Wakeup call: Housing construction dropped last year in California

Gavin Newsom came into the governorship a year ago having made many promises to accomplish great things, or as he put it, “big hairy, audacious goals.”

Perhaps the most audacious was to solve California’s ever-growing shortage of housing by building 3.5 million more units by 2025.

Specifically, he pledged in an on-line article to “lead the effort to develop the 3.5 million new housing units we need by 2025 because our solutions must be as bold as the problem is big.”

During his inaugural address, Newsom said he would implement “a Marshall Plan for affordable housing,” likening it to the reconstruction of Europe after World War II.

Building 3.5 million housing units in seven years translates into an average of 500,000 a year. However, during the first year of his governorship housing construction actually decreased for the first time in a decade, according to a new report issued this week by the Construction Industry Research Board.

Despite a surge in the final two months of 2019, the year ended with 110,218 new housing starts, the CIRB said, down 7% from 2018.

Not only is the number scarcely a fifth of what the governor-to-be promised, it’s scarcely half of the state’s official target of 180,000. In other words, California is seeing its shortage worsen.

Newsom’s promises have also have contracted. He now calls the 3.5-million unit pledge “a stretch goal” and told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s a stubborn issue. You can’t snap your fingers and build hundreds of thousands, millions of housing units overnight.”

In fact, his assertion that we need 3.5 million more housing units is totally off base. It comes from a now-discredited study by a research firm that assumed California’s housing market is comparable to New York City’s.

Nevertheless, Sen. Scott Wiener continued to use the number while trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Senate last month to approve his legislation, Senate Bill 50, that would have made it easier to build some kinds of housing in some areas by overriding local zoning laws.

A more reasonable, but still difficult goal would be to build perhaps a million more units in the next five years, close to the state’s official target. California, the CIRB notes in its report, was building around 200,000 units a year in the first decade of the century, until the Great Recession clobbered the state and cut production by as much as 85%.

Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, could not persuade the Senate to move his bill, largely due to opposition among his fellow Democrats from Los Angeles County and Newsom’s unwillingness to intercede.

However, something like SB 50 is needed to overcome local opposition to multi-family construction — apartments and condos — that middle- and low-income families in urban centers need, and entice developers and investors to jump-start production.

Notably, while overall housing starts declined by 7% last year, the CIRB report tells us that multi-family housing dropped by 11%, which is going in precisely the wrong direction. One wonders whether the decline had something to do with the passage of a Newsom-backed statewide rent control bill.

We need to get off the 3.5 million figure that Newsom trumpeted during his campaign and that Wiener continued to cite, and establish a more reasonable and reachable goal.

Most of all, we need to precisely pinpoint the impediments to construction, whatever they might be, and attack them ruthlessly.

The CIRB report should be a wakeup call. We need less talk and more action.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary

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Hangar for Goodyear blimp in Carson just … disappeared

Q. Honk, awhile back I saw them erecting a hangar for the newest Goodyear blimp in Carson. Just as soon as it went up, it was mysteriously taken down. What’s up?

– Jay Tautalafua, Carson

A. Honk isn’t quite sure – but something didn’t go well.

In December 2017, an inflatable hangar sprung to life at Goodyear’s base right off of the 405 Freeway. A 100 or so yards long and nine stories tall, it had air cells and was made of polyester fabric coated with synthetic plastic, allowing it to flex and move about when the Santa Ana winds got testy.

Fans, 20 of them, kept the hangar afloat.

At some point long ago all that went away. Honk found evidence the hangar was there for at least a couple of months. Goodyear was cryptic when he reached out to the tire company.

“This is all the details I have to share at this time,” said Priscilla DeCapua, a Goodyear spokeswoman. “Based on representations and a design by a third party, Goodyear attempted use of an inflatable hangar for its Carson base in 2017. However, due to unanticipated circumstances, the company is now evaluating other options for a hangar on the property.”

Honk also reached out to Lindstrand Technologies in the United Kingdom, which made the hangar with the Goodyear logo on the side, but didn’t hear back.

So for now the blimp takes periodic excursions for repairs and maintenance to the shuttered Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, which has two gigantic hangars. (Those hangars were built in the early 1940s, first serving the U.S. Navy’s blimps that patrolled the coast during World War II and later U.S. Marine helicopters.)

Going hangar-less isn’t novel.

The Carson base went into action in 1968, and the blimp stationed there didn’t have a hangar for decades and was just tied down on the airfield.

