January 29, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Poll: California Legislature’s approval rating up, Jerry Brown at record high — Gov. Jerry Brown’s job approval rating is at a record high, and Californians are in such good spirits that even the Legislature and President Barack Obama’s ratings are rebounding, according to a new pollSacramento Bee article; LA Times article; Capitol Weekly article; San Francisco Chronicle article

John Myers: Poll: Californians willing to extend Prop 30 taxes — Call it the first hint of the debate to come over taxes, perhaps as soon as California’s next statewide ballot: A new poll finds a majority of likely voters are willing to extend the life of Gov. Jerry Brown’s temporary taxes from 2012.  Myers in KQED; Capital Public Radio report

State budget

California runs risk of financial relapse, ratings agency says — When Gov. Jerry Brown released his latest budget proposal earlier this month, he said California’s finances were balanced but remain precarious. On Wednesday, a report from Wall Street ratings agency Standard & Poor’s echoed the governor’s concerns and questioned how sustainable California’s recovery will be.  LA Times article; Capitol Alert

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

George Skelton: Arizona redistricting fight has big implications for California – A major California political reform enacted by the voters is being threatened by the Arizona Legislature’s attempt to resume ugly gerrymandering of congressional districts.  Skelton column in LA Times

Dan Walters: New mail ballot law may benefit its author — Dan finds plenty of irony in two current political situations.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

Joel Fox: A one-two punch against the initiative process at the Supreme Court – An Arizona case before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges the state’s ballot initiative created redistricting commission could have such an effect on California politics that three former California governors, noted California political scientists, and a California state commission have all filed briefs in the case.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Mark Geragos wants to know: Who leaked Calderon affidavit? – It’s been more than a year since a cable news network published an FBI affidavit accusing then-Sen. Ron Calderon of accepting bribes from an undercover agent. But Calderon’s lawyer said Wednesday that he’s still pursuing a case against the federal government to find out who leaked the sealed file.  Capitol Alert

States renew fight to stop same-sex marriage – Republican state legislators in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas have introduced bills this year that would prohibit state or local government employees from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, despite federal court rulings declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in those states and questions about the constitutionality of the proposed state laws. The bills would also strip the salaries of employees who issued the licenses.  New York Times article

Key Obama strategist Bill Burton opens shop in California – Looks like the Golden State is becoming even more golden for politics: veteran Democratic strategist Bill Burton — the national press secretary to Barack Obama’s first presidential run and former White House deputy press secretary — has been hired by a major national political strategy and communications firm to open shop in California.  San Francisco Chronicle article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Plunging oil prices choke off boom in Bakersfield – Plunging oil prices worldwide are landing hard in Bakersfield, choking off the boom of recent years in one of America’s great oil towns. LA Times article; ‘Employment in California’s oil town suffers as prices plunge’ in LA Times

Census: 1 in 5 children on food stamps – Sixteen million children were on food stamps as of last year, the highest number since the nation’s economy tumbled in 2008. Numbers released by the Census Bureau Wednesday as part of its annual look at children and families show that one in five children were on food stamp assistance in 2014. The survey was taken last spring.  AP article

Jobs and the Economy

Lower fuel prices cause havoc with tax revenue – Those lower gas and diesel prices we are enjoying are great for consumer pocketbooks, including the good people of Tulare. But in a city where 22 percent of all sales tax revenues come from fuel sales, a 40 to 50 percent drop in in fuel prices is having a wrenching impact on the City of Tulare’s budget.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Modesto rolls out downtown incentives – The city incentives include cash payments to certain types of retailers and offices that open or relocate downtown and meet hiring thresholds. For instance, a qualifying business that hires the equivalent of 10 full-time workers would receive $2,500. The city also is offering reductions on sales and other taxes and waiving some fees.  Modesto Bee article

Fresno County supervisors tie support for mayor’s water plan to growth talks – Fresno County supervisors turned a routine review of Fresno City Hall’s water rates into a remarkable look at the role of trust in politics. The sometimes chaotic debate may change the local development landscape in ways city officials never anticipated when they began tackling new water rates nearly two years ago.  Fresno Bee article

California’s union-represented workforce grew slightly in 2014 – California’s unionized workforce grew 3 percent last year, according to new federal labor data that also show more employees in both the government and private sectors nationwide worked under labor-negotiated terms.  Sacramento Bee article

