I’m CalMatters politics reporter Yue Stella Yu subbing for Lynn.
A key part of CalMatters’ mission of explaining California policy and politics is to be a forum for reasoned and diverse voices on the biggest issues facing the state.
Today, we elevate that priority with the launch of California Voices, an expanded and reimagined commentary section.
California Voices editor Yousef Baig explains his goal this way: “Many people feel ignored… . Expanding the voices we hear from can make difficult discussions more representative of California, and the solutions easier to reach.”
In addition to encouraging dialogue that advances solutions, California Voices will amplify those directly impacted by policy decisions — people such as Anastacio Rosales, who wrote a commentary in June calling for accountability for public officials who promised to help him and his neighbors in flooded Planada.
The first issue focus is one that is top of mind for many Californians — the homelessness crisis. At last count, 170,000 people are unhoused, and most are on the streets. The new California Voices homelessness page features several different points of view:
- Zella Knight, a formerly unhoused person who is now a Los Angeles activist, writes about her own experiences, while Tomiquia Moss, founder of All Home, says it will take big, costly fixes to overcome decades of bad policy.
- Sara Martinez, a vice president at the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, offers some lessons from that Texas city where the unhoused population shrank by more than half in the past decade. (As CalMatters’ Marisa Kendall found after visiting there this summer, some of the solutions are not easily transferable and will only get California so far.)
- Patricia Fontana, a Berkeley activist whose son has a serious mental illness, argues that mental health treatment must be part of the solution, while Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg writes about why he supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mental health initiative on the March 5 ballot.
- And state Senate Republican leader Brian Jones of San Diego asserts that instead of throwing more money at the problem, the state needs to change its policies, starting with clearing more encampments.
As part of the launch of California Voices, Yousef will be hosting a virtual event from 11 a.m. to noon on Nov. 14 on how to pitch a commentary piece. Register here. And read more on California Voices from our engagement team.
Speaking of homelessness: A third of the nation’s homeless veterans are in California despite billions in spending over the past decades — so Gov. Newsom has a new strategy to help them, reports CalMatters health news intern Shreya Agrawal.
The old approach: Building veterans homes. But some facilities are underused, and the homeless veteran population in California has held steady since 2014.
Newsom’s new strategy: Targeting veterans with serious mental health conditions as part of his $6.4 billion mental health bond on the March 5 ballot.
Veterans’ groups say the effectiveness of the program would depend on getting the word out and services helping veterans escape homelessness. Read more in Shreya’s story.
For the record: An item in Friday’s WhatMatters about public transit funding included incorrect numbers on how much agencies will receive from the $5 billion state lifeline. The online version has been updated, and the dollar figures for each agency are in the grand total column in this document.
Tell us what you think: We’re doing a survey of WhatMatters readers to make it even better and more useful. It’ll only take a few minutes. Fill it out here.
Other Stories You Should Know
Third time the charm on psychedelics?
Sometimes, a governor vetoes a bill and it’s clear there’s no chance it’ll ever be signed. But other times, a governor hints at a version of the bill that might become law.
Sen. Scott Wiener is hoping that’s the case with Gov. Newsom’s veto of his bill to decriminalize psychedelic drugs.
On Friday, the San Francisco Democrat announced that he will try for the third time next year, but with a significant change: Instead of decriminalizing “magic mushrooms” and a few other plant-based hallucinogens for personal use for those 21 and older, the bill would only allow them for use in therapeutic settings.
- Newsom: “California should immediately begin work to set up regulated treatment guidelines — replete with dosing information, therapeutic guidelines, rules to prevent exploitation during guided treatments, and medical clearance of no underlying psychoses. Unfortunately, this bill would decriminalize possession prior to these guidelines going into place, and I cannot sign it. I urge the legislature to send me legislation next year that includes therapeutic guidelines.”
