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Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

Local Issues

26 Mar 2020
Chris wants a motel room. So do his neighbors. Their homes are the dozen or so tents that straddle North B Street in an industrial part of Sacramento. They’re aware that the novel coronavirus is spreading and is potentially lethal. Fortunately, no one in the camp has shown symptoms. “My friend’s been watching the TV,” said Chris, who declined to give his last name. “He said they’re signing all these bills to put the homeless in a motel, and I’m trying to get (a hotel room), too.” But it’s unclear when that might happen. As of Tuesday—five days after Gov. Gavin Newsom directed Californians to shelter in place, including the estimated 108,000 who sleep outdoors—nobody had approached the encampment to offer emergency housing, the residents said. Nobody had come around with new protocols the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had put out about how far apart the tents should…
13 Mar 2020
It was less than a week before the best tennis players in the world were to gather for the start of the 2020 BNP Paribas Open on Monday, March 9. I’d connected with Sheri Pierattoni, owner of Piero’s PizzaVino in Palm Desert, to hear about the challenges she and her team faced as they prepared, for the seventh year, to operate a satellite restaurant at Indian Wells Tennis Garden—alongside world-famous eateries like Spago’s and Nobu. “People come from all over the world to watch this tennis tournament,” Pierattoni me excitedly. “It’s one of the biggest events in tennis in the world—and it’s a beautiful place with the best dining options anywhere. It’s what sets this event apart from all others. (Tourney owner Larry Ellison) has brought a ton of money into this valley, and everybody is grateful to him for that. A lot of local businesses are sustained by this…
12 Mar 2020
When the novel coronavirus hit California, Jamille Cabacungan, a registered nurse at UCSF Medical Center, rushed to sign up as a volunteer to treat infected patients. She hesitated to answer, however, when asked about her preparation for that job. The hospital is providing the necessary gear, she said, and more heightened training for some nurses. But not for all—and much of her training is coming from videos forwarded to her by the hospital, as opposed to hands-on learning-by-doing. Her colleagues are depending on her—“we don’t want to put our pregnant co-workers or those who live with elderly people at risk,” she added—but the preparation is less intense than she expected, considering the risk involved. As California’s coronavirus strategy has moved from containment to mitigation, the health-care workers on the first line of response to the epidemic are also finding themselves on the front line of potential infection. From internal conversations…
10 Mar 2020
As the stock market tumbled and oil prices collapsed earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s top economic officials sought to project calm from the world’s fifth-largest economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and a Russia-Saudi Arabia oil price war. Lenny Mendonca, the governor’s chief economic and business adviser, said that California is assessing the growing economic impact of the virus, which has shut down schools, suspended in-person classes at UC Berkeley and Stanford, canceled major tech conventions such as Google I/O, and sidelined dockworkers at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Mendonca sought to strike a balance between reassurance and prudence. “I want to emphasize that there will always be economic ups and downs, but people will continue to visit our state as they always have,” he told a meeting of state agency heads gathered at the Capitol for an update on international trade efforts. “Our…
27 Feb 2020
Everyone around him saw this coming. No one managed to stop it. For years, family members of James Mark Rippee—a blind, homeless Vacaville man with a traumatic brain injury and paranoid schizophrenia—have fought to get him into treatment. He resisted. And official after official cited California’s involuntary-treatment laws in explaining to his family why there was nothing they could do. On the evening of Feb. 12, Rippee stepped off the center divide of a dimly lit Vacaville street into the path of an oncoming vehicle, police say. Now he’s facing multiple surgeries, said his sister Linda Privatte—for a fractured skull, a brain bleed, a shattered elbow, a dislocated shoulder and a crushed leg. Like many other families, Rippee’s sisters place much of the blame on the mental health implications of a 1967 state law, Lanterman-Petris-Short. It imposed specific timeframes for involuntary confinement and limited involuntary holds to those deemed a…
19 Feb 2020
Last May, Burger Patch opened its doors in midtown Sacramento—with a sign that said “No Cash Accepted.” The owners of the organic and vegan burger joint were worried that a cash register might invite theft. But customers kept showing up with only cash. Sometimes the cashiers would accept it, working around the digital system; other times, they’d simply give the customer a free meal. About a month in, Burger Patch changed course, deciding to install a cash register after all. “We want to be able to have everyone come and eat here, no matter what,” said Zia Simmons, who has worked at the restaurant since it opened. “We don’t want to ever have to be like, ‘Well, if you don’t have a card, you can’t eat here.’” A small but growing number of businesses are no longer accepting cash. Owners say that accepting only credit cards, debit cards or digital…
14 Feb 2020
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Much has been written about Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), the legislation signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year that redefines how California companies can hire freelancers and contract workers—and much of that writing has focused on Lyft and Uber drivers, as well as freelance writers, who have been hit hard by the law. But there's another, less-discussed group of people whose livelihoods are being threatened by AB 5: freelance musicians. As the law is written, a musician hired for a one-off gig at a club or restaurant could be considered both an employee and an employer, if he or she put together a combo for the occasion. A musician hiring a producer once to help out on an album also would be considered an employer. And if musicians perform paid work at houses of worship on a regular basis, according to AB 5 as it stands now,…
16 Jan 2020
Declaring that moral persuasion and economic incentives aren’t working to bring in people from the sidewalks, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s task force on homelessness earlier this week called for a “legally enforceable mandate” that would force municipalities and the state to house the growing number of homeless Californians. The proposal, which came as Newsom kicked off a weeklong tour of the state aimed at drawing attention to the homelessness crisis, urged the Legislature to put a measure on the November ballot that would force California cities and counties to take steps to provide housing for the more than 150,000 Californians who lack it—or face legal action. Such a measure would require a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses to be brought to voters. California law does not currently penalize the state or local governments for failing to reduce their homeless populations, nor does it force them to make housing sufficiently available…
16 Jan 2020
Back in October, a mulch fire ignited at the Sun Valley Recycling Center near Thermal, on land owned by the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians. The smoke plagued schools and neighborhoods for several weeks, creating health concerns for thousands of residents in the eastern Coachella Valley. Communities and school boards called for help—and one of the organizations that answered that call was the recently expanded Desert Healthcare District, led by newly elected Board President Leticia De Lara, and Chief Executive Officer Conrado Barzaga. “There were funds (accessible to the DHCD) that were identified for clean air and to address some of the air-quality issues related to the fires that were burning in the east valley last October,” De Lara said during a recent phone interview. “Our CEO, Conrado, was able to identify these funds and some partners who could bring some immediate health-care resources to the residents, including Borrego Health,…
07 Jan 2020
The sightings of James Mark Rippee are all over his sisters’ Facebook account. Someone spotted him sleeping by a furniture store in Vallejo. Someone walked him to a gas station for coffee. Someone prayed for him at Nation’s Giant Hamburgers. Rippee, 56, developed schizophrenia after a horrific motorcycle accident more than three decades ago caused a traumatic brain injury and the loss of his eyesight. His delusions range from being an alien, to getting chased by the KKK, to being prevented from collecting his lottery winnings, his sisters say. In September, he stepped into traffic and was hit by a car, his sisters say; he then developed a brain abscess. After weeks in the hospital and a board-and-care, he walked out. His 62-year-old twin sisters—Catherine Hanson and Linda Privatte—weren’t alerted. Now they couldn’t find him. Complicating things further: Hanson is bedridden with blood cancer; Privatte is legally blind and cannot…

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