THE LATEST

Help us rise to the challenge of covering the coronavirus crisis. Our journalism is free for all to access. But we rely on your support. Donate today to power our journalists.


Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):




THE L.A. REPORT IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY LLOYD PEST CONTROL

Census Bureau Senior Official Disputes LA Census Workers' Concerns About Count Accuracy

Updated
Published
Carolina Ortiz, a patient of AltaMed, works with Estuardo Ardon to fill out her census on July 10, 2020. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

This week, two census employees working in the L.A. area sent an email to a federal district judge, claiming that Angelenos are not being fully counted in the 2020 Census. Today, a senior Census Bureau official disputed those claims in a legal declaration.

Melissa Garza is one of the census field supervisors who contacted U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California, alleging that census officials may have violated a temporary order filed against the Census Bureau in early September.

"The U.S. Census disregarded the Court’s order of September 5, 2020 by closing out cases after 1 or 2 days of attempts of enumerators knocking on respondents' doors," Garza wrote to the court, referring to an order that temporarily blocked the Census Bureau from winding down or changing field operations.

Judge Koh asked the government to respond to these claims, which Census Bureau Assistant Director James Christy did in a declaration filed this afternoon.

"I have investigated this issue and confirmed that the identified cases were completed properly and consistent with the design for the 2020 Census," Christy wrote in his declaration.

According to Christy, all of the households in question were ultimately counted through government records, like tax filings or post office data.

Garza and her co-worker Nicholas Hua, another field supervisor, were told cases could be closed this way, but they worried that hard-to-count residents may not have this kind of record.

“They may argue that they can look up administrative records… that does not give the full picture,” Hua told LAist on Monday.

In his statement, Christy wrote that no cases have been closed inappropriately. The Census Bureau has not responded to a request for comment from LAist regarding the allegations.

Meanwhile, the 2020 Census continues -- as does litigation over its end date, which for now is extended through October.

Judge Koh is presiding over a lawsuit brought by the City of Los Angeles and other plaintiffs against the Trump administration over the government’s recent attempt to bump the census end date to Sept. 30. Last week, Koh ordered the census count extended through Oct. 31.

The judge's decision has since been appealed by the government. Meanwhile, census officials announced this week that they want to set a new end date of Oct. 5, which is also facing legal scrutiny.

READ MORE:

What's at stake for Southern California in the 2020 Census? Billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal, for public education, even disaster planning. Political representation in Sacramento and D.C. A census undercount could cut critical resources in L.A. County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation.

WATCH: Trump Vs. Biden In The 1st Presidential Debate

Updated
Published
(Trump photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images | Biden photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

With less than a week to go before mail-in ballots start going out to voters, the two presidential candidates will square off for the first time in debate. We're bringing you live analysis and fact-checking from NPR along with the main event, which starts at 6 p.m.

WATCH:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. For more election-related news and information, check out our Voter Game Plan. And to support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

WATCH: Proposition 15 - The Risks And Rewards For Schools And Businesses

Updated
Published

The massive, expensive fight over Proposition 15 is decades in the making. The so-called split roll initiative would be a partial — but major — reversal of Proposition 13. That's the proposition passed in 1978 that changed the way commercial property taxes are calculated — and reshaped all of California in the process. Even if you don’t own any property at all, this measure affects you in a big way.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Prop 13 allows homeowners and commercial real estate owners to pay property taxes based on the value of their property when they bought it, rather than on the current market value.
  • This year’s Prop 15 tackles the commercial and industrial real estate portion of Prop 13.
  • If you are a homeowner, nothing about this measure will change your situation.
  • But for some commercial and industrial real estate property owners, Prop 15 would change the rules so that property taxes will be based on current market values — meaning a likely jump in taxes, and thus, more revenue for local governments and school districts.

For years, California has funded K-12 schools at rates that lag behind other states — and many educators blame Prop 13. They see this year’s ballot measure as a key step toward restoring the state’s public education system.

The outcome of this measure will have an impact on both the economy and public education. Tonight, KPCC/LAist Business and Economy Reporter David Wagner and KPCC/LAist Education Reporter Kyle Stokes will discuss both sides of the issue with their guests. They’ll answer your questions live as well.

