In summary

California attorney general candidate Anne Marie Schubert secured a key endorsement from powerful law enforcement groups.

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What do the June recall election of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and the ongoing effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón have to do with California’s state attorney general race?

A lot, according to attorney general candidate and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who on Tuesday secured a key endorsement from powerful law enforcement groups. Schubert, a longtime Republican who re-registered as an independent in 2018, has also received the lion’s share of law enforcement contributions in the attorney general race so far.

  • Schubert: “Do I think the current attorney general has a very different ideology than I do? Absolutely. If you think what’s happening in Los Angeles and San Francisco is good for California, he comes from the same ideological background.”
  • Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office declined to comment on the endorsement, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

The comments mark Schubert’s latest attempt to connect Bonta — who was appointed to the position by fellow Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom — to controversial policies enacted by progressive prosecutors Gascón and Boudin. Gascón last week walked back some of those policies in the most striking example yet of prominent California Democrats adopting tougher strategies as polls show deep voter concern about rising crime.

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

Schubert’s remarks also underscore one of the biggest challenges facing incumbent Democrats as they head into the 2022 elections: Squaring the perception shared by 78% of registered California voters that crime has increased over the past year with statistics that paint a more complicated picture.

  • Boudin alluded to that difficulty in a defensive Monday interview with the New York Times Magazine. “The data speaks for itself, but … the way that people feel matters too,” he said. “After the pandemic, for reasons that have nothing to do with my policies, the financial district is empty. So the number of homeless people hasn’t increased significantly, but that population … is more visible in ways that make people who have access to social media, who donate to political campaigns, who have access to reporters at The San Francisco Chronicle or Examiner feel less safe.”
  • In Los Angeles, the effort to recall Gascón is serving as a proxy for mayoral candidates’ positions on crime and homelessness. Billionaire developer Rick Caruso on Monday became the second Democratic contender to endorse removing Gascón from office. He also donated $50,000 to the recall campaign, arguing, “We need to reduce crime. We need to make our city safer.”

Meanwhile, crime continues to make headlines in California. The state was shaken Monday night when a 39-year-old man who was under a restraining order and not supposed to have a gun fatally shot his three young daughters, a chaperone and himself during a supervised visit at a Sacramento-area church. The man, David Fidel Mora Rojas, had also been arrested five days earlier in Merced County for drunk driving, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 8,382,656 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 84,712 deaths (+0.01% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 71,632,009 vaccine doses, and 73.8% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1. COVID data shifts — again

A health care worker points while a person wearing a protective face mask waits in line to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the L.A. Care Health Plan vaccination site at the First African Episcopal Church in Los Angeles on Jan. 29, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A health care worker helps a resident receive the COVID vaccine at the First African Episcopal Church in Los Angeles on Jan. 29, 2022. Photo by Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its masking guidance last week and said that nearly half of Californians live in high-risk counties, it was apparently relying on data more than a month old. In reality, only a small number of counties fall into that category, local health officials told CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang and Ana B. Ibarra. At stake: Whether counties considered high risk should follow CDC guidelines and keep universal masking requirements in place, or follow the state’s lead in removing almost all mask rules — including for unvaccinated employees in indoor workplaces.

  • A shift already appears to be underway: Santa Clara County health officials announced plans Tuesday to let the county’s indoor mask mandate expire today, and Los Angeles County’s is poised to end Friday. Los Angeles County also plans to lift some vaccine-or-test and inoculation requirements to enter certain businesses.
  • The constant back-and-forth has prompted criticism from Republican lawmakers. “It’s not the science that has changed, it’s the political science that has changed,” state Sen. Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore said after California unveiled plans Monday to lift the statewide school mask mandate on March 12.

But masks are hardly the only contentious pandemic policy dividing Californians. A vaccine working group of state lawmakers has introduced an aggressive slate of COVID-related bills that, if adopted, would make California an outlier among states — and give it the country’s strictest COVID regulations, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.

2. Dispatch from the California Capitol

The state Capitol is lit with the colors of the Ukrainian flag in support of the country as it battles as invasion from Russia. Feb, 28, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
The state Capitol lit with the colors of the Ukrainian flag on Feb, 28, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Gov. Newsom has added his voice to the chorus of lawmakers calling on California to impose financial sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine — and has increased the urgency of that request. In a late Monday letter to the leaders of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the University of California Retirement System — public pension funds that together hold Russian investments worth some $1.5 billion — Newsom demanded they “immediately restrict Russian access to California’s capital and investments.” He also directed the funds to “immediately assess risk to the retirees of our state” and inform him within the next 10 days of additional safeguards that California could put in place to protect its investments. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday tweeted her support of Newsom’s proposal.

  • Theresa Taylor, president of CalPERS’ board of directors, told the Sacramento Bee on Monday that she expects the board to discuss divesting from Russia at its next meeting on March 14-16.

