April 11, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Escalating water wars: California Politics Podcast — This week, we tackle the ongoing state response to California’s drought (are almonds really the state’s enemy No. 1?).  We also discuss the biggest fine ever levied against a state utility and a package of immigration bills touted by Democratic lawmakers. California Politics Podcast in KQED

CalChamber targets minimum wage increase, employee scheduling bills as ‘kob killers’ – The California Chamber of Commerce released its annual list of “job killer” legislation this week, highlighting bills that the powerful business lobby argues will have a negative economic impact for the state.  Capitol Alert

State budget

California revenues strong in March — The California Controller reports Friday General Fund revenues for March came in $547 million above projections. Nearly $500 million of that can be attributed to income taxes.  Corporate tax revenues came in $77 million above expectations. But sales taxes fell short, with revenues coming in nearly $100 million below projections.  Capital Public Radio report

Valley politics

Valadao appointed vice chair of appropriations subcommittee on ag Congressman David Valadao of Hanford got a promotion this week when the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee appointed him vice chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee. The appointment makes sense — Valadao grew up in dairy farming and is one of the few members of Congress who can honestly claim to be a farmer.  Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Loretta Sanchez jabs Kamala Harris as inexperienced — Venturing far outside her Orange County district, Rep. Loretta Sanchez gave a passionate, campaign-style talk here Friday evening, offering the strongest indication yet that she intends to enter the sleepy contest to replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.  Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Senate leader de León to testify at Calderon corruption trial, aide says – Federal prosecutors have asked state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) to appear as a witness in the August corruption trial of former Democratic Sen. Ronald Calderon, his office confirmed late Friday.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

State senator drops mandatory helmet proposal for bicyclists – In a victory for bicycle advocates, a state senator has dropped a proposal that would have made California the first state in the country to require every adult who rides a bicycle to wear a helmet. Instead, state Sen. Carole Liu’s legislation now calls for a “comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use in California” that would “evaluate the potential safety benefits of a mandatory helmet law.” KQED report

GOP strategist speaks on drought policy, women in politics at UC Merced – Political analyst and author Leslie Sanchez stopped by UC Merced Friday night to share her thoughts on various pressing issues, including immigration, drought policy and women’s challenges in politics.  Merced Sun-Star article

Outside spending tops $1 million in East Bay Senate race – Less than four weeks after last month’s special primary election, outside groups already have spent more than $1 million in the Democrat-vs.-Democrat runoff campaign in the East Bay’s 7th Senate District.  Sacramento Bee article

Vice President Joe Biden mum about presidential aspirations – Vice President Joe Biden ignored questions about whether he’ll challengeHillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic race for the White House during a visit to the Bay Area Friday but delivered a talk that sounded strikingly like a campaign stump speech.  San Francisco Chronicle article; Capitol Alert

News Briefs

Top Stories

Big north-to-south water sale dries up – Earlier this year, Metropolitan and several other purchasers tentatively arranged to pay $80 million for 37 billion gallons of agricultural water from the Feather River. The price: a whopping $700 an acre-foot. It would have been one of the largest and costliest water sales the state has ever seen.  Now the deal is largely falling apart. Sacramento Bee article

Stockton Unified teachers to receive 12.5 percent raise – Stockton Unified teachers will receive 12.5 percent in salary increases that include retroactive pay for the past two school years plus a 5.5 percent hike for this year, according to the tentative bargaining agreement the Stockton Teachers Association posted Friday afternoon on its website.  Stockton Record article

California voters take a dim view of teacher tenure – Gisela Aviles is a 49-year-old real estate agent in Corona. Henry Yoshikawa is a 71-year-old former administrator for a tiny school district in Placer County. And Arianna Rivera is a 23-year-old bank teller in East Los Angeles. Although strikingly different, they are among an overwhelming majority of California voters who shared remarkably similar views about teachers in a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. They agree that teachers receive tenure much too quickly. And they believe that performance should matter more than seniority when teachers are laid off.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

News of Borba sale spurs speculation, reflection – News that one of the once-controversial Borba dairies is packing up and leaving Kern County 15 years after they came in with a roar had a lot of people speculating Friday: “What’s next out there?” All we knew for sure Friday was that part of George Borba & Son Dairy near Taft Highway and Interstate 5 was selling off its entire operation, according to an advertisement in The Californian.  Bakersfield Californian article

