In summary

Newsom takes on PG&E again. U.S. Supreme Court gives a win to homeless advocates. Clock is ticking for all-male corporate boards.

Good morning, California.

“There’s only one alternative left, and that’s to actually bring people indoors with greater urgency.”—Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, co-chair of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s homeless commission, to The L.A. Times.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a lower court ruling that blocks cities from enforcing bans on sleeping in public places.

Newsom again blasts PG&E

Gov. Gavin Newsom (Photo by Eric Paul Zamora for the Fresno Bee)

Gov. Gavin Newsom told the bankruptcy judge presiding over PG&E’s reorganization that the utility ignored his concerns and offered a restructuring plan that is “more about creating an illusion of momentum.”

The pointed filing Monday came as PG&E lawyers prepare for a hearing in San Francisco today before U.S. District Judge Dennis Montali on its plan to pay wildfire victims $13.5 billion and reorganize itself.

Remind me: Newsom told the utility in a scathing letter Friday that its plan falls short, and submitted that letter to Montali. That letter called for the ouster of the current board, and urged that it be replacement with a majority of Californians and include experts on utility safety.

Montali controls PG&E’s restructuring, but Newsom has significant power too:

  • The governor and legislators could block access to a wildfire-recovery fund established by legislation earlier this year.
  • The governor appoints the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees PG&E and other private utilities. The commission determines PG&E’s rate of return and whether it is licensed to do business in California.
  • In the extreme, the state could seize control of the utility.

Bottom line: Newsom needs a safe and functioning utility. And PG&E cannot function without the governor’s consent.

A ‘win’ for homeless advocates

A homeless person asleep on a bench Monday in downtown Sacramento

Local governments cannot ban homeless people from sleeping in public places if those jurisdictions lack shelters to house them, under a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday that lets stand a lower court ruling.

Remind me: A 1992 Boise, Idaho, city ordinance banned people from sleeping in parks and other public spaces. When police cited Boise homeless people, they sued.

The San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Western states including California, ruled in 2018 that cities cannot enforce bans against people for sleeping in public places if there is no shelter for them.

Boise appealed, but the case resonated far beyond Idaho. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce and L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer asked the justices to step in. So did several states, though not California.

  • Boise has 120 to 140 chronically homeless people. 
  • California has 130,000 homeless people, including 36,000 in Los Angeles.

The Idaho Statesman quoted Theane Evangelis, the Los Angeles attorney who represented Boise:

  • “[T]he Ninth Circuit’s decision ultimately harms the very people it purports to protect.”

Next step: Build more shelters.

Changing culture, defending suits

women corporate boards
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Los Angeles executive recruiter Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire (Photo courtesy of Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson)

The clock is ticking for corporations with all-male boards in California. 

Publicly held companies headquartered in the Golden State have until Jan. 1 to name at least one woman to their boards.

CalMatters contributor Martha Groves writes that the law authored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat, has lit a fire under a lot of corporate boards in the state.

At least two dozen have diversified male-only boards in the past few months, according to one study by scholars at Clemson University and the University of Arizona.

Women now are directors at previously all-male holdouts such as, TiVo and Skechers.

  • Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, 2020 Women on Boards: “We’ve already won the hearts and minds of corporations and good-governance leaders throughout the country. We’ve already won the public-awareness campaign.”

But the “woman quota,” as critics deride it, has prompted at least two lawsuits.

Anastasia Boden of Pacific Legal Foundation is suing. She said the problem isn’t women on boards, per se. Rather, it’s “forcing people to make decisions based on sex.”

  • Boden: “This law … just reduces people back down to their immutable traits.”

To read Groves’ complete piece, please click here.

Thank you for your service

Then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in May (Photo by Tia Dufour, The White House via Flickr)

The recent State Department email started out pleasant enough:

  • “Dear Markos,
  • “Happy Friday and I hope all is well in the Bay Area.” 
  • The point: “I’m writing because I’ve just been advised that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is filling your seat on the board.”

That would be the board that oversees Fulbright Scholarships, a government-funded program that seeks to give students and scholars from this country and others a greater understanding of the world. Its directors serve at the President’s pleasure.

So it was only a matter of time before the Trump administration noticed that one of the directors was author Markos Kounalakis, an Obama appointee, a Hoover Institution fellow, and husband of Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat.

No matter that Kounalakis is a former Newsweek and NBC foreign correspondent, was the one Fulbright board member with a doctorate, or that he is a foreign affairs columnist for McClatchy.

Former White House Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders, a Fox New contributor, had credentials that mattered.

The State Department announcement called Huckabee “a trusted confidante of the President,” who was “at the President’s side, battling with the media, working with lawmakers and CEOs, and staffing the President on every foreign trip, including dozens of meetings with foreign leaders.”

Take a number: 3

Sabrina Cervantes in September (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes has given birth to triplets, the fourth California legislator and the first LGBT lawmaker to give birth while in office, she announced via Twitter on Monday.

  • The Riverside Democrat: “My wife and I are blessed to welcome our three newborns into the world. We look forward to celebrating the holidays with the three newest additions to our family.”

Her bills include one aimed at enhancing mental health care of new mothers, as detailed by CalMatters’ Elizabeth Castillo.

Commentary at CalMatters

Marcie Frost, California Public Employees’ Retirement System: CalPERS is using its voice, shareowner votes and investment dollars to minimize climate risk to our portfolio and investments while teaming up with others to ensure we see action, not just words. 

Dan Walters, CalMatters: A former state Assemblyman who pleaded guilty last month to charges of misleading investors was an enigmatic figure during his terms in the Capitol.


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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.