Guests:

  • Heather Hough, executive director at Policy Analysis for California Education
  • Jennifer Imazeki, professor of economics, a Senate Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at San Diego State University
  • Kirk Stark, Barrall Family Professor of Tax Law and Policy at UCLA
  • Mike Tingus, president of Lee & Associates

This event began at 5 p.m. and ended at 6:15 p.m. and will be available on replay at a later date.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Disney Lays Off 28,000 Parks Employees, Blames California For Not Allowing Disneyland's Reopening

Updated
Published
FILE: Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland back when the doors were open. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

A week ago, the head of Disney’s theme parks implored California state leaders to let Disneyland reopen. With no word yet, Disney announced devastating layoffs for parks employees Tuesday.

Disney’s flagship Southern California theme park has been padlocked since March, with most of the Anaheim staff furloughed with no pay, but some benefits.

Now Disney is laying off 28,000 domestic theme park employees — about a quarter of its U.S. workforce. And they're blaming California for not lifting COVID-19 safety restrictions in a statement from theme park head Josh D’Amaro.

The effects of COVID-19, including limited capacity due to physical distancing needs, have been "exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen," the statement reads.

Disney has reopened parks around the world, including Disney World in Orlando, and has petitioned California to match Florida’s looser guidelines.

The layoffs affect executive, salaried, and part-time staff, according to the release. Two-thirds of those laid off are part-time employees.

In a letter to employees company officials wrote:

"For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company. We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity."

Union officials raised concerns over the summer about how the local parks could reopen safely. Disney has said they had plans to address safety concerns, detailing those measures in a news conference last week.

California officials have said they want to get amusement parks open again, but have not laid out a timetable for doing so.

Keep in mind these parks are big business and support many jobs and businesses that orbit them. Orange County mayors, who have also been calling on Gov. Newsom to allow Disneyland to reopen, have reported major losses to the local economy. In Anaheim, for example, officials report a budget shortfall of $100 million.

Disney has also taken steep hits to its bottom line. Once reliably and wildly profitable, the pandemic has led to billions of dollars of losses for Disney's theme parks and cruise ships.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our nonprofit public service journalism: Donate now.

LA County Schools Can Now Apply For Waivers To Reopen Schools For Youngest Kids

Updated
Published
Kids in transitional kindergarten through second grade could begin returning to schools in LA County under a waiver process. (Mariana Dale/KPCC)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at Tuesday's meeting to open up the process for schools to apply for waivers to resume in-person instruction.

While public health conditions prohibit blanket school reopenings across the county, the waivers will allow for an intentionally slow rollout of school reopenings for Los Angeles' youngest learners. The state's waiver process allows for waivers up to sixth grade, but for now, L.A. County's approach is limited to students in transitional kindergarten up to second grade.

The motion, introduced by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn, limits the number of waivers that public health officials can grant to 30 per week.

The waivers are supposed to be evenly distributed across the five supervisorial districts, and public health officials are supposed to prioritize applications from schools serving high populations of low-income students who qualify for free and reduced price meals.

Los Angeles Public Health director Barbara Ferrer told the board that letters of support from parents, teachers, and staff will be required as part of the waiver application. (The state waiver guidelines vaguely require "consultation" with these groups).

Los Angeles County public health officials will be required to provide bi-weekly updates to the board about the application process and compliance with the rules at schools that reopen with the waivers.

That is in contrast to neighboring Orange County, which started accepting waiver applications in August and continued granting them until the county was allowed to reopen any K-12 school without waivers on September 22. Earlier this month, Orange County Health Care Agency director Clayton Chau said public health officials would not be conducting "on site reviews" to check for compliance with proposed safety plans and county mandates. Later, he added that O.C. officials would depend on parents and the public to let them know if schools were not complying.

Schools across Los Angeles County already have permission to reopen for no more than 10% of their enrollment at a time, in order to serve small groups of students in need of "specialized support and services."

Ferrer told the board on Tuesday that around 500 schools have notified the county of their intent to do so.

READ MORE OF OUR COVERAGE OF SCHOOL REOPENINGS AND WAIVERS:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

LA Census Workers Say Thousands Of Angelenos May Be Left Uncounted

Updated
Published
The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online on March 19, 2020. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Some local census supervisors are claiming that thousands of L.A. County residents may have been missed by the 2020 Census count.

Two of these census employees emailed their concerns to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California, alleging that census officials may have violated a temporary order filed against the Census Bureau in early September.