South Valley hooks $14.7 million for work-based learning After years of emphasizing college readiness in high school curriculum, school districts throughout the Central Valley are now focusing on work-based learning.  The Business Journal article

1st Quality Produce expands to new facility A wholesale and custom fresh-cut produce company is growing, allowing it to hire more than 50 new employees, and finding ways to save on water usage.  Fresno Bee article

LA city workers authorize strike Los Angeles garbage truck drivers, traffic officers, tree trimmers, engineers and typists are among 10,000 city workers who gave authorization Friday night to walk off the job to protest a proposed contract that offers no raises and requires them to chip in for healthcare premiums.  LA Times article

Daniel Borenstein: Rejecting CalPERS’ lead, Contra Costa pension board ends spiking opportunities for new employees – New Contra Costa County workers won’t be able to spike their pensions after all. Following months of uncertainty, the county retirement board on Wednesday rejected the lead of CalPERS by reaffirming its earlier decision that pensions for employees hired after 2012 will be calculated using only base pay. Borenstein in Contra Costa Times

Audit: California departments break law, game personnel system for money – A new state audit concludes that California state departments illegally pad their budgets with millions of tax dollars earmarked for employee salaries by manipulating their payroll to make it appear they have more employees than they do.  Sacramento Bee article

Commercial lending rebounded for Valley banks in 2014 – A healthier economy, a greater desire by businesses to take on debt and a renewed willingness by banks to approve loans are combining to drive up the volume of commercial and industrial lending by community banks in the central San Joaquin Valley.  Fresno Bee article

California PUC member moves to block Comcast-Time Warner cable merger – Just days before an important public hearing, a California Public Utilities Commission member has raised the stakes by proposing the regulatory panel block Comcast’s bid to acquire Time Warner Cable.  LA Times article

Video: Unions picket pension-change meeting in Sacramento – A decade-old political debate over California public pensions reignited Friday morning at downtown Sacramento’s Sterling Hotel.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno’s early adapters get first look at Apple Watch — Technology fans in the Valley laid hands on the Apple Watch for the first time Friday at Fresno’s Apple Store, as the long-awaited gadget made its public debut worldwide for pre-orders. But unlike prior Apple product launches, there was only a handful of people on hand when the store in the Fashion Fair mall opened at 10 a.m. — no long line of salivating early adopters waiting for the sleek glass doors to part.  Fresno Bee article

Lawsuit against Kings arena financing could take 2 weeks — The city of Sacramento and a group of citizens suing to block the financing for the new Sacramento Kings arena expect the trial to take two weeks.  Sacramento Bee article

Proposed budget would add 542 child-welfare workers in LA County — A proposed $27-billion budget to be released next week calls for 542 additional child-welfare worker positions, on top of 450 social workers hired last year to settle a strike by social workers, according to plans obtained by The Times. This year’s hiring would cost $66.9 million.  LA Times article


Hanford says state got water figures wrong — Hanford officials reacted Thursday to the state’s proposed water conservation mandate, saying the population figures used by the State Water Resources Control Board in draft documents are understated.  Hanford Sentinel article

Farm Bureau refutes tale of thirsty almond – Almonds are getting a bad rap That was the gist of the Kern County Farm Bureau president’s defense of the ubiquitous, vilified tree nut Friday morning.  Bakersfield California article

Joey Airoso: Let’s be responsible with conversations about water, ag – The Tulare County Farm Bureau president writes, “Rather than drought-shaming farms and consumers into picking winners and losers, a responsible discussion about what it takes to bring food from farm to fork is in order. The fact of the matter is that it takes water to grow food and California farmers have demonstrated time and again they are the best in the nation at producing crops and raising livestock.” Airoso op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Local schools work to reduce water use — Many local schools have already started cutting back on watering campus lawns, but across the Bakersfield area definitive water reduction plans are still in the works. Some districts are further along than others.  Bakersfield Californian article

Turlock might tighten watering rules — Residents could water outside just twice a week under rules that city leaders will consider next week. The City Council could vote Tuesday evening to tighten the rules in response to a drought now in its fourth year.  Modesto Bee article

