Newsom taps Rob Bonta as attorney general, and California braces for water cutbacks

Greetings from the Golden State, where homeowners who still have Christmas lights on their houses past Feb. 2 may be subject to a $250 fine, according to california.com. I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in sunny Palm Springs, and here are some of today’s key headlines.

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

Newsom taps lawmaker Rob Bonta as California attorney general

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, on Tuesday discusses his proposed measure to make it easier for people with marijuana convictions to erase or reduce their records. (Photo: AP PHOTO)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday nominated state Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who is known for pushing criminal justice reform, to be the Golden State’s next attorney general.

Bonta, a Democrat, would replace Xavier Becerra, who was confirmed last week as President Joe Biden’s health and human services secretary. Pending likely confirmation by the state’s Democratic Legislature, Bonta would hold the job through 2022 when he would have to run for election.

If confirmed, Bonta, 48, would be the state’s first Filipino attorney general, and he had the backing of a number of Asian American and Pacific Islander groups, as well as progressive groups and leaders on criminal and environmental justice. His appointment comes amid a time of rising violence against Asian Americans. After six women of Asian descent were killed in a Georgia shooting spree, top AAPI elected officials called on Newsom to name Bonta to the job.

“We have to continue to build bridges of trust between our API communities and law enforcement,” Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco said.

California is home to more than 6 million people of Asian descent.

California braces for water cutbacks

The State Water Resources Control Board has sent notices to 40,000 farmers, municipal officials and others, warning them of potential water shortages. (Photo: Nithin PA, pexels.com)

State and federal officials issued some pretty dismal warnings Tuesday about California’s summer water supplies, telling farmers and others to gear up for potential shortages.

The Sacramento Bee reports that in December, the Department of Water Resources predicted it would be able to deliver 10% of contracted supplies to the cities and farms that are part of the State Water Project. In Tuesday’s revised forecast, however, that number was lowered to 5%.

But it might be even worse than that. The article states that “the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies water mainly to farmers through the Central Valley Project, said that due to worsening hydrological conditions, the 5% water allocation promised to its customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ‘is not available for delivery until further notice.’ ”

It’s not officially a drought — only the governor can make that declaration — but depending on how much it rains and snows next winter, it could turn into one.

The State Water Resources Control Board, meanwhile, stated Monday it had sent notices to 40,000 farmers, municipal officials and others, warning them of potential water shortages.

“Start planning now for potential water supply shortages later this year and identify practical actions you can take to increase drought resilience, such as increasing water conservation measures, reducing irrigated acreage, managing herd size, using innovative irrigation and monitoring technologies, or diversifying your water supply portfolio,” the letter read in part.

Zogg Fire sparks push for broader power shutoff criteria

A Cal Fire Butte County Strike Team 9211C firefighter spreads burning brush to burn away excess fuel along Zogg Mine Road near Igo, Calif. The Carr wildfire in Northern California on Sunday has claimed at least five lives, burned hundreds of homes and driven more than 30,000 residents from communities threatened by the relentless blaze. The fire remained only 5 percent contained early Sunday despite "aggressive" efforts to control the blaze, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. (Photo: Sam Gross, Reno Gazette-Journal/ USA TODAY NETWORK)

In other environmental news, as a result of last year’s deadly Zogg Fire in Shasta County, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. could trigger more widespread power shutoffs to prevent causing further catastrophic wildfires.

A federal judge is pushing the utility “to take into account the extent to which power lines have or have not been cleared of hazardous trees and limbs” when deciding where to have public safety power shutoffs.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on Monday said the Zogg Fire was sparked when a large pine tree came into contact with PG&E’s electrical distribution lines.

State officials, however, warn the judge’s proposal could mean more customers are affected by outages, creating “another perilous situation.”

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is pushing for the change, said his proposal will prevent more fires caused by PG&E. “This proposal is made to protect the people of California from yet further death and destruction caused by the offender’s (PG&E) failure to operate its power grid safely,” he said in a February court order.

Since 2018 PG&E has been de-energizing power lines in areas where expected high winds, low humidity and low moisture in surrounding vegetation pose a greater risk of fire danger, but Alsup said in court filings that PG&E has not been taking into account whether trees and limbs have been properly trimmed around power lines.

East Bay town named safest city in California

According to its website, Danville offers the perfect blend of upscale amenities and small-town charm. (Photo: Kat Wilcox, pexels.com)

The town of Danville in Northern California’s East Bay has been named the Golden State’s safest city by the website SafeWisefor the second year in a row, reports The Mercury News. According to the report, the town of Danville (yes, Danville officially identifies as a “town” according to its website) had a violent crime rate of 0.05 per 1,000 residents and 6.6 property crimes per 1,000 residents.

“Danville has consistently been ranked the safest city, in our case town, in the state of California,” Danville Mayor Renee S. Morgan told The Mercury News. “Community safety is our highest priority for all of our residents and businesses.”

Here are the rest of the top ten safest cities, in order:

  • Rancho Santa Margarita 
  • Moorpark
  • Rancho Palos Verdes
  • Aliso Viejo 
  • Lake Forest
  • Yorba Linda
  • Laguna Niguel
  • Mission Viejo
  • Lincoln

Want to see where your city (or town) falls on the list? You can check here. Hopefully you won’t be as disappointed by your city’s ranking as I was …

And now it’s time for some tasty, easily digestible bite-sized …

News nuggets

Beginning April 10, 2021, California state prisons will reinstate visitations. (Photo: Rodnae Productions, pexels.com)

  • California to reinstate prison visitations. Has COVID-19 gotten in between you and an incarcerated loved one? If so, you’re in luck. ABC7 KRCR reports that California state prisons will soon allow limited in-person visits with inmates after more than a year of lockdown lockdowns — with some precautions, like temperature and symptom screenings, coronavirus testing, physical distancing and, of course, face masks.
  • Beware of home-improvement scammers! Having some work done on your home? Following a number of instances of purported construction fraud in San Joaquin County, the Stockton Record has some tips on how not to get took while fixing up your nook, including checking a contractor’s licensing status, which you can do here.
  • Six California billionaires called ‘Pandemic Profiteers’: In a report from the Institute for Policy Studies, which joined forces with the Americans for Tax Fairness in order to “track the wealth growth of America’s billionaires over the last year,” six California billionaires were included on a list of the 10 biggest “Pandemic Profiteers.”  The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the six are Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Snapchat co-founders Bobby Murphy and Evan Spiegel, Coinbase chief executive Brian Armstrong, Roku founder Anthony Wood and digital advertising firm The Trade Desk’s founder Jeff Green.
  • Looking forward to attending White Party in Palm Springs? Looks like you’ll have to wait until fall. The event’s founder, Jeffrey Sanker, announced on his website that the April event has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will now take place Sep. 17-20 and will be called White Party Palm Springs Solstice – A New Beginning.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: ABC7 KRCR, california.com, The Mercury News, The Sacramento Bee, Stockton Record. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with the latest headlines.

As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at [email protected]

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