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LA Mayor Warns Of Deep Pain But Vows: 'We Are Not Broken... The Real Question Is How We Come Back'

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In his “State of the City” speech this evening, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed a stark new reality due to the havoc coronavirus is wreaking on the city’s budget. He set the stage for what will likely be massive cuts when he presents his 2020-21 budget to the city council tomorrow.

"All of us remember the 2008 recession, until now, it was the biggest economic low of our lifetime, and it hurt. There's no way to sugarcoat. This is bigger, and it will hurt more."

He laid out steps already underway to address projected budget shortfalls in this unprecedented crisis including:

  • Already borrowing $70 million from city special funds and reserve fund
  • 26 furlough days for all civilian employees, the equivalent of a 10% paycut
  • Cuts to many city departments, which "will have to operate at sharply reduced strength"

And also defined, broadly, what he says he will not cut:

"I have drawn a red line around the foundation of our common good. Those back-to-basic investments that keep our neighborhood safe, our streets clean, our families' housed, and our children, and seniors fed."

Garcetti cited across the board losses in revenue, including a 95% drop in passenger traffic through LAX and a cratering of hospitality services from restaurants to hotels.

To put that into perspective, he explained: "After 911, our airport closed for two and a half days. Passenger traffic fell by as much as a third that month and it took us 10 years to claw our way back."

After laying out broad strokes of painful choices already underway, Garcetti outlined a vision for using the crisis to remake the city and, potentially, tackle long-standing problems.

“The soul of our recovery will shape the contours of our city’s future for decades to come,” Garcetti said. "Long before this crisis, too many Americans have been forgotten by a country that speaks about the many, but too often favors the few."

Garcetti's voice wavered with emotion as he described how significantly the pandemic has reshaped life in L.A.

"Our city is under attack. Our daily life is unrecognizable. We are bowed and we are worn down. We are grieving our dead. But we are not broken. Nor will we ever be. So the real question is how we will come back.”

The mayor's speech came just days after City Controller Ron Galperin released a staggering revised estimate that forecast:

  • A $231 million revenue shortfall for this fiscal year, which ends in June
  • Up to $598 million next year, which begins July 1

Last year, during the halcyon days of economic growth, Garcetti’s budget proposed boosting spending on police overtime and infrastructure improvements, including road repairs. The 2019-20 plan also requested more be set aside for the city’s budget reserves, which include a budget stabilization fund -- bringing the total to $399 million. Just last fall, the mayor was predicting the next budget could build further on that cushion.

But even before the crisis hit, the city was in belt-tightening mode because of new labor agreements signed after the budget was adopted last May. Pay raises and expanded benefits for police, firefighters and civilian employees wiped out projected surpluses. As a result, the city was projected to run $200 to $400 million deficits in the coming years, according to a report by the City Administrative Officer, Rich Llewellyn.

But the economic downturn some economists saw on the horizon is instead a pandemic-driven fiscal cliff. The bottom line: It won’t take long for the city’s “rainy day” fund to be swallowed up by the gaping revenue hole left by COVID-19.

As he has before, Garcetti appealed to the White House and Congress for aid for struggling local governments hit hard by both revenue losses and emergency spending to address the virus.

"I've called on the federal government to either loosen restrictions on emergency funds that prevent us from using them to replace lost revenue or in the next CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act] package help bail out America's cities, just as you bailed out the banks."

Among the things he is calling on the federal government to:

  • Back an eviction moratorium
  • Greatly expand Section 8 vouchers
  • Make college free for those who want to attend
  • Pass a national infrastructure bill to create jobs
  • Open every part of the recovery to immigrants, regardless of their status

READ THE SPEECH

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS

White House Stands Behind COVID-19 Guidelines, Testing Capacity

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In a briefing Sunday, White House officials defended the course of action they've taken with regards to testing for the coronavirus. They also stood behind their guidelines for states to start lifting social distancing rules.

"[The] governors are doing incredible work," said President Trump of efforts made by state leaders to diminish the spread of COVID-19. "And they're working with us very closely on testing."

READ MORE:

Memo To America's Governors On What To Consider In Order To Reopen

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In Venice, Italy two women help deliver food Saturday to people who have been unable to go shopping . (Andrea Pattoro/AFP via Getty Images)

The nonprofit investigative newsroom ProPublica has put together a memo to America's governors on what to consider when it comes to reopening their states. It's based on interviews with experts and frontline officials from Italy, Germany, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea.

