L.A. County Still Weeks Away From Lifting Indoor Mask Mandate, Ferrer Estimates

Los Angeles County is probably weeks away from lifting its indoor mask mandate, and at the latest could ease the order by the end of April — unless a new coronavirus variant poses a threat.

There are two triggers that could result in L.A. County easing its indoor mask mandate, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced Tuesday.

The first is the county entering a “moderate” rate of transmission, in which cases fall below 730 a day for two consecutive weeks, Ferrer said.

“We anticipate being able to get to ‘moderate’ transmission — if we can continue to drive down the rates, as we are right now on our cases — within a few weeks. But we’re not there yet,” Ferrer said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

L.A. County is averaging about 9,500 cases a day, according to a Times analysis of state data. Case rates in the county are dropping in half every week, Ferrer said. If this pace continues, the county would fall under the goal of 730 cases a day in early March and could exit the indoor mask order two weeks later, according to a Times analysis.

The county’s goal matches the recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends that vaccinated people in indoor public settings wear masks when there are 50 or more cases a week for every 100,000 residents; for L.A. County, this would mean 730 cases a day.

The second condition that would trigger the lifting of the county mask order, Ferrer said, is for eight weeks to elapse after children ages 6 months to 4 years become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering the vaccine for that age group on Feb. 15, and an advisory panel to the CDC is meeting the following week, so it’s possible that vaccines could become available by the end of February. This means L.A. County could lift its mask order by the end of April.

“We think the end of April is the sort of endpoint,” Ferrer said.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Cities Try To Thwart State’s Push For Housing

Those of a certain age might remember Mad magazine, a comic book that lampooned almost everything for more than six decades.

One of Mad’s more enduring and popular strips was “Spy vs. Spy,” created by Cuban expatriate artist Antonio Prohías. Wordlessly, two figures, one dressed in black and the other in white, would try constantly to outwit each other but neither could ever prevail.

The political and legal war over housing, pitting the state of California against its 400 cities, is reminiscent of the perpetual duel between those two comic strip warriors.

The state enacts laws and regulations aimed at compelling cities to accept more affordable housing construction, particularly to serve low- and moderate-income families, and cities counter with local laws and regulations to evade their housing quotas.

Although the state might seem to have the upper hand as it seeks to close its yawning gap between supply and demand, one would have to say that the cities have been remarkably successful in evading their civic and legal responsibilities because construction falls way short of the state’s goals.

In theory, California should be building 185,000 units a year to keep up with current demand and chip away at the backlog, but it scarcely produces half of that number.

City officials, responding to their constituents’ aversion to high-density housing, employ all sorts of tactics to discourage development, such as imposing specific requirements that make projects economically infeasible or zoning undesirable land for housing.

As new anti-housing tactics are introduced, the state adjusts laws and regulations to thwart them, but the cities just find new ways to preserve the status quo.

One of the state’s newest pro-housing approaches, embodied in legislation enacted last year and going into effect last month, allows up to four units of housing to be built on land zoned for single-family homes. City officials denounced Senate Bill 9 as it was winding through the Capitol, arguing that it usurped their traditional land use authority and would change the character of their neighborhoods.

However, now that SB 9 is law, cities are trying to figure out how to blunt, or even cancel, its impact in true Spy vs. Spy fashion.

Just before the law took effect, for example, Pasadena enacted an “emergency ordinance” that imposes tight, and likely unworkable, rules on what can be built.

They include an 800-square-foot limit on new units, a one-story height limitation, a requirement for one parking spot for each new unit, landscaping standards and a ban on short-term rentals. Collectively, they could make development authorized under SB 9 economically prohibitive.

Click here to read the full article at CALMatters

McConnell Breaks With RNC: Jan. 6 ‘Violent Insurrection’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the Republican National Committee (RNC) for its censure of Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and broke with their language on the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, calling it a “violent insurrection.”

“It was a violent insurrection with the purpose of trying to prevent a peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election. … That’s what it was,” McConnell said. 

The RNC sparked fierce backlash after it described Jan. 6, when a mob of former President Trump’s followers breached the Capitol, as “legitimate political discourse” in a resolution censuring Kinzinger and Cheney. 

