In summary

Bloomberg brings presidential campaign to Sacramento. Talk of turning PG&E into a publicly owned utility grows. California may get a new state park.

Good morning, California.

Nice going, Iowa.

Bloomberg does Sacramento

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg

On the day of the Iowa caucuses fiasco, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg was doing retail politics in downtown Sacramento, heading toward the March 3 primary, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. 

The billionaire former New York City mayor missed the deadline to compete in the early states, so he focused on the big states that come later in the electoral calendar but yield far more nominating delegates.

On Monday, Bloomberg started his public schedule at Old Soul Co. coffee shop in Sacramento. There, he touted the endorsement of California Treasurer Fiona Ma. The place was packed.

No candidate has ever won by ignoring the early states. Rudy Giuliani tried in 2008, holding out for a big win in Florida on Super Tuesday. It never came.

Bloomberg, who succeeded Giuliani as New York mayor, is confident his story will end differently:

  • “I’ve been to 24 states and 56 cities in the last four or five weeks. I don’t think Rudy did that.”

Bloomberg also spent $200 million in his first month of campaigning.

Ma wasn’t the only high-profile endorsement for Bloomberg in the past few days. On Saturday, former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pledged his support. 

Money matters: Bloomberg spent $3.5 million backing Villaraigosa for governor in 2018: 

  • Bloomberg: “He wanted me out here campaigning for him in his elections, and I wanted him in New York campaigning on mine. Why? Because each of us thinks the other guy has experiences which would be useful and they want their potential voters to know who they rely on for advice and who they have something in common with.”

Mayors stick together: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs were traveling with Bloomberg as he made his way from Sacramento to Fresno and Southern California.

California’s presidential ATM

This map depicts presidential candidate fund-raising in California.
  • Which presidential candidate raised the most from California in 2019?
  • Who relied the most on the Golden State’s largesse?
  • Where are your neighbors sending their political dollars?

CalMatters’ Ben Christopher offers answers in the form of a hypnotically interactive graphic.

This is the latest in a series of such charts that Christopher has been making to track the role that California donors are playing in the 2020 presidential election.

To experience the chart, please click here.

A new state park, perhaps

Some are speculating California is seeking to purchase N3 cattle ranch. (Photo, courtesy of California Outdoor Properties)

Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes to spend $20 million to buy land for California’s first new state park in years. 

CalMatters’ Julie Cart raises a question

  • “[W]ith the park system facing a billion-collar maintenance backlog, how can the state ensure that the beaches are clean, the toilets flush and some 2 million archaeological specimens are in safe hands?”

The California Department of Parks and Recreation has a to-do list of nearly 4,000 projects, from painting and roof repairs to $10 million to replace lifeguard towers, $24 million for a road at Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and $16 million for coastal access stairways at Carlsbad State Beach.

In his new budget, Newsom’s proposed parks budget includes:

  • $4.6 million to buy private land within park borders
  • $8.7 million to expand access to urban parks
  • $20 million to fund a grant program that assists people in underserved areas gain access to educational programs in state parks
  • And $20 million for the new state park

Newsom wouldn’t divulge the location.

But speculation focuses on N3 Ranch, 80 square miles of wilderness in the Bay Area’s backyard.

Parks Director Lisa Mangat: 

  • “It’s a big deal to secure and run a new state park. We haven’t had this type of opportunity in such a long time.”

To read Cart’s story, please click here.

Report: Don’t scrap SAT yet

A UC Davis egghead sculture outside the university’s library

A University of California faculty task force recommended that UC keep the SAT and ACT in its criteria for acceptance until it can develop its own admissions test, CalMatters’ Felicia Mello reports.

  • A new test could take nine years to develop.

Although not the last word, the recommendation carries substantial weight as the university nears a turning point in a charged debate with national implications. 

Remind me: The report follows months of speculation about whether UC might make it optional for applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, as more than 1,000 colleges have done.

Critics say the standardized tests discriminate against low-income students and underrepresented minorities but are a boon to test administrators. 

  • The Varsity Blues scandal illustrated how wealthy families can game tests. 
  • Some UC regents and chancellors are publicly questioning the tests.
  • The College Board and ACT Inc. offered the exams to more than 100,000 UC applicants last year.

What’s ahead: UC’s Academic Senate is expected to issue a final recommendation in April. The regents could take it up in May.

To read Mello’s report, please click here.

PG&E takeover talk grows louder

Sen. Scott Wiener in San Francisco announcing legislation to turn PG&E into a public utility

Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener has proposed transforming bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric into a publicly owned utility, a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom again threatened a takeover.

Wiener represents San Francisco, PG&E’s headquarters city. Wiener likened his vision to a public-private partnership similar to the Long Island Power Authority, owned by the state of New York. 

The goal would be to create a utility that places safety, reliability and affordability above shareholder profits.

The plan would be to establish a state power authority, led by a governor-appointed board, to purchase the utility’s assets, and transition to public ownership. A public benefit corporation would manage operations.

  • Wiener: “Just to be blunt, it will put an end to the dangerous roller coaster ride that we have been on with PG&E over the past decade.”
  • PG&E: “We remain firmly convinced that a government or customer takeover is not the optimal solution that will address the challenges ahead.”

Some utility workers, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, heckled Wiener’s San Francisco press conference.

PG&E serves 16 million people in 48 counties. Its equipment malfunctions have led to scores of deaths in recent years, and the company has twice in two decades turned to bankruptcy court to reorganize its debt.

Separately: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has called for turning PG&E into a cooperative. 

They made a difference

Amanda and Nick Wilcox, on the Assembly floor on Monday

Amanda and Nick Wilcox stood before the Assembly and Senate, hearing lawmakers praise them Monday, no doubt wishing they didn’t have to be there.

They’re the parents of Laura Wilcox, the college sophomore who was working during winter break answering phones for the Nevada County Department of Behavioral Health in January 2001, when Scott Thorpe, a mentally ill man who had been amassing weapons, inexplicably opened fire, killing her and two others. 

The Wilcoxes decided to change the law, advocating for what became known as Laura’s Law.

The 2002 measure allows counties to establish courts in which judges can insist on treatment for people who are severely mentally ill and have committed relatively minor crimes or are deemed to be dangers to themselves or others.

They also became the face in the Capitol of the The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, voluntarily advocating for numerous gun control bills that have become law.

They’re retiring, and so the Senate and Assembly honored them.

  • The Assembly resolution: “Together, Amanda and Nick Wilcox have drastically improved gun violence-prevention efforts and mental health care in the State of California, and in recognition of their tireless commitment to enhancing public safety, they are deserving of special public commendations.”
  • Nick: “We’re not done.”

About half the state’s almost 40 million residents live in counties that have adopted Laura’s Law.

Amanda and Nick Wilcox are advocating for one more bill, legislation by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, Stockton Democrat, that would extend the law to all counties.

Commentary at CalMatters

Marten Roorda, ACT: Test equity and fair access to higher education must be meaningfully evaluated and addressed on an ongoing basis. But attempting to fix the problem by reducing or eliminating standardized testing such as the SAT or ACT will create several unintended consequences that need to be fully considered.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Gov. Gavin Newsom says he wants a “California for All” that closes its economic gaps, but the reality is daunting and at the moment, the gaps are growing wider.

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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.