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WATCH THE REPLAY: Our Ballot Cram Session Studies All 12 California Propositions


Californians will be deciding on the fate of 12 ballot propositions this year. And there are some biggies, including whether we should allow affirmative action in higher education, whether some cash bail should be replaced by a risk assessment system and whether Uber and Lyft drivers should be classified as independent contractors.

Let Larry Mantle, host of our public affairs show AirTalk, and a panel of expert guests walk you through the basics of the props, including:

  • What they are
  • Pros and cons
  • What’s at stake

They’ll also took questions live. this event began at 6:30 p.m. and ended at 7:45 p.m. A replay will be available shortly.


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Under California's COVID 'Equity Metric,' LA Must Focus On Hard-Hit Areas To Move Closer To Reopening

A coronavirus testing site in Lincoln Heights. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Starting today, California is requiring the state's 35 largest counties to bring down coronavirus rates in hard-hit neighborhoods in order to progress in the state's economic reopening plan.

The "Equity Metric" will focus on low-income areas where Black, Latino, Pacific-Islander, and other people of color have suffered a disproportionately high number of cases. The metric is designed to ensure that test positivity rates in those areas don't exceed the county's overall positivity rate.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says that while those communities are still being disproportionately affected, the test positivity metrics in the county are still low enough to qualify for tier three on the state's monitoring list:

"I'm just hoping we continue to make progress and I'm really anxious also that we continue to take seriously our obligations to look at that equity measure and make sure we're doing everything we can to close that gap."

Ferrer said the county would start started posting that equity data online today but as of late afternoon it was not yet available.

The goal of the metric — believed to be the first of its kind in the country — is to ensure counties like Los Angeles are investing in bringing down COVID-19 cases in their most vulnerable neighborhoods. That means hitting goals both for overall testing and in lowering the percentage of new positive cases in those areas.

"It really is incentivizing counties to focus their resources on the sickest," said Ninez Ponce, director of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. The metric will require county officials to make sure all neighborhoods are seeing fewer cases, she said.

It’s a complicated metric but counties that fail to meet it won’t be penalized by being moved into a more restrictive tier — they just won’t be able to advance towards reopening. L.A. County will remain in the most restrictive tier for at least another two weeks.


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Small Businesses Hit By Covid-19 Can Still Apply For Relief From Regional Recovery Fund

Bill Kito's family confectionary Fugetsu-Do is facing its biggest test yet with the coronavirus crisis. (Little Tokyo Service Center Small Business Assistance)

Small businesses in Los Angeles County needing financial help due to COVID-19 are getting another chance to apply for relief this week.

Applications are now being accepted (through Friday) for the LA Regional COVID-19 Recovery Fund. It's one of the last rounds for the $100 million pool launched in July to help non-profits and small businesses recover from the pandemic.

Relief will take the form of grants (from $5,000 to $25,000), micro-loans, free coaching and one-on-one technical help to applicants who want it.

The selection process has a built in "equity lens" designed to give priority to business owners from low and moderate income communities, or areas with low educational attainment and/or higher poverty rates.

Interested business owners can apply and check their eligibility at LACovid


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Iconic LA Rock Star Eddie Van Halen Has Died

Eddie Van Halen. (Michael Ochs Archives)

Eddie Van Halen, the guitarist and songwriter who helped give the Los Angeles radio-rock band Van Halen its name and sound, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 65. His death was announced by his son, Wolf Van Halen, on Twitter.

In a band known for its instability -- due in part to a rotating cast of lead singers that most notably includes David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar -- Eddie Van Halen and his brother Alex remained constants, appearing on 12 studio albums that reached across five decades and sold tens of millions of copies.

No matter the singer, Eddie Van Halen's high-flying guitar sound -- heavy on tapping, with both hands on the neck of the instrument -- was deeply influential, but also hard to imitate. He grew up obsessed with Eric Clapton, only to himself become a lodestar for generations of guitarists.


Voter Game Plan: What’s The Deal With Faulty Ballots In Woodland Hills?

There will be roughly 400 ballot drop boxes in L.A. County for the 2020 General Election. Voters can also mail their ballots, no postage required. (Libby Denkmann/LAist)

Ballots are in the mail for more than 20 million registered voters in California, and some have already begun arriving in mailboxes. One hitch? The county’s Registrar-Recorder confirmed Tuesday that a small number of Los Angeles voters received faulty ballots.

These voters, in a single precinct of about 2,100 voters in the Woodland Hills area, opened their ballots and realized pretty quickly that something was amiss: they didn’t have an option to vote for President of the United States. Instead, they saw some propositions printed twice — clearly a mistake.

L.A. County Registrar spokesman Mike Sanchez said the office is investigating a printing error with one of its vendors:

“We have alerted all affected voters in this precinct of the error by robocall and email, and this morning we will mail out new, corrected ballots with a letter describing the error. We encourage all voters to discard the faulty ballot and fill-out and return the accurate one. If they have already filled out and mailed their original ballot, we will cancel their original ballot once their new ballot is received.”

Missing presidential candidates is a very obvious ballot defect. But it may not be the last we see during this election cycle.

