Major Oil Spill Closes OC Beaches

A 126,000-gallon oil spill from an offshore rig – the largest spill in Orange County in three decades – led to major ecological damage in Huntington Beach over the weekend, prompting officials to close beaches that could remain off-limits for weeks or months.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-48), whose district includes Huntington and Newport beaches and other coastal cities, said she asked President Biden on Sunday to approve disaster relief.

The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the response to the spill, which covers about 5.8 nautical miles between the Huntington Beach Pier and Newport Beach. The oil emanated from a facility operated by Beta Offshore, and likely was caused by a pipeline leak.

The City of Huntington Beach canceled the third day of the Pacific Airshow on Sunday to facilitate cleanup and reduce health impacts. By afternoon, all city and state beaches south of Seapoint to the Santa Ana River jetty were closed. Newport Beach later closed beaches at the waterline. And Laguna Beach announced that all city beaches would close at 9 p.m. Sunday. The city asked that people pay close attention to closure or warning signs posted at or near beach areas. …

Read the full article from the OC Register.

In California and Across the Country, Parents and Their Kids are Abandoning Public Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic may have been the crack in the dam that allowed parents’ building frustration with the regular public schools to burst forth.  Public school enrollment is nose-diving across the country, with legions of parents everywhere choosing other learning options for their children.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently issued an analysis which examined data during the pandemic and found that the “public schools, including district-run schools, lost more than 1.4 million students (a 3.3% loss from 2019-20 to 2020-21).”

The report noted that the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found that enrollment in public schools fell by the largest margin in at least in at least two decades.

Across California, state figures show that K-12 enrollment fell by 160,000 students, which was a 3-percent dip and the largest drop in enrollment in twenty years.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, enrollment dropped by 27,000 students, which was a nearly 6 percent fall.  The Los Angeles Times noted that this percentage decline “is three times what planners in the nation’s second-largest school district predicted.”

Even more ominous for the future of the regular public schools is the plunge in enrollment among the nation’s youngest students.

The education publication The 74 pointed out that federal data shows “the combined number of preschool and kindergarten students decreased by 13 percent last year.”  Further, “the pre-K population plunged by an astonishing 22 percent.”

As parents were exiting the public schools, they were choosing education options ranging from charter schools to homeschooling.

According to the NAPCS report, “Public charter school enrollment increased during the 2020-21 school year in at least 39 states, the only segment of the public education sector to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“All told,” the report found, “nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in charter schools during that period, a 7% year-over-year increase.”

In California, for example, the report said: “Charter schools saw enrollment increases for nearly every racial and ethnic subgroup, while district public schools saw enrollment decreases for nearly every racial and ethnic subgroup.  Specifically, charter schools saw particularly large increases of Asian, Filipino, Hispanic, and multi-racial students.  District public schools saw a particularly large decrease in White and Black students.”

Even more than the uptick in charter school enrollment, however, has been the surge in parents choosing to homeschool their children.

As I detail in my soon-to-be-released Pacific Research Institute book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities, U.S. Census Bureau data show that from just spring 2020 to fall 2020, the proportion of U.S. households homeschooling their kids more than doubled from 5 percent to 11 percent.

Among African-American families, homeschooling skyrocketed from 3 percent to 16 percent—a more than five-fold increase.  Among Hispanic families, homeschooling doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent.

In my book, I profile Magda Gomez, who emigrated from Mexico to the United States and who decided to homeschool her daughters after they were bullied at their regular California public school.  Homeschooling has worked so well for Magda and her daughters that Magda is now an activist in the Hispanic community promoting homeschooling and informing parents about the educational choices they have.

Analyzing the data, the Census Bureau concluded, “It’s clear that in an unprecedented environment, families are seeking solutions that will reliably meet their health and safety needs, their childcare needs and the learning and socio-emotional needs of their children.”

Thus, “the global COVID-19 pandemic has sparked new interest in homeschooling and the appeal of alternative school arrangements has suddenly exploded.”

The Census Bureau’s conclusion is borne out by on-the-ground practitioners such as Alicia Carter, the head of a homeschool academy at a charter school in Sacramento whom I interviewed for my book.

Carter’s academy is a brick-and-mortar facility where homeschool parents can send their children to take art, music, and other types of enrichment classes a day or two a week.  Carter has been a homeschool parent, teacher, and administrator for many years and she has seen a lot of change over the years.  However, what she has seen over the last couple years has amazed her.

For the first time in her homeschool academy’s history, she told me, they had to hold a lottery for admission in 2021.

Carter says that part of the reason is the pandemic, but she also thinks that people are starting to consider homeschooling a viable option, not a fringe choice.  She says, “homeschooling has become much more diverse religiously, ethnically, and socioeconomically all over the country.”