The vetoed bill only required the state’s health agency to form a working group to make recommendations for future therapeutic use. As CalMatters health reporter Ana B. Ibarra explained, the bill’s sponsor, a veterans’ group, and other supporters say that psychedelics can help relieve suicidal thoughts and PTSD symptoms. Opposition came from some law enforcement groups.
But even in his veto, Newsom sided with the supporters: “Both peer-reviewed science and powerful personal anecdotes lead me to support new opportunities to address mental health through psychedelic medicines like those addressed in this bill. Psychedelics have proven to relieve people suffering from certain conditions such as depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other addictive personality traits. This is an exciting frontier and California will be on the front-end of leading it.”
To make sure the measure reaches Newsom’s desk again, Wiener said he will team up with Republican Assemblymember Marie Waldron of Escondido.
Assemblymember Carrillo arrested for DUI
Another state legislator, who happens to be running for another office, has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Democrat who has served in the Legislature since 2017 and who is running for Los Angeles City Council, was arrested early Friday morning after she crashed into parked vehicles in northeast Los Angeles.
Police said her blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit for driving. In a video from after the incident, Carrillo appears to tell the police she “sneezed” and lost control of the car.
In a statement, she said no one was harmed and she is cooperating with law enforcement.
- Carrillo: “I am aware that I must adhere to a higher standard that demands personal accountability for my conduct and I accept responsibility for my actions. I sincerely apologize to my family, constituents, colleagues and staff for any actions of mine that have fallen short of that expectation. I intend to seek the necessary help and support.”
Republicans quickly pounced. The state party called Democrats the “California Drunkard Party” that had “just added (Carrillo) to their DUI Caucus.” And Assemblymember Bill Essayli, a Riverside Republican, said he will reintroduce a resolution to take away the state-assigned cars from lawmakers convicted of a DUI.
- Essayli: “This behavior is emblematic of the supermajority Democrat party in Sacramento. They are literally drunk with power and believe they are above the law.”
State Sen. Dave Min, an Irvine Democrat, was arrested in May for DUI near the state Capitol during the legislative session. He was sentenced to three years of informal probation and is required to complete a 30-hour state-licensed alcohol and drug education program.
Min is running for Congress to replace Rep. Katie Porter, who launched her U.S. Senate bid earlier this year.
Will tripledemic slam CA this winter?
Winter is rapidly approaching — as is the peak season for influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and COVID-19.
Public health experts are expecting a milder season this year, but they are worried about infections peaking at the same time, explains CalMatters health news intern Shreya Agrawal. It’s the season of festive gatherings and indoor activities — a heightened risk of exposure to viruses — and we could see an uptick in infections among vulnerable populations, they said.
- Marlene Millen, an internal medicine doctor at UC San Diego: “Every year since COVID, it has been a concern that all three will kind of peak at once. And if that happens, then our health care system gets even more strained.”
But don’t panic: It’s not yet a tripledemic, and people have more preventative tools — leftover immunity and updated vaccines — at their disposal compared to last year. It’s not too late to get your shots. There are new RSV vaccines for seniors and pregnant women, and an antibody is recommended for infants younger than 8 months or high-risk children between 8 and19 months old. Anyone over 6 months old should get the annual flu shot, and those 5 years old and above should receive the updated COVID-19 booster this year.
You can also lower the risk of infections by replacing your dirty air filters, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Doctor’s orders: If you feel sick, stay home. “Viral loads are really high in those first few days of illness and that’s when spreading illnesses happens, so just wait,” Millen said. Read more in Shreya’s story.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: What can be done to lower California’s highest-in-the-nation poverty rate?
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CA can require railroads to eliminate pollution, EPA decides // San Francisco Chronicle
Final plans released for Northern CA Sites Reservoir // CBS Sacramento
Settlement with LAist correspondent among largest during George Floyd protests // LAist
Google, Lendlease end development deals, including downtown San Jose // Mercury News
Google, other CA tech companies cut 1,700 workers // San Francisco Chronicle