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel appeared to try to clarify the resolution, alleging in a statement that the two GOP lawmakers were involved in persecuting citizens “engaged in legitimate political discourse” but “that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.” The last section was not in the RNC resolution. 

Read the full article at the Hill.com

Mayor Garcetti’s Former Top Spokeswoman Wants Him Charged With Perjury

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s onetime chief spokeswoman has filed a complaint with local, state and federal prosecutors, demanding that he be prosecuted for perjury for repeatedly denying that he knew about another former aide’s alleged sexual misconduct.

A nonprofit law firm sent a 31-page letter on behalf of Naomi Seligman to the U.S. Department of Justice, the California attorney general’s office and Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón last week, accusing Garcetti of lying and conspiring with top staffers to cover up multiple accusations of sexual harassment against Rick Jacobs, the mayor’s former deputy chief of staff.

Seligman said she hopes felony charges will be filed against the mayor for allegedly lying under oath, in a legal deposition and in testimony to a U.S. Senate committee. She said she hopes that the letter also will have a political impact — causing the U.S. Senate to block Garcetti’s confirmation as U.S. ambassador to India.

The allegations were forwarded to more than half the members of the Senate, said Seligman’s lawyers, who also filed the complaints with the California State Personnel Board, the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and the California State Auditor’s Office, under provisions of the state’s whistleblower protection law.

“Senators should be outraged that someone nominated to represent our country in a key diplomatic post would lie to their faces so brazenly,” Seligman said in a statement. “It’s time for them to take a serious look at the evidence that I and others have presented and live up to the commitment that many of them have made to protect victims of predatory behavior in the workplace.”

Jacobs has repeatedly denied that he sexually harassed anyone when he worked as one of Garcetti’s top aides and political advisors, claims that became public in 2020 in a lawsuit filed by a former member of the mayor’s LAPD security detail.

Garcetti has said he knew nothing of the accusations by Officer Matthew Garza, and later others, until Garza’s lawsuit became public in July of 2020.

“There is nothing new here — and these false claims about the mayor are just as ridiculous now as they were when they were first made,” a statement from Garcetti’s office said. “The mayor stands by his testimony unequivocally, and more than a dozen witnesses have testified under oath that he was never made aware of any improper behavior.”

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Biden’s First Year In Office Saw 73 Police Officers Killed – Most Deaths Since 1995

More cops were killed in the line of duty during President Biden’s first year of office than any other year since 1995 — and a law-enforcement group says the driving force is the growing anti-cop sentiment, according to a new report.

Seventy-three officers were intentionally killed in the line of duty in 2021 — a nearly 59 percent increase over 2020, when 46 cops were murdered, Fox News reported Sunday, citing the FBI’s database on officers killed in action.

“We believe it’s a combination … of the George Floyd protests — riots, if you will; a general feeling of a preference for less law enforcement; and less prosecution and less policing,” Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund​ ​and a 20-year police veteran​, told Fox News.​

“Law enforcement officers have essentially been marginalized and demoralized and cast aside and encouraged now to enforce the law. And so we’ve seen massive jumps in the homicide rate in cities across America​,” he said. 

Johnson noted that “it’s natural” that rising homicide rates in the US have “also resulted in many more officers being assaulted because … a lot of leaders in these cities and leaders in Congress and leaders in the White House have really voiced a lack of respect for law enforcement officers.”

Click here to read the full article at the NY POST

Memphis BLM Founder Pamela Moses Sentenced To 6 years For Illegally Voting

The founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Memphis has been sentenced to prison for six years for illegally registering to vote in Tennessee, prosecutors said.

Pamela Moses, the 44-year-old activist, was ordered to spend six years and one day behind bars Monday for registering to vote despite felony convictions in 2015 that made her ineligible to do so, Shelby County District Attorney General. Amy Weirich said.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Michael Ward accused her of deceiving the probation department to obtain the right to vote,

“You tricked the probation department into giving you documents saying you were off probation,” Ward said in court, the Washington Post reported.

In 2015, Moses pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and forgery, both felonies, and to misdemeanor charges of perjury, stalking, theft under $500, and escape.

She was placed on probation for seven years and deemed ineligible to vote in Tennessee because of the tampering with evidence charge.

Moses has maintained that she was under the impression that her voting rights had been restored when she went to vote in 2019.