Deal made in water conflict – again – First there was a deal. Then there wasn’t. Now the deal is apparently back on. It was that kind of week in south San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, where the struggle over scarce water intensified, with two agricultural water districts going so far as to briefly defy a federal order to provide flows for fish.  Stockton Record article

Drought causing increase in bad air in California – California’s prolonged drought is causing a sharp rise in air pollution in the Central Valley. That’s according to an annual report on air quality in California. While smog and Ozone continue to improve in the Valley, the four year long drought is pushing up dangerous particulate matter pollution rates.  KVPR report

Moving river levees can help groundwater supply, say UC researchers – By now most people are aware that California’s groundwater supply is in a state of emergency – cities and farms use more water than is available. But University of California researchers have an engineering solution that may help replenish groundwater supplies and fisheries.  Merced Sun-Star article

Blink, and the river will be gone – Catch it while you. Forecasters say this summer will see the smallest amount of Kings River water that has ever flowed into Kings County since records began.  Hanford Sentinel article

Earth Log: Fresno area gets chance to comment about Temperance Flat project — People around Fresno will get a chance Wednesday to talk about Temperance Flat Dam with the people who are setting priorities for spending nearly $3 billion on water storage projects.  Fresno Bee article

Drought: Fresno County sheep farmers in better spot this year than 2014 – The drought’s been tough on farmers across the state, but the timing of the little rain the region received this past winter proved to be a plus for the sheep industry. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.  KVPR report

Drought dries up business for contractors in Sacramento Valley’s rice industry – For small businesses like Taylor’s that cater to California’s rice industry, the state’s prolonged drought is drying up work and postponing expenditures. As rice farmers have cut back on their annual plantings, it’s had a ripple effect on crop dusters, truckers, insurers and others who rely on the state’s rice crop.  Sacramento Bee article

San Diego water officials protest proposed cutback rules – San Diego County water officials are protesting the state water board’s numerical formula for ordering local agencies to conserve water or face hefty fines.  LA Times article

Ruben Navarrette: Parched state needs citizens to act as one – This can be a great state. But the first step is for us to put aside our differences and start thinking like one state. Navarette in Stockton Record

Robin Abcarian: In drought-stricken California, grass is greener on painted lawns — Some people look at a real estate crash and think: doom. Some look at a drought and think: more doom. But two of the worst calamities to befall California in the last decade have turned out to be very, very good news for Jim Power, a 45-year-old mortgage broker whose business imploded in 2007.  Abcarian in LA Times

Farm Beat: Modesto Junior College will start irrigation program – Modesto Junior College will turn out experts in farm irrigation through an $833,175 federal grant announced this week. The National Science Foundation awarded the grant, which will help launch the Agriculture Irrigation Technology program, serving at least 25 students to start this fall.  Modesto Bee article

Mexican farmworkers target Driscoll’s, a firm with labor-friendly image — Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry distributor, began importing produce from Baja California’s San Quintin Valley more than 20 years ago. In that time, the California-based company has cultivated an image of social responsibility in an industry better known for its faults. LA Times article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Lawyer: Feds think Foster is ‘the hub’ of drug conspiracy – Former Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster stood straight and tall in the center of a federal courtroom Friday while he and five others proclaimed through their attorneys that they were not guilty of a 32-count federal indictment that lists a variety of drug charges, including peddling marijuana, oxycodone and heroin.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno PD stops one of two IA investigations of Keith Foster – One of the Fresno Police Department’s two Internal Affairs investigations into the Keith Foster situation has been suspended, but the other is going full speed ahead, Chief Jerry Dyer said Friday afternoon.  Fresno Bee article

Bakersfield Police Department officer under investigation for allegedly manipulating body of man killed in officer-involved shooting – A Bakersfield police officer is under investigation for allegedly manipulating the body of a man killed in an officer-involved shooting, moving the man’s head and pretending to tickle his feet as he lay in a gurney covered in a blood-soaked white sheet.  Bakersfield Californian article

