April 18, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Pot startup donates $2 million in bid to legalize marijuana in California – One of California’s largest marijuana-related apps is donating $2 million toward the drive to legalize weed in the state — a move that not only would vastly expand its customer base but also foreshadows an expected increase in political activity from the cannabis industry.  San Francisco Chronicle article; Capitol Alert

Modesto Bee: Assembly speaker’s slap at Adam Gray hits region hard — Is the dismissal of Adam Gray from the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee the petty, vindictive, purely political maneuver it appears, or is there something deeper happening?  Modesto Bee editorial


Federal appeals court takes up immigration feud – A panel of three federal appeals court judges grilled government lawyers Friday about whether to lift a temporary stay on President Barack Obama’s executive action, which seeks to shield up to 5 million people from deportation.  LA Times article; New York Times article

California tops in care of undocumented, but little competition — Undocumented immigrants get better health care in California than the rest of the country — but that’s not saying much, according to a new report released Thursday by UCLA researchers.  KQED report

Other areas

Death threats made to office of state vaccine bill author – A California senator who co-wrote a bill to prevent parents from opting out of school-required vaccines said one of his Capitol office workers received a death threat Friday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Joel Fox: Don’t rush to make new law — Politicians often overreact to news items, rushing to propose laws to prevent future occurrences of a situation or grab the limelight when problems will go away on their own. Recent instances: A proposal for a constitutional amendment to prohibit banning of the United States flag from state colleges and university property; and offering changes to the initiative process because of the filing of an anti-gay initiative.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Foon Rhee: The Numbers Crunch: Let’s accentuate the positive on jobs legislation — Every year, the California Chamber of Commerce puts out its hit list of “job killer” bills. After each legislative session wraps up, it brags about how many it buried. Both pronouncements get plenty of publicity. Who knew the chamber also sends forth a list of “job creator” bills it supports?Rhee column in Sacramento Bee

Tim Ward: Support Sen. Fuller’s Schools Electronic Threats Act – Tulare County’s district attorney writes, “Historically, school officials have dealt with threats administratively, by suspending or expelling the perpetrator. Though this may be effective in some cases, it other incidents it is imperative that law enforcement has a larger role in this type of scenario. State Sen. Jean Fuller is facing this issue head-on with Senate Bill (SB) 110, which would make it a misdemeanor to make a threat of violence to a school through an electronic act, such as social media, email or texting, if the threat is likely to interfere with the activities of a campus or facility.” Ward op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Big differences divide Democrats, GOP on overhauling U.S. tax code — Despite optimistic talk from Democrats and Republicans about overhauling the tax code, General Electric Co. recently showed that corporate executives aren’t holding their breath for a bipartisan deal any time soon. LA Times article

Fiorina says she’d neutralize Clinton’s gender arguments – Carly Fiorina, the lone Republican woman eying the White House, wants to block Hillary Rodham Clinton from playing the “gender card” in the 2016 presidential race.  AP article

Stanley Surabian: They are still Ottomans – The Community Medical Centers’ Chief of Dental Services writes, “Next Friday, the civilized world will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the torture and massacre of the Armenian citizens living in the Ottoman Empire during the period of 1915 until 1923.”  Surabian op-ed in Fresno Bee

News Briefs

Top Stories

Amid heated criticism, California water board to release draft cuts — The state Water Resources Control Board is scheduled to release its draft emergency water conservation regulations Saturday morning, in a historic bid to slash California’s urban water use by 25%.  LA Times article

Attorney General Kamala Harris calls for more training to prevent police bias – California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris called Friday for more extensive training of law enforcement officers across California to avoid racial and ethnic bias in policing.  LA Times article; AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Jobs and the Economy

Mixed Valley unemployment numbers for March – The eight-county San Joaquin Valley saw mixed unemployment numbers for March, but all counties remained well below March 2014 rates, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department.  The jobless rates ranged from a low of 9.5 percent in San Joaquin County to a high of 13.2 percent in Tulare County.  Here are the March rates, followed in parentheses by the February 2015 and March 2014 rates:

  • Fresno – 11.2 percent (11.6, 13.8)
  • Kern – 11.1 percent (11.0, 13.9)
  • Kings – 11.9 percent (12.2, 14.8)
  • Madera – 11.5 percent (11.2, 12.6)
  • Merced – 12.9 percent (13.5, 16.3)
  • San Joaquin – 9.5 percent (10.1, 13.1)
  • Stanislaus – 10.4 percent (10.7, 13.5)
  • Tulare — 13.2 percent (13.4, 15.6)