By the way, a Honk co-worker has been in the old and new blimps – and he says traveling in the current one is especially a treat.

Q. I have a handicap placard, but I have two cars registered under my name. I switch off driving the cars and quite often I find myself forgetting to swap the placard into the car I’m driving. Is it possible for me to get two handicap placards, one for each car?

– Keith Jenkins, Seal Beach

A. No.

You do have options, though.

“You are allowed to have only one permanent placard at any give time,” Jaime Garza, a Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman, told Honk.

But …

You could get disabled-person license plates for at least one of your cars and keep the placard in the other one for flexibility, such as when you jump into a friend’s car or go on a trip and rent a convertible and cruise Oahu – sorry, you sent Honk off into a dreamy state. … But you get the idea.

Honkin’ fact: Los Angeles Metro this week honored the late Kobe Bryant with “RIP KOBE” flashing on the signs on the front of buses, a message that alternated with the route info; light-rail trains did a variation of the same (Source: Jose Ubaldo, a Metro spokesman).

To ask Honk questions, reach him at honk@ocregister.com. He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: ocregister.com/tag/honk.

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How can California colleges help homeless and hungry students?

Cal State Long Beach Professor Rashida Crutchfield began focusing on homelessness and food insecurity among college students more than a decade ago.

Back then, she worked at Covenant House of California, a non-profit in Hollywood that provides housing and other support to homeless young adults. Now, Crutchfield is a leading researcher on the lack of basic needs among students enrolled in higher education.

From community colleges to universities, it’s a serious issue. And it’s a particularly big deal on campuses in California. The state with the nation’s largest homeless population also has an alarming number of students enrolled in public colleges who struggle with finding a place to sleep at night and getting enough to eat during the day.

A faculty member in Long Beach’s School of Social Work, Crutchfield co-authored the 2019 book “Addressing Homelessness and Housing Insecurity in Higher Education: Strategies for Educational Leaders.”

Small wonder she’s serving as a keynote speaker during a two-day basic needs summit Thursday and Friday in Costa Mesa. The event is intended to bring together faculty and administrators from the state’s three-tier college system — University of California, Cal State University, and California Community Colleges — along with representatives of the California Legislature, community organizations and others.

Recent studies cited in the 2019 report “Measuring Our Success: Campus Supports for College Students Experiencing Food & Housing Insecurity” by the California Homeless Youth Project show some alarming statistics: 1 in 5 community college students and 1 in 10 Cal State students had reported experiencing homelessness at least once in the past year, and larger numbers dealt with food insecurity.

On University of California campuses, 1 in 20 undergraduates had experienced homelessness at least once during their enrollment.

A 2018 study on basic needs that Crutchfield helped produce said nearly 42 percent of Cal State students experienced food insecurity.

Schools are battling back. Groceries are given away at nearly all public schools. Also, on many campuses, students can seek emergency housing, grants and short-term loans. They also can get help in applying for CalFresh food assistance benefits.

The conference in Costa Mesa marks the first time that experts from all three state college systems will gather in one place to talk about what’s working and what still needs to be done.

Crutchfield spoke with The Register on the eve of the summit.

Q: How can a conference like this help struggling students?

A: We’re really working across barriers to advance research, to advance policy, and develop the very best practical tools that we can to serve students. Each of these (higher education) segments has richness and resources and enthusiasm.

We bring together this opportunity for collaboration with open hearts and lots of different ideas.

Q: What might be the actual “here is something we can go and do” that would directly benefit students?

A: In the past three years or so our California state legislature has been investing in addressing basic needs. We’ve seen a number of policies, including policies to address food security, and then this year we have seen investment in rapid re-housing (a program that provides rental assistance, housing search and placement).

It’s really difficult to expand housing opportunities for students. But the rapid re-housing investment that California has made for our students links higher education institutions with community-based agencies to really leverage resources to the best efficiency.

We are even seeing real innovation. For instance, at Compton College, where President Keith Curry is, they’re planning to build housing.

Q: What do you see as the most effective measures?

A: Having single points of contact, a hub of resources where students can go on campus, so that they only have to tell their story once. Homelessness can be really stigmatizing … So ensuring the students only have to tell their story once, and then get linked to appropriate resources on and off campus, has shown to be a really promising practice.

Q: And what else would you prioritize?

