CalMatters made it a priority to cover the UN climate change conference in Scotland, but the governor’s office delayed critical information.
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Update: Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday he will not be attending the U.N. climate change conference. His press office cited “family obligations” and said Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis will go in his place.
The full statement: “Due to family obligations, Governor Newsom will no longer be traveling to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and will instead be participating virtually, focusing on California’s landmark climate change policies. Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis will be lead the California delegation to COP26 in Governor Newsom’s stead.”
On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom will be in Scotland, representing millions of Californians at the United Nations climate change conference. And we still have little idea what exactly he will be doing there.
That’s because a Thursday media briefing on the plans of the California delegation — which includes top members of the Newsom administration and 15 state lawmakers — was postponed at the 11th hour to this afternoon.
But even once Newsom’s itinerary is revealed, there won’t be many California reporters providing a firsthand look at how things are playing out on the ground.
That’s because Newsom’s office did not tell reporters that the governor would be attending the conference until 8:49 p.m. on Oct. 17 — nine days after the secretariat for the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change had closed the application for press credentials.
And the governor’s office didn’t publicly announce the trip until Oct. 25. At the bottom of the emailed media advisory was a line reading: “Information on media accreditation … can be found here.” The link led to the press credential application — which had closed on Oct. 8.
Still, CalMatters wanted to do everything in our power to cover the conference with the level of attention and rigor it deserved. While trying to procure a press credential, I booked lodgings and planned to fly to Glasgow on Saturday.
With the limited time we had to plan, we brainstormed coverage for the conference: I would live-tweet throughout the week, file a special newsletter dispatch each day from Glasgow and appear regularly on public radio stations throughout the state to share live updates. Climate change is one of California’s most central challenges, and we believe that detailed, on-the-ground coverage is crucial to understanding the decisions made by our state leaders and how they affect all 40 million of us.
Unfortunately, because of delays in communicating critical information, we won’t be able to execute on that plan. So we’ll be covering the conference as well as we can from California — thousands of miles and an eight-hour time difference away.
Newsom’s office did not respond to questions about why reporters were not informed about the governor’s trip until after the press credential application deadline.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 4,640,489 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 71,408 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. Are recall reforms on the way?
From CalMatters political reporter Laurel Rosenhall: State lawmakers on Thursday held a hearing to evaluate possible changes to California’s recall process — less than a week after Secretary of State Shirley Weber certified the results of the Sept. 14 election to recall Newsom, which he defeated by exactly the same margin that propelled him to the governorship in 2018. Of the numerous proposals that elections experts discussed on Thursday — separating the recall election from the replacement election, letting the lieutenant governor step in if the governor is recalled, requiring a standard of misconduct in order to initiate a recall — the most controversial was making it harder to get a recall on the ballot. Democrats said California’s standard is too easy and pointed to other states that require more signatures or allow less time to circulate petitions. Republicans said the fact that only 11 recalls have made the ballot of 179 attempts to oust state officials proves that California’s bar for qualification is already steep enough.
Any significant changes to the recall process would have to go before voters — and lawmakers may put a few options on the ballot. “We can’t package this all into one measure, or else we’re probably guaranteed to tank the whole thing,” said Assemblymember Marc Berman, a Menlo Park Democrat and chairperson of the Assembly Elections Committee.
Orrin Heatlie, the retired sheriff’s deputy who led the failed attempt to recall Newsom, held a small demonstration outside the Capitol building before the hearing started. He said he’s open to some of the reforms being discussed, but opposes making it harder to get a recall on the ballot: “It appears like they’re threatened by the process and they want to change it to where it benefits them the most.”
2. Feds, state inject money into ports
Newsom and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday announced a $5 billion infusion of loan money into California’s port system — but because the funds are set aside for long-term projects, they won’t immediately alleviate the massive backlog of cargo ships at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. And, as the Los Angeles Times notes, it’s unclear what exactly the money will be spent on: Some of the potential projects Newsom and Buttigieg list are “port-specific upgrades,” “expanding capacity for freight rail” and “other eligible projects of critical importance.” The announcement comes a week after Newsom issued an executive order to help unclog the ports, though critics pointed out that some of its provisions delay action for months or years.
In other loan news, the federal government on Wednesday approved low-interest disaster assistance loans for communities impacted by the Huntington Beach oil spill, including Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. And on Monday, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration will begin accepting applications for pandemic tax credits for qualified small businesses. You can apply here.
3. How gaps in social safety net intersect
A jaw-dropping example of how many of the challenges facing California are intertwined:
- The pandemic has exacerbated California’s shortage of child care — and child care workers. Providers are calling on the state to offer higher reimbursement rates, pointing out that low wages force many workers to rely on public assistance, such as food stamps. The state can either keep funneling public money to workers “through these social support services, or (it) could just fund the child care and make sure that the staff is getting paid adequately,” Gemma DiMatteo of the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network told CalMatters’ Grace Gedye.
- Meanwhile, demand for CalFresh, the state’s food stamp program, has shot up so much that understaffed social service departments can’t keep up, forcing some Californians to wait for hours on the phone to enroll and weeks to start receiving benefits, the Sacramento Bee reports.
- And on Thursday, the state auditor released a report that found hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families could lose pandemic food benefits due to delayed payments and insufficient outreach from the California Department of Social Services. Although State Auditor Elaine Howle noted that the delays were mostly caused by the federal government, she also urged the state to find the families who may have gone hungry. “Delivering these payments promptly is critical to helping children experiencing food insecurity,” she wrote.
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California is getting tough on new housing: The state plans to use all the tools at its disposal to hold local governments accountable for producing the necessary housing supply, writes Gustavo Velasquez, director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
Here’s how California can create more water: Look no further than a constitutional amendment proposed for the November 2022 state ballot, argue Shawn Dewane of the Mesa Water District, Edward Ring of the California Policy Center, Stephen Sheldon of the Orange County Water District, Geoffrey Vanden Heuvel of the California Milk Producers Council and Wayne Western Jr. of the California Farm Water Coalition.
Other things worth your time
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In divisive vote, Oakland school board decides students must get vaccinated to learn in person. // Oaklandside
California still lags in helping long-term English learners. // EdSource
Pandemic rules, stress of college life threaten RAs strikes across California. // CalMatters
California fast food workers walk out over wages, safety. // Los Angeles Times
In the middle of a crisis, Facebook renames itself Meta. // Associated Press
California’s old power gear is slowing the use of clean energy and electric cars. // New York Times
California judge rejects water deal for major farm supplier. // Associated Press
Litigation, inflation spike costs for Pure Water project. // San Diego Union-Tribune
California lawsuits against Trump continue in Biden administration. // Sacramento Bee
Why GOP stars like Marjorie Taylor Greene keep flocking to San Francisco post-recall. // San Francisco Chronicle
Businessman Ramit Varma enters L.A. mayor’s race. // Los Angeles Times
Firing at ‘Mission Girls’ highlights nonprofits’ struggle with accusations against community leader. // Mission Local
New California group forms to aid inmates’ return to society. // Associated Press
State investigating city’s decision to reject turning parking lot into 500 housing units. // San Francisco Chronicle
When a California pit stop became permanent, they scrambled for a place to buy. // New York Times
How Alex Honnold’s mom, Dierdre Wolownick, became the oldest woman to climb El Capitan. // Los Angeles Times
City mystery: The mourning doves stopped singing. What happened to them? // Los Angeles Times
California condors can reproduce without sex, San Diego Zoo reports. // San Diego Union-Tribune
See you Monday.
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