Here's their preface:

Memo to America’s Governors:

From: ProPublica

Subject: Restarting the Economy

After insisting that he had absolute power to decide when to reopen the American economy, President Donald Trump has turned over to all of you what he initially called “the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

Trump is often guilty of hyperbole, but he’s right in this case. Figuring out how and when to let people go back to work during an outbreak of life-threatening disease is the most consequential decision any of you will ever face. You’ve already seen the stakes in New York, New Jersey and Michigan.

Get this wrong and thousands of people in your state will die. As the presidential election campaign heats up, count on the president to blast you for high unemployment rates in your state (you lifted restrictions too slowly) or clusters of deaths (you went too far, too soon).

Their topline takeaways:

  1. Build an Army of Contact Tracers
  2. Be Prepared to Test Constantly
  3. Isolate People With Suspected Infections From Their Families
  4. Protect, Protect, Protect Health Care Workers
  5. Normal Is Not the Goal
  6. Keep Your Eyes Peeled for the Second Wave
  7. Clear Communication Is Critical

READ THEIR FULL ANALYSIS

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS IN LA

L.A. County Announces 334 New Coronavirus Cases, 24 New Deaths

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FILE: Barbara Ferrer, director of L.A. County's Department of Public Health, joins city and county leaders on one the daily briefings. (Screenshot from March 20 County of L.A. live stream)

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The L.A. County Department of Public Health has confirmed 24 new deaths and 334 new cases of the coronavirus. This brings the county's total deaths to 600 and cases to 12,341.

Of the 24 people who died:

  • 16 were over the age of 65
  • 4 were between the ages of 41 to 65
  • 3 were between the ages of 18 to 40

Another death was reported by Long Beach, so the age was not immediately available.

According to the county release, all but one person who died had an underlying health condition, although additional information provided does not match that total.

The day's report marked a significant decrease from the 81 deaths reported Saturday, the highest daily toll so far.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a news release:

"Though there are promising signs that our collective efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 are working, we are sad to report today that more Angelenos have lost their lives to COVID-19, and their loved ones are in our hearts as they mourn".

Ferrer said there "there is evidence that our physical distancing efforts are working."

Overall, as of Sunday, 89% of people whose deaths are connected to COVID-19 had underlying health conditions, and 29% of people who tested positive have been hospitalized at some point during their illness.

Ventura County Lifts More Restrictions On Businesses And Gatherings

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Earlier this month, Godspeaker Calvary Chapel attendees in Thousand Oaks wait to to take communion on Palm Sunday. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)

Ventura County is beginning to lift some restrictions of its stay-at-home orders.

Parks have reopened and golf courses will now too. Small gatherings of no more than five people will be permitted, as will non-essential businesses that do not interact with the public.

And that’s only if they operate with fewer than 10 employees and observe physical distancing.

Ventura County CEO Mike Powers told NBC4 the easing of restrictions will be gradual:

"But it's a reflection of the work that they’re doing and their commitment. And that if we keep going in this direction and we all lean in together, we’re going to get through ... this"

Ventura County officials are still advising anyone over 70 or with preexisting medical conditions to continue sheltering at home. And the modifications also came at the same time county officials extended orders to May 15 that had initially scheduled to expire last night.

The county of about 846,000 residents has reported 416 confirmed COVID-19 and 13 deaths as of Saturday. Roughly 200 county residents are currently in quarantine. Ventura County officials say they intend to increase testing capacity, and that if coronavirus infections increase again, these restrictions will go back into place.

Here's a look at how Ventura County compares to the rest of the state, courtesy of the JSK Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University and the Big Local News group, in partnership with the Google News Initiative.

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Resistance To Newsom's Hotel Rooms For The Homeless Is Most Public In SoCal

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A homeless encampment photographed in L.A. this month. Newsom praised the city's efforts to house the homeless in this pandemic but had harsh words for others. (Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

Gov. Newsom said Saturday that those cities blocking efforts to house the state's massive homeless population will ultimately be judged "by the extent they help the least among us."

But the governor declined to name specific problematic cities.