Click here to read the full article at NY Post

‘MaskGate’ and the Unserious Politicians Mocking the People of California

California is in a State of Emergency and is hosting the Super Bowl

Was it another French Laundry moment, or the latest installment of “MaskGate” at Sunday’s NFC Championship game in Los Angeles? Photos on social media brought us images of unmasked California Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, posing for pics with Magic Johnson, despite the Los Angeles County mask mandate and SoFi Stadium requirements.

Who can blame them? Wearing a mask everywhere you go, or all day is nauseating. Why can’t they admit this?

While California teens, children and even toddlers are still cruelly being forced to wear masks all day long in government schools throughout the state, and businesses are required to enforce indoor masking, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayors and celebrities were seen and photographed at the NFC Championship game looking normal without masks on, among 80,000 screaming fans. In fact, masks were not evident on anyone in the stands. 

The moment should have turned the tide; the mandates should have been lifted. But that’s not what happened.

Instead, our unserious politicians doubled down on stupid.

Rather than apologizing for violating his own statewide mask orders as well as the LA mask orders, Gov. Newsom claimed he’d been wearing it the whole time and only shed his mask for the photo op with Johnson. But there are other photos and video of him maskless.

Claiming to be thoughtful, “You’re correct,” Newsom said when asked about going maskless at SoFi stadium, Deadline reported. “I was very judicious yesterday. Very judicious. You’ll see the photo that I did take, Magic was kind enough, generous enough, to ask me for a photograph and in my left hand’s the mask and I took the photo. The rest of the time I wore it as we all should, um — not when I had a glass of water — and I encourage everybody else to do so. And, uh, that’s it.”

Asked if he should he have reconsidered taking off his mask, given his 2020 incident at the French Laundry, the governor responded, “Yes, of course. I was trying to be gracious. I made a mis — I was trying to be gracious,” Deadline reported. “I took the mask off for a brief second but, no, I encourage people to continue to wear them.”

My BS Meter exploded. He couldn’t even choke out the word “mistake.” Does Gov. Newsom have any humility? Does he think or even care that California residents are not so stupid as to believe his schtick?

Not to be outdone by the governor, Mayor Garcetti was even more of a clown when confronted. Garcetti said he held his breath to take the photo with Magic Johnson and Mayor Breed. Apparently Garcetti believes COVID germs don’t travel when you hold your breath.

“I’ll take personal responsibility,” Garcetti said when asked about the photos, “and if it makes you and everyone else happy — or even the photographs with people where literally I’m holding my breath for two seconds — I won’t even do that.”

It’s a shame Assemblyman James Gallagher wasn’t there. He’s the only one who made sense: “Gavin was judicious, Garcetti held his breath… C’mon man. Stop. They don’t really believe masking is necessary. Nor did any one else around them or anyone in that stadium for that matter. End of story.”

Click here to read the full article at California Globe

Assemblywoman Davies Introduces “Parents Bill of Rights”

A “Parents Bill of Rights” to ensure schools fully inform parents about what their kids are being taught, and guaranteeing parental rights to govern what they are being taught, has been introduced by Assemblywoman Laurie Davies, who represents much of south Orange County.

“California’s education system has long been a beacon for the rest of our nation to follow,” said Davies, a Republican. “Unfortunately, things have changed in recent years for our school system. In this new era of ‘cancel-culture’, our students have been taught what to think instead of how to think.”

As an example, Davies pointed to the Burbank Unified School District banning classic pieces of literature, such as Harper Lee’s award-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird, for fear students might be “uncomfortable” learning about the history of racism in our country. Davies suggested such misguided banning of literary masterpieces is a contributing factor in California’s ranking 41st in the nation for public school performance.

“We must equip parents with the tools to go into schools and districts and fight for the education that meets the needs of their child,” said Davies. “Involved parents, in turn, teach their children how to think, instead of what to think.”

“Every parent should have the right to choose what kind of school their child should attend, the right to make healthcare decisions for their child, and the right to all academic records related to their child,” said Davies. “This includes the ability to review course materials taught to students.”

