiency and laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gases that warm the planet, CALmatters’ Julie Cart writes. But some environmentalists still accuse him of having a blind spot—for oil.

Weekend rallies in California and around the world have been scheduled for Saturday by the group Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice “to walk the talk on climate action.” California’s big one is expected to be in San Francisco, where Gov. Jerry Brown will host a Global Climate Action Summit Sept. 12-14.

“We stand with California,” The New York Times’ Editorial Board wrote this week, saluting the state’s policy moves toward clean energy.

Meanwhile, Tijuana sewage in San Diego has prompted California to file yet another lawsuit against the Trump administration, this one for violations of the Clean Water Act. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

And the e-scooter craze, a Silicon Valley-funded offshoot of the clean-energy push toward bike-sharing, is creating a spike in emergency room visits,  despite a pending bill that would let adults ride without helmets, The Washington Post reports.

Michael Sise, chief of medical staff at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego: “Injuries are coming in fast and furious.”

Surf's up for #MeToo

Surfers at Mavericks

Female surfers leveraged California’s permitting processes to get equity in the prize purse this year at the famous Mavericks big wave surfing challenge, with an assist from Controller Betty Yee and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sit on the State Lands Commission. Gender equity experts tell CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall the tactic could be a game changer in other sports as well.

On the other hand: In a commentary for NBC News, Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson writes that a pending California bill to create gender quotas on corporate boards is an overreach.

Levinson: “Once the government decides it has the right to intercede in this arena, it is difficult to know where and when the government interference will end.”

Four former high school student athletes sued the Anaheim Union High School District this week, accusing school officials of ignoring signs the girls were being sexually abused by coaches. And a civil suit aimed at fraternity culture has been filed by a female UCLA student, alleging that frats “do little-to-nothing to protect their members and guests from harm.” (Orange County Register and Los Angeles Times)

An assortment of bills on sexual harassment, pay equity and other issues to arise out of the #MeToo movement awaits the governor’s signature or veto. For a CALmatters scorecard, click here.

Obama in OC and Motor Voter

President Barack Obama, incoming Saturday

President Barack Obama will appear at a rally for congressional candidates in seven key House districts at the Anaheim Convention Center Saturday morning. “This moment in our country is too perilous for Democratic voters to sit out,” is how a spokeswoman described the theme.

Data from California’s Motor Voter program, launched in April, shows a dramatic spike in “no party preference” registration, The Sacramento Bee reports. Of nearly a million voters who registered through the program, the majority had no party preference.

The DMV says the designation is the default for those who don’t mark down a party.

Political consultant Paul Mitchell: “It’s like the difference between putting (no party preference) in the back aisle in the back with the toilet paper or in the front where you’re checking out,”


Paying attention? Prove it by taking our quiz

How many oil drilling permits has the Brown administration issued since 2011? California inserted itself in gender bias questions in what sport? What did Sen. John Moorlach do to warrant a reprimand? Test your knowledge by taking the quiz here.


Brown's beverage of choice this week

A governor's dilemma: beer vs. wine

“I hope that many Californians will join me in raising a glass to the pioneers, beginning with Padre Kino, who helped bring this amazing bounty to our state, and the many diligent and innovative workers today who help the industry continue to thrive.”—Gov. Jerry Brown this week, proclaiming September to be California Wine Month

“Allowing beer manufacturers to give items of value to on-sale retail licensees could unduly influence such retailers to purchase those manufacturers’ products. I also worry that this law creates an economic disadvantage for small beer manufacturers…” —Brown this week, vetoing AB 2573.

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See you on Monday.