Matt Levin, who covers housing for our friends at CalMatters, reports:

Resistance to the hotel initiative has surfaced most publicly in Southern California. The cities of Laguna Woods and Laguna Hills in Orange County, and Lawndale and Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County, have mounted legal challenges to hotels that inked emergency deals with county governments.

... As the state prioritizes hotel rooms for the homeless who have tested positive for the virus or are symptomatic, a potent cocktail of fear is developing in some neighborhoods, say homelessness advocates.

READ HIS FULL REPORT

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Why The Venice Beach Skate Park Now Looks Like This

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A drone shot captures the filled-in skate park on Venice Beach this Saturday. (Chava Sanchez / LAist)

Not everyone is observing COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Ongoing offenders at the Venice Beach skate park pushed the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation to fill the park with sand. Caution tape alone failed as a deterrent.

We sent our visual journalist Chava Sanchez — who assures us he's wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing — to check out how the area is complying during the pandemic.

He says while police shooed away anyone near the skate park, he still saw lots of people in close proximity to one another.

"Several groups of people congregated, just sitting around and definitely not social distancing. A good amount of people just hanging out and about without face masks. The parking lots were closed, but there is plenty of street parking. And I saw a lot of people at the beach."

L.A. Parks and Rec officials say if other skate parks become hot spots for violating social distancing, those locations will also be filled with sand through the pandemic.

Shacked Magazine, which covers surfing, first reported Thursday that they'd spotted bulldozers near the popular skate park. They've documented the steps it took.

Here's a look at the park in normal times:

A young man jumps with his skateboard at Venice Beach in 2011. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images)

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Senior Year Is In Disarray. Here's How To Help Teens And Young Adults Who Feel Lost

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A vignette from last year's UCLA graduation ceremony. (Robyn Beck /AFP via Getty Images

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For many young people, sheltering at home means missing milestones and public recognition of their achievements. This is especially true for seniors graduating from high school and college.

But there are ways to help them cope. Here are a few things parents can try.

ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS

Psychologist Lynn Bufka, spokesperson for the American Psychological Association, says an important way for parents to help high school and college students is to simply acknowledge their feelings — the sadness and disappointment they feel about the loss of prom, celebrations and graduation.

Parents should recognize that for many young people:

"This is the biggest thing they've experienced in their lives. They're too young to remember 9-11. Collectively as a generation, this is a really big experience for them."

When you're young, understanding that life is just not as predictable as they might have thought can be scary, she says. Parents can help by letting them talk about it.

ENCOURAGE THEM TO STAY CONNECTED

Young people need to establish a cushion of social connection they can lean on through these times.

Bufka says staying socially connected, even virtually, can be helpful. In fact she prefers to describe distance precautions as "physical distancing," not social distancing. "It's important to maintain social connection and intimacy even if this is not in person," she says.

And, she encourages young people to take advantage of the many ways to socially connect, with all kinds of shared online activities, including group chats, dinners, TV and even movie watching.

SHIFT FOCUS TO WHAT THEY CAN CONTROL

Bufka recommends talking to your teen or college-aged child about the things they do have some control over

Graduation may be postponed or cancelled, but young people can plan special events for after the pandemic has ended. Perhaps a trip with best friends or a post-graduation party. Focus on the positive events that can occur at the end of this crisis. Envision how you can celebrate and maybe even start making plans now.

EMPHASIZE THE GREATER GOOD

It can help to point out to young people that they are making sacrifices right now not just for their own health and safety, but for the greater good. She points to a study that looked at previous infectious disease crises, including the 2003 SARS and 2014 Ebola outbreaks. People are able to cope better, she says, when they "think about the altruistic reason they're doing this."

Changes in everyday life to limit the spread of disease may be hard, Bufka says, but "we're in it together and we're in it to benefit the larger community and to have a good impact on overall health and well-being."

In the end, she says once young people get through this crisis, they will realize they can handle tough situations and get to the other side.

"It will make us stronger — sometimes we surprise ourselves."

Next Steps For The LA River. Plans Move Forward With 300 Potential Rec Areas

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Plans to reviliatize the upper Los Angeles River are moving forward after nearly two years and more than 30 public meetings.

L.A. City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez leads the group in charge of the proposal. She says they’ve flagged more than 300 potential outdoor recreation sites along the L.A. River’s upper tributaries.