California unemployment rate drops to 6.5 percent — California’s jobless rate fell to 6.5 percent in March, the lowest it’s been in nearly seven years, the California Employment Development Department reported Friday.  AP article; Sacramento Bee article

March unemployment down in most of Valley – Unemployment rates fell in four of five central San Joaquin Valley counties between February and March, and the region continued its longer-range trend of year-over-year improvement in the jobless rate.  Fresno Bee article

Jobless rate in Kern up to 11.1 percent in March – A steep loss in seasonal farm employment erased cumulative hiring gains in services, health care and education as Kern County’s unadjusted jobless rate edged slightly upward in March to 11.1 percent, the state reported Friday. Bakersfield Californian article

San Joaquin County jobless rate drops to 9.5 percent – Gains in seasonal farm, retail and heath care jobs pushed San Joaquin County’s unemployment down to 9.5 percent in March, from February’s revised 10.1 percent rate and nearly three full percentage points below the March 2014 estimate of 12.4 percent, state employment officials said Friday.  Stockton Record article

Survey skips Kern library privatization issue – Kern County won’t be asking the public what they think of library privatization, at least not under the public outreach plan County Administrative Officer John Nilon plans to take to the Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. County officials are just hoping the public will tell them what they want their libraries to look like.  Bakersfield Californian article

Lemoore to review ‘business friendly’ policy – Following a recent discussion by the city’s planning commission, the Lemoore City Council will discuss the growing number of code enforcement violations that appear to be ignored.  Hanford Sentinel article

Why most of the $100 million LA spends on homelessness goes to police – A report showing that more than half the $100 million the city of Los Angeles spends each year on homelessness goes to police demonstrates that the city is focused on enforcement rather than getting people off the streets, homeless advocates said Friday.  LA Times article

Inland Empire sees surge in warehouse jobs, but many are low-pay, temporary – Once the poster child for the woes of the housing crash, the eastern spoke of the Los Angeles metro area has rebounded swiftly over the last two years. The fastest-growing sector has been the logistics industry — the truck drivers, inventory managers and warehouse workers serving an increasingly global and digital economy.  LA Times article

Bay Area homes are selling faster than anywhere else in nation – In case more evidence was needed that the Bay Area offers a real estate market insanely favorable to sellers (and just plain insane for buyers), Trulia announced Wednesday that “the SF, SJ, and Oakland metro areas [are] the fastest moving markets in the nation.” San Francisco Chronicle article

Home prices, sales rising in Sacramento — Home prices are rising along with the temperature in Sacramento. Sales of existing houses in Sacramento County rose 12 percent in March from the same month of 2014, from 1,392 to 1,559. The median sales price of existing homes in the county jumped by 9.8 percent – from $245,000 to $269,000, according to CoreLogic Dataquick. Sacramento Bee article

Ruan settles class action lawsuit by drivers for $10.5 million – class action lawsuit by milk tanker drivers against Ruan trucking company for allegedly not allowing them uninterrupted lunch and dinner breaks is being settled out of court for $10.5 million. About 1,145 drivers and former drivers in California are affected, and checks would average more than $5,000, said the drivers’ lawyer, Andrew Jones of Fresno.  Fresno Bee article

Recycler takes over Visalia plant – The state’s largest recycler, rePlanet, based in Corona, has hundreds of retail collection locations around the state. Now the company will use those tons of plastic bottles to make those familiar clamshell containers for the agriculture industry. They will do this in Visalia having just started production this month at their new location on on Goshen Avenue.  Visalia Times-Delta article

McDaniel’s grant-writing workshop draws a crowd – Entrepreneurs, business owners and nonprofit leaders filled a room Friday for District 3 Supervisor Daron McDaniel’s sold-out workshop on grant writing.  Merced Sun-Star article

Modesto business sips rewards of homebrew trend – Want the DIY skinny on BYOB? A Modesto business has you covered. In this case, those latter letters refer to Brew Your Own Beer, and the Barley & Wine supply and education shop locally reflects a nationwide explosion in do-it-yourself home brewing. Modesto Bee article

Backed by Silicon Valley cash, Bitcoin begins to mature — Bitcoin has been around for six years now, but most of us are still unclear on just what it is, let alone why it matters. The digital currency has been flying under the radar, appealing to a group of die-hard fans, like libertarians who want freedom from government control, and illegal drug traders — who also want freedom from government control. But that Wild West world is giving way.  KQED report