Once COVID-19 hit, Los Angeles County had to ramp up to print and mail 5.6 million ballots in just a matter of months. They’ve never done this before. In the March primary, about 1.1 million Angelenos cast ballots by mail. This rapid expansion introduces the possibility of errors, including ones that voters don’t catch so easily.

Here’s a tip: sit down with your paper ballot and pull up your sample ballot online, which can be found on your county registrar’s website, or on KPCC + LAist’s Voter Game Plan. That’s a good way to ensure you’re seeing all the races that you should, top-to-bottom.


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County Watchdog: LA Sheriff's Dept. Failed To Adequately Investigate 'Banditos' Deputy Clique

The East L.A. Sheriff's Station. (Frank Stoltze/LAist)

L.A. County’s inspector general says the Sheriff’s Department failed to sufficiently investigate claims that an East L.A. deputies’ clique acted like a violent gang and was involved in a 2018 off-duty brawl with other deputies.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva insists the investigation into the incident was thorough, and that Inspector General Max Huntsman’s assertions are “purely politically driven and an attempt to undermine the reputation of the [Sheriff’s] Department.”

In a 32-page report released this week, Huntsman analyzed the investigation by the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau into the off-duty fight. Several deputies claimed members of the "Banditos" clique attacked them, which they have asserted in a lawsuit is one of numerous examples of how the clique dominated the East L.A. station like a gang.

Investigators spoke with more than 70 witnesses, but 23 refused to give statements, according to Huntsman, who said the department violated its own policy by failing to compel them to talk.

The inspector general said investigators “almost completely ignored” evidence of the Banditos’ role in the fight.

“Minimal questions were asked about the Banditos and in the interviews during which the witnesses brought up the Banditos by name, very few follow-up questions were asked,” Huntsman’s report said.

The investigation "maintained the Code of Silence which has protected deputy secret societies for decades," it added.

The internal review was passed to the District Attorney’s office, which declined to prosecute anyone, citing “insufficient evidence.”

In a statement, Sheriff Villanueva pointed out that he fired or suspended 26 employees involved in the incident, ousted the leadership of the East LA Station and transferred a number of staff.

He also pointed out that he has instituted a policy that forbids department personnel from joining groups that violate the rights of employees or members of the public.

Huntsman and Villanueva have repeatedly clashed over a variety of issues, particularly the inspector general’s claim that the sheriff is not sufficiently transparent.

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Like Everything Else, Applying To College During The Pandemic Is Weird And Unsettling. Here's What You Need To Know

Cal Poly Pomona is one of many universities not considering standardized test scores for admission next fall. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Standardized tests and college visits are out. Virtual advising and pandemic essays are in.

Applications for the fall 2021 semester at California State University campuses became available on Oct. 1.

So did applications for federal financial aid for the 2021-22 school year.

With college application season in full swing, I've spent the last few weeks talking to college advisors and university admissions officers to better understand how the coronavirus pandemic has altered the gauntlet for high school students applying to college.

Here's what you need to know:

Most Schools Aren't Requiring Standardized Tests

The coronavirus is snuffing out standardized tests, at least temporarily (but maybe even permanently).

According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, two-thirds of all U.S. 4-year colleges and universities are either not requiring (test-optional), or not even considering (test-blind) standardized test scores for 2021 applicants.

That includes the entire University of California and California State University systems.

Critics of standardized tests are doing a happy dance.

The empty college and career center at Alhambra High School. All college advising this year is virtual. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Pass/Fail Grades And Cancelled Extracurriculars? No Worries

College admissions officers say they'll take extra care this year to put students' applications into context: global pandemic, natural disasters, family hardships, radically altered high school experiences and all.

Maybe you missed out on a senior-year internship. But maybe you became an instant tutor to your younger siblings when in-person classes were cancelled.

Admissions officers say they want to hear about those kinds of heroic extracurriculars. And USC associate professor Julie Posselt hopes the pandemic might change what it means to be an outstanding college applicant.

"Even if they haven’t had the opportunity to have great extracurriculars, they can demonstrate worth on a different dimension that I think will have more value when we’re on the other side of the pandemic.”

Covid-19 Questions On Applications

Many colleges and universities this year are inviting applicants to tell them how the coronavirus affected them personally. Be specific, advisors say.

Here's what that section looks like on this year's Common Application, which students can use to apply to USC and over 900 other colleges and universities:

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.

  • Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N
  • Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.
The USC campus, like many others across California, is closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic, Oct. 2, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Maybe You Can't Visit A Campus In Person, But You Can Visit Dozens Of Campuses Virtually

High schoolers might have to forego the college tour road trip with mom, which, let's be honest, could be a relief for all involved.

Still, it does mean students might miss out on testing the vibe of different campuses to see which one best suits them. And students who have never set foot on a college campus might have trouble imagining themselves there.

But on the upside, logging into a Zoom information session or watching a virtual tour is about as inexpensive as college shopping gets. So bring on the crowds.


