Good morning, California, no April fooling. Laurel Rosenhall is sitting in for Dan Morain.
“The split-second, immediate decisions that our police officers make in a moment’s notice—a fraction of seconds—can mean literally the matter of life and death.”—Ronald Lawrence, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, on “Force of Law,” a new podcast about California’s attempt to reduce police shootings.
Introducing 'Force of Law'
Demonstrators and law enforcement face off after Stephon Clark's death.
California’s effort to reduce police shootings is turning out to be the source of one of the more intense debates in the Capitol this session, so we start the week with a recommendation and, yes, a plug: Force of Law, a new, in-depth podcast debuting from CALmatters today.
- The narrative audio series will follow proposed legislation that, if passed, would give California the nation’s toughest statewide standard for justifying deadly police force. In Episode One, reporter Laurel Rosenhall delves into how California got to this point, looking back at the decade since police shot and killed Oscar Grant in Oakland and the momentum created by last year’s death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento.
- Future episodes will feature the voices of families who have lost loved ones to police, law enforcement officers who face split-second decisions while performing a dangerous job, and policy-makers grappling with an emotional and politically charged issue.
To listen to the first episode and subscribe, click here.
Newsom discusses his upcoming Central America trip.
With the Trump administration threatening to cut aid to three Central American countries and close the Mexican border, Gov. Gavin Newsom is prepping for an April 7 trip to El Salvador.
- The trip is being billed as a response to what’s happening at California’s southern border. But CALmatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera, who’ll be tagging along, writes that it also contrasts California’s approach to immigration with that of the Trump administration.
- Newsom has allocated $5 million for a migrant shelter in San Diego and other community organizations helping asylum seekers.
President Donald Trump: “Mexico is doing NOTHING to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country. They are all talk and no action. Likewise, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing. The Dems don’t care, such BAD laws. May close the Southern Border!”
Meanwhile at the border, the long wait to apply for asylum now extends even to unaccompanied migrant children, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
U-T: “A backlog of [at least 50] children waiting to ask the U.S. for help has formed in Tijuana with many saying that they were turned away from ports of entry by U.S. and Mexican officials working together. Though asylum seekers have had to queue in Tijuana for their turns to ask the U.S. for protection for well over a year, Customs and Border Protection has said that children traveling without an adult aren’t supposed to have to wait in that line because it considers them to be a vulnerable group.”
PG&E power struggle
The state, courts and shareholders are at odds over PG&E priorities.
Embattled Pacific Gas & Electric today is expected to nominate a new slate of directors. The new 5 p.m. deadline follows a demand from Gov. Gavin Newsom that the utility halt what he views as a plan to install executives from outside California and to put “hedge fund financiers” on the board of the state’s largest utility.
- Brief me: PG&E is in bankruptcy, faces billions in costs from wildfires sparked by its equipment, and is on criminal probation from a deadly 2010 explosion on a gas line it owned in San Bruno. Now the state is locked in a power struggle with major shareholders over whether the company will prioritize its bottom line or ratepayers and safety.
On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the federal judge overseeing PG&E’s probation on the San Bruno case is now threatening to prevent the investor-owned utility from resuming dividend payments to shareholders until it starts meaningfully mitigating its role in igniting wildfires.
WSJ: “In a March order, [U.S. District Judge William Alsup] wrote that PG&E paid shareholders nearly $2 billion in dividends over 2016 and 2017, while maintaining a dismal record on pruning or removing trees that could fall onto its power lines.”
PG&E’s lawyers reportedly pushed back, saying the utility’s brush clearance has improved, and complaining that “such an imposition could spook investors and limit its access to capital after it restructures.” The threat is moot for now—the utility has suspended dividend payments at least for the duration of its bankruptcy proceedings.
- But the judge’s plan “could have big repercussions for other companies put on probation,” and put the court in charge of, yep, how the company prioritizes safety— “a function usually left to the board of directors,” the Journal notes.
