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Hellscape, California

The death toll rises, devastation spreads and wildfires ain’t over yet

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Photo of Liam Hemsworth’s devastated home in Malibu, which he posted on Instagram

Love is all that remains in the house bisexual singer Miley Cyrus shares with actor Liam Hemsworth in Malibu, Hemsworth posted with visual proof on Instagram.

“Completely devestated by the fires affecting my community. I am one of the lucky ones. My animals and LOVE OF MY LIFE made it out safely & that’s all that matters right now. My house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong. I am grateful for all I have left. Sending so much love and gratitude to the firefighters and LA country Sheriff’s department!” Cyrus wrote on Twitter.

The death toll continues to climb in the worst California fire in the state’s history, 44 dead as of Nov. 13 with hundreds missing. Emergency workers are still combing through fire-ravaged communities and thousands remain evacuated, including out singer Melissa Etheridge. Individuals and communities throughout California are rallying to help each other, often risking their own lives to rescue and help those fleeing by foot after their cars catch on fire trapped in gridlock on narrow roads or stranded homeowners who will not leave their pets and horses.

A 27-year old man the New York Times identified as Mr. Gonzalez, “stayed at his house in Agoura Hills despite evacuation orders. He began to second-guess how long he should stay as the air grew increasingly black. Fire engulfed the hills around his community and ripped through several neighborhoods. One house nearby spontaneously erupted in flames from stray embers,” The Times reported.

“Basically there was like a ring of fire all around. There was this thick, thick smoke, and just a bunch of ashes everywhere,” Gonzalez told The Times. “The freeways are closed north and southbound, the canyons, there was no way in or out.”

The wildfires started last Thursday, Nov. 8, when the Camp Fire erupted in Northern California. It has already scorched more than 125,000 acres—totally destroying the town of Paradise in Butte County, and as of Nov. 13, was only 30 percent contained.

The Woolsey Fire from Thousand Oaks to Malibu outside Los Angeles also started Thursday and startled thousands with the wind spread the fire rapidly, doubling in size overnight. That fire has burned nearly 100,000 acres with roughly 35% containment. The Thousand Oaks community is suffering twin heartbreaks: fear and loss from the unpredictable, still raging wildfires and the recent loss of young people in the mass shooting at the Borderline bar, with memorials continuing.

Thanks to a massive and aggressive assault by firefighters, the Hill Fire in Ventura County was 85 percent contained on Monday, after destroying 4,500 acres.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, President Donald Trump blamed local government for the fires.  “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

There was an instant angry pushback. “His comments are reckless and insulting to the firefighters and people being affected,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“The President’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines,” said Brian K. Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters. “In my view, this shameful attack on California is an attack on all our courageous men and women on the front lines.”

Trump “is dangerously wrong,” Rice added. “Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography.”

“This is an absolutely heartless response,” tweeted LGBT ally singer Katy Perry. “There aren’t even politics involved. Just good American families losing their homes as you tweet, evacuating into shelters.”

Out talk show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres was kinder. “One of the reasons I love the firefighters, first responders and the people of California, is we don’t place blame or make threats. We come together, and we take care of each other. (Now more than ever.) #Thankstho.

Trump eventually relented and approved the state’s request for a major disaster declaration, making federal funds available for the stricken areas.

Out LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl thanked the firefighters, first responders and volunteers who have rushed to offer relief—water, food, blankets, shelter, hugs—whatever they can do to serve those who’ve lost everything.

“We are dedicated to helping each person displaced and frightened and securing ever more resources throughout the county,” Kuehl said in a message to her Third District constituents, those most impacted by the wildfires in the LA County area.

“Through all this sadness, I’m also greatly filled with hope listening to the countless stories of residents who risked their lives to help their neighbors, of government agencies at every level working together to keep people safe, and of the outpouring of support from Angelenos offering refuge, sheltering of pets, essential supplies for those displaced and for our firefighters,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl advised people to check lacounty.gov/woolseyfire and 211la.org/fire for the latest updates, and for those looking for ways to help the victims please go to kueh.ly/WaysToHel.

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Ventura County

Newsom appoints Vianey Lopez to Ventura County Board

Lopez has a lengthy track record in progressive issues including her outspoken support of Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights

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Vianey Lopez (center) with the late Chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Carmen Ramirez (L) (Photo Credit: Vianey Lopez/Facebook)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that he has appointed City of Oxnard Councilmember Vianey Lopez to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to the seat left vacant by the sudden death of the beloved chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Carmen Ramirez, killed in an August traffic accident.

Lopez, 35, a resident of Oxnard, has been a city councilmember for District Six since 2018 and also serves as a District Director for California State Senator Monique Limón since 2020.

According to her campaign for reelection to city council biography, Lopez immigrated to the U.S. at the young age of 4. As one of the youngest of 11 children, there were opportunities she was afforded that her siblings did not have. Raised locally, Vianey attended kindergarten through middle school in the Hueneme Elementary School District before graduating from Hueneme High School in 2005.