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Black Hole Work Earns UCLA Scientist Nobel Prize In Physics

The 2020 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to three scientists for their work on black holes. This artist's concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of Earth's sun. (NASA/JPL-Caltech )

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to three scientists for their work on black holes this year:

  • Andrea Ghez of UCLA and Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, for the discovery of a compact object at the center of the Milky Way galaxy that governs the orbits of stars, for which a black hole is the only known explanation
  • Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford, for demonstrating that the general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes

Ghez and Genzel won their half of the prize for painstaking observations of the supermassive black hole at the center of our own galaxy.

Reached by phone, prize winner Andrea Ghez said that black holes like Sagittarius A* remain mysterious. Modern theories of physics still cannot explain what happens when something falls beyond the point of no return. "That's part of the intrigue — we still don't know," Ghez said. "It pushes forward on our understanding of the physical world."

Ghez added that she hopes the prize will inspire young people, and particularly women, to pursue careers in science. "Science is so important, and pursuing the reality of our physical world is critical to us as human beings," she said. "Today, I feel more passionate about the teaching side of my job."


LAUSD Voted To Reduce School Police Funding By $25 Million Three Months Ago. Now What?

An L.A. School Police vehicle. (Carla Javier/KPCC)

In June, under pressure from student groups and amid a broader push to defund law enforcement agencies around the country, the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education voted 4-to-3 to reduce the district’s school police budget by $25 million, and to reallocate the money to schools with more Black students.

It’s now been more than three months since that decision, and the country’s second largest school district still hasn’t quite figured out what to do.

The interim chief of the Los Angeles school police and the School Safety Task Force have proposed ways to whittle down the department’s budget by 35% — like getting rid of campus assignments and canine units — though they haven’t yet outlined how they think the $25 million saved should be spent.

And the district still hasn’t surveyed students, staff, or families for their thoughts on the matter, though task force representatives say they plan to soon.

At a recent Committee of the Whole meeting largely dedicated to the issue, board member Nick Melvoin — who voted in favor of the 35% reduction in June — called the current situation “purgatory.”

“How silly this all sounds,” Melvoin said. “We’ve had the department suggest cuts … but I’m sorry they’re doing it in a vacuum and devoid of the context.”

Board member George McKenna, who joined the other two former principals on the board in vocal opposition to the cuts, calls the reductions to the school police force “reckless.”

Speaking at last week’s meeting, he asked, “Could you not have asked for the role of the police before you cut the budget?”

On social media, Students Deserve — one of the groups that called on the district to defund the school police department — called out the district for not acting more swiftly in an all caps tweet.


Interim Chief Leslie Ramirez says 37 members of the school police have left the department since the cuts were passed on June 30, including its former chief.

A district deputy superintendent told the board it has this month and next to figure out what to do, so any changes can be incorporated into the interim budget in December.


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Morning Briefing: Fixing California’s Unemployment System

A staffer works to process claims at California's unemployment office, March 30, 2020. California Employment Development Department

Never miss a morning briefing. Subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Good morning, L.A.

In the midst of the smoldering dumpster fire that is our current political climate, some good news: Californians who are out of work can begin applying for unemployment again, hopefully with better results this time around.

After getting mired in a backlog of 1.6 million unresolved claims in late September, the state’s Employment Development Department closed down for two weeks to reset. In addition to the backlog, they hoped to address recent findings that applicants had, at best, a one-in-1,000 chance of reaching a human by phone, and that applicants who don’t speak English have a near-impossible time navigating the system.

EDD officials said that during their 14-day shutdown, the department also worked on speeding up benefit payments and reducing fraud.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, October 6

The farm of the future might be in Compton, in a warehouse, and partially run by robots. LAist contributor Stefan Slater has the story of Plenty, a company backed by big tech bucks, that wants to change the way we grow and eat food.

The census may count people, but its data is also the basis for determining what type of roadwork is done, when and where, reports Dana Amihere.

As flu season gets underway amid a pandemic, L.A. County health officials announce free shots will be available at county libraries starting later this month. Jackie Fortiér has more.

Spooky screenings. Immersive, drive-through experiences. Pumpkin patches. Victorian mourning rituals. Family-friendly events. We've got it all. Christine N. Ziemba has this season’s best online and IRL Halloween events.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Money Matters: Californians who are out of work can once again file for unemployment benefits. When MGM delayed the release of the next James Bond film, one of the nation’s biggest chains had to padlock more than 500 domestic theaters.

L.A. Kids: All L.A. playgrounds can be reopened for public use, with mandatory social distancing and limited use up to 30 minutes. Outside spending on LAUSD school board races has already topped $11 million, putting this year's election well ahead of the record-shattering pace in 2017. Here’s how schools can apply for the highly coveted reopening waiver.

Representation Matters: Judge Martin Jenkins is the first openly gay man and the third Black man to be appointed to the California Supreme Court. Census-informed data is used to allocate federal dollars to ensure special education is properly funded, and to fill in opportunity gaps for students from low-income homes.

Here’s What To Do For Halloween: View Self Help Graphics' annual Día de los Muertos exhibition, join comedian Myq Kaplan's birthday party, prep for the upcoming election with a ballot cram session, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events.

Photo Of The Day

A pedestrian walks past empty displays where upcoming movies were once promoted, in the before times.

(Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

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