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Anti-crime initiatives won’t be alone in receiving “an exponential increase of support” in the budget proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to send to state lawmakers in January.

Dyslexia screenings and early education programs will also see “a hell of a lot more” funding, Newsom told the Sacramento Bee in an interview published Tuesday — the same day his new children’s book about a young boy learning to view his dyslexia not as a disability but as a strength went on sale.

  • Newsom: “Growing up, I struggled with dyslexia. I hope this book inspires kids and parents to see learning differences as gifts — not obstacles to overcome.”

Newsom is scheduled to be in New York through Wednesday to promote the book, “Ben and Emma’s Big Hit,” on appearances on “The Daily Show” and “The View.” He’s then slated to hold book events Thursday through Saturday in Los Angeles, Northern California and Sacramento, respectively. Newsom, who in 2019 received a $125,000 advance for the book that a spokesman said was used to pay the illustrator and cover production expenses, has pledged to donate all sale proceeds to the International Dyslexia Association.

The book offers a glimpse into the ways in which Newsom’s personal life has shaped his political priorities — and his notoriously long, jargon-filled, statistics-punctuated speeches.

  • Newsom told the Associated Press: “You could ask me any budget number from last year — public education, $123.9 billion. I have to be right because I have to overcompensate because I’m so often wrong. And so you just learn you have to do more … in order to compete.”

Newsom poured a record amount of money into public education — with extra funds going to schools serving lots of students with high needs and disabilities — in the 2021-22 budget. But he wants to make a bigger investment in dyslexia screenings and literacy programs next year, and many state lawmakers are also “eager to do more in this space,” he told the Los Angeles Times. (And there’s lots of money to go around: Independent analysts project the state could have a $31 billion budget surplus next year.)

  • Newsom: “I feel inadequate on this. I’ve been cautious. I haven’t done what I wanted to do at the level of scale yet, because I feel it’s a little too self-indulgent.”

Newsom critics, however, aren’t pleased with the timing of the governor’s trip. “Newsom leaves California amid crime crisis for book tour,” read the headline of a Tuesday Fox News story referring to a recent wave of smash-and-grab robberies.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 4,851,429 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 74,221 deaths (+0.02% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 59,919,966 vaccine doses, and 68.6% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

1. Redistricting battle heats up

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

California’s independent redistricting commission is in the hot seat — and not only for its proposed congressional and legislative maps, which must be finalized by the end of the month, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports. The commission is also facing lawsuits alleging secrecy and conflicts of interest, complaints about public input and questions about whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. California is funding the commission with $20.3 million, about twice as much as the previous commission received a decade ago. For some onlookers, it’s an investment that has resulted in a lot of dysfunction.

Because an independent commission is redrawing California’s districts — rather than a state Legislature dominated by Democrats — the Golden State will likely be the country’s top House battlefield in 2022. This frustrates some politicians who say it blunts the power of the nation’s largest Democratic state compared to Republican-controlled states like Texas, where lawmakers draw the lines to their own advantage. “We want to live in a system where neither party gets screwed,” Rep. Brad Sherman, a San Fernando Valley Democrat, told the New York Times. “But worst of all is a system where only one party gets screwed.”

2. Supply chain challenges persist

Stacked containers and cranes at the Port of Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 2021. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters

The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports decided Monday to delay imposing fees on container ships that don’t move their cargo quickly enough, citing a 37% decrease in piled-up containers since the Oct. 25 fee proposal. But the ship and cargo backlog is still dire enough that four California Democrats joined 18 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives in calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to take “additional action to specifically address the supply chain and resulting higher prices experienced by families across the country.” However, “it’s not possible” for Congress to relieve pressure in the global supply chain before Christmas, Christopher Tang, faculty director at the UCLA Center for Global Management, told the Sacramento Bee. That means prices and inflation will likely continue to rise — though the omicron variant has led to a drop in gas prices in California and across the nation.

Meanwhile, the backlog’s ripple effects continue to make themselves felt, as illuminated by a Wall Street Journal story tracking how one ship’s 54-day wait to unload goods impacted three California small businesses. Increased shipping costs and delayed delivery of chess and backgammon sets forced Petaluma toy manufacturer John N. Hansen Co. to raise prices 10%, while Youth Rise Up, a Chino shoe store, didn’t receive a shipment of Halloween boots until Nov. 20.

  • Owner Ernie Nuñez: “This is the first time in my 30 years in footwear that we have ever experienced anything like this.”

3. COVID’s effect on CA kids

Teacher Tanya Ortiz Franklin helps students on the first day back at school for LAUSD students following the COVID-19 remote school period in Los Angeles on Aug. 16, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Teacher Tanya Ortiz Franklin helps students on the first day back at school for Los Angeles Unified School District students on Aug. 16, 2021. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

The mental health challenges facing kids in California and across the country after nearly two years of the pandemic were made evident Tuesday, when U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a rare public health advisory calling for urgent and immediate attention to the issue. “It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place,” he wrote, noting that U.S. emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts skyrocketed 51% for adolescent girls and 4% for adolescent boys in early 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. Although California is pouring billions of dollars into youth mental health programs, finding workers to staff them remains a challenge: Los Angeles Unified, for example, fell about 500 social workers short of its hiring goals this year.

Meanwhile, a study of COVID-19 infections in Marin County schools — recently published in the peer-reviewed national medical journal Cureus — found a correlation between having more students on campus for in-person classes and lower COVID community rates, the Marin Independent Journal reports.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s housing crisis is both wide and deep.

Climate change response depends on redistricting: How California’s political lines are redrawn will help determine if we fight or fold in the face of the climate crisis, writes Mary Creasman, CEO of California Environmental Voters.

Two ways to achieve cleaner air in California: Implement a smog check for heavy-duty diesel trucks, and enact zero-emission standards on leaf blowers and off-road small engines, argue Will Barrett of the American Lung Association and Bill Magavern of the Coalition for Clean Air.

Other things worth your time

How Sam Liccardo plans to influence 2022 elections. // San José Spotlight

Elo-Rivera takes over pivotal San Diego council president post in surprise vote. // San Diego Union-Tribune

113 Los Angeles firefighters put on unpaid leave for failing to comply with vaccine mandate. // Southern California News Group

When the surges just keep coming: A view from California’s COVID vortex. // California Healthline

In city push against retail theft, off-duty sheriff’s deputies can now get paid to guard stores. // San Francisco Chronicle

License plate readers coming to Melrose shopping area amid crime worries. // Los Angeles Times

Misdemeanors ‘can haunt a person for life’: Why Gascón stopped charging many of them. // LAist

Family questions police shooting of Afghan with PTSD who charged with knife: ‘My heart is bleeding.’ // San Francisco Chronicle

At least 5 homeless people have died in Berkeley in the last 4 months. // Berkeleyside

Advocates push for land return to Black families nationwide after victory in California. // Washington Post

How digital assets offer California minorities new opportunities. // CalMatters

Why are California university workers going on strike? // Sacramento Bee

Is Redlands at warehouse ‘tipping point’ and what can be done? // San Bernardino Sun

Live in California? Pizza Hut may hit you with an added fee. // Los Angeles Times

Alameda judge orders a statewide halt to use of pesticide harmful to honeybees. // San Francisco Chronicle

$63 million wetland restoration could be a blueprint for how California adapts to climate change. But it’s taking forever. // San Francisco Chronicle

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...