FSB Core Strategies: Public Affairs. Ballot Campaigns. Legislative & Regulatory Fights
A wildfire primer
CA wildfires impact lives and homes, the environment and the economy.
The drama at PG&E is just one piece of California’s larger wildfire picture, report Julie Cart and Judy Lin at CALmatters: Fourteen of the 20 most destructive fires in state history have occurred since 2007, California has 78 more annual “fire days” now than it had 50 years ago and a state-commissioned report “makes the harrowing projection that under current emissions trends, the average burn area in California will increase 77 percent by the end of the century.”
- With wildfire season nearly year-round, and lives, homes, businesses and infrastructure in the balance, click here for a comprehensive backgrounder on the human, environmental and economic aspects of the fire threat and a look at what could help fireproof the state.
- And click here for a video by Julie Cart and Byrhonda Lyons.
Private college pushback
The gateway to private Pomona College in Claremont.
Private colleges are protesting proposed state legislation aimed at preventing wealthy families from gaming the college admissions system, reports CALmatters’ Felicia Mello.
- A bill by Assemblyman Phil Ting would bar colleges and universities from receiving state financial aid dollars if they give preference to applicants with ties to alumni or donors.
- Proposed just last week in the wake of the college admissions scandal, the measure is already raising alarm among the state’s private colleges, some of which use so-called “legacy admissions” to cultivate stronger ties with their alumni communities, and the donations that come with them.
Mello: “Legacy students made up about 19 percent of USC’s 2017-18 entering class, according to a post on the university’s admissions blog; the university refers to them as ‘Scions.’”
Meanwhile, dueling views on the SAT, another flashpoint in the cheating scandal, have spawned competing bills that would either phase them out or replace the 11th-grade statewide standardized high school tests with them, according to EdSource.
- Admission rates at elite colleges underscore the issue. University of Southern California said it admitted just 11 percent of freshman applicants this year, its lowest rate ever. Stanford stopped making its rate public this year; ditto for Claremont McKenna and Pomona Colleges. Last year, their rates were, respectively, 4.3 percent, 8.9 percent and 6.96 percent. UCLA and UC Berkeley, routinely the most selective in the UC system, had freshman admission rates last year of 14.1 percent and 15.1 percent.
Lyft's IPO last week raised more than $2.3 billion.
Last week’s Lyft initial public offering made so many Bay Area techies so rich that they could buy “every single home in San Francisco listed for sale on Thursday, nearly a third of all affordable homes in the Bay Area, or about half of the least expensive houses in San Francisco and the East Bay,” The Mercury News estimates.
- Will the rest of us make a gig economy buck? Doubtful, according to Wired, The New York Times and others.
- But California could benefit: Capital gains among shareholders at Lyft and other companies expected to soon go public also could net the state a hefty tax windfall.
The Wall Street Journal: “In addition to Lyft, whose IPO valued it at $24 billion, other potential IPOs on the horizon include its larger ride-hailing rival Uber Technologies Inc., which could be valued as high as $120 billion, Pinterest Inc. and Slack Technologies Inc. There are no official estimates for how much revenue is expected, but when Facebook went public in 2012, the state reaped a windfall of about $1.3 billion, according to California’s Department of Finance.”
And California will need that money: New information from the Federal Highway Administration is showing an increase in the number of bridges in “poor” condition, despite the controversial 2017 increase in the state’s gas tax, The Los Angeles Times reports.
- For a primer on California’s fiscal reliance on high earners—and a fun look at LeBron James’ taxes—click on this piece by CALmatters’ Judy Lin.
Commentary at CALmatters
Lenny Goldberg, California Tax Reform Association: Proposition 13 of 1978 brought about a seismic shift in governance in California. In 2020, 42 years after Proposition 13’s passage, voters will have an opportunity to reform the 1978 initiative by requiring that commercial and industrial property owners pay their fair share.
See you tomorrow.