As public schools continue to flail with controversial reopening policies, unpopular woke curricula, and unresponsive top-down one-size-fits-all edicts, parents, as the Census Bureau observes, “are increasingly open to options beyond the neighborhood school.”  That is why homeschooling, especially, will be the education wave of the future.

Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute and the author of the upcoming PRI book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Insitute.

California To Mandate Student Covid Vaccines Once FDA Gives Full Approval

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that California will mandate student vaccines for Covid-19 once federal officials fully approve the immunizations, becoming the first state to declare that requirement, though it likely will not take effect until next school year.

Under the plan, California will add Covid-19 vaccines to its list of immunizations required for school attendance in the first academic term after the Food and Drug Administration approves the shots for students in a given age band, split between grades 7-12 and K-6. The governor’s office estimates that middle- and high-schoolers will need to get vaccinated before the 2022-23 school year starts.

California would likewise issue a hard mandate that all education staff be vaccinated at that time, eliminating an option for non-vaccinated employees to show a negative test in lieu of getting the shot. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico

LA Council Deciding on Mandatory Proof of Vaccination to Enter Businesses

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council is to decide upon one of the largest COVID-19 vaccination requirements in the country, mandating that either vaccination proof or a recent negative COVID-19 test will be needed to enter most indoor businesses in the city, including restaurants, salons, movie theaters, malls, gyms, and other establishments.

To date, Los Angeles has only focused on mandates for workers and for those at outdoor events with more than 10,000 people. Despite other cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, and Palm Springs enacting indoor business vaccination proof mandates for those 12 and up in the last several months, Los Angeles has yet to bring sweeping vaccination mandates to indoor businesses outside of a previous mandate covering bars, wineries, breweries, and other drinking establishments.

However, since last month, the city has been working on an indoor mandate draft to help further curb the spread of the delta variant, as well as other new variants, that have been striking the city. While the overall number of new daily cases, deaths and testing positivity rates have been falling in LA since early August, the Council nonetheless decided to push for the mandate as a precaution in high-risk areas with a lot of people.

“If we ever want to get back to normal, to what Los Angeles was like pre-COVID, we need to stop the spread in places most high risk,” said Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez in August. “So, if individuals want to go to their gym, go to their local bar without a mask, you need to get vaccinated. And if you want to watch a basketball game, a baseball game, go to a concert at a big venue, or even go into a movie theater, you need to get a shot.”

Other Councilmembers also noted that the push for vaccinations would not deny people going to places to get essentials such as food or medicine.

“COVID-19 could be eradicated if we had mass vaccinations across the country and across the world,” added Councilman Mitch O’Farrell. “Why on Earth is it OK in 2021 to have 30-plus people die in the county of Los Angeles from COVID over a three-day period, including an 11-year-old girl, when we have a vaccine that could have prevented all of that, accessible to everyone. This is not a vaccine mandate. We’re not going to deny anyone the ability to access essentials, food, medicine, etc., regardless of vaccination. But what is immoral is choosing not to get vaccinated, choosing to listen to some delusional rant on Twitter.”

Economic fallout from the proposed business vaccination mandate

While many are in favor of the mandate, opponents to the mandate have said that the economic fallout to the city could be devastating, especially in areas where tourists, who are less likely to have been vaccinated and have proof or a recent test, are prevalent.

San Francisco businesses, especially those that cater to tourists, have seen a large drop off in customers since their mandate was put into place in early August. Many restaurants and other businesses are still seeing drop-offs from pre-COVID-19 figures in the thousands per day almost two months later. And for many Los Angeles area business owners, that prospect is terrifying.

“We rely on tourists,” said Sid Stevens, who co-owns two Hollywood restaurants, to the Globe on Tuesday. “We managed to survive the lockdowns here and we just don’t need this. We’re finally getting people back in, we’re finally getting tourists again. Now LA wants to limit us again. We can’t afford to lose business and go back in the red again.

“And look, cases are going way down and things are improving. Why do they need to spike the football? They just don’t understand the damage that they will do. And a lot of restaurants feel this way. The bar next door to one of my restaurants  is freaking out out over previous mandate affecting bars. Well, that’s going to be us.

“This is just going to hurt way more people than it helps.”

The City Council is expected to vote on the mandate during their next meeting on Wednesday September 29th.

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Motels To House The Homeless

Modesto could seek state funding to buy a motel or motels and convert the property into supportive housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

This is similar to Kansas House, the former 103-room American Budget Inn & Suites at Kansas Avenue and Highway 99 that the Stanislaus Regional Housing Authority purchased and converted into studio apartments.

Modesto and Stanislaus County provided financial and other assistance. Kansas House opened in May 2020.

Modesto would seek funding through Project Homekey, one of California’s initiatives to provide housing for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.

Read the full article from the Modesto Bee.

Are Mandatory California Water Cutbacks Coming Soon?