Charges against 15 Chukchansi casino raiders upheld by Madera County judge – A Madera County Superior Court judge decided Friday not to dismiss criminal charges filed against 15 defendants, including two tribal members, who are accused of raiding the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino office and unlawfully detaining members of another security force.  Fresno Bee article

10 San Bernardino deputies put on leave after beating caught on video — Ten San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were placed on paid administrative leave Friday after TV news video showed them beating and kicking a suspect. Sheriff John McMahon announced the move to place the deputies — including a sergeant and a detective — on leave during a news conference Friday afternoon. He said some of the actions on the tape appeared “excessive.”  LA Times article; AP article; ‘Use-of-force experts weigh in’ in LA Times; Reuters article

Why police pursuits can have such ugly endings — Experts have said that the end of a pursuit often marks a critical moment because officers’ adrenaline is high after chasing suspects, who often drive recklessly, endangering others.  LA Times article

State prison system to appeal order for inmate’s sexual reassignment – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation plans to appeal a federal judge’s order that an inmate be allowed to undergo gender reassignment surgery, according to documents filed Friday.  LA Times article

FBI investigating San Francisco Sheriff’s Department over forced inmate fights — The FBI is leading an inquiry into allegations that a group of San Francisco sheriff’s deputies abused inmates at one of the city’s jails, forcing them to fight and gambling on the outcomes.  KQED report


UC Merced on display at Bobcat Day – Thousands of people are expected to visit UC Merced Saturday to get at a peek at what the university has to offer.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresnans gather to say goodbye to Fresno City College President Cantú They came from everywhere. There were students, current and former. Teachers. Athletes. Coaches. Administrators. Educators. Bureaucrats. Even average people paying their respects. In one way or another, it seems Fresno City College President Tony Cantú touched many lives. Many of those people packed St. John’s Cathedral on Friday afternoon for his funeral Mass.  Fresno Bee article

Modesto Junior College joins Achieving the Dream network to improve student success — The transformation of Modesto Junior College’s West and East campuses through Measure E construction projects will continue with an internal rebuilding, as part of the Achieving the Dream network.  Modesto Bee article

UCLA faculty overwhelmingly approves required courses on diversity – UCLA’s faculty approved, by a large margin, a controversial new policy that requires most future undergraduates to take a course on ethnic, cultural, religious or gender diversity.  LA Times article

On Campus: Ceres kids turn tables, grill reporter — Bee reporter Nan Austin is interviewed by Ceres sixth-graders, and gets input from Patterson middle-schoolers on what parents need to know, during two career day sessions at schools.  Modesto Bee article


New sea drilling rule planned, 5 years after BP oil spill – The Obama administration is planning to impose a major new regulation on offshore oil and gas drilling to try to prevent the kind of explosions that caused the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, administration officials said Friday.  New York Times article

Solar panels spread across big Patterson roof — A gathering Friday celebrated the new solar panels atop a large warehouse for frozen foods. Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group, based in Modesto, had the 100,000-square-foot array installed atop a warehouse it built in 1987.  Modesto Bee article

South Modesto business wants to intensify metal recycling — Stanislaus County staff members are asking the Planning Commission to continue a use permit request for Central Valley Recycling, which wants to intensify its scrap-metal recycling operation in south Modesto. The permit would be considered at the May 7 meeting.  Modesto Bee article

Levee fix comes at a cost — To some, it is progress. To others, it is a day they hoped would never come. After seven years of bureaucratic entanglements, state officials are beginning to remove some privately owned trees, steps, retaining walls and fences on a short stretch of a north Stockton levee protecting the Twin Creeks subdivision.  Stockton Record article

Personnel connections key to getting Latinos out into nature — Record-high temperatures are sending Californians out to explore the state’s parks in droves these days. But those people are mostly white. That’s why state and private groups are launching a new effort to welcome people of color to parks. KQED report

Cell phones as quake early warning devices? Scientists hope — Earthquake scientists are proposing that “crowdsourcing” hundreds or even thousands of volunteers with their highly sensitive mobile phones could create a seismic early warning system to alert users of oncoming seismic shocks.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Surf Air, the members-only airline, is poised for a growth spurt — Pay $1,750 a month. Fly as much as you want. Arrive a few minutes before takeoff. Park for free. Forget TSA security; you don’t even need an ID to board. And then get comfortable — on this fast-rising California airline, every seat is both a window and an aisle. Since its inaugural flight two years ago, Surf Air has grown to 1,400 members, with plenty more eager to sign up: The waiting list numbers 600.  LA Times article