Sacramento Valley rice farmers say they will grow less due to drought – Rice farmers from north of Sacramento said Friday that further water cutbacks this year will force them to shrink their acreage even more than they did in 2014.  Sacramento Bee article

Tulare Board of Public Utilities delays on stricter water restriction resolution – The Tulare Board of Public Utilities will wait at least one month on calling for stricter water use regulations. Earlier this week, commissioners decided to take up the item in the May 21 meeting, giving city administrator a chance to refine the resolution that may bring the city to Stage 3 Water Conservation Restrictions. Currently, Tulare is on Stage 2.  Visalia Times-Delta article

A last-ditch drought strategy for the Delta: Rock barriers – It’s something they haven’t resorted to since the 1970s. As California’s monster drought drifts into its fourth year, state water managers are taking a drastic step to keep much of California’s water fit for drinking. The Department of Water Resources says it will have to construct at least one barrier to keep salt water from encroaching deep into the Delta.  KQED report

Hanford medians to use less water — Be prepared for lane closures over the next month as work gets under way to cut labor needs and water use on street medians around 11th Avenue and Lacey Boulevard.  Hanford Sentinel article

Washington governor declares drought emergency in nearly half the state — Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency in nearly half of usually damp Washington on Friday, and officials said the entire state could be classified as drought-stricken by early May.  LA Times article

Lewis Griswold: Visalia hiker visits winter hut in drought — Brian Newton of Visalia has visited Pear Lake Winter Hut each winter for 26 years in a row, but none of those years has been quite like this one because of the drought.  Fresno Bee article

Farm Beat:  Oakdale’s Bloomingcamp Ranch has new operators — Matthew and Courtney Smith, the new operators of Bloomingcamp Ranch, know its history as a fruit and nut farm and bakery.  Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Stockton homicides down so far in 2015 – The Stockton Police Department has released statistics showing a significant decrease in homicides over the first quarter of 2015. Homicides were down 33.3 percent over the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2014. There were 12 homicides in the first quarter last year. There were eight this year. Stockton Record article

California Department of Justice to use body cameras, Kamala Harris pledges – Attorney General Kamala Harris said Friday that the California Department of Justice will become the first statewide agency to adopt a body camera program. The department plans to provide body-worn recording equipment to special agents and establish privacy measures to regulate access to the recordings.  Capitol Alert; KQED report

Sex trafficking: Is it happening in Merced? — What is happening on West 16th Street is believed to be sex trafficking, a crime many assume only happens in big cities or some far-away countries – not in their own backyards. But according to several experts and law enforcement officials, human trafficking is happening in Merced. And the only way to stop it is through awareness and education. Merced Sun-Star article

Serial killer aftermath: Judge considers whether to release documents — A federal judge is considering whether to unseal documents related to the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s investigation of serial killers Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog after the family of a slain teen filed court papers raising allegations the agency improperly deleted missing persons’ records and thwarted other agencies’ efforts to solve cases in their jurisdictions.  Stockton Record article


Stockton Unified teachers overwhelmingly accept contract – With jubilant high-fives and congratulations ringing through the auditorium, Stockton Unified teachers voted by a 97 percent margin Friday to approve a tentative agreement and send it to trustees for final approval, likely ending the threat of a strike that has loomed over the district for months.  Stockton Record article

Fresno State: Impacted – As Fresno State faces enrollment challenges, school officials are trying to determine how and in what ways to raise requirements with minimal influence to students. The issue comes with Fresno State being a first choice school for many Central Valley students — including those in Tulare County.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Merced College president touts progress – Merced College will look to offer a four-year degree program as soon as next year, according to the college president, who addressed a crowd Friday at the school. Merced Sun-Star article

Tentative settlement reached between teachers and LA Unified —  The L.A. Unified School District and the teachers union reached a tentative contract settlement Friday night for a three-year deal that includes a 10% salary increase over two years. There also are terms affecting class sizes, the number of counselors at schools and the district’s teacher evaluation system.  LA Times article

Female faculty faced bias at UCLA medical school center, probe finds — Women faculty at UCLA’s Alzheimer’s disease research center faced “a climate of conflict, tension, hostility and mistrust” for about a decade and were treated in an “unprofessional, demeaning manner,” an investigation at the campus medical school has found.  LA Times article

Modesto, Riverbank teens leading the way to stop abusive relationships — Teens in Modesto and Riverbank are learning the danger of abusive relationships and just how pervasive they are – especially among young people. Next year, they will be spreading awareness to other high school students as part of a pilot project being watched statewide.  Modesto Bee article

