Gas prices in California have exploded in a very short period. Autumn is usually the slow season when gas prices go down everywhere—but apparently not here in California. The California average recently hit $4.18 per gallon, the highest price since May 13, 2014. The national average is $2.65 per gallon. Now, there are a few extra costs and gas taxes in California but that doesn’t come close to explaining the jump in prices. One explanation is that many refineries are down for maintenance as happens every fall and winter. When one or two refineries do their maintenance at the same time, that’s called a coincidence. When so many of them shut down at the same time causing the prices to rise, that’s no longer a coincidence—that’s called a conspiracy and it’s high time that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra looked into it.

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I have that knot in my stomach that always appears when the LA Dodgers—who have had a sensational season—start looking merely mortal. The semifinals, or whatever they call it now, is suddenly tied two games each with the tie breaker to come. Raised in Brooklyn and having had my championship hopes dashed with regularity by the New York Yankees, and also Bobby Thompson, I can say I lost my innocence at an early age never to have it return. So, here’s hoping. Fingers crossed that this isn’t one of those years.

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But don’t lose hope because miracles actually can happen and we may be seeing one right here in Malibu. I’ve been told that the old Granita Restaurant, located in the same shopping center as Ralphs grocery, empty these many years—actually since September 2005—may have finally found a new tenant. Granita, once the flagship restaurant for Wolfgang Puck and his then-wife Barbara Lazaroff, which had a 15-year run in Malibu, is going to be renovated and reopened with a new a tenant, a restaurant called Zinc Cafe & Market, which has another place in the downtown Los Angeles Art District and at several other locations in Southern California. Good luck.

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They just completed a study of the homeless in LA County and found that 76 percent were mentally ill or had substance abuse problems, were in poor health, and had physical disabilities. None of that would be particularly surprising to us in Malibu because we see it all here in town. Many homeless people here are unkempt and clearly have problems taking care themselves. The fact that we have few public toilets and no showers just compounds the problem. One of the ironies is I was in Sacramento in the mid-1960s, working for a state senator, when they passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short mental health bill. It was well-intentioned and many felt that no one, even the mentally ill, should be locked up because they were different. If they weren’t a danger to themselves or to others, they didn’t belong in state institutions for housing and treating the mentally ill. They were to be allowed to live outside and treatment was to be provided in local mental health clinics in their own communities, which was thought to be more humane and also cost effective. At the same time, there was also a conservative push to close down the large and expensive state institutions like state-owned Camarillo Mental Hospital and save money. So, with pressure from both the left and the right, the way we handled mental illness and the disabled changed. Camarillo Hospital is now a California State University campus, and the promised state support for the local mental health clinic soon disappeared with a new administration and a budget squeeze from a slow economy. What we didn’t have then, but we do now, is an enormous shortage of affordable housing. We also didn’t have 60,000 people living in cars and campers because there is nothing to rent in their price range in Los Angeles. Typically, the poor and the mentally ill have lived in the older, poorer sections of the city. For example, Venice and Venice Beach were once filled with cheaper rentals, but since it’s so difficult and expensive to build these days, all of those old buildings are being bought up and renovated. Old, cheap, seedy Venice is disappearing quickly and Venice Silicon Beach has been born.

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This upcoming session of the United States Supreme Court is going to be a very tough one for the entire court and, most particularly, for Chief Justice John Roberts, who could end up being the swing vote. They are going to be dealing with cases involving LGBTQ rights, the future of the DREAMers and the availability of abortion. On top of that, in this totally partisan world, it’s a safe bet to speculate they are going to see something related to the Trump impeachment and the conflicts over the roles and powers of the president and congress. This is going to be, I believe, a historic session. Lawyers are trying to handicap this session like a bunch of racecourse touts, but the tea leaves are hard to read. If the court is to maintain the public’s confidence that they are just not another political body, they are going to have to walk a very difficult tightrope. If not, then this country is going to tear itself apart even further than it already is.

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