President Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Photo by Michael Vadon
President Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Photo by Michael Vadon

In summary

California searches for solutions to wildfire crisis. Trump praises automakers for siding with him. Birth rate falling in every county.

Good morning, California.

“Amid wind gusts strong enough to knock a person off balance, two super-scooper planes dipped down behind the library before unleashing such a volume of water it created its own rainbow.”—The L.A. Times, describing efforts to save the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley from the Easy Fire.

  • The library enlists goats each year to eat vegetation around the buildings as part of its effort to reduce fire risk.

What’s a state under siege to do?

The Kincade Fire in Sonoma County blackened almost 77,000 acres (photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group).

Santa Ana and Diablo winds blow at historic levels, tens of thousands of acres burn, communities are evacuated, and much of California is without power.

What big-picture solutions can Californians reasonably expect now that most of the easy calls have been made on wildfires? 

Not many, CalMatters’ Julie Cart and Judy Lin report.

In an explainer that lays out the next set of options — ranging from hard to harder — Cart and Lin, with an assist from reporters Laurel Rosenhall and Elizabeth Castillo, handicap the odds of commonly discussed proposals:

  • Why don’t we bury all the powerlines?
  • Why don’t we break up PG&E?  

What to expect in the short term: More blackout rebates from electricity providers, and probably more controlled burns.

For the odds on other ideas, and a place to submit your personal favorite, please check out their report by clicking here.

Trump undermines carmakers’ spin

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and the Association of Global Automakers for siding with him in his fight to block California from exercising decades-old authority to regulate auto emissions.

Remind me: Toyota, GM, Chrysler and Global Automakers intervened in a lawsuit by environmentalists challenging a Trump administration effort to roll back tougher fuel-efficiency standards set by the Obama administration, and embraced by California.

  • K. Stratton Kirton, a D.C. consultant representing the Global Automakers: “The decision to intervene is about how the standards should be applied (one national program), not about what they should be.”

Trump’s tweet: 

  • “Thank you @GM, @FiatChrysler_NA, @Toyota, and @GloblAutomkrs for standing with us for Better, Cheaper, Safer Cars for Americans. California has treated the Auto Industry very poorly for many years, harming Workers and Consumers. We are fixing this problem!”

Why it matters: Trump’s tweet undermines claims by GM, Toyota and Global Automakers that they aren’t undermining California’s effort to combat climate change and smog.

Trump’s tweet makes clear that the one standard he proposes is looser than the one adopted by the Obama administration and embraced by California and several other states that seek to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Ford, VW, BMW and Honda are aligned with California, the Newsom administration and 22 other states.

California’s low teen birth rate

Diana Shalabi, 20, with her 3-year-old daughter in Delano (photo by Alex Horvath/Bakersfield Californian)

California has one of the lowest teen birth rates in the nation, except in some California counties, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports.

  • Affluent Marin County has the lowest rate with just over six births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19. 
  • Imperial County is highest, with an Arkansas-like level of just over 33 births per 1,000 teenagers. 
  • Kern County, with nearly 32, ranks third-highest and is nearly double the state average.

Even so, teen birth rates are falling in every California county—sometimes dramatically.  Kern County’s rate has actually been cut almost in half in just a decade.

For Castillo’s analysis of what explains the drop, please click here.

Race to replace Katie Hill

Secretary of State Alex Padilla
Secretary of State Alex Padilla

Secretary of State Alex Padilla took himself out of the running for a soon-to-be vacant congressional seat, saying he wants to focus on ensuring the integrity of California’s election in 2020.

Padilla, a Democrat, had considered running to replace Congresswoman Katie Hill, of Antelope Valley, who announced she is stepping down after private photos of her surfaced on websites but still has not left office.

Padilla’s decision clears a path for Assemblywoman Christy Smith of Santa Clarita to win the Democratic nomination for Hill’s seat.

  • Padilla: “I know first hand the threats against our election system. That is where I need to be.”

Padilla also will focus on the 2020 census, so that as many Californians as possible are counted. Congressional seats are apportioned based on states’ population, as is federal aid.

  • “Nothing will please Donald Trump more than to have an undercount in California.”

On the Republican side, George Papadopoulos, once a campaign adviser to Trump, is running to replace Hill.

Papadopoulos, 32, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI as part of the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He was sentenced to 14 days in prison last year and a year’s probation.

  • Papadopoulos, who calls himself an outsider, either is not registered to vote in California, or very recently registered.
  • Papadopoulos is registered to vote at his mother’s home in Chicago.
  • California law promoted by Padilla makes registering to vote exceedingly simple. 
  • In California, ex-felons, including ones on probation, can vote.

Senator joins Trump administration

Sen. Jeff Stone is taking a post with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Riverside Republican Sen. Jeff Stone, who became one of the more partisan members of the upper house, is stepping down to join the Trump administration as Western Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Stone won reelection a year ago narrowly, 51.6% to 48.4%. 

However, Democrats have only an outside chance of picking up the seat. A special election for the primary likely would be held on March 3, with a run-off in May. Republican voters tend to turn out in special elections.

Stone often led Republicans on the Senate floor in denouncing Democrats’ legislation. But a pharmacist by training, he also bucked his party on tobacco-related issues.

Stone told me why he joined Democrats in signing onto legislation banning e-cigarettes in workplaces. His mother died of cancer: 

  • “My mom was truly addicted. I never saw anyone puff on a cigarette so hard.”

Stone endorsed Temecula City Councilman Matt Rahn as his replacement.

Polar opposites debate housing

State Sen. Scott Wiener (left), Democrat from San Francisco, and Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch (right).
State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco and Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch

Sen. Scott Wiener and Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch joust over the root causes of California’s housing crisis, on this episode of Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast by CalMatters’ Matt Levin and the L.A. Times’ Liam Dillon

Spoiler alert: They have very different prescriptions.

Commentary at CalMatters

Hector De La Torre and John Baackes,  L.A. Cares: For L.A. Care, the largest publicly operated health plan in the country, health insurance has to be more than a plastic card in our member’s wallet. As a plan serving nearly 2.2 million people, the vast majority of them Medi-Cal beneficiaries, we have taken numerous steps to address the various social factors that threaten member health. We are accountable and responsive to the communities we serve and, in recent years, that has meant moving beyond clinical care.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Ridershare and delivery services that rely on part-time drivers with their own vehicles are proposing a ballot measure to overturn a new law requiring those drivers to become payroll employees.


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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.