Larry White: Plan right now for a productive summer — Summer break should be utilized with a goal of accomplishment. They should be able to show ways in which they improved their lives and made progress in becoming a better human being. White column in Stockton Record


Feinstein bill would require installation of train safety technology – Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation Friday to speed up introduction of safety technology known as Positive Train Control on passenger rail lines and tracks that carry crude oil or ethanol.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Safety measures issued for trains carrying oil — Responding to public pressure to act more quickly after a series of fiery train derailments involving oil shipments, the Transportation Department on Friday issued a series of emergency orders, including a 40-mph speed limit for hazardous materials moving through urban areas.  New York Times article

Judge rejects Sierra Pacific attempt to throw out Moonlight fire settlement — A U.S. District Court judge on Friday rejected claims that misconduct by prosecutors hoodwinked the federal court into approving a $100 million settlement over the massive Moonlight fire eight years ago.  Sacramento Bee article

Health/Human Services

Disneyland measles outbreak declared over, but political battle continues — The measles outbreak that began at Disneyland over the winter holidays is over, California health officials said Friday. A total of 131 people were infected with the measles in California as well as at least 25 others who resided in seven other states, Canada and Mexico. There have been no new measles cases related to the outbreak that began at Disneyland in 42 days. LA Times article; AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Local physician training program could benefit from federal funding – The Senate passed a Medicare payment reform bill that renews some funding for six primary care residencies in California, including the physician training program at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.  Modesto Bee article

A year after scathing report, effects of foster care reforms still murky — A year after a Blue Ribbon panel declared a “state of emergency” in Los Angeles’s child welfare system and proposed dozens of reforms, the county has made a handful of changes but the effects are still an open question.  KPCC report

Yoga class helps veterans rebuild, restore — The weekly veterans’ class, which began when Warrior 1 opened in February, is a collaboration with the Wounded Heroes Fund, which helps Kern County veterans transition from active duty. Bakersfield Californian article

Sacramento Bee: Calling the midwife for Medi-Cal moms – Women who want alternatives to hospital births should have them available. And women whose births are paid for by Medi-Cal should have the same choices as women with private insurance.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Contest by Stanislaus County Fair, Turlock Unified entices kids to eat their veggies — Healthy fare could mean fun at the fair for children who participate in a contest being offered by the Stanislaus County Fair’s Kids Club Educational Program and the Turlock Unified School District’s child nutritional program, Real Fresh. Modesto Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Fresno County supervisors criticize Selma-area land deal — Eight years ago, Fresno County supervisors were acting like land barons when they bought 90 acres near Selma for a proposed agriculture center. Now, all they have left is barren land. Fresno Bee article


Bay Bridge tests, repairs spur new concerns about span’s durability — The California Department of Transportation announced this week that it had fixed anchor rods that secure the main cable of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but a leading expert in engineering failure analysis cast doubts on the adequacy of the repairs.  Sacramento Bee article

Bruce Jones: Highway 132 is a Maze for tourists — Two roads in our area having special potential for tourism are particularly well named – Maze Boulevard and Yosemite Boulevard.  Jones column in Modesto Bee

Other areas

Gas line fireball erupts near Highway 99; 13 injured, 4 critically – More than a dozen people were injured, including four critically, when a gas line ruptured in northwest Fresno, creating a raging fire that halted Highway 99 traffic for several hours Friday afternoon.  Fresno Bee article; AP article; KVPR report

Judge gives her reasons for deciding pot is still dangerous – The federal judge who allowed Northern California pot growers to challenge the government’s ban on marijuana says she decided to uphold the law in the end because, although nearly half the states allow for medical marijuana, there are “disagreements among well-informed experts” about whether the plant has any medicinal value.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Search warrant sheds new details on Madera coroner case — Computers, cell phones, files and coroner contracts were among the items taken from a Madera mortuary whose co-owner was arrested on suspicion of overcharging for coroner’s services, according to search warrant documents made public in Madera County Superior Court.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – Is the dismissal of Adam Gray from the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee the petty, vindictive, purely political maneuver it appears, or is there something deeper happening?

Modesto Bee – Is the dismissal of Adam Gray from the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee the petty, vindictive, purely political maneuver it appears, or is there something deeper happening?; It’s time to show your Love, Modesto.

Sacramento Bee – Women who want alternatives to hospital births should have them available. And women whose births are paid for by Medi-Cal should have the same choices as women with private insurance.