What’s ahead for state health benefits – Let’s break out the crystal ball and peer into the future for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to bargain state-employee and retiree health benefits with unions.  Sacramento Bee article

Gas dips below $2 per gallon in Northern San Joaquin Valley – It’s been teasing us forever, it seems, and this week gasoline at last fell below $2 in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. An Arco station at Highway 99 and Lander Avenue, just south of Turlock, was selling regular unleaded gas for $1.99 per gallon. Several other stations also have been selling gas for under $2, but those were businesses that required membership.  Modesto Bee article

Feds keep key rate near zero, will stay ‘patient’ on raising it — Federal Reserve policymakers kept their benchmark interest rate near zero and reiterated a plan to be patient about future hikes, even though they issued a more upbeat assessment of the U.S. economy.  LA Times article

Bimbo Bakery closure in Fresno will affect 92 employees — Bimbo Bakeries USA will close its Fresno baking plant in late March with plans to shift production to other company bakeries, primarily in Sacramento.  Fresno Bee article

Houses, businesses planned in northeast Bakersfield – It may lack a second major grocery store, but houses and other commercial developments are coming to northeast Bakersfield as the area recovers from the recession. Bakersfield Californian article

Chowchilla talks economic development – With economic development on their minds, Chowchilla City Council decided Tuesday to consolidate some of the city’s management positions and add a new committee focused on the downtown.  Merced Sun-Star article

DoubleTree is latest name for downtown Fresno hotel – The eight-story hotel that has stood at Ventura and M streets across from the Fresno Convention Center since the early 1980s is a prime example of the game of “musical brands” in the hospitality business.  Fresno Bee article

Brik McDill: We all have to dig deeper in our pockets during this fiscal crisis – We come to the understanding that if we want any quality of life, we all gotta dig a little deeper in our pockets and pitch into the public collection plate whatever’s needed to maintain the quality of public and community life we want to have. With respect to that life, you get what you pay for. Not one iota more. McDill column in Bakersfield Californian

Not best of times nor worst of times for wine – It might not be the best of times in the U.S. wine business — which one speaker Wednesday characterized as “A Tale of Two Wine Markets.” But it certainly isn’t the worst of times, especially for San Joaquin County’s wine region, which area grape growers said provides much of the fruit for the fastest-growing segment, those wines priced from $10 to $14 per bottle.  Stockton Record article

Fresno First Bank parent company reports record $2.1 million profit in 2014 — Communities First Financial Corp., the Fresno-based parent company of Fresno First Bank, reported a profit of $2.12 million, or 79 cents per share, for 2014, up from $26,000 or 1 cent per share in 2013. The annual figure for net earnings was a record for the company, which issued its earnings report Monday.  Fresno Bee article

Thunder to move up to AHL – Stockton is about to become a Triple-A hockey city.  Stockton Record article 

Tulare and Kings County BIA director, Bob Keenan, to retire — Bob Keenan, the executive officer of the Building Industry Association of Tulare and Kings County, is retiring at the end of January after 25 years of service.  Fresno Bee article


California drought: Measuring Sierra snowpack is a lot more complex than it looks — As California caps what may be its driest January on record, Frank Gehrke will lead a bevy of surveyors on Thursday to a predetermined spot on Echo Summit in an exercise that has become a monthly downer in the documentation of the state’s historic drought.  San Jose Mercury News article

Water cutbacks on horizon if snow stays stingy — On the eve of the January snowpack survey of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, water management officials said Southern California’s largest water wholesaler may need to institute stricter water limits if winter precipitation does not improve.  KPCC report

Brewing company to supply drinking water to Porterville — The beverage company Anheuser-Busch is to deliver emergency drinking water for Porterville residents on Friday. The company will distribute 2,156 cases of water — or 51,744 cans — to the people who’ve been affected severely by the drought.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Merced County’s proposed groundwater ordinance sees changes – Another draft of Merced County’s groundwater ordinance was released this week, and it contains several key changes, including a new requirement for those who are “exempt” from the ordinance’s permitting process.  Merced Sun-Star article

NASA satellite could help weather forecasts, drought management – Thursday morning a rocket is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s Central Coast, tricked out with instruments that could provide better weather forecasts and more clues to where the drought is headed.  KQED report; Sacramento Bee article

Stanislaus Grown seeks to expand – About 20,000 visitors picked blueberries and cherries at a farm southwest of Modesto last year. About 1,000 children learned about pumpkins at a Turlock-area patch, and each chose one to take home. Those two examples came up at a meeting this week involving Stanislaus Grown, a new campaign that showcases the county’s bounty.  Modesto Bee article

