In summary

Is California (a) leading the nation in job creation (b) home to the country’s second-highest unemployment rate or (c) all of the above?

Pop quiz: Is California (a) leading the nation in job creation (b) home to the country’s second-highest unemployment rate or (c) all of the above?

The answer, believe it or not, is (c) — giving ammunition to both Gov. Gavin Newsom and the challengers seeking to oust him in the Sept. 14 recall election.

“California continues to lead the nation’s economic recovery,” Newsom proclaimed on Friday, when the state Employment Development Department released a report showing that the Golden State added 114,400 new jobs in July — more than any other state. In a Monday tweet thread denouncing the recall, the California Democratic Party noted that the state’s July 2021 unemployment rate of 7.6% was 5.6 percentage points lower than it was in July 2020.

Jessica Millan Patterson, chairperson of the California Republican Party, found different statistics to highlight. “Gavin Newsom’s CA isn’t ‘roaring back,’ it’s barely scraping by,” she tweeted Monday, pointing out that the Golden State last week accounted for 21.4% of the nation’s new unemployment claims, despite making up just 11.7% of its workforce. She also noted that California’s 7.6% unemployment rate is the second-highest in the nation (a title it shares with New Mexico and New York).

California’s revised unemployment rate has essentially been static in recent months: It was 7.7% in May and 7.6% in June. The number of Californians receiving some form of unemployment insurance — more than 3 million — has also barely budged, according to Michael Bernick, an attorney at Duane Morris and former EDD director. Meanwhile, nearly 69,000 Californians filed new jobless claims for the week ending Aug. 14, marking the state’s highest total in three months.

Although some experts have suggested unemployment rates will improve after Sept. 4 — when federal jobless supplements of $300 weekly are slated to end and presumably persuade workers to go off benefits — that idea was complicated by new data showing that only eight of the 26 states that cut off those benefits early saw a statistically significant drop in unemployment in July.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 4,123,250 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 64,677 deaths (+0% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 46,057,281 vaccine doses, and 65.3% 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. Drumming up recall awareness

Jennifer Shanoski canvasses door-to-door in East Oakland urging residents to vote against recalling Gov. Newsom on July 27, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Jennifer Shanoski canvasses door-to-door in East Oakland urging residents to vote against recalling Gov. Newsom on July 27, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

California’s stagnant jobless rate will likely be one of Newsom’s main impediments to defeating the recall, according to data analyst and Washington Post political columnist David Byler. Another top challenge Byler identifies: Energizing Democratic voters. The enthusiasm gap was evident in Monday Sacramento Bee and San Francisco Chronicle stories, in which reporters accompanied union volunteers as they went door to door, encouraging Democrats to vote “no” on the recall. Not many people answered the door in the first place, and when they did, the majority weren’t aware of the election specifics. Khalia Hom, 26, told the Chronicle’s Alexei Koseff that she couldn’t remember whether the commercials she had seen on TV supported or opposed the recall. Other voters said they planned to keep Newsom in office, but weren’t sure how how to mark their ballots.

Meanwhile, some of Newsom’s Republican challengers — plus Democrat Kevin Paffrath — are gearing up for the fourth recall debate on Wednesday night. Among the attendees is Kevin Kiley, a 36-year-old state assemblymember who last year sued Newsom in an attempt to limit his emergency powers. CalMatters spent an hour interviewing Kiley about his proposed education reforms, unwillingness to criticize other Republicans and legislative background. Check out the five takeaways from our conversation, as compiled by CalMatters’ Ben Christopher — and make sure to watch the video, too.

2. Caldor Fire nation’s top priority

In this long exposure photo, embers fly from burning trees as the Caldor Fire grows on Mormom Emigrant Trail east of Sly Park on Aug. 17, 2021. Photo by Ethan Swope, AP Photo
In this long exposure photo, embers fly from burning trees as the Caldor Fire grows on Mormon Emigrant Trail east of Sly Park on Aug. 17, 2021. Photo by Ethan Swope, AP Photo

The Caldor Fire, “knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe basin,” is now the “No. 1 priority in the nation” when it comes to allocating firefighting resources, Cal Fire Director Thom Porter said Monday. The nine-day-old blaze, which soared past 100,000 acres on Monday and was just 5% contained, has destroyed 557 structures, forced schools to shutter and closed parts of busy Highway 50. It’s also prompted the closure of nine national forests and numerous Lake Tahoe campgrounds, trails and resorts through at least Labor Day — throwing the region’s tourist industry into uncertainty. On Monday, the air quality around the blaze was the worst in the country, prompting some residents to evacuate.