A: We really need support in implementing policies that already exist. California AB-801 established homeless liaisons on campus, which is that single point of contact model. A state investment in that and then real active implementation of that across all systems would be something that we’re striving to do but need to continue to grow.

Q: What does Cal State Long Beach offer?

A: We have a Basic Needs Program. That program includes our case managers who respond to students who seek support. We also have a food pantry. Food pantries are great for a start but they also have to be part of a system of care.

We have a wide range of services including emergency grants, emergency housing.

We have three rooms on campus. They’re triple occupancy. We house students for about 10 days, depending on what their need is. But we’re launching our rapid re-housing program (funded at $870,000) this semester as well.

Go here for more information on the Cal State system’s Basic Needs Initiative.

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Trump uses State of Union to campaign; Pelosi rips up speech


WASHINGTON — Standing before a Congress and a nation sharply divided by impeachment, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to extol a “Great American Comeback” on his watch, just three years after he took office decrying a land of “American carnage” under his predecessor.

The partisan discord was on vivid display Tuesday as the first president to campaign for reelection after being impeached made his case for another term: Republican legislators chanted “Four More Years.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump’s speech as he ended his address.

“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump declared. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back.”

Holding out the nation’s economic success as the chief rationale for a second term, Trump’s speech resembled a lower-volume version of his campaign rallies, providing something for every section of his political base.

But while he tweets daily assailing his impeachment, Trump never mentioned the “i-word” in his 78-minute speech. That followed the lead of Bill Clinton, who did not reference his recent impeachment when he delivered his State of the Union in 1999. Trump spoke from the House of Representatives, on the opposite side of the Capitol from where the Senate one day later was expected to acquit him largely along party lines.

Pelosi, a frequent thorn in Trump’s side, created a viral image with her seemingly sarcastic applause of the president a year ago. This time, she was even more explicit with her very text-ripping rebuke.

Trump appeared no more cordial. When he climbed to the House rostrum, he did not take her outstretched hand though it was not clear he had seen her gesture. Later, as Republicans often cheered, she remained in her seat, at times shaking her head at his remarks.

When Pelosi left, she told reporters that tearing up the speech was “the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.” Republicans denounced her action as disrespectful.

Trump, the former reality TV star, added a showbiz flavor to the staid event: He had wife Melania present the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to the divisive conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who recently announced he has advanced lung cancer.

He stunned a young student in the gallery with a scholarship. And he orchestrated the surprise tearful reunion of a soldie r from overseas with his family in the balcony.

Even for a Trump-era news cycle that seems permanently set to hyper-speed, the breakneck pace of events dominating the first week of February offered a singular backdrop for the president’s address.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who has presided in the Senate over only the third impeachment trial in the nation’s history, was on hand again Tuesday night — this time in his more customary seat in the audience. Trump stood before the very lawmakers who have voted to remove him from office — and those who are expected to acquit him when the Senate trial comes to a close.

The leading Senate Democrats hoping to unseat him in November were off campaigning in New Hampshire. In advance of his address, Trump tweeted that the chaos in Iowa’s Monday leadoff caucuses showed Democrats were incompetent and should not be trusted to run the government.

Among Trump’s guests in the chamber: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been trying to win face time with Trump, his most important international ally.

The president offered Guaidó exactly the sort of endorsement he’s been looking for as he struggles to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power. Trump called Guaidó “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”

“Socialism destroys nations,” Trump declared.

The president entered the evening on a roll, with his impeachment acquittal imminent, his job approval numbers ticking upward and Wall Street looking strong. He struck a largely optimistic tone. But in past moments when Trump has struck a tone of bipartisanship and cooperation, he has consistently returned to harsher rhetoric within days.

Trump spent much of the speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including low unemployment, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class, though the period of growth began under his predecessor, Barack Obama. And what Trump calls an unprecedented boom is, by many measures, not all that different from the solid economy he inherited from President Barack Obama. Economic growth was 2.3% in 2019, matching the average pace since the Great Recession ended a decade ago in the first year of Obama’s eight-year presidency

Trump stressed the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase-one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last month.

While the White House said the president was offering a message of unity, he also spent time on issues that have created great division and resonated with his political base. He attacked Democrats’ health care proposals for being too intrusive and again highlighted his signature issue — immigration — trumpeting the miles of border wall that have been constructed.

