Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):5:52California rejects western states' Colorado River water-sharing plan, instead releasing its own. Plus: pet owner evictions, the last 747, and more – The P.M. Edition
(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Los Angeles is fiscally "stable," spending less than it's taking in, but there are challenges ahead, City Controller Kenneth Mejia said in his first annual financial report.
Some key takeaways: The report showed that the city took in $20 billion in revenue in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2022, but it only spent $16.6 billion. That's an increase in revenue of 8.7% from last year, and a decrease in spending of 4.5%. The city's biggest expenditures from the general fund were for police, fire and sanitation.
What's next? In a statement, Mejia's office said that the city's financial situation is currently stable, but "significant challenges lie ahead." Those include:
- Having spent down the nearly $2 billion in "one-time revenue from the federal government" that was provided to the city during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Poor investment returns mean an increase in future pension costs, which eat up more than 15% of the general fund.
- A need to spend more to provide shelter for L.A.'s unhoused population.
- Chronic underinvestment in capital and human infrastructure, which Mejia notes will "come under intense test from the impacts of climate change."
More background: Mejia was elected last fall in a landslide victory, becoming the first Asian American to hold citywide office in L.A. He campaigned in part on police accountability and decriminalizing homelessness and is part of an increasingly visible group of Asian American progressives inspired by former presidential candidate and current U.S. senator Bernie Sanders.
Go deeper: The full report is available on the controller's website, including breakdowns of revenue and expenses, salary data, and performance metrics for various departments.
SoCalGas officials said today that the cost of natural gas in February is expected to drop by two-thirds — and that price relief will show up when it bills you next month.
Why it matters: Did your last bill from the SoCalGas — or for that matter, wherever you get your gas in Southern California — take your breath away? You know it's bad when natural gas providers use words like "unprecedented" and "shockingly high" and call news conferences to give strapped customers options for some relief.
Why it got so costly: In January, SoCalGas prices more than doubled over December — which was already high. Natural gas is measured in units known as "therms." SoCalGas says this month it paid – $3.45 per therm. In February, that'll drop to a $1.11. Keep this in mind, though: That's still 80% higher than it paid a year ago at this time.
LA’s COVID Eviction Rules Are Supposed To Protect Renters With Pets. Why Some Are Still Getting Pushed Out(Samanta Helou Hernandez)
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, local eviction limits have allowed renters in L.A. County to keep unauthorized pets at home, regardless of whether or not they're allowed under a lease. Despite the ongoing protections, some landlords are now telling tenants to get rid of their pets — give up their homes.
Why now: The timeline is complex. L.A. County renters with unauthorized pets were set to lose protections on Feb. 1, but the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted last week to extend the rules through March 31. Renters who live within the city of L.A.’s boundaries have rules in place protecting pets through early 2024.
The rules can be confusing: The extension hasn’t stopped some landlords from giving renters notice to remove their pets, or vacate their homes. “Tenants don't know the process, and a lot of them leave without having to leave,” said Dianne Prado with the tenant advocacy group HEART LA. “People will choose their pet over their home, and they shouldn't have to.”
The backstory: Landlord groups have long called for L.A. officials to repeal all pandemic-related tenant protections. They say tenants know if pets are permitted when they sign a lease, and landlords should not have to allow problematic pets in a property where they weren’t allowed in the first place. Local officials put the protections in place at the start of the COVID-19 emergency to keep tenants housed, even if the pandemic brought changes to their living situations that involved taking in new dogs or cats.
Why it matters: Tenants could face greater risk of eviction, and potential homelessness, once the pet protections expire. Animal advocates also worry about a possible spike in pets entering crowded animal shelters. County officials say they’re already seeing more people surrendering pets due to landlord disputes, a need to move or becoming unhoused.
We've been sharing a newsroom with KPCC, the leading L.A.-area NPR affiliate, since we relaunched in 2018. Now KPCC is being rebranded as LAist 89.3.
Why now: The new brand is meant to reduce confusion and help the organization to reach new audiences. “The next generation of public media users may not be on the radio,” said Herb Scannell, president and CEO.
Why it matters: As the audience of traditional radio is continues to trend downward and other newsrooms across the country have been shrinking or shutting down, unifying under one brand is expected to better position the operation for a multi-platform future.
Our bout with chilly weather won’t let up anytime soon. Here are some practical ways to stay warm without hugely upping your utility bills.
How can I stay warm? There’s a lot you can do. Some of it can run expensive (like cranking the heater all day), but you can make zero-cost changes by using your blinds to let in sunlight and then close them to block heat from leaking out.
What about my utility bills? If you don’t use the free options offered by the gas company, you’ll probably want to plan out how you use your gas. Most central air units don’t use this utility (only electricity), so it could be a trade off for how you approach warming your home.