California grapevines disappear as imports flood market for low-priced wines — Faced with stagnant sales of low-priced wine and a glut of overseas competitors, grape growers in the Central Valley are ripping out their vines and replacing them with more profitable crops such as almonds.  Sacramento Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Prop 47 brings a shift to longer time spent behind bars – For decades, Los Angeles County jail inmates divided their sentences by five, 10 or 20 to calculate the time they would actually spend behind bars. Because of overcrowding, they left after completing as little as 5% of their sentences. Now, as Proposition 47 begins to reshape the California criminal justice system, they are serving much more of their time.  LA Times article

Paroled prisoners said to cause child abuse spike – County jail crowding (and the early releases that go with it) is one of the most widely-described effects of realignment — the state policy, beginning in 2011, of shifting low-level offenders from state lockups into county custody. Child welfare workers detailed a less well-known effect at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting: A rise in child protective services cases directly attributable to realigned prisoners out in the community on supervised release because of crowding in the Kings County Jail.  Hanford Sentinel article

‘First Look’: Bakersfield Police Department chief discusses change in law enforcement as a result of Prop 47 – The direction of law enforcement is changing and if you ask Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson how his department is dealing with it, he will tell you it’s a tough change. When California voters passed Proposition 47 — a law that reduces simple drug possession and some property crimes to misdemeanors — a large majority of law enforcement leaders in the state were not happy, including Williamson.  Bakersfield Californian article

Races in California split on assessment of job police are doing – After a year in which police treatment of blacks became a national issue, a new poll finds that most Californians think law enforcement is doing a fine job, with one notable exception — African Americans.  San Francisco Chronicle article

More parole agent caseloads exceed limits under new sex offender rules – A Times analysis of state data shows that the number of parole agents with caseloads exceeding state limits has increased under the new system, further stretching California’s already strained ability to oversee freed sex offenders.  LA Times article

Reward in murder of Janessa Ramirez raised to $25,000 — The reward for information leading to the arrest in the slaying of 9-year-old Janessa Ramirez has been raised to $25,000, Fresno police announced Wednesday.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno County Sheriff’s Office earns federal award for major drug investigation — Undercover detectives who investigated a major drug trafficking organization earned the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office the Outstanding Law Enforcement Agency Award for 2014.  Fresno Bee article

Waze a danger to cops?  Police reveal their own location on social media – Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck has been vocal in his concerns about the Google-owned Waze app and its feature that allows users to point out where police are. But L.A. police themselves often reveal their location on social media.  LA Times article

Black leaders propose rules following police shootings – The Stockton Black Leadership Council, meeting with City Manager Kurt Wilson and Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones at the home of former City Councilman Ralph Lee White, detailed seven procedures they want to see “implemented immediately” due to the high number of officer-involved shootings and killings over the past four years at the hands of Stockton police officers.  Stockton Record article

Crowd-sourced data show more than 150 killings by police in California last year – In our analysis of the site, we looked specifically at officer-involved deaths in California in 2014. In total, we calculated 156 incidents involving civilians killed by police. Of these, there were 144 male victims and 12 female. Of the 67 incidents in which race information was reported, there were 34 Latino, 14 black, 15 white and four Asian victims.  KQED report

Sacramento Bee: A strong start on community policing in Sacramento – Police Chief Sam Somers presented an expansive – and expensive – list of options to ramp up community policing in Sacramento, both to reduce crime and increase public trust. Now, the City Council should set priorities among the strategies, aiming for a better police force, not necessarily a bigger one.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Teacher arrested for ‘inappropriate touching’ with Merced County juvenile hall inmates — A Merced County teacher has been arrested for alleged “inappropriate touching” with at least two juvenile hall inmates and posting gang-related photographs to their social media accounts, the Sun-Star has confirmed.  Merced Sun-Star article

Scott Peterson slew family in selfishness, brief says — Scott Peterson’s yearning to be free from marriage and impending fatherhood prompted him to murder his pregnant wife and their unborn son, and wise jurors got it right when they sentenced the Modesto man to die more than 10 years ago, state prosecutors said this week in a long-awaited response to Peterson’s death penalty appeal.  Modesto Bee article