Other areas

Burned Fresno Fire Capt. Dern hugs wife, returns to surgery — Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern returned to surgery Friday morning to prepare his burn wounds for skin grafting. Surgery once or twice a week is not unusual for patients such as Dern who have sustained major burns to a majority of the body, said Community Regional Medical Center staff.  Fresno Bee article

Brown Act: Did Hanford comply? — Although the city denies that a recent Hanford City Council vote violated state open meeting laws, minutes from the council’s March 17 meeting suggest otherwise.  Hanford Sentinel article

Local officials trained on Brown Act — As with any law, the Brown Act can be tricky to navigate without some direction, but government agencies usually provide training for people elected to boards and councils.  City Manager Darrel Pyle said new mayors and newly elected council members attend the League of California Cities New Mayors and Council Members Academy, which includes Brown Act training.  Hanford Sentinel article

Merced County employees acting in videos for training group elicits ‘content concern’ – Dozens of Merced County employees spent hours filming videos in which they are seen dancing, singing, shooting fake guns and wearing outlandish costumes for a national association with no ties to Merced.  Merced Sun-Star article

San Joaquin County looks to ban pot grows – San Joaquin County Supervisors will vote next week on a proposed ordinance that would ban the growing of medical marijuana. Sheriff Captain Bruce Wuest says the ban is needed because marijuana cultivation is leading to increasing numbers of crimes including murders.  Capital Public Radio report

Dogs take flight to new homes – Wings of Rescue took another 150 Kern County dogs on Friday to shelters in the Pacific Northwest where they are expected to be adopted into homes within a few weeks.  Bakersfield Californian article

Parking reform group recommends LA slash many fines — Under a new proposal to reform parking in Los Angeles, many parking tickets would cost only $23 — a fraction of the existing fines for common violations. The idea is one in a long list of suggestions put forward publicly for the first time Thursday by a working group convened by Mayor Eric Garcetti, which has been combing over parking policies since June.  LA Times article

Exeter library gets help from new friends – After a group of friends who helped the Exeter library raise funds disbanded, a new one is born. The Friends of the Library – Exeter have stepped in and are ready to help the small-town library offer more services to the community.  Visalia Times-Delta article

New project confronts citizens on surveillance in Oakland – At the First Friday gallery walk in Uptown Oakland, Peter Foucault is doing live screen-printing on the hood of a tricked-out Ford Falcon van. But before the prints can even dry, he’s waving them at passers-by. What he’s got is a short quiz, testing people’s knowledge about surveillance in the city.  KQED report

Doug Hoagland: Selma’s first family connects with constituents – Rose Gallardo grew up in the barrio of Selma, sweating in the fields because all seven children in the family worked with their parents. Scott Robertson lived in Europe and some of America’s biggest cities as a boy. His father’s management job provided a comfortable life. Today, Scott and Rose are married; he is the mayor of Selma and their dedication to that community includes helping buy a new scoreboard for Selma High School, providing college scholarships and picking up dog poop. Yes, dog poop.  Hoagland op-ed in Fresno Bee

Hmong community reacts to murder-suicide — In the wake of a recent mid-day murder-suicide in Fresno, the issue of domestic violence is being thrust back into the spotlight.  KVPR report

Saucedo’s defense pokes holes in allegations — After a week in court, the fate of Tulare County Judge Valeriano Saucedo is in the hands of a commission of judges.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Foon Rhee: The numbers crunch: Why aren’t we happier in Sacramento — Out this week, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tries to gauge if people have healthy and rewarding lifestyles. It found that people in the Sarasota, Fla.; Honolulu, Raleigh, N.C.; Thousand Oaks-Ventura, and El Paso, Texas, metro areas had the highest overall scores. San Jose also made the top 10; Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland and San Diego are in the top 20. As for Sacramento, it came in at No. 40, better than Fresno but below Stockton.  Rhee column in Sacramento Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.

Modesto Bee – Our Views: Districts won first river fight, long-gone lawns and other issues.