He also dedicated a section to “American values,” discussing efforts to protect “religious liberties” and limit access to abortion as he continues to court the evangelical and conservative Christian voters who form a crucial part of his base.

The Democrats were supplying plenty of counter-programming, focusing on health care — the issue key to their takeover of the House last year. Trump, for his part, vowed to not allow a “socialist takeover of our health care system” a swipe at the Medicare For All proposal endorsed by some of his Democratic challengers.

Many female Democrats were wearing white as tribute to the suffragettes, while a number in the party were wearing red, white and blue-striped lapel pins to highlight climate change, saying Trump has rolled back environmental safeguards and given free rein to polluters.

Several Democratic lawmakers, including California Rep. Maxine Waters and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, announced in advance of the speech that they would be skipping it while other Democrats walked out early.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her party’s official response and drew a contrast between actions taken by Democrats and the president’s rhetoric.

“It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market,” Whitmer said. “What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs.”

AP writers Darlene Superville, Aamer Madhani in Washington and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.


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California’s gig-worker law faces push-back, even from some it’s intended to help

Hector Castellanos was on his way to pick up a passenger for Lyft ride-share service in the Bay Area in 2017 when another car slammed into his Toyota Prius.

He needed shoulder surgery and couldn’t work for eight months after the accident. But since drivers for Lyft and many other similar services are independent contractors and not employees, Castellanos didn’t have worker’s compensation insurance. With no wages coming in, his daughter had to drop out of college for two semesters to help the family stay afloat.

“My family suffered,” Castellanos said. “We almost lost our house.”

That’s why Castellanos, who is back driving for both Lyft and Uber now, has been rallying for months in support of Assembly Bill 5 — a law that, as of Jan. 1., makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors. The goal of the bill is to make sure companies aren’t using freelancers to save money by skirting labor laws that guarantee protections such as paid sick days, health care benefits, overtime pay and the ability to unionize.

But AB5 is a far-reaching bill that touches an estimated one million Californians, including many who don’t work for big corporations or resent their circumstances. And in the month since it kicked in, many traditional independent contractors — photographers, musicians, translators and others — have lost work. What’s more, some California companies have looked to out-of-state workers or otherwise shifted gears to avoid running up against AB5.

Such stories have triggered numerous challenges to the bill, with lawsuits, legislation and a ballot initiative pending that would exempt categories of workers or repeal the legislation entirely. Even AB5’s author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, has introduced place-holder legislation, which she told the Register will help sole proprietors and others navigate the new landscape.

In the meantime, confusion reigns. Many freelancers say they don’t understand how the bill affects them, or how it touches their industries, and they’re getting conflicting advice about how to navigate the new law.

Temecula-based band leader Mickie Arnett has been meeting recently with fellow musicians who feel their livelihoods — and the local music scene — are threatened by AB5. Arnett estimates he’s spent more than $2,000 on attorneys, business permits and other costs. He’s formed a limited partnership with his band mates to ensure he’s complying with the law when he pays them after gigs. He’s also told several musicians not to expect bookings this year and, to help cover new costs, he’s upped his band’s rate.

Those changes are spreading to other business owners.

Andy Doty, who regularly books Arnett’s band at his Old Town Blues Club in Temecula, said he’s debating whether to increase drink prices or add a cover charge so he can afford to offer live music. Both options, he knows, could mean a “death knell” for his business.

Court decision triggers law

A 2018 California Supreme Court decision launched AB5.

Two workers sued Dynamex courier service after the company opted to shave an estimated 30% from its labor costs by converting its entire staff into independent contractors. Dynamex lost the case. And in its ruling, the state Supreme Court bypassed a little-known measure called the “Borello test,” which California employers have been supposed to pass for decades to legally classify workers as independent contractors. Instead, the court established a much stricter “ABC test.”

To qualify as freelancers, the ABC test says California workers now must: A) Be “free from control” of whoever hired them while they’re doing the gig, B) Be doing something different from the work typically done by the person or company who hired them, and C) Be doing a gig that’s in line with the type of work the person typically does.

It’s the “B” in the ABC test that’s the kicker for most freelancers. If a band leader pays a musician or a language firm pays an interpreter or a newspaper pays a freelance writer, those jobs are within the employers’ normal scope of work, so they likely would not pass the ABC test.

Gonzalez, a former labor leader, wrote AB5 to codify that stricter test for freelance workers into law. It took effect Jan. 1, and Gov. Gavin Newsom included $20 million for AB5 enforcement in his proposed 2020-21 budget.