Back in 2014, when I was in my past life working for elected officials, I found myself engaged in one of the more annoying parts of the job – “volunteering” on political campaigns.

One day, my volunteer efforts took me to a neighborhood in San Bernardino.  Knocking on doors, it struck me that despite California experiencing a severe drought emergency, it was as if there was no drought in Southern California.

In Sacramento, we were asked to severely cut back our residential water use.  Once, when my gardener forgot to adjust the automatic sprinkler controls to account for the new restrictions, the “water police” left a nastygram on my front porch.  At the time, neighbors were even being encouraged to turn in neighbors who were not following the rules. Meanwhile in San Bernardino, there were green lawns everywhere and many houses on each block were watering the sidewalk.

Fast forward a decade and apparently, they’re continuing to water the sidewalk.

Gov. Newsom in July issued a call for Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 15 percent, while also adding several counties to a regional drought state of emergency.  Yet the Los Angeles Times reported last week that, “water use across much of Southern California dropped by just 0.1% overall, and rose by 0.7% in Los Angeles and 1.3% in San Diego.” This compares to a 16.7% water usage reduction in the North Coast in July and an 8.4% drop in the Bay Area.

Freed from the shackles of the recall election, might Gov. Newsom soon respond to the lack of response to his voluntary call and take executive action ordering big mandatory residential water restrictions statewide?  History suggests the answer is yes.

In 2015, then-Gov. Jerry Brown responded to the type of sidewalk watering that I saw in Southern California and ordered a mandatory 25 percent water cut. Californians largely did their part in reducing residential water usage – and they’re continuing to do their part.

The bigger question is whether such massive residential water cutbacks really make a difference or are even needed.  After all, as Newsom noted in July, Californians are using 16 percent less water today than in 2013, before the previous drought began.  In Sacramento, residential water use is down about 25 percent since 2013.

As Steven Greenhut writes in the PRI book Winning the Water Wars, “total urban water (residential, commercial, governmental) uses comprise around 10 percent of the state’s total water supplies . . . so taking a conservation-heavy approach only creates diminishing returns – and has a de minimis or insignificant effect on water supplies.”

Greenhut writes that the choice facing Californians surrounding our water future is a straightforward one:

Does the state want to build the infrastructure and embrace the other innovations and policies needed to provide us all with plenty of affordable water?  Or does it prefer a world of scarcity and skyrocketing prices, where government planners issue rationing edicts and farmers must let vast acreage go fallow?

Newsom clearly has embraced managing scarcity as his philosophy on water.  As someone who has never met a government action he didn’t like, you can count on new water restrictions soon coming down the pipeline and likely via executive order.

But many Californians are still wondering – after passing a water bond in 2014 with sufficient funding to build two new above-ground storage projects, why haven’t these critical projects been built yet?  After all, had Sacramento followed through, perhaps we wouldn’t be facing the prospects of new mandated water cutbacks this year – or in any future year when state rainfall totals decline.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

YouTube Is Blocking All Anti-Vaccine Content

YouTube is taking down several video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who experts say are partially responsible for helping seed the skepticism that’s contributed to slowing vaccination rates across the country.

As part of a new set of policies aimed at cutting down on anti-vaccine content on the Google-owned site, YouTube will ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. The company previously blocked videos that made those claims about coronavirus vaccines, but not ones for other vaccines like those for measles or chickenpox.https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533

Misinformation researchers have for years said the popularity of anti-vaccine content on YouTube was contributing to growing skepticism of lifesaving vaccines in the United States and around the world. Vaccination rates have slowed and about 56 percent of the U.S. population has had two shots, compared with 71 percent in Canada and 67 percent in the United Kingdom. In July, President Biden said social media companies were partially responsible for spreading misinformation about the vaccines, and need to do more to address the issue. …

Click here to read the full article from MSN.com

Two More California Cities Preparing To Ban Flavored Tobacco and Vape Products

Californians have heard the constant anti-vaping ads, claiming that flavored nicotine vape products disproportionately attract teen users and need to be outlawed.

In 2019, San Francisco Mayor London Breed signed into law a vaping ban, passed 11-0 by the county board of supervisors, on the sale of e-cigarettes and all relevant paraphernalia. Steven Greenhut with the R Street Institute has written extensively about the attempts – and successes – of government to control and even ban vaping. “Welcome to tolerant San Francisco, where you have every right to live as you please as long as you choose only to do the things that are socially acceptable,” Greenhut said. “If you want to shoot up or take a dump in the street, that’s OK given that you are a victim of society. If you want to, say, smoke tobacco or vape, forget about it.”

Greenhut even recounts a trip to San Francisco where he was walking down the street smoking a cigar and was hard-timed for it. “I was far from any other human being and close to the world’s biggest air filter (the Pacific Ocean), and yet someone hectored me,” Greenhut said. “Had I been smoking weed, no one would have dared to say a word — nor should they have, given that marijuana is appropriately legal here. Welcome to tolerant San Francisco, where you have every right to live as you please as long as you choose only to do the things that are socially acceptable.”

