Gov. Gavin Newsom broke his nearly two-week silence on Tuesday to make two key points: California is seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases that could signal the start of a worrisome winter surge, and California’s economy “continues to dominate” the rest of the country’s.

Newsom made the remarks at the California Economic Summit in Monterey, his first public appearance since receiving a COVID booster shot on Oct. 27. In a conversation with his former chief economic and business advisor Lenny Mendonca — who stepped down in April 2020 to focus on his mental health — Newsom finally explained the unspecified “family obligations” that led him to abruptly cancel a planned trip to the United Nations climate change conference in Scotland:

  • Newsom: “I was ready to go, and I had that dinner … with the family, and the kids literally, they kind of had an intervention, they said they couldn’t believe that I was going to miss Halloween. I woke up that next morning with something probably familiar to a lot of parents — that knot in your stomach — that I had no damn choice. I had to cancel that trip.”

Newsom also warned that “winter is coming” and echoed top state health officials in urging Californians to get vaccinated or receive their booster shots to prevent a possible surge in COVID cases. He noted that COVID hospitalizations are rising in some parts of California — in Riverside, San Bernardino and Fresno counties, they’ve increased by more than 20% in recent weeks — and positive cases are once again trending upward. (One group that may be particularly at risk: Californians who speak Indigenous languages and have limited access to vaccine information, CalMatters’ Hannah Getahun reports.)

  • Newsom: “Last week, we literally were planning out our winter surge strategy, pre-positioning assets in anticipation of what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. … I don’t want to tell you that because I don’t want it to be true, but the data bears it out.”

Meanwhile, the governor shot back at people “obsessed … with trying to trip California up and to identify areas of weakness when we still dominate” economically.

  • Newsom: “California has no peers. … Number one in innovation, number one in business startups. … Fastest growing companies. The most influential companies in the world. … No state in America has created more jobs since January than the state of California. We’re the tentpole of the American economic recovery.”

Yet Newsom’s assertions were somewhat undercut by a series of Tuesday events illuminating economic inequality. First, fast food workers across California held a strike to call for better health and safety standards and higher wages, while members of a California State University faculty union rallied to demand a fair contract.

Then, the Public Policy Institute of California released a poll that found 52% of Californians expect bad economic times in the next 12 months, 69% believe the gap between rich and poor is widening in their region and 63% say children in California will be worse off in the future than they are now.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 4,711,123 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 71,998 deaths (+0.03% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 54,329,996 vaccine doses, and 73.6% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1. Boudin recall heads to ballot

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin outside his office in San Francisco on Jan. 30, 2020. Photo by Eric Risberg, AP Photo

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin will face a recall election in June 2022, the city elections department announced Tuesday — setting the stage for what will undoubtedly be viewed as a referendum on the progressive criminal justice policies that have catapulted Boudin and Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón into the national spotlight and sparked oodles of controversy. The results of the recall could also serve as a litmus test for the 2022 state attorney general’s race: Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a registered independent, is betting that rising crime rates will push Californians to elect a tough-on-crime prosecutor, while Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta is betting that his promise to take a tougher hand in policing the police will help keep him in office.

So far, groups trying to oust Boudin from office have raised $1.6 million, while his supporters have $650,000 in the bank, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A recent Chronicle analysis found that charging rates for rape and drug cases have increased since Boudin took office in 2019, while charging rates decreased for theft, disorderly conduct and other lower-level offenses.

San Francisco voters will also decide the fate of three school board members in a February recall election — one supported by two prominent Democrats, Mayor London Breed and state Sen. Scott Wiener.

2. Let the redistricting fireworks begin

An election and redistricting illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

Today, the independent commission charged with redrawing California’s legislative and congressional districts every 10 years is set to release its official preliminary maps for the 2022 election and beyond — and they could cause quite the uproar. Just two days ago, commissioner Sara Sadhwani said of San Diego’s proposed congressional districts: “Basically what we’re saying is, ‘The map is a hot mess.’ Is that correct?” And San Diego is far from the only flashpoint: As CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports, other controversial proposals include drawing a congressional map that splits Long Beach in two; dividing the city of Fresno into three congressional districts; and creating a state Senate district in the Central Valley that could reduce the power of Latino voters.

However, there could still be significant changes between the preliminary maps and the final maps, which are due to the Secretary of State’s office by a court-ordered deadline of Dec. 27. Public comment meetings on the preliminary maps begin Nov. 17.

3. California’s drought is not improving

Migratory birds at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge complex in Willows on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo by Nina Riggio for CalMatters
Migratory birds at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge complex in Willows on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo by Nina Riggio for CalMatters

Despite the bomb cyclone that bulldozed across California last month and the light sprinkle of rain across the northern part of the state early this week, California’s drought is still, to put it mildly, really bad. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Water District — the largest urban water district in Southern California — declared a drought emergency and urged local water suppliers to immediately stop using resources from the State Water Project, which delivers water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to southern cities and agricultural land. California’s drought is also wreaking destruction on migrating birds by drying out key wetlands and waterways that birds rely on to travel between their summer and winter homes, CalMatters’ Julie Cart reports. And as the wetlands disappear, so, too, do the birds.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom and other state leaders are overstating the impact the federal infrastructure bill will have on California.

How Los Angeles should handle campaign finance: Democracy vouchers would allow anyone to be a campaign donor, regardless of net worth, race or income, argue Tom Latkowski, Mike Draskovic and Aura Vasquez of LA for Democracy Vouchers.

When a Democratic playbook becomes Republican: Texas’ strict abortion law relies on private enforcement — like the ballot measure California voters approved in 1986 that allows citizens to enforce pollution and chemical exposure laws, writes Paul Kronenberg, a retired trade association executive.

Other things worth your time

To fight off a California dust bowl, the state will pay farmers to reimagine idle land. // San Francisco Chronicle

California wildfire insurance crisis shows signs of easing. // Sacramento Bee

Jerry Brown focuses on saving California forests from fires. // Associated Press

Republican watchdog files campaign finance complaint against Central Valley Democrat. // Sacramento Bee

Chico Police Department skirts public records requests. // ChicoSol

San Diego sues scooter firms to get them to pay in case of litigation. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Amazon wants to build its biggest San Francisco warehouse yet. // San Francisco Chronicle

They live rent-free on San Francisco Bay. But now their ‘floating homeless encampment’ faces extinction. // Los Angeles Times

Inside Death Valley Junction, the loneliest California town. // SFGATE

More California Latinos are attending college, but ‘disturbing gaps’ remain. // EdSource

An emotional homecoming for Sacramento students stuck in Afghanistan. // Sacramento Bee

San Francisco could become 4th California city to apologize to its Chinese community. // San Francisco Chronicle

Supreme Court hears case on FBI and Orange County Muslims. // Los Angeles Times

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...