A dozen other states already have similar policies on their books, Gonzalez noted. But none are as strict as California’s law.

Companies in breach of AB5 face fines of $5,000 to $25,000 per violation. And they can be forced to cover payroll taxes, overtime pay and other costs retroactively if workers had been properly classified as employees.

So far, there are no reports of the state punishing employers for violating AB5.

That’s true even as companies such as Uber, Lyft and Postmates, among others, thumb their noses at AB5. Many are continuing to list workers as independent contractors as they file a lawsuit and propose a ballot initiative to challenge the bill.

Meanwhile, Glendale attorney Samuel Dordulian said his firm has been getting so many calls each week from companies and workers with questions about AB5 that he can’t keep up. Most of the time, he said, they want to know if there’s a way for them to get around the ABC test. Almost always, he added, the answer is no.

More exemptions needed?

Some two dozen categories of workers — ranging from doctors and lawyers, to manicurists, real estate agents and commercial fishermen — were granted at least partial exemptions from AB5. Those workers can use the much-looser Borello test to qualify as independent contractors.

Employment attorney Laura Heckathorn of Los Angeles said it will be up to the state and the courts over the coming years to further define some of the vague exemptions in AB5, such as who qualifies as “fine artists” or what it takes for a gig worker to be his or her own business.

In deciding which categories of workers should be exempt, Gonzalez said her team met with labor groups, studied case law, and looked at industries that had a history of not protecting workers.

Gonzalez said music industry representatives didn’t agree on terms before the bill was signed, so changes might still come for freelancers in that arena. Otherwise, Gonzalez doesn’t expect any other AB5 exemptions for entire categories of workers.

But other industries and legislators disagree, and continue to push for carve-outs.

For example, in January a judge ruled that federal law, not California’s AB5, should apply as protection for some 70,000 independent truck drivers. Freelance journalists and photographers also have asked the court to exempt them from AB5, though a judge shot down that request.

The bill does allow freelance writers and photographers to contribute up to 35 works each year to any one media outlet before the law kicks in. But many freelancers routinely pass that number. And even before AB5 took effect, Vox Media’s digital sports media company SB Nation announced it was dropping some 200 freelancers in California due to the new law.

With newspapers already reeling from years of closures and cuts amid declining revenues, State Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, introduced one bill that would exempt freelance journalists from AB5. Another would permanently exempt newspaper carriers, who were granted a one-year reprieve under AB5.

“You don’t punish thousands of people because of a bad actor,” she said, referring to Dynamex. “Let’s use a scalpel and not a sledgehammer.”

Bates tried in 2019 to repeal AB5, but her effort failed. Now a group of Republican Assembly members and Senators have introduced a new bill and a constitutional amendment that would repeal AB5 and reinstate the Borello test, though they face a battle in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Another bill would exempt independently-owned businesses with fewer than 100 employees and less than $15 million in gross revenue over the past three years. And yet another bill would exempt freelance interpreters and translators.

But Bill Glasser, founder of Language World Services in Northern California, hopes AB5 sticks for his industry. He converted his interpreters from freelance to staff a decade ago, a move that he said cost him money but improved his company’s quality. Glasser said his interpreters are screened and trained before they’re sent out to fill language gaps at schools, hospitals and other care facilities.

“I don’t think that should be left up to some independent contractor that was found on Craigslist last week,” he said.

While the quality of workers who adapt to AB5 will likely be solid, Temecula club owner Doty worries about the bill’s unintended consequences.

“I’d really hate to see the local music scene deteriorate, evaporate or even lessen as a result of this bill.”

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Five things to know about voting in California’s March 3 primary

More than 20 million Californians – about 80% of those eligible – are registered to vote going into the March 3 presidential primary.

If you’re one of them, or if you want to register, here’s what you need to know about California’s primary.

Ballots coming early

Just because the primary is Tuesday, March 3, doesn’t mean you have to wait until then to cast your ballot.

Ballots will start going to vote-by-mail voters the week of Monday, Feb. 3. You can mail in your ballot anytime before the primary. Mail-in ballots will be counted as long as they’re postmarked by March 3 and received by Friday, March 6.

Want to register to vote by mail?  Go to www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/vote-mail or contact your local elections office.

Applications for mail-in ballots must be received by your local elections office by Tuesday, Feb. 25.