Under Davies’ “Parents Bill of Education Rights,” schools would be required to:

  • Provide parents and guardians, at the start of each quarter, opportunities to learn about their children’s’ curriculum – including any supplemental materials brought in by teachers.
  • Inform parents and guardians in advance of any teachings related to comprehensive sexual education and HIV prevention – and about the opt-out procedure.
  • Send parents an annual newsletter listing clubs and activities at their school, and the nature and purpose of those clubs and activities.

Schools would be required to post the following on the district/school website:

  • How to opt-out of comprehensive sexual education and HIV prevention education.
  • School choice options
  • Immunization requirements
  • How to inspect instruction materials, including curriculum materials.
  • How to review statewide standardized assessment results.
  • How to qualify their child for gifted or special education programs.
  • How to access promotion and retention policies, including high school graduation requirements.

Click here to read the full article at OC Independent

With a SoFi Super Bowl Imminent, It’s Not Time To Throw Out Mask Rules, Leaders Say

With the Super Bowl in Inglewood in just two weeks, public health and elected leaders pushed back Wednesday, Feb. 2, on calls to lift Los Angeles County’s masking mandates, citing still high coronavirus transmission rates.

They acknowledged that much will be left to personal responsibility on a Super Bowl mega-stage when such rules cannot be consistently enforced. But that doesn’t mean throw the current rules out, they said.

Not yet, anyway, they said.

Many fans seated at last Sunday’s NFC Championship at SoFi Stadium were seen not wearing masks, sparking calls to do away with masking rules altogether, given that actually fully enforcing the rule is not possible. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom also stirred social-media heat after photos were posted of them posing maskless with former Lakers great Magic Johnson.

“We’re still in a surge .. .,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer at a news conference at SoFi Stadium, where she joined Garcetti, Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and NFL officials. “It’s absolutely essential when you’re really experiencing this much community transmission to add in an additional layer of protection. In a large crowd …  putting on this layer is a critically important way to continue to stay focused on getting community transmission down.”

The message came in response to Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger, who this week called on local and state officials to reassess the mask mandate. Barger and other critics argue that as the omicron variant wanes, and more become vaccinated, it should be up to the individual whether to wear a mask — especially when there’s spotty compliance at mega events anyway.

“Let’s do away with blanket COVID-19 masking policies — they don’t make a difference when they’re not consistently followed or enforced,” Barger said this week, noting that modern stadiums like SoFi have strong air circulation and all in the house are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

But Barger’s statement baffled Mitchell, who said the masking rules aren’t just for the benefit of fans’ public health. She pointed to concerns from many workers at venues — ticket takers, security workers — across L.A. who she said were concerned about non-mask-wearing patrons.

“That’s my responsibility and obligation, and I will continue to stand and do so,” Mitchell said.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

The People Behind California’s Plan To End Chronic Homelessness

Getting off the streets and into housing is often touted as a statistical success.

But reality is much more complicated.

Jackie Botts recently took CalMatters readers on an intimate tour of the winding road Fernando Maya, a formerly homeless veteran, traveled from the streets of Los Angeles to a Project Roomkey hotel room to his own studio apartment in subsidized housing.

His story highlights the myriad personal and systemic factors that make it difficult for people to find housing and stay housed – including the collision with a car while bicycling and head injury that hampered Maya’s efforts to rebuild his life.

In the latest episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon interviewed Jackie and Maya about his story and her reporting process.

So where is Maya now, and what lays in store for him next?

“Well, I’ve got a door. I’ve got a door with a key. I have seven days a week for cop shows,” he joked. 

On being inside, he reflected, “This is always a positive for me, every day. Because it is secure. I have the walls to secure me from the elements, I don’t have crashes blowing by me.”

Jackie recounted first meeting Maya two years ago, while reporting on the state’s food aid program.

“You were excited to talk to a journalist and I remember you saying, like, ‘I can be your eyes and your ears on the street,’” she said. “It just seemed like you had a story worth telling and so we kept in touch and I would just like, check in and ask you little questions.”

The story gained urgency as the state announced a $12 billion appropriation last summer to address the California homeless crisis, a chunk of which recently became available to expand mental health housing and treatment.

But a severe worker shortage in the California homeless services field threatens the state’s ability to massively expand services. Many homeless service workers — who make low wages for high-stress jobs — are burned out.

Maya talked about the importance of case workers to him and other people experiencing homelessness. “Some of us need help,” he said. “Some of us don’t know we need help.”  

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters