In summary

Gov. Newsom issued an executive order to help unclog the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, where there is a record backlog of ships.

One if by land, two if by sea — but expect delays either way.

On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to help unclog the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, outside of which a record 100 ships idled on Tuesday as they waited to unload their cargo.

It’s the government’s latest attempt to unsnarl massive backlogs in the supply chain as the holidays approach and the scarcity of critical goods drives up inflation rates. Last week, President Joe Biden directed the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports to move toward 24/7 operations. On Wednesday, California’s two U.S. senators asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to address bottlenecks in “moving these goods on our highways and railroads.” Meanwhile, the Port of Oakland — which is experiencing a decrease in cargo volume significant enough to leave some dockworkers idle — is begging companies to send their ships to the East Bay instead.

But for a coalition of powerful California business groups, these measures don’t address one of the problem’s main roots: overregulation.

In a Tuesday letter to Newsom, the business groups asked him to declare a state of emergency at the ports. They also demanded he suspend numerous controversial state laws, including one that requires developers to mitigate their projects’ environmental impact and another that forced many companies to reclassify independent workers as employees.

  • The business groups wrote: “The supply chain crisis at the ports is the inevitable culmination of … a series of state, regional and local mandates forced upon every aspect of the goods movement economy.”

Citing the country’s unprecedented shortage of truckers and warehouse workers, other business groups are urging Biden to delay until next year implementation of his vaccine-or-testing order for businesses with 100 or more employees. Vaccine mandates have caused the highest level of employee turnover in the transportation and health care industries, according to a recent study from labor law firm Fisher Phillips LLP.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 4,595,382 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 70,593 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 51,473,669 vaccine doses, and 72.2% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters is tracking the results of the Newsom recall election, which will be certified Oct. 22.

1. Will UC lecturers go on strike?

Demonstrators and teachers march through UCLA's campus in solidarity with the UC faculty on Oct. 13, 2021. Zaydee Sanchez for CalMatters
Demonstrators and teachers march through UCLA’s campus in solidarity with the UC faculty on Oct. 13, 2021. Photo by Zaydee Sanchez for CalMatters

Speaking of labor disputes, University of California officials and the union representing its more than 6,000 lecturers will meet Friday to discuss UC’s latest contract proposal — one that has inched closer to lecturers’ demands in the wake of a bombshell investigation from CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn and state lawmakers’ repeated calls for UC leadership to “prioritize labor peace and job stability for lecturers.” But the union says the proposed contract still contains troubling loopholes — leaving open the possibility of multiple strikes, which could result in classes being cancelled for a third of undergraduate students. Mikhail takes a look at what the new version of the contract contains — and what it doesn’t.

In other labor news, a national shutdown of film and TV production was averted Monday, when the union representing Hollywood crews managed to strike a tentative deal with studios. But there’s still trouble in paradise: Some union members don’t plan to ratify the new contract, meaning a strike is still possible. And some Netflix employees staged a walkout Wednesday to protest the company’s release of “The Closer,” a Dave Chappelle comedy special they say contains transphobic remarks.

2. Cracking down on donations — kind of

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters; iStock

Today, California’s political ethics regulators are set to vote on new rules that would increase transparency around a practice increasingly favored by elected officials: using charitable organizations that they or their family members control to raise and spend money outside the limits of the state’s strict campaign finance laws. But the proposed rules — spurred by an investigation from CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall — still fall far short of what government watchdogs say is necessary. As Laurel reports, tougher laws would need to be written by state lawmakers themselves — and that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. 

The vote comes amid a flurry of financial scandals: The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to suspend Mark Ridley-Thomas, a week after the powerful councilman was indicted on federal bribery, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud charges. Also Wednesday, former San Francisco Public Utilities Commissioner Harlan Kelly pled not guilty to new federal fraud charges stemming from a years-long investigation into corruption at City Hall. And, just a few days after the former executive director of California’s largest labor union was booked into Sacramento County jail on numerous criminal charges — including grand theft and income tax evasion — a San Diego labor leader stepped down amid the discovery that he had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in “unintended compensation.”

3. Fending off the flu

A person with the flu in bed. Photo via iStock
Photo via iStock

California is heading into flu season — and experts are warning that relaxed masking, physical distancing and traveling restrictions could lead to an uptick in severe influenza cases, which were virtually nonexistent last year due to heightened safety measures, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. Such a surge would bode poorly for hospitals, many of which are already overcrowded and understaffed. Further complicating matters, California is also seeing an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — for which there is no vaccine.

These concerns may have prompted California’s top public health officials on Wednesday to reaffirm the state’s commitment to keeping a mask mandate in K-12 schools. “Now is not the time to let our guard down — especially as the winter months approach,” wrote Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Big things are happening in California’s public school system — but it’s unclear if the long-term effects will be positive or negative.

Protect California’s families: Our congressional leadership must ensure that critical housing investments stay in the federal Build Back Better Act, argues Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation.

Other things worth your time

California will have a ‘historic budget surplus’ in 2022, Newsom says. // Sacramento Bee

Bay Area county fines burger chain over vaccine verification. // Associated Press

Riverside beefs up park security to address homelessness. // CalMatters

Japantown hotel will not turn into homeless housing, following months of backlash. // San Francisco Chronicle

San Jose divided over plan to fence off large airport encampment. // Mercury News

City uses ankle monitors to keep defendants out of jail. But does the system work? // San Francisco Chronicle

Street racing surged during COVID. Los Angeles now wants to crack down. // Los Angeles Times

City’s new plan to curb car break-ins: offering tipsters $100,000. // San Francisco Chronicle

Why liberal California has a racial profiling problem. // Daily Beast

California law shields wildland arsonists from animal cruelty charges. Here’s how. // San Francisco Chronicle

How Los Angeles Zoo plans may impact California wildlife and plants. // Los Angeles Times

Meet the women firefighters battling flames in California. // National Geographic

See how the Dixie Fire created its own weather. // New York Times

Five counties file joint lawsuit against PG&E for Dixie Fire damage. // CBS Sacramento

Satellites reveal the secrets of water-guzzling farms in California. // CapRadio

Controversial Redondo power plant operations extended through 2023. // Orange County Register

California climate change could bring more rattlesnakes. // San Luis Obispo Tribune

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...