On that note, will gas bills drop soon? Yes! SoCalGas announced a drop in prices today. Customers previously saw bills dramatically rise as it got colder.
New Mexico prosecutors today formally charged Alec Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter, saying the actor “acted with reckless disregard" and that he and the film’s inexperienced armorer were responsible for the fatal shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
About the charges: Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of weapons on the film’s set, were each charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. That charge carries a maximum sentence of 18 months behind bars. Baldwin, who both acted in and produced Rust, and Gutierrez-Reed also face an enhancement charge for manslaughter involving a firearm, which has a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
What's next: The charges could lead to a trial later this year and cap a lengthy investigation into not only why live ammunition was on the set of the period Western, but also why basic film set safety protocols were ignored.
The seven states using the Colorado River missed another deadline from the federal government to come up with a plan to cut water use by as much as 4 million acre-feet per year. Six states came up with a proposal to cut 1.5 million acre-feet, but California didn’t sign on.
Why it matters: The Colorado River provides water to Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California and Nevada). The river has long been overused — and the climate crisis is pushing a reckoning with a century-old water rights law that many say is outdated in our hotter and drier reality.
Why now: Last year, the federal government told Colorado River users to come up with a voluntary plan to cut water use by as much as 4 million acre-feet or face mandatory restrictions. After missing an initial deadline last August, on Tuesday six of the seven states released a proposal to cut water use by about 1.5 million acre-feet per year. But California didn’t sign on, citing senior water rights.
What's next: The lack of consensus could spur federal mandates and legal disputes. The current rules expire in 2026. By then, the states and federal government will need a more permanent plan for Colorado River water use in a hotter, drier reality.
The Los Angeles Police Commission voted Tuesday to appoint Chief Michel Moore to a second five-year term. Moore has said he intends to relinquish the job in less than five years so his successor will have time to help with planning for the 2028 Olympics.
How the Commissioners voted: The vote by the five-member commission was unanimous.
What Commissioners said: Commission President William Briggs called Moore “an exceptional leader,” said keeping him in charge “will provide much-needed continuity,” and added that the chief “has the ability … to institute cutting edge reforms.”
What the Mayor said: Mayor Karen Bass released a letter she wrote to Briggs in which she backed Moore’s reappointment but said the recent killings by LAPD officers of three men who “showed signs of mental crisis” underscore the need for reform. Bass listed a number of actions she said Moore agreed to take, including improving the response to people in mental health crisis.
The backstory: Moore joined the LAPD in 1981. Former Mayor Eric Garcetti first appointed him in 2018.
He has presided over the department during a time of unprecedented scrutiny of police. Moore came under sharp criticism for how his department handled the 2020 protests over the murder of George Floyd.
An independent commission found the LAPD was ill-prepared and in disarray during the protests — that its officers used excessive force against peaceful protesters and unlawfully detained thousands of people. Moore took a knee with protestors at one point — winning praise from some critics but also stirring the ire of officers who said he failed to support them.
It's prime time to see the comet known as C/2022 E3, marked by its bright green nucleus and long faint ion tail. The comet has been visible for some time with telescopes and binoculars — but the best chance of seeing it with the naked eye is coming up on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
When was the last time this comet could be seen? This marks possibly the first time ever — or at least for thousands of years — that the comet has streaked across our sky.
"If C/2022 E3 has ever passed through the solar system before, it would have last been seen in the sky more than 10,000 years ago," Jon Giorgini, a senior analyst at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told NPR.
How can I see it? Between Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, the newly discovered comet is slated to draw nearest to Earth — 26.4 million miles away to be exact — meaning that night will be the best chance to see its glow unaided.
Spectators in the Northern Hemisphere can begin to spot the comet's faint glow in the morning sky, as it journeys toward the northwest. The comet will likely be visible to those in the Southern Hemisphere starting early February.
The story of MiJa Books starts with two parents who wanted their daughter to be proud of who she is. LAist talked to owner Stephanie Moran Reed about the realities of running a business, her journey to entrepreneurship, mom guilt and her go-to book recommendation.
The backstory: Reed is Mexican American and bilingual and her husband Muammar is Black. Their daughter was born in 2019. “We want her to be proud of who she is and, and know both of her backgrounds and celebrate that,” Reed said. When they started to build her home library, the couple struggled to find books that resonated.
Lesson 1: Things can happen quickly. The Reeds turned their book review website into an online store and then into a brick-and-mortar store within a couple years.
Lesson 2: Find a supporter. Reed credits her husband with supporting her vision. "I feel as a Latina, as a female, growing up in a poor middle class household, it wasn't necessarily top of mind to be like, 'I'll just start my own business. I'll just quit my 9 to 5.' That wasn't something anybody discussed in our family."
Read on: For lessons on interacting with customers, mom guilt, and a favorite book recommendation.