  • Mike Rogge, a North Tahoe resident: “We’re not the first ones to leave, and I imagine we won’t be the last. I guess this is just part of living here now. It’s sad.”

Newsom on Monday requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to assist state and local governments’ wildfire recovery efforts. Among the casualties of the monstrous Dixie Fire, the second-largest in state history: nearly half of Lassen Volcanic National Park and sacred land recently regained by Native American Maidu tribes. With fires becoming more and more omnipresent, the San Francisco Unified School District on Monday announced plans to spend $2.9 million on air purifiers to prevent kids from inhaling unhealthy wildfire smoke. And leaders from Los Angeles, whose fire season typically doesn’t start until October, are urging residents to start preparing now.

3. Affordable housing, three ways

A view of the Coliseum is seen from the hills in East Oakland on Jan. 14, 2019. The Oakland Athletics have pitched a redevelopment plan for the Coliseum site. Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group
A view of the Oakland Coliseum is seen from the hills in East Oakland on Jan. 14, 2019. Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group

What do Anaheim, San Diego and Alameda County have in common? All of them are trying to revitalize the space around their sports arenas to help convince professional sports teams to stay — and all of them are facing challenges from the state for not including enough affordable housing in their redevelopment plans, CalMatters’ Erika Paz reports. To avoid steep fees, San Diego chose to restart its project — but Anaheim is disputing the state’s citation, a risk that could carry a $96 million penalty. Meanwhile, Alameda County taxpayers could be on the hook for $25.5 million if California finds the county’s sale of Oakland Coliseum violated state law.

But state-level enforcement is just one way of incentivizing the construction of affordable housing. In an attempt to house California’s middle-income workers, some local government agencies are buying buildings — usually luxury ones — and lowering the rent, the Los Angeles Times reports. Meanwhile, a highly controversial bill that would allow up to 10 housing units on single-family lots in urban cores squeaked out of the state Assembly on Monday, likely thanks to a provision, unlike previous versions, to let local governments choose whether to implement it.

  • Assemblymember Tim Grayson, a Vallejo Democrat: “We regularly pass housing bills that asked a lot of our local governments. Let’s pass this bill to provide them with the ability to decide for themselves how they want to shape their communities.”

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: A new report from the state auditor provides ammunition for the drive to recall Newsom.

The disaster that brought us to Dixie: It wasn’t simply a natural disaster; it was also sparked by corporate greed, agency arrogance and a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of fire in Sierra Nevada forests, writes independent journalist Jane Braxton Little.

California’s courts serve debt-collection industry: Borrowers almost never have legal representation in court — the state should guarantee the right to a lawyer, argue Prasad Krishnamurthy of the UC Berkeley School of Law and Emma Elizabeth Gonzalez of the Public Law Center.

California’s proposed math curriculum adds up: Teaching data science and statistical reasoning in addition to traditional algebra ensures students will be better prepared than ever, writes Pamela Burdman of Just Equations.

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Other things worth your time

Documenting the Caldor Fire when it’s in your backyard. // New York Times

In fire-scorched California, this town aims to buy the highest at-risk properties. // NPR

South Valley communities on verge of losing water press Newsom to halt 18% rate hike. // San Joaquin Valley Sun

For California’s recall redux, big changes since last time around. // Capitol Weekly

Many small districts complain California shorted their funding during the pandemic. // EdSource

How California’s vaccination drive came to rely on an army of consultants. // Washington Post

Democratic state lawmaker gets breakthrough COVID-19 case. // Sacramento Bee

Data breach at California college reveals vaccine exemption requests. // Sacramento Bee

Revealed: How California police chased a nonexistent ‘antifa bus.’ // The Guardian

Bakersfield agrees to police reform measures with state attorney general. // Associated Press

Andrew Cuomo grants clemency to David Gilbert, father of Chesa Boudin. // San Francisco Chronicle

California Supreme Court rejects death penalty for mentally ill man. // Los Angeles Times

Coronavirus pandemic blamed as key factor in Los Angeles’ spiking homicide rate. // Daily News

Al Capone’s granddaughters are auctioning off his belongings, including his favorite handgun. // San Francisco Chronicle

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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...