State approves long-planned office park at CSU Bakersfield – California State University trustees on Wednesday green-lighted the design and construction of the first phase of a long-awaited office park on the Cal State Bakersfield campus, a project stalled by the recession.  Bakersfield Californian article

Most major California school districts pledge to reduce suspensions – The state’s landmark school finance law has prompted most major California school districts to pledge to reduce student suspensions, hire more counselors and use positive alternatives to deal with misbehavior, according to a study released Wednesday.  LA Times article

Public, private groups praise UC Merced’s collaborative efforts – An independent policy and research center recognized UC Merced this month using about 10 ongoing programs as examples of where the university has worked to connect with the region and the city for which it’s named.  Merced Sun-Star article

Using private funds for Cal State execs’ pay creates its own problems — Using private foundation dollars to increase compensation for those who are public employees raised a host of questions — about accountability, conflict of interest, commingling of public and private money and whether the funds would be better spent on academic programs.  LA Times article

CSU adopts new campus fee policy – then approves new fee – Addressing criticisms that a recent spate of campus “success fees” circumvented student input and a systemwide tuition freeze, the California State University Board of Trustees on Wednesday adopted a requirement that students vote to approve the charges. The trustees followed by approving an unrelated fee to fund the group that advocates for CSU students, over the objections of some representatives who argued that it contradicted the spirit of the policy change.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article

Teachers ask high court to hear union dues case – Attorneys for teachers who are challenging the right of the California Teachers Association to force them to pay union dues petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to hear their case this year. There’s a good chance that it will.  EdSource article

UC Santa Barbara overwhelmingly white?  Not anymore — UC Santa Barbara has been designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), a recognition given to colleges and universities where Latinos comprise at least a quarter of the student body. The designation symbolizes UC Santa Barbara’s change from its old stereotype of three decades ago as a campus where some Latinos said they did not feel welcome.  LA Times article

Cal State Long Beach student infected with measles; 20 others at risk — Twenty Cal State Long Beach students were exposed to measles after they went on a field trip with an infected student during winter break, officials said.  LA Times article

California school bans 66 students without measles vaccinations – Almost 70 Palm Desert High School students who haven’t been fully immunized for measles are banned from classes for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the classmate who may have exposed them to the highly contagious virus is being allowed to return.  LA Times article

Fresno Unified recoups $550,000 after statewide Office Depot settlement — Fresno Unified teachers are each getting $150 to buy classroom supplies as part of a $550,000 payout from Office Depot, which allegedly overcharged the school district and more than 1,000 other California government agencies for office supplies between 2005 and 2010.  Fresno Bee article

Governor proposes boost for career education – Career education is projected to receive a boost under Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, part of a larger push for workforce development training in California.  EdSource article

On Campus: Real local control depends on local grasp of school needs, possibilities – School districts are busy gathering community input for a second year of budgeting tied to local priorities. Last week, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report with some well-deserved criticisms of the way the state form lays out the information.  Modesto Bee article

Districts seek applicants at substitute job fair — Though students aren’t always easy to work with as they can often be moody and don’t always listen, Visalia school district substitute teacher Rodney Perez, 36, said getting to work with youth each day is greatly rewarding.  Visalia Times-Delta article


First sighting of rare Sierra red fox in Yosemite in 100 years – The first confirmed sighting of the rare Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite National Park in nearly a century was reported on Tuesday.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; Stockton Record article

Power in play — As Southern California Edison works to upgrade electrical equipment in downtown Hanford, two of the area’s historic buildings are showing their age.  Hanford Sentinel article

Agents search Michael Peevey’s home in PG&E judge-shopping case — State investigators seized computers and other items from the homes of former California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey and an ousted Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executive at the heart of the judge-shopping controversy that has embroiled the regulatory agency for months, The Chronicle has learned.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Report: Chevron Richmond refinery fire response flawed — The August 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond was made worse by a flawed emergency response as well as lax safety attitudes at the plant, according to a report approved Wednesday night by the U.S. Chemical Safety BoardSan Francisco Chronicle article

Health/Human Services

Gray, Cannella introduce new legislation to help train more doctors in Valley – Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, and state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, have introduced new legislation that promotes the training of more doctors in the San Joaquin Valley. Assembly Bill 174 would provide financial stability and help expand enrollment in UC Merced’s San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education, according to a press release.  Merced Sun-Star article

Half of California’s children now covered by Medi-Cal – California’s Medi-Cal program has grown to cover nearly half of the state’s children, causing policymakers and child advocates to question the ability of the taxpayer-funded program to adequately serve so many poor kids.  KQED report