"Communities that have long been ignored from having really well planned open space and just a lack of healthy environments in those neighborhoods."

Rodriguez says more than 620,000 disadvantaged residents could benefit from the plan to restore upper portions of the L.A. River. Areas include:

  • Pacoima Wash
  • Tujunga Wash
  • Aliso Canyon Wash
  • Arroyo Seco

The proposal goes next to the Los Angeles City Council for approval.

Notably absent in the organization's documentation is a clear budget, which, given massive downturns in local, state and federal revenues, may be in question regardless. In 2015, the cost of the project was estimated at $1.3 billion when it was approved by a review board for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has oversight of the nation's rivers.

You can read Volume 1 of the plan via the embedded images above or go to the Upper L.A. River Working Group's website to see more documentation.

GO DEEPER:

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Morning Briefing: A Sad Milestone For LA

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"A sad milestone" is how Barbara Ferrer, Director of L.A. County Public Health described yesterday, which saw the highest single-day deaths from coronavirus.

It's been a tough week, but if the response from food banks are any indication, there are a lot of people in our neck of the woods who are eager to help. Food banks, in particular, are serving thousands of people in need, despite record demands.

"If you look at the global and national landscape, we are in good shape. We have a five- or six-week cushion," said Harald Herrmann, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County.

On April 11, at its weekly drive-through distribution held at Anaheim's Honda Center, Second Harvest distributed food to more than 6,000 cars. And they don't expect to run out any time soon.


What We Are Covering Today

  • We will stream Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's State of the City address, scheduled to begin tonight at 5:15 p.m. This speech follows the release of startlingly high shortfalls forecast for city revenue. Our politics reporter Libby Denkmann will take a look at what Garcetti is proposing. He is expected to focus on protecting core public safety resources in the near-term.
  • Julia Paskin will have more on new safety legislation to be proposed in Los Angeles after a Sylmar food bank volunteer was killed Friday after getting pinned between two cars while loading food.
  • We'll also look at where plans stand for the Upper Los Angeles River revitalization project. A working group has moved the project to the next phase. It's part of longstanding effort to reinvent much of the Los Angeles River.
  • Looking for something to occupy your kids' time? The Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert has launched an online series focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. We will have more on what to expect from the non-profit organization.

The Past 24 Hours In LA

L.A., California, The World: There are now 12,021 coronavirus cases in L.A. County, 30,469 cases in California, and more than 2.3 million worldwide.

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly gave the total cases as 112,021.

The Most Vulnerable: Thanks to new data from the California Department of Public Health, we now know exactly which skilled nursing homes have the most cases of COVID-19. Josie Huang and Brian Frank went the extra mile and mapped them for us.

Social Distancing means a lot less flying. Travel is down by almost 90% at LAX, but our beloved nightmare of an airport is still doing better than a lot of its counterparts across the country.

Homelessness: California is partnering with motels and hotels across the state, including Motel 6, to provide more than 15,000 rooms for the homeless. The occupants of those rooms will also receive three meals a day.

Save The Bookstore: Fans of the historic Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood have already donated upwards of $29,000 to save their beloved cinephile sanctuary from closing. The shop closed a month ago when all non-essential businesses were forced to close. Now their only income is from online orders that owner Jeffrey Mantor wraps and sends himself.

Save The Music: Candelas Guitars in Boyle Heights is struggling, since most of its clientele are musicians with no gigs to play, now that live shows are cancelled. The good news is they're still taking phone orders and there's no better time to shred in the comfort of your own home.


In Non-COVID-19 News

Larry Mantle and his FilmWeek crew (new band name?) are keeping track of the many options for video-on-demand and streaming while you're stuck at home. That includes one choice film that will have you feeling "like you stuck your head in a bucket full of glitter." And who doesn't love a good bad review, am I right?

If you hate glitter, we have a finely curated list of virtual events you can enjoy this weekend without moving an inch from your couch. See? Isolation isn't so bad. At least we still have the internet.


Your Moment of Zen

Mark Girardeau, who owns Orange County Outdoors, captured the rare neon blue waves created by a bioluminescent tide from the sand in Newport Beach last week. The glow is created by marine organisms such as algae.

(Courtesy of Mark Girardeau)


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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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