Koh is the judge presiding over a lawsuit by the City of Los Angeles and other plaintiffs against the Trump administration over the government’s recent attempt to end the census a month early. Last week, Koh ordered the census count extended through Oct. 31; the administration, which had shortened the timeline to Sept. 30, has since appealed.

In her email to the court, local census supervisor Melissa Garza, who oversees a team of L.A.-area census takers, wrote that thousands of local households may have been marked as completed without a collected response.

"The U.S. Census disregarded the Court’s order of September 5, 2020 by closing out cases after 1 or 2 days of attempts of enumerators knocking on respondents' doors," she wrote, referring to the earlier order that temporarily blocked the Census Bureau from winding down or changing field operations.

Garza told LAist that based on the case management system for the Pasadena Area Census Office, which incorporates several surrounding communities, she believes an estimated 30,000 cases have been closed due to “max attempts” after only one day of census takers visiting those residents.

“If no one was home, then they closed out the attempt,” Garza said. “Or if somebody had a locked gate, they would close that out, so we wouldn’t go back there again.”

The U.S. Census Bureau has not responded to a request for comment on these allegations, but Judge Koh has ordered the agency to file a response by Tuesday evening.

Nicholas Hua is another census field supervisor from the Pasadena Area Census Office. Hua claims he asked his manager for permission to reset cases so residents can complete the census, instead of leaving them closed with no response.

"The response I got back is that 'we're no longer allowed to reopen or reset upon pain of death,'" Hua said.

The judge has also asked the Census Bureau to show documentation explaining why census officials distributed a press release and sent out a tweet identifying Oct. 5 as a new target date for completing the count, instead of Oct. 31, as Koh ordered last week.

Following Koh’s recent decision extending the census count, the bureau issued a statement saying it would comply with her order. The appeal challenging Koh’s order is pending.

READ MORE:

What's at stake for Southern California in the 2020 Census? Billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal, for public education, even disaster planning. Political representation in Sacramento and D.C. A census undercount could cut critical resources in L.A. County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation.

Fill out your census questionnaire online on the 2020 Census website.

Morning Briefing: It's (Been) Fire Season. Know When To Go

Updated
Published
Firefighters look on as a firefighting aircraft drops fire retardant as the Martindale Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest on September 28, 2020 near Santa Clarita. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Good morning, L.A.

California has been strafed by more than 8,100 wildfires this year. The toll is already considerable — at least 26 people dead and more than 3.7 million acres burned — and peak fire season is only now getting under way.

That's the latest from our science reporter Jacob Margolis, who reminds us to be ready to go at a moment's notice. He offers some tips:

  1. HAVE A GO BAG: When his own family was preparing to evacuate during the Saddle Ridge Fire, they thought about it like making a vacation packing list. Think a week's worth of clothes, medicine, baby supplies, a few gallons of water, camping gear and a few necessities you wouldn't normally think about, like tax documents. And keep your gas tank full.
  2. CONSIDER LEAVING EARLY: It took Jacob and his family four hours to drive from L.A. to Santa Ynez when trying to escape smoke from the Saddle Ridge Fire. Much like leaving Dodger Stadium in the 7th inning, Jacob says, it could help you avoid getting stuck in bad traffic out of your area.

Read Jacob’s full story for more tips.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Brian Frank


Coming Up Today, September 29

Will the shooting of two sheriff's deputies provide an opportunity to move towards mending the ruptured relations between law enforcement and certain communities, or will it exacerbate the problem? Reporter Frank Stoltze looks into that question.

An LAUSD board committee will today debate a task force proposal on how to reduce the Los Angeles School Police budget by 35%. Reporter Carla Javier will detail the proposal and share reactions from both the school police union and student groups.

Plus, join us at 5 p.m. as we explore Prop 15’s impact on commercial property owners, schools and local governments with guest experts in a live virtual event moderated by KPCC/LAist reporters David Wagner and Kyle Stokes. This is part of our Voter Game Plan, a one-stop shop to help you prepare for the Nov. 3 election.

And let’s not forget the first presidential debate, as President Donald Trump squares off against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. You can watch live right here and follow along as NPR reporters live blog the event starting at 6 p.m.

Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.


The Past 24 Hours In LA

Wildfire Weather: Heat and red flag warnings are in place for L.A. County, with temperatures in the triple digits forecast for some areas. So far, California has seen more than 8,100 wildfires this year, with more than 3.7 million acres burned. And peak fire season is just now arriving. As if to underscore that, a new fire broke out near Santa Clarita.