Councilmember, now Supervisor Lopez has a lengthy track record in progressive issues including her outspoken support of Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights as well as other key issues including LGBTQ+ equality, immigrant rights, and has worked for several California political leaders including a stint as District Scheduler for former U.S. Representative Lois Capps from 2013 to 2016, a member of the House from 1998 to 2017 representing California’s 24th congressional district.

Lopez was a Program Coordinator for the Oxnard Downtown Management District from 2012 to 2013 and an Administrative Assistant and Concierge at the Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau from 2009 to 2010. She is a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens and Future Leaders of America.

Lopez earned a Master of Public Policy degree in International Relations and State and Local Policy from Pepperdine University.

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Southern California

Triple A: SoCal gas prices race up by double digits in one week

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.52, which is eight cents higher than last week

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Photo Credit: Auto Club of Southern California

LOS ANGELES – Reports of additional Southern California refinery issues, along with continued low inventories, have created the biggest one-week price jump at the pump since early June, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. 

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.52, which is eight cents higher than last week. The average national price is $3.68, which is two cents lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.59 per gallon, which is 17 cents higher than last week, 25 cents higher than last month, and $1.19 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.53, which is 15 cents higher than last week, 24 cents higher than last month, and $1.18 higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.53, which is eight cents higher than last week, seven cents higher than last month and $1.18 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.44, which is 14 cents higher than last week, 23 cents higher than last month and $1.12 higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.46 average price is eight cents higher than last Thursday, three cents higher than last month and $1.10 higher than a year ago today.

“Oil Price Information Service reports that several local refineries are undergoing unplanned maintenance as fuel inventories are at their lowest levels in a decade, which caused Los Angeles wholesale gas prices to rise sharply this week,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. 

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Sept. 22, averages are:

Sept 22 22
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California

Newsom signs legislation to support California Native communities

Advances equity, inclusion and highlights the unique history, culture and government of tribes in the Golden State

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Governor Gavin Newsom signed several bills to support California Native communities (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Today on Native American Day, Governor Gavin Newsom signed several bills to support California Native communities and build on the Administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion and accountability throughout the state.

AB 1314 establishes a statewide emergency alert system for missing Native people 

In a ceremony joined by leaders of Native American tribes from across California, the Governor signed AB 1314 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) to help address the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Native people from communities across the country.

Under AB 1314, local law enforcement will be able to request that the California Highway Patrol activate an emergency Feather Alert, similar to an Amber or Silver alert, to assist in search efforts for a Native person who has been reported missing under suspicious circumstances.

“As we lift up the rich history and contributions of California’s diverse tribal communities today, the state recommits to building on the strides we have made to redress historical wrongs and help empower Native communities,” said Governor Newsom. “Today’s measures continue to move these efforts forward, including a new emergency alert system that will provide us with additional critical tools needed to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. I thank all the legislators and tribal partners whose leadership and advocacy help light the path forward in our work to build a better, stronger and more just state together.”

Governor signs AB 1314 alongside Assemblymember Ramos, Tribal Affairs Secretary Christina Snider and leaders of Native American tribes from across the state (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

“AB 1314 will help us get the word out sooner when an individual is missing or endangered, enlisting the help of the public for tips and leads as soon as possible when quick action is critical,” said Assemblymember Ramos. “I thank the Governor for signing this vital measure – creating an alert system was a top recommendation from tribal leaders for addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People.”

The state budget this year invests $12 million over three years to fund tribally-led programs to help address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People on tribal lands. This investment built on last year’s investment of $5 million to fund training and guidance for law enforcement agencies and tribal governments to improve public safety on tribal lands and study challenges related to the reporting and identification of missing and murdered Native peoples, particularly women and girls.

AB 1936 re-designates UC Hastings College of the Law and advances restorative justice efforts for Native peoples who suffered mass killings orchestrated by the college’s founder

Governor Newsom also signed AB 1936 by Assemblymember Ramos, which re-designates the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law as the College of the Law, San Francisco and advances restorative justice efforts for Round Valley Indian Tribes and Yuki people whose ancestors suffered mass killings and other atrocities funded and supported by college founder Serranus Hastings in the mid-19th century. 

AB 1936 also outlines several restorative justice initiatives that the College intends to pursue, such as renaming the law library with a Native language name, annually reading a statement of the atrocities Hastings committed against the Yuki people and providing collaborative opportunities for Round Valley tribal students to gain debate and writing experience, among other efforts.  

AB 2022 will remove the racist and sexist slur squaw from all geographic features and place names in California

Under AB 2022 by Assemblymember Ramos, the racist and sexist term “squaw” will be removed from all geographic features and place names in the state, and a process to review petitions to change offensive or derogatory place names will be created. This comes on the heels of federal action this month to complete the removal of this slur from nearly 650 geographic features across the country, including several name changes advanced by California based on extensive tribal engagement. The Newsom Administration has launched a series of ongoing actions to identify and redress discriminatory names of features attached to the State Parks and transportation systems.   

Governor Newsom also signed AB 1703 by Assemblymember Ramos, the California Indian Education Act. The measure encourages local educational agencies and charter schools to form California Indian Education Task Forces in partnership with local tribes to develop curricular materials that highlight the unique history, culture and government of tribes in their region.

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