In summary

California “liberals” become Wall Street Journal punching bag. Corporate board gender law to be challenged in court. Goats can save your home from fire.

Good morning, California.

“BREAKING: East Coast is becoming an unlivable, dark underworld of terror. Love, West Coast media.”—San Francisco Chronicle editor Audrey Cooper, tweeting about a headline: “NYC Officials Urge Residents To Prepare For Rain, Snow And Plummeting Temperatures.”

California bashing

Yes, rain falls in California when California is not burning or falling into the ocean.

East Coast writers regularly declare an end to our once Golden State. But since Sept. 30, the Wall Street Journal editorial board has attacked California “liberals” and “Democrats” at least a dozen times.

Parroting President Trump’s anti-California campaign themes, for instance, the Journal opined from 3,000 miles away:

  • “The deterioration of the City by the Bay has been tragic to watch” and “open use of narcotics is commonplace, homeless encampments dominate public spaces, and human feces dot the sidewalks.” (No mention that San Francisco’s tourism also hit a record high last year.)

Referring to PG&E’s power shutdowns, another editorial opens by saying that “Californians are learning to live like the Amish …” (We are?)

There have been blackouts in recent weeks, as the editorial writers note, but not “rolling blackouts.” Those occurred in the last energy crisis, when energy traders in a partially deregulated energy sector manipulated the electricity system.

Editorials laud Trump’s suit challenging California’s cap-and-trade agreement with Quebec, and Trump’s proposal to ship more water to San Joaquin Valley farms.

  • “Will California liberals accept the deregulatory gift?”

The housing problem? “Politicians have bulldozed market forces.”

Gasoline prices? Blame Democrats.

  • The editorial board states “California Gov. Gavin Newsom … ordered state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to investigate oil companies for allegedly overcharging consumers and price-fixing.” 

California governors don’t order attorneys general around. AGs are independently elected and not answerable to governors.

WSJ editorial page editor Paul Gigot didn’t respond to an email asking about the editorials.

Suit over corporate board law

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson speaks from the dais at a Senate committee hearing.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, Democrat of Santa Barbara

Legislation approved last year requiring that California-based publicly traded corporations include women on their boards will face a legal challenge.

The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation filed the suit in federal court in Sacramento on behalf of Creighton Meland Jr., an attorney from Illinois who owns shares in Hawthorne-based OSI Systems.

OSI, which sells security machines and medical monitoring and anesthesia systems, has a seven-man board of directors. Under the legislation by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat, OSI would need three women by the end of 2021.

  • Attorney Anastasia Boden, of the Pacific Legal Foundation, said in a statement: “This law is built on the condescending belief that women aren’t capable of getting into the boardroom unless the government opens the door for them. Women are capable of earning a spot on corporate boards without the government coercing businesses to hire them.”

In signing the legislation, then-Gov. Jerry Brown cited “serious legal concerns” with the concept. But there was a matter of timing: The U.S. Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, following allegations he had assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when he was in high school.

  • Brown: “Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.”

Brown underscored his point by adding: “CC: United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary.”

Enlisting goats to fight fire

Bleating goats are nature’s vegetation management. (Photo via iStock)

As wildfires become more ferocious, state officials recommend that homeowners do more to harden property in high-risk areas. Fireproofing can be pricey, but some solutions are no more expensive than basic home repairs. 

CalMatters reporter Adria Watson found affordable ways to fireproof your home: French lavender, a good pair of pruners and goats.

With one in three homes located in the urban-wildland interface, CalFire provides a long to-do list for hardening homes for wildfire season. Some are high-cost, such as replacing roofs and windows. Others require a few tools and some do-it-yourself attitude.

Watson offers affordable and effective tricks, from planting fire-resistant landscaping to installing screens in vents to block embers. And if you’re looking for nature’s vegetation management, look no further than bleating goats.

Roy Austin, owner of Goat Central in El Dorado County, has been renting goats for 20 years, sending four-legged fire mitigators “where machine and chemicals can’t be used.”

Money matters: Goat rentals are $1,000 an acre, although demand can push the price higher. Plus, they provide fertilization and entertainment.

To read Watson’s complete report, please click here.

A fourth California vaping death

A 45-year-old woman has died of vaping-related lung disease, five days after she came down with what she thought was a cold, Marin County’s public health officer reported Wednesday.

The woman, Amanda Margot Arconti, is the fourth Californian to die of the disease since the epidemic was first noticed in June. 

Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County public health officer, said she arrived at a hospital in Novato too sick to be interviewed. Family members said she had vaped nicotine. It’s not yet known whether she also used cannabis. Authorities are testing samples of vapes to determine their contents.

  • Willis: “One of the scary features of it is that it can hit otherwise healthy people and progress really quickly.  … This is a woman who did not have any significant medical issues and was well only five days earlier.”

The nature of her symptoms pointed to a toxic chemical exposure. She was the first person in Marin County hospitalized with vaping-related lung disease. Willis and other public health experts are urging people to stop vaping.

  • KTVU: “Arconti’s brother and aunt, in separate Facebook posts, said that ‘Mandy’ was diagnosed with double pneumonia a day before she died. Her aunt said that she leaves behind a 5-year-old son.”

Cops’ misuse of databases to snoop

Sensitive databases have been misused by law enforcement. (Image by Thinkstock)

More than 1,000 California law enforcement agency workers in the past decade have snooped on unsuspecting individuals by misusing sensitive databases that are supposed to be accessed only for legitimate investigative purposes, The Sacramento Bee reports.

The Chula Vista Police Department reported 38 violations in 2018 stemming from one internal investigation, the highest number in the state. Glendale was second with 25 violations.

The Bee based its report on data collected by Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office, and compiled by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

  • 82 law enforcement agency employees have resigned as a result of such investigations in the past 10 years.
  • 86 were fired.
  • 125 were suspended.
  • Only 40 misdemeanor and 14 felony cases were filed.

The report is part of a collaboration with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley and reporters from 30 newsrooms in California.

For CalMatters columnist Dan Walters’ take, please click here.

Commentary at CalMatters

Mike Males, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice: The dismal reality is that America stumbles from crisis to crisis, allowing epidemics to soar out of control. If serious researchers can get the politicians, ideologues and authorities who haven’t had a new idea in 50 years out of the way, perhaps the nation can learn from California’s unexpected trends.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: A project by journalists reveals that dozens of California cops who committed serious crimes are still on the job.


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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.