Coronavirus By The Numbers: Some good news on COVID-19: L.A. County did not see a surge in cases associated with the Labor Day holiday weekend. Statewide, hospitalizations are down 20% over the last two weeks, with ICU admissions down 21%. Still the governor advised Californians to get a flu shot — a bad flu season coupled with COVID-19 could tax the state’s health care resources.

Convention Contender: Organizers want LA Comic Con to happen in person this December. They plan to have COVID-19 precautions in place and say they have been working with health officials and the L.A. Convention Center to make it all happen. That said, no such facilities have been cleared to reopen yet in the state.

Local Happenings: Explore an extensive collection of horror and sci-fi memorabilia. Rent out the Fresh Prince's Bel-Air manse. Learn about early L.A. female foodies. Tune into a concert that recreates a classic Marvin Gaye album. Here’s a curated list of these and (many) other things to do and discover this week.


Photo Of The Day

Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein with astronomer John Anthony Miller at the Mount Wilson Observatory in 1931. Firefighters have been working since Sept. 6 to contain the Bobcat Fire that's now threatened the historic observatory several times. The Bobcat Fire is currently at 114,000 acres and 62% containment.

(Keystone/Getty Images)

Help Us Cover Your Community

  • Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything.
  • Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know.

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.


icon
DON'T MISS ANY L.A. CORONAVIRUS NEWS

Get our daily newsletters for the latest on COVID-19 and other top local headlines.


Terms of Use and Privacy Policy


LAUSD Board To Discuss How To Cut $25 Million From School Police

Updated
Published
Demonstrators rally in front of LAUSD's Headquarters during a protest to defund the LA School Police. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

Amid a national outcry over funding for law enforcement, the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education voted in June to reduce the school police budget by 35%.

That part was hard enough — the 4-3 vote to cut $25 million out of the $77 million budget came after a long night of heated debate. But the next part could be even more challenging: What, exactly, will the district decide to either reduce or eliminate from school police operations?

Earlier this month, the board members expected to discuss the cuts, but the presentation happened so late in the evening, they delayed the discussion to today’s Committee of the Whole meeting (which you can watch here starting at 1 p.m.).

The draft plans shared with the board show what some of the potential cuts could be. They could include big ticket reductions like removing officers from campus assignments and instead having them respond on patrol (a cut of about $5.9 million) and eliminating night and weekend patrols (a cut of about $6.3 million).

Notably, the document also lists maintaining the district’s Mental Health Evaluation Team — which is comprised of both LA School Police Department officers as well as School Mental Health psychiatric social workers — at six units instead of expanding it to eight units (about $410,000), and cutting youth programs like wrestling and anger management (about $1.5 million).

“We're not asking you to make cuts from [youth programs],” said Kahlila Williams, a senior at Girls’ Academic Leadership Academy and a member of the organizing group Students Deserve.

"What you're trying not to do is make cuts in places that you feel law enforcement is necessary,” she said.

Over the summer, Students Deserve held rallies, packed public comment periods, and called on the board to remove officers from campuses and to reinvest the funds in counselors.

“I honestly felt like a lot of what we said was ignored,” Williams said.

Students Deserve also called out Superintendent Austin Beutner’s school safety task force for not having any student members.

“We want them to know that you can't make a decision on students and not have students’ voices prioritized,” Williams said.

Representatives from the task force said they plan to send out surveys and hold focus groups to get community input in the future.

In the meantime, Los Angeles School Police Association Vice President William Etue said with the cuts looming, some officers have chosen to leave the school police department. The former chief of police resigned less than 24 hours after the board vote in June, citing the reductions, and an interim chief was named.

“Looking at the numbers themselves, the district is going to see a serious reduction in service provided,” Etue said. “We all know that when incidents occur seconds mean a lot to the livelihood and safety of folks, so it's just unfortunate that we can't shore up in some areas to make sure that our core services, our campus based services, are supported.”

The board is also expected to discuss how to reallocate the funds once the cuts are made.

Some possibilities included in the draft plans on the board’s website include more psychiatric social workers, counselors, and safety aides, more leadership opportunities for Black students, and more engagement with Black families when making district decisions.

If you have experiences with school police that you would like to share with us as we continue reporting on this issue, you can email reporter Carla Javier.

READ MORE OF OUR COVERAGE OF POLICE IN LAUSD SCHOOLS:

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.