Man with measles visited Fresno hospital’s maternity ward, Fashion Fair mall – Fresno County health officials said a man with measles may have exposed county residents, including mothers and babies in the labor and delivery area at Community Regional Medical Center.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article; KVPR report

Measles outbreak: At least 95 cases in eight states and Mexico – The California-centered measles outbreak has spread to Michigan, as the number of cases climbed to 95 in eight states and Mexico, officials said Wednesday.  LA Times article

Robert McGrew: Four pitfalls of measles anti-vaccine movement – The Modesto doctor writes, “I’ve spoken with several parents over the years who preferred not to vaccinate their children, with unselfish motivation: They wanted to make an informed decision about what was best for their children. I respect their motives, but strongly disagree with their decisions. I’ve found most parents’ objections to immunization relate to four reasons.” McGrew op-ed in Modesto Bee

Michael Hiltzik: The Disneyland measles crisis: how to make negligent parents pay — The continuing and spreading outbreak of measles traced originally to visitors to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure park revives the questions of who should be held responsible, and how they should be made to pay for the injury and illness they’ve caused. Hiltzik column in LA Times

Sick child’s father seeks vaccination requirement in California – In the latest salvo in the vaccination wars that have shaken California since a measles outbreak originated at Disneyland last month, the father of a 6-year-old boy with leukemia has asked the superintendent of his Marin County school district to keep unvaccinated children out of school.  New York Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Tests show no measles for Elk Grove child, but second potential case emerges – The Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Wednesday that test results on a suspected case of measles came back negative. But a second potential case has emerged.  Sacramento Bee article

California declares electronic cigarettes a health threat — California health officials say electronic cigarettes are a health threat, especially to children, and should be strictly regulated like tobacco products.  AP article; Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Sacramento Bee: Yet again, mental health funding act gets slammed — Thanks to voters’ compassion, California has spent a huge sum to care for severely mentally ill people in the past decade, more than any other state. Voters deserve a proper accounting of how that $13.2 billion has been spent.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Turlock council affirms smoking ban in parks — Three Girl Scouts got their message across: Smoking is bad and has no place in city parks. The Turlock City Council voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to reaffirm the policy against tobacco use in parks and other outdoor public facilities such as the transit center. Modesto Bee article

Land Use/Housing

CityView@Van Ness opens — The Fresno Housing Authority held a warm celebration under cloudy skies — and with the help of space heaters — on a chilly Wednesday morning in honor of CityView @ Van Ness. The downtown Fresno workforce housing complex, on the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Inyo Street, is now open more than seven years after the authority’s executive director, Preston Prince, first declared the spot a good place to develop.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article


High-speed rail routes through Chowchilla discussed – The California High-Speed Rail Authority held an informational meeting at the Chowchilla Fairgrounds last week, allowing hundreds of local citizens a chance to view alignment alternatives being studied for the project’s environmental report.  Los Banos Enterprise article

‘First Look’: Councilman Maxwell talks 24th Street widening project — Downtown Councilman Terry Maxwell was the only council member to vote against the 24th Street widening project last year but he will be representing Ward 2 at the Feb. 4 meeting to look over the new design of the project.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other Areas

Phil Meyer, new Valley PBS leader, has vision for station — The wall of Phil Meyer’s office is covered with a long roll of white paper covered with a flow chart that looks like the history of the world. It’s notes and ideas about where the new CEO of Valley PBS would like to see the station go.  Fresno Bee article

Joe Mathews: Music identity update: A new anthem for Bakersfield? — In observance of the Zocalo/James Irvine Foundation event “What Does Bakersfield Sound Like Today?”, we asked people immersed in the city’s art scene today to answer the question: What will the next iconic Bakersfield song be about?  Mathews in Bakersfield Californian

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – President Obama, Saudi Arabia and hard truths; Willie Brown’s guide to alienating voters.

Merced Sun-Star – President Obama must face hard truths about Saudi Arabia.

Modesto Bee – President Obama must face hard truths about Saudi Arabia.

Sacramento Bee – A strong start on community policing in Sacramento; Thanks to voters’ compassion, California has spent a huge sum to care for severely mentally ill people in the past decade, more than any other state. Voters deserve a proper accounting of how that $13.2 billion has been spent.

Stockton Record – Traversing I-5 these days can be difficult. For everyone’s sake, please drive safely.