In other state government news: As CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports, Secretary of State Shirley Weber on Tuesday backtracked on her plan to require ballots and other voter materials to be translated into fewer languages for the 2022 election. The about-face — which comes a week after Sameea reported on advocates’ concerns about the possible disenfranchisement of millions of California voters who speak limited English — expands the number of languages from 10 back to 27 for 2022 election materials, starting with the June 7 primary.

  • Weber: “Because reduced language assistance has the potential to disenfranchise voters who may not receive voting materials in the appropriate language, I exercised my discretionary authority to reinstate the language determination levels from 2017 and 2020.”

3. California’s homelessness Catch-22

Sacramento firefighters respond to a fire at a homeless encampment under Highway 80 near 14th Street and X Street on Feb. 24, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Sacramento firefighters respond to a fire at a homeless encampment under Highway 80 on Feb. 24, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

As California jurisdictions last week started tallying their homeless populations for the first time since the pandemic began two years ago, several encampments went up in flames — including one in San Francisco that killed a woman and prompted Newsom to condemn the “unconscionable status quo,” and another in Sacramento just blocks away from where the state’s top housing official was speaking with CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias about California’s unprecedented investment in homelessness.

The blazing encampments underscore the difficulty of making a dent in California’s entrenched homelessness crisis: Although the state is pouring billions of dollars into the issue, most researchers expect the new tallies to show an increase in the homeless population. Exacerbating the problem: California’s lack of data about the effectiveness of its homeless programs.

  • Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat: “We’re stuck. We’re releasing this funding to be able to help address the issue, but in return, the data is not coming back fast enough for the Legislature to be able to make an informed decision as to, are we going to put more dollars into something, and does it work?”

4. Third year of drought is inevitable

California Department of Water Resources conducts the third media snow survey of the 2022 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on taken Mar. 1, 2022. Photo by Florence Low, Courtesy of California Department of Water Resources
State water officials conduct a snow survey at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada on Mar. 1, 2022. Photo by Florence Low, courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources

Most of California just experienced its driest January and February on record, and the state is all but certain to endure a third year of drought, state water officials said Tuesday after finding that water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack — which provides about a third of California’s water supply — was at 68% of its historical average for that date. With the rainy season drawing to a close and not much precipitation in the forecast, the drought is “here to stay,” said Sean de Guzman, manager of snow surveys and water supply forecasting for the state Department of Water Resources.

To help put California’s drought crisis in perspective, consider this series of sobering statistics, in the words of the Mercury News’ Paul Rogers:

  • Nobody alive today has seen weather in Northern California this dry during what historically are two of the wettest months each year.
  • Downtown San Francisco received just 0.65 inches of rain over the past two months — less than the diameter of a dime, and the lowest level since weather records began there in 1849 during the Gold Rush.
  • San Jose had just 0.01 inches in January and February, an amount that’s equal to the thickness of a fingernail.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: With poor standing among California voters and now dealing with the death of her husband, Sen. Dianne Feinstein must decide whether to seek a sixth term in 2024.

Vote to reduce plastic waste: The Legislature has tried and failed over several years to comprehensively mandate reductions in single-use plastics. But California voters have an opportunity this November to vote for the changes we urgently need, argues Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, a Bell Gardens Democrat.

Seed funding needed for major water recycling project: Sacramento policymakers have a historic opportunity to support a local supply project that would produce enough high-quality water for 500,000 families a year, writes Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Other things worth your time

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California Bar investigating Trump lawyer for ethic breaches. // Associated Press

After criticism, California bar’s working group will focus on sandbox and trim membership ranks. // ABA Journal

Silicon Valley faces pressure to redesign children’s online experience. // Wall Street Journal

California has the lowest literacy rate of any state. // Capitol Weekly

California made a historic investment in school counselors. Is it enough? // EdSource

Judge rules Campos can’t call himself a ‘civil rights attorney’ in Assembly runoff election. // San Francisco Standard

Santa Clara University announces history-making new president. // Mercury News

Head of Oakland police union blames staffing crisis on City Council’s ‘anti-police rhetoric.’ // San Francisco Chronicle

As fentanyl ravages San Francisco, there’s been a sudden shift in the debate over a rehab method emphasizing abstinence. // San Francisco Chronicle

A formerly homeless Oaklander’s fight against illegal dumping. // San Francisco Chronicle

City Attorney subpoenas docs in probe of Recology’s ties to SF agency. // San Francisco Standard

How 18-wheeler trucks from the LA port ended up on a tiny street. // Los Angeles Times

High speed rail’s Bay Area link could cost $19 billion. // Mercury News

What can be done to keep California’s utility bills from getting even higher? // San Diego Union-Tribune

PG&E cited after deploying ‘heli-saw’ in San Mateo County park. // NBC Bay Area

California climate action plans stick to boilerplate solutions, new study says. // CapRadio

Houston oil company sues over California pipeline link. // Associated Press

Caldor Fire survivors say FEMA did little to help those who lost homes. // Los Angeles Times

Costa Mesa couple barely escape Ukraine with days-old newborn. // Los Angeles Times

Fremont ranked as the happiest city in America. // Mercury News

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...