And now, both Los Angeles and San Jose are expected to hold votes on proposed tobacco flavoring bans very soon in an attempt by anti-tobacco campaigners to get ahead of next year’s referendum on the statewide tobacco flavoring ban passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020.

If the proposed ordinances pass in both cities, it will come with controversy given new research showing some very adverse effects of tobacco flavoring bans for actual cigarette consumption.

It also could come against the backdrop of FDA action either allowing, or banning, vapor giant Juul from continuing to market its products.

According to Yale University researchers:

“after the [2018 San Francisco tobacco flavoring] ban’s implementation, high school students’ odds of smoking conventional cigarettes doubled in San Francisco’s school district relative to trends in districts without the ban, even when adjusting for individual demographics and other tobacco policies.”

Yale researcher Abigail Friedman explained: “While neither smoking cigarettes nor vaping nicotine are safe per se, the bulk of current evidence indicates substantially greater harms from smoking, which is responsible for nearly one in five adult deaths annually. Even if it is well-intentioned, a law that increases youth smoking could pose a threat to public health.”

A more recent Oxford University Press-published study found similar results, that “if ‘vape product sales were restricted to tobacco flavors,’ one-third of US vapers aged 18 to 34 say they’ll switch to smoking.”

In 2019, Henry I. Miller, M.S., M.D. and senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, and Jeff Stier, J.D., a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center published an article at the Pacific Research Institute concluding the vaping hysteria and disinformation campaign will lead to more tobacco deaths. Miller and Stier said the not-so-hidden agenda behind the scare is to fool lawmakers into thinking e-cigarettes are as dangerous or more dangerous than “combustible cigarettes,” causing them to regulate these lower-risk alternatives inappropriately. This, too, will prevent smokers from quitting.

The conclusion that flavoring bans push people to conventional, carcinogenic cigarettes is one that New York University expert Ray Niaura also finds credible. In a recent interview, Niaura said that with flavoring bans, “Not only younger vapers, but older vapers run into difficulties either getting the products or getting the products they like, and then unfortunately, it’s still easy to get cigarettes almost anywhere. So it’s not surprising that people turn back to those products when the restrictions become really tight on vaping products, the availability of vaping products, flavor bans, etc. My worry is that it’s a retrogressive kind of strategy [banning flavors as a backdoor to banning all vaping products], that you get in the front door with this issue regarding kids and then you keep pushing until you ban the products outright. The irony is the Tobacco Control Act basically says that you cannot make cigarettes illegal, so if you ban all these products, cigarettes will still be legal. Do we want a world where we are just left with cigarettes?”

This article was originally published by the California Globe

Gender Quotas for Boards Heads to Trial in California

California will have to defend its first-in-the-nation requirement that companies include women on boards of public companies at a trial.

Judicial Watch, the conservative advocacy group, and the California attorney general’s office each failed to persuade a judge to rule in their favor on the constitutionality of the measure. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis decided there are issues that can only be resolved through a trial, which she set for Oct. 25 without a jury.

The group claims the use of taxpayer funds to enforce the rule is illegal under California’s constitution. Enacted in 2018 amid the #MeToo movement, the law required public corporations to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by 2019, and to have two or three female directors by the end of 2021 depending on the size of the board. Penalties for violations range from $100,000 to $300,000. …

Click here to read the full article from Bloomberg.com

Gov. Newsom’s Spin On Jobless Claims

There are days when those of us who follow the news feel as though we’re living in a parallel universe. What else could explain the wildly divergent news stories about California’s employment figures?

On September 17, the state’s July unemployment figures were released and the reaction from Gov. Gavin Newsom was a lot of positive spin. Here is what his press office released: “California continues to lead the nation’s economic recovery, creating 44% of the nation’s new jobs in August and ranking third in the nation in rate of job growth this year. These 104,300 new jobs, the fifth time this year of six-figure job growth, represent new paychecks for Californians and new employees on payroll for businesses.”

First, it is important to note that, while the figures are correct, the premise is not. Yes, the 44% new job creation is true, but that hardly means that California is “leading the nation’s economic recovery.”

This rose-colored view of California’s economic recovery is proof of the old adage that there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics. What is lacking in this release is both context and perspective.

For those desiring a no-spin perspective of California’s true state of unemployment and other economic metrics, the California Center for Jobs and the Economy (CCJE) produces comprehensive analysis that is far more revealing than politically driven press releases.

As if responding directly to the governor’s statement, CCJE prefaces its report on the July figures with this: “While both the jobs and employment numbers have been better in recent months, they are not yet at levels that would see quick recovery in the state economy.”

To read the entire column, please click here.