The voter registration deadline is Tuesday, Feb. 18 – except, not really.

That’s because California lets you conditionally register to vote and cast a ballot on or before March 3 at your polling place, a vote center or your county elections office. Your ballot will be counted once officials have determined you are legally able to vote.

If you live in Los Angeles County or Orange County, vote centers will open Saturday, Feb. 22. At these centers, you can cast a ballot or register to vote regardless of where you live in the county.

Los Angeles County vote center locations: locator.lavote.net/locations/vc

Orange County vote center locations: www.ocvote.com/fileadmin/vc/

Want to check your registration info? Go to registertovote.ca.gov. You can register if you’re a U.S. citizen and California resident, you’ll be 18 or older on March 3 and you’re not currently determined to be mentally incompetent by a court. You can’t vote if you’re in state or federal prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

After you vote, you can check your ballot status at voterstatus.sos.ca.gov. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 3.

White House hopefuls

Want to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate? You can if you’re a registered Democrat or no-party-preference voter.

But there’s an extra step if you’re no party preference. You have to request a Democratic ballot, something you can do in-person at the polls or by mailing back a postcard you should have received.

The American Independent and Libertarian parties also allow no-party-voters to participate in their presidential primaries. You must be registered with the Republican, Green, or Peace and Freedom parties if you want to take part in those parties’ primaries.

Information: howtovoteforpresident.sos.ca.gov

Who wins?

The candidates you’re voting for will either win the offices they’re seeking outright or advance to the Nov. 3 general election, depending on the office.

For county offices – Board of Supervisors, for example – candidates wins if they get 50% plus one of the vote. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters advance to the November election.

The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to the general election in races for Assembly, state Senate, and House of Representatives seats. Exceptions are the special elections for the 28th Senate District in Riverside County and 25th Congressional District in Los Angeles County. In both, a candidate can win outright with a simple majority.

Long wait

The turnout for California’s 2018 primary was the highest for a midterm primary since 1998.

With a blue state and a highly competitive race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the March 3 primary could eclipse 2018’s turnout. That could mean days, if not weeks, before close races are decided — especially with a March 6 deadline for mail-in ballots to reach county elections officials.


Here’s contact information for Southern California election offices.

Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk: lavote.net/home/voting-elections or 800-815-2666.

Orange County Registrar of Voters: www.ocvote.com or 714-567-7600

Riverside County Registrar of Voters: www.voteinfo.net or 951-486-7200

San Bernardino County Elections Office of the Registrar of Voters: sbcountyelections.com or 800-881-VOTE

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Ex-Long Beach Marriott chef to be sentenced Monday for threatening mass shooting

LONG BEACH — Sentencing is set Monday for a former Long Beach Marriott hotel chef who threatened to shoot up his place of business last summer.

Rodolfo Montoya, 37, of Huntington Beach, pleaded no contest Jan. 13 to two felony counts of criminal threats. He is facing three years and eight months in prison as a result of the plea negotiated with prosecutors.

Montoya told a co-worker last Aug. 19 “that he was going to shoot up fellow employees and people coming into the hotel,” Long Beach police Chief Robert Luna said at a news conference announcing the chef’s arrest. The co-worker told the hotel’s general manager, Imran Ahmed, who called police.

Montoya was arrested the following day by Long Beach police and has remained behind bars since then, according to jail records.

A search of Montoya’s home yielded tactical gear, a variety of weapons — including an AR-15 rifle — and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, according to Luna, who alleged the defendant was “upset about some recent workplace activity having to do with H.R. (human resources).”

The police chief thanked Ahmed for coming forward and alerting investigators.

“Sir, you saved many lives, not only of your employees but any customers that may have been at the Marriott when this guy decided to show up and carry out his threat,” Luna said then.

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Automated chest compression devices now in use by all 911 emergency responders in Orange County

For the past decade, only two fire agencies in Orange County — the cities of Newport Beach and Orange — chose to use automated chest compression devices instead of manual cardiopulmonary resuscitation to keep people alive after they suffer cardiac arrest.

But since Jan. 1, a new policy instituted by Orange County Health Care Agency’s Emergency Medical Services requires that the 10 agencies in the county that respond to 911 calls must use the automated devices.

The decision is based on two things — better outcomes for patients treated in emergencies and increased safety for paramedics who care for those patients the ambulance ride to the hospital, said Dr. Carl Schultz, the county’s medical director for Emergency Medical Services.

