Essential California: New Attorney General Focuses On Golden State

Hello and welcome to Essential California bulletin. This is Monday May 24. My name is Priscella Vega and I write from Long Beach.

After a year marked by civil and political unrest triggered by the murder of George Floyd, the new California prosecutor. General Rob Bonta has announced a series of initiatives to help tackle racial injustices, biased police, environmental polluters and a backlog of untested rape evidence kits.

For memory :

5:16 p.m., May. 24, 2021An earlier version of this bulletin stated that Rob Bonta was the best cop in California before becoming a member of the Democratic Assembly. He became the state attorney general after serving in the assembly for nine years.

Bonta’s leadership is a radical departure from the Justice Department’s past four years of legal struggle against the Trump administration over domestic issues. With President Biden, a Democrat now in power, Bonta said it was an opportunity to look inside.

And his change in refocusing the department’s attention on the Golden State has already left a mark on supporters and critics, writes my colleague Patrick McGreevy.

A month after taking office, Bonta created the Racial Justice Bureau to tackle white supremacy and hate crime, which has skyrocketed against the Asian American community in cities across the United States amid the pandemic.

The office will also examine indirect and explicit bias in policing, review best practices and issue guidelines for law enforcement, and create a task force to study remedies for black residents. Bonta has also taken steps to reverse a previous policy that withheld some records of police misconduct. He is also working to create a new unit to investigate fatal police shootings against unarmed citizens.

“California and the nation need leaders like Rob Bonta to face this pivotal moment in our history with the courage, energy and tenacity it will take to shape a society more representative of our values,” said the governor Gavin Newsom.

Before Bonta became the first Filipino American to hold the post, he was a member of the Democratic Assembly for nine years.

[Read the story “California’s new attorney general turns focus from fighting Trump to policing, racial justice” in the Los Angeles Times]

And now, here’s what’s happening in California:

California officials say gasoline tax funding can only cover less than half of the work needed. Progress has been made, but road and bridge repairs have been delayed due to the high cost to the state compared to other states and the pandemic. With another gasoline tax hike slated for July 1, some lawmakers are criticizing slow-paced progress. Los Angeles Times

Thousands of Californians have signed up to volunteer at vaccination clinics and get vaccinated, but less than 300 were able to book shifts on the state’s MyTurn website. Officials launched the site earlier this year to help streamline the volunteer process for medical workers and the general public. CalMatters

THE STORIES

Almost a year after George Floyd’s murder, longtime civil rights activists, including prominent LA leaders, have gained a wider following. “People finally understand what we mean when we say, ‘Until black people are free, no one is free,'” said Melina Abdullah, frontman of Black Lives Matter LA Los Angeles Times.

Jai’Ree Tannan, 20, of Chino Hills, said he has become more involved in social justice causes over the past year.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

LA’s new 6th Street Bridge rises. The new bridge will replace the original structure built in 1932 and reconnect the downtown arts district and historic Boyle Heights. Its completion is scheduled for summer 2022. Los Angeles Times (This story is exclusive to Times subscribers.)

A historic Armenian church in Boyle Heights is experiencing post-pandemic revival. The weathered house of worship appeared to be nearing its end in early 2020, but many worshipers are returning this year. Reverend Armenag Bedrossian, the church’s only pastor, believes it is because “the pandemic was like a spiritual retreat for them.” Los Angeles Times

CORONAVIRUS

An investigation showed Orange County officials were unprepared for COVID-19. Other jurisdictions in California and the United States also struggled, but the the slow response and brazen reluctance against the security measures of some officials and residents made it the center of resistance. So far, Orange County has recorded 255,000 cases and more than 5,000 deaths. Los Angeles Times

Cases in the United States are in free fall. The seven-day average for new cases fell below 30,000 a day last week, the lowest level in more than 11 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, health experts warn that there is still potential for new variants to prolong the pandemic, as more Americans need to be vaccinated. Los Angeles Times

The pandemic has disrupted many lives, but it has been particularly catastrophic for people with dementia. Studies show that people with dementia are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and have a harder time following safety measures. Chronicle of San Francisco.

POLICY AND GOVERNMENT

A petition to recall Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón was formally approved. Now, recall organizers must collect the signatures of 10% of registered LA County voters by October 27. Los Angeles Times

With Governor Gavin Newsom’s recall underway, where is Donald Trump? Some say it’s too early for Trump to share the interest of throwing his hat in the ring. Others say Trump has not publicly backed any candidate because data from a recent poll shows Newsom is likely to win the recall and Trump does not want to be associated with defeat. Sacramento Bee

HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

The $ 6 billion proposal to expand the congested 710 freeway could violate Clear Air Act standards. It’s the latest hurdle that Southern California transportation officials are grappling with. Now they have to consider starting over with a new approach. Los Angeles Times

An environmental group has called on the US Navy to review its operations in the Pacific Ocean to avoid killing or injuring animals. The Center for Biological Diversity wrote the letter after two dead whales appeared to have been struck by an Australian naval destroyer. One ran aground on Bolsa Chica State Beach. Orange County Register

Scientists are taking samples from the carcass of a beached fin whale at Bolsa Chica State Beach.

Scientists at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach are taking samples from the carcass of a beached fin whale at Bolsa Chica State Beach for further study.

(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

THE CULTURE OF CALIFORNIA

Comic book character Goro Shigeno influenced Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani’s passion for baseball. In Japan, it is not uncommon for popular comics to transcend children’s entertainment and permeate everyday life. Los Angeles Times (This story is for Times subscribers only.)

A viral TikTok video was inviting people to a birthday party in Huntington Beach. Thousands of people showed up at ‘Adrian’s bribe’ and urged authorities to impose an overnight emergency curfew. Nearly 150 people have been arrested and will face charges of vandalism, non-dispersal, curfew violation and fireworks, police said. Los Angeles Times

One man has over 10,000 pieces of Palm Springs pop culture history scattered around his home and storage units. Marty Newman’s collection includes what he claims to be the monogrammed Elvis Presley gate once at his Chino Canyon property and a jeweled belt buckle from President John F. Kennedy that was gifted to the former mayor of Palm Springs, Frank Bogert. Desert sun

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ALMANAC OF CALIFORNIA

Los Angeles: sunny, 82. San Diego: mostly sunny, 73. San Francisco: sunny, 64. San José: sunny, 75. Fresno: sunny, 91. Sacramento: sunny, 88.

AND FINALLY

This week’s birthdays for those who marked California:

Writer Michel chabon (24 May 1963), singer Bob dylan (May 24, 1941), singer Stevie Nicks (May 26, 1948), actress Pam grier (May 26, 1949), consultant Clippers and former Laker Jerry west (May 28, 1938) and leader of Pavement Stephen malkmus (May 30, 1966).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please limit your story to 100 words.)

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