In summary

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox both embarked on statewide tours this week to promote their plans to reduce homelessness.

With Gov. Gavin Newsom in the headlines for suing his own elections chief over a legal dispute related to the recall ballot, the Republicans vying to replace him in this year’s special election are working to generate their own media buzz.

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox both embarked on statewide tours this week to promote their plans to reduce homelessness. Faulconer, who has sought to portray himself as the only serious candidate in the race, unveiled a six-point plan Tuesday that he says would enable widespread encampment cleanups by requiring homeless Californians to vacate public spaces once shelter beds are made available for them. Cox, meanwhile, changed his touring companion from a 1,000-pound bear to an 8-foot ball of trash while discussing plans to compel homeless people into mental health or addiction treatment before providing them with housing.

The proposals followed Newsom and lawmakers’ recent agreement to spend $12 billion on homelessness and affordable housing over the next two years, including an expansion of Newsom’s signature Project Homekey program.

  • Faulconer: “You can spend all the money in the world on this problem, but if you don’t have the political will to go out and say, ‘We’re not going to allow tent encampments on our sidewalks,’ you’re not going to change behavior.”

Faulconer and Cox are among the 55 Californians who have filed a statement of intention so far to run against Newsom in the recall. The vast majority are random citizens who readily admit they probably won’t win. But that isn’t stopping them from running — and neither is a recently announced requirement that all candidates must submit five years of tax returns to be made available to the public, though some question its necessity, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

As state officials get closer to setting an election date, keep up with all of CalMatters’ recall coverage by bookmarking our new recall guide.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,714,813 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,999 deaths (+0.01% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 41,479,219 vaccine doses, and 58.8% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.

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1. Biden and Newsom to discuss fires

Gov. Gavin Newsom; President Joe Biden. Photos by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Today, President Joe Biden will meet with Newsom and leaders of other Western states to discuss their trifecta of tribulations: a nascent wildfire season that could be worse than the one that shattered records last year, an ever-worsening drought and a searing heat wave that has already set record high temperatures across California and the Pacific Northwest. Though the political circumstances surrounding this virtual meeting are very different than those framing then-President Trump’s September 2020 visit to California for a wildfire briefing, the underlying challenges are largely the same. Newsom announced Tuesday that California had secured a federal disaster relief grant to help defray the costs of fighting the Lava Fire in Siskiyou County, which has already forced more than 8,000 evacuations as it bloomed to 13,300 acres. As of Tuesday, it remained just 20% contained despite 800 firefighters attacking the blaze.

Adding fuel to the already high-stakes situation, four officers on Monday shot and killed a man who the sheriff said fired a gun at them while leaving a large complex of cannabis farms under evacuation orders, the Sacramento Bee reports. The large-scale grows, which are banned in Siskiyou County, are primarily tended by Hmong and Chinese growers currently pursuing a federal civil rights lawsuit against local officials for alleged racial discrimination.

2. Who pays for wildfire damage?

A burned neighborhood is seen in Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 15, 2018. Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images

As fires burn increasingly large swaths of the California landscape, the question of “Who pays?” is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. But solutions are hard to come by, Miranda Green reports for CalMatters. Insurance companies want to factor climate change into their calculations for wildfire coverage, but consumer watchdogs worry California homeowners — many of whom have already lost their insurance altogether — could end up with higher premiums. Others blame the government, arguing it should have never allowed construction in fire-prone areas in the first place. Meanwhile, lawmakers who represent communities devastated by fires are receptive to the idea of raising rates some — as long as it means residents can continue to stay on their property.

3. Higher education’s unfunded promises

A student walks across campus at Chico State University on Feb. 12, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

State lawmakers are boasting about a massive infusion of higher education funding in the $263 billion budget they passed Tuesday. But there’s a catch: Some of their biggest promises — including $515 million to create a debt-free grant for lower- and middle-income UC and CSU students and $149 million to fund 15,000 extra seats for California residents at the UC and CSU — didn’t receive a single dollar in the budget. None of the money for those programs will be made available unless lawmakers and the governor agree next year to fund them, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports. So even as the budget injects real money that will immediately help hundreds of thousands of students, it also creates possible problems for California’s public higher education system — which is now under pressure to hire faculty with money it doesn’t have to prepare for a surge in student enrollment that may not even materialize.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom claims that California’s economy is “roaring back” as the COVID-19 pandemic fades, but the data indicate a much slower recovery.

Problems with California’s public utilities commission: Its recent vote against rooftop solar favors utilities over consumers and derails efforts to meet the state’s climate change goals, argues Laura Neish of 350 Bay Area.

Blame energy rate hikes on broken promises: Community choice aggregators were supposed to provide cheaper electricity, but some now charge more than large utility companies, writes Bob Dean of IBEW Local 1245.

Changing California’s math approach: It’s time to emphasize data science and spread the word that almost no university in the country requires calculus for admission, argue Elisha Smith Arrillaga of UT Austin and Pamela Burdman of Just Equations.

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Other things worth your time

This tech firm moved California jobs overseas. The state just offered them a tax break to come back. // Sacramento Bee

California, Mexico sign agreement to open new Otay Mesa border crossing by late 2024. // San Diego Union-Tribune

How the pandemic positioned San Francisco to become ‘the Napa Valley of cannabis.’ // San Francisco Chronicle

How domestic violence became the No. 1 cause of homelessness for women in Los Angeles. // LAist

California’s red-hot real estate market cools just a bit. // New York Times

Napa Valley feud pits real-estate startup against homeowners. // Wall Street Journal

Orange County cities sue state over ‘erroneous’ homebuilding goals. // Orange County Register

San Francisco property owners may sue city over lifetime leases granted during condo conversion. // San Francisco Chronicle

Lawyers: City’s ‘volunteer’ consultant on Ash Street deal was paid millions by seller. // San Diego Union-Tribune

In Venice, two approaches to homeless outreach are on a collision course. // LAist

Bay Area man named chief of U.S. Forest Service. // Mercury News

‘Bottom of the barrel’ California oil can be far more carbon-intensive than what the state imports. // KQED

Here are the dirtiest beaches in California. // Los Angeles Times

What are the odd sea creatures that look like fingers found recently off California’s coastline? // Mercury News

See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...