He said Orange County is the first county in the state to require the automated devices.

Worth the investment

About two years ago, the county’s emergency response agencies — nine city fire departments and the Orange County Fire Agency — were notified of the impending policy change and given time to decide which particular device they wanted to use. That also gave them time to budget for the financial investment, Schultz said on Friday, during a demonstration by a crew at Newport Beach Fire Department’s Station 8.

Unlike manual cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the automated devices, once strapped on someone’s chest during a 911 response, are able to maintain consistent, effective chest compression. Those compressions can continue, uninterrupted, while a patient is lifted onto a gurney or into the ambulance, or while they’re being navigated up and down staircases and other tight spaces, and throughout the ambulance ride.

While the devices aren’t cheap, Newport Beach found them to be well worth the investment, said Kristin Thompson, emergency medical services chief for the city’s fire department. Newport Beach spent about $250,000 for eight devices.

The AutoPulse device that Newport Beach uses, manufactured by ZOLL Medical Corp., costs about $17,000 each. It is a battery-powered backboard, about the size of a boogie board, with wide disposable bands that strap across a patient’s rib cage to deliver a rhythmic squeeze. For hygiene reasons, the bands are used only once, and cost about $120 per use. Last year, the city used 53 bands. The batteries, which cost about $400, are rechargeable.

But benefits of using the devices are outweighing the costs for Newport Beach Fire, which participates in a national registry that tracks the performance of medical care used on patients experiencing cardiac arrest.

Based on benchmarks from 2018, Newport Beach outperformed the national average in such measures as return of spontaneous circulation (when someone’s heartbeat resumes before reaching the hospital) and in saving people who eventually are discharged from the hospital, Thompson said. Of cardiac arrest patients transported by Newport Beach Fire, 22% leave hospital care with a good cerebral performance score, much higher than the national rate of 8%.

Automated compression devices aren’t the only reason for better outcomes, but Thompson said they have made a difference.

“We just saw the value in an extra set of hands.”

Better response, less liability

In addition to freeing up paramedics so they can help the patient in other ways, the automated chest compression devices make ambulance rides safer.

Instead of standing over a gurney in the restricted quarters of an emergency vehicle, trying to keep CPR going with the ideal 2-inch depth of each compression — all while being tossed about during the ride or lurching at a sudden stop — responders in vehicles equipped with the automated compression devices can sit down and use a seat belt during the ride.

Schultz said a big factor in the decision to require use of the automated devices had to do with injuries in the past year or so to responders performing CPR who could not put on a seat belt because they had to stand in order to have sufficient force.

Schultz would not go into details because of potential litigation issues but said “these were not minor injuries.”

Such injuries can amount to a “significant” unplanned cost for a firefighting agency, compared to investment in automated chest compression devices, he added: “It only takes one firefighter who can’t work anymore. A liability settlement of $1 million adds up to a lot of AutoPulses.”

Less hazardous but equally challenging for firefighters: maintaining effective compression while bringing someone down a staircase or up from the lower deck of a boat — something the Newport Beach Fire Department can encounter.

“Imagine a full size person below deck and you have to go up a circular stairwell that’s barely the width of your shoulders,” said Engineer Justin Kime, a 25-year fire veteran.

Beyond the logistics, there’s the physical effort it takes to continuously perform CPR.

“We’re human. We get tired,” said Emergency Medical Services Captain Brad Smith.

“The AutoPulse doesn’t get tired.”

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Congress needs fewer lawyers and more bartenders

There are a million legitimate reasons to criticize New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — her support of higher taxes, more government, the Green New Deal and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency among them. But one frequent criticism is patently unfair — going after her for being a bartender.

The implication is that people with a blue-collar background are unqualified to serve in elected office.

That is ludicrous and insulting.

Blue-collar work is honest work, and the experiences in the real world gives people a unique perspective that most elites simply don’t have.

Especially bartenders.

Some of my favorite people are bartenders. And look, it’s not even last call!

Bartenders are the salt of the earth.  Or maybe I should say the salted rim of the earth.

Bartenders don’t have to pay high-priced consultants top dollar to learn how to communicate with the Average Joe — they do it every single day.

In fact, I’m kind of surprised that there aren’t more bartenders in Congress … especially when Teddy Kennedy was in office.

Instead of some flowery promises about hope or change or making America great or whatever, imagine a candidate whose campaign slogan was, “What’ll it be?”

And you know who agrees with me?  Former presidential advisor Stephen Bannon, that’s who.

In a sit-down interview with the Guardian, the former Breitbart News executive chairman said, “We’ve turned the Republican Party into a working-class party … Now, interestingly, we don’t have any elected representatives who believe that, but that’s a legacy issue. We’ll get over that … We’ve got to find our AOCs.”

Bannon also argued that the Democrats enjoyed large gains during the 2018 mid-term elections, in part, due to better “casting.”

“They did an amazing job in ‘18. I keep saying I admire AOC … think her ideology’s all (messed) up, but I want her. I want to recruit bartenders. I don’t want to recruit any more lawyers. I want bartenders,” he insisted.

There you have it, Steve Bannon wants bartenders, too.  And from the looks of him, I would imagine a good barber and maybe a personal trainer.

In fact, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, even AOC says her background as a bartender was good preparation for the world of partisan politics: “When you work in the service industry as a woman, you are harassed all the time… it’s just part of your job.”

Even former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, spent his younger years slinging drinks and mopping floors at his father’s bar.

Besides being more attractive candidates, bartenders have another thing going for them — they’re not lawyers. The legal profession produces a lot of lawmakers, but our system might be healthier if it’s not made up entirely of lawyers.

Of the 535 elected members who make up the 116th Congress, 40 percent attended law school. A legal education was even more common among senators — 54 percent attended law schools.

If you turn one of the news channels on or attend a college or university, all you hear about are the virtues of diversity — well, that should also include a diversity of occupations and experiences.

President Trump ran for president promising to “drain the swamp.”  And I for one would like to see some people in Congress who have actually drained an actual swamp.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that blue-collar work, in and of itself, will make these members of Congress better than the lawyers.

But you never know.

Each individual candidate should be evaluated on his or her own merits and judged accordingly.

But they should also not be discounted or disqualified just because of their chosen profession.

John Phillips can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “The Morning Drive with John Phillips and Jillian Barberie” on KABC/AM 790.



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Gardening: Harvesting winter vegetables will boost plant production

 1. Prune old flower heads off of hydrangeas. Remove the upper third of each stem along with the dead flowers, but don’t cut any lower if you want good blooms this spring. The best new blooms come on growth that arises from last year’s healthy stems. To get the largest possible blossoms, reduce the number of flower stems. Otherwise, you’ll get more numerous blooms of moderate size.

2. Winter flowering shrubs, such as saucer magnolias, awe us with their bold beauty on otherwise lifeless-looking dormant stems. Birds of paradise continue to display their spectacular spikes of unusual orange and blue blooms. Pick some for dramatic bouquets and arrangements to brighten the indoor environment. Camellias floated in a shallow bowl add charm and high-class elegance to a dining table or anywhere else in the house.

3. The more you harvest from leafy and podded winter vegetables, the more the plants will produce, especially if they are well fed and irrigated. Carrots planted last autumn are close to their peak now, and there is still time to put in another crop. (By the way, choose carrot varieties according to your soil type. In heavy clay soils, plant seeds of the short, stubby selections. In sandy soils and those with lots of organic matter, plant the longer tapered varieties. You’ll be happier with the results in the end.) Onions may be harvested green as needed – which is a form of thinning – leaving others spaced four to six inches apart to develop into bulbs for summer harvest. Radishes only take about three weeks to develop, so you can keep replanting more as you harvest the mature ones.

4. Visit some nurseries to see camellias, azaleas, clivias, and more in full bloom, so you can choose the ones you like. If you purchase camellias this season, when you plant them, remember to keep the rootball or current soil level at or above the soil level in your garden or landscape. When camellias are planted deeper than they are used to, they will just sit there for a while, suffocating, then slowly die.

5. In coastal zones apply the first of four annual feedings for mature citrus trees this week. Wait a couple more weeks in the inland valley areas. Subsequent feedings should be done about six weeks later – in March, April/May, and June. Each time you feed your citrus trees apply 0.4 pound of actual nitrogen per tree (to total 1.6 pounds per year), spread around the drip line. Since one pound of any dry fertilizer equals about two cups, that equals about 1.5 cups of urea, each time you apply it. Or a scant 3 cups of Vigoro Lawn Fertilizer (formula 28-0-3), OR 2.5 cups of Scott’s Lawn Fertilizer (32-0-4) – four times per year.

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