April 2, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters Daily: Independent voters surge in California — Voters with no party affiliation are taking over the California electorate, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Protestors to demand CalSTRS unload firearms investments — The California Federation of Teachers plans a protest at a CalSTRS board meeting in West Sacramento Thursday, demanding the pension fund follow through on a 2-year-old pledge to unload its investment in a gun-maker tied to a horrific school shooting in Connecticut.  Sacramento Bee article


Other areas

Sacramento Bee: California officials have email issues of their own — A clear line needs to be drawn: When doing the public’s business, California’s public officials should use only their official email accounts.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Sen. Anthony Cannella: We pay road taxes, but money isn’t going anywhere – The Valley state senator (R-Ceres) writes, “Anyone who drives on our roads knows we have a transportation infrastructure crisis in California. Even though we’re paying more in gas taxes and transportation fees than any other state, that money hasn’t been used to repair or maintain our streets, highways and other infrastructure projects. There’s finally momentum in Sacramento to address this problem, and it’s about time.”  Cannella op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

LA City Council approves $2.45-million deal with Occupy LA protesters — The Los Angeles City Council approved a $2.45-million agreement Wednesday to settle all claims involving Occupy L.A. protesters arrested during a violent clash with Los Angeles police in 2011.  LA Times article


News Briefs

Top Stories

Literacy gap between Latino and white toddlers starts early, study shows – Latino toddlers whose language comprehension is roughly similar to white peers at 9 months old fall significantly behind by the time they are 2, according to a study released Thursday. LA Times article

State rejects emergency appeal to halt fracking – California’s Department of Justice has rejected an emergency petition to ban hydraulic fracturing and other controversial oil well stimulation techniques commonly used in Kern County.  Bakersfield Californian article


Jobs and the Economy

Tulare County receives ‘stable’ financial grade from Fitch Rating – Tulare County’s financial rating outlook received a “stable” grade from Fitch Rating, maintaining its status, according to county officials.  Visalia Times-Delta article

McDonald’s is giving 90,000 workers raises and vacation time – Fast-food giant McDonald’s Corp. will raise wages for its workers and plans to provide paid vacation and other benefits for employees at its U.S. restaurants, the company announced Wednesday.  LA Times article; AP article

‘Ambassadors’ help feed visitors’ meters – Manuel Laguna, a green-clad “ambassador” for the Downtown Stockton Alliance, for many years has led tours of the city’s core and assisted visitors struggling to navigate unfamiliar streets. In recent days, though, Laguna has assumed a new role: angelic feeder of expired downtown parking meters. The DSA recently launched a two-bit program it is calling the “Gift of Time.”  Stockton Record article

West Kern Petroleum Summit announces keynote speaker — The keynote speaker for the second annual West Kern Petroleum Summit has been announced. Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr., also known as T. Boone Pickens, is an American business mogul and financier who will share his alternative energy knowledge with Kern County on Oct. 16 in Taft.  Bakersfield Californian article

Alon refinery could change hands under proposed stock purchase – The shuttered refinery on Rosedale Highway could change hands as part of a possible deal being negotiated between two companies with ties to oil production, refining and gasoline retail sales in the United States and Israel.  Bakersfield Californian article

New Walmart Neighborhood Market opens at former Cedar Lanes A new Walmart Neighborhood Market opened Wednesday at Cedar and Shields avenues on the site of the former Cedar Lanes Bowling Center. It’s the third such market for the area. Others are in Clovis at Shaw and Fowler avenues and in Fresno at Willow and Herndon avenues. The newly opened store is the first one on the south side of town.  Fresno Bee article

Sly Fox pays off mortgage, makes change — More than 20 years after a small army of community volunteers showed up with mops, buckets and checkbooks to save the Fox Theater from decades of neglect — possibly even the wrecking ball — comes news that the nonprofit that oversees the landmark has paid off the mortgage.  Bakersfield Californian article

Poverty rates near record level in Bay Area despite hot economy – Despite being a nationwide leader in job growth, the Bay Area suffers from a poverty rate that still hovers near historic highs, with more than 800,000 people in the region living below the poverty line, a report released on Wednesday shows.  Oakland Tribune article

Contract talks stalled, thousands of LA city workers take strike vote – Angered by stalled contract negotiations, at least 10,000 Los Angeles city workers will decide whether to strike, a move that could potentially paralyze basic city services such as garbage collection, sewer maintenance and transportation.  LA Times article

U.S. car buyers tap the brakes in March, following torrid run — U.S. car buyers tapped the brakes in March, a sign of a long-expected slowdown in the blistering pace of sales.  AP article

NFL stadium plan report projects $500-million spending boost – Two NFL teams playing in a new stadium could generate more than half a billion dollars in spending, enough to support nearly 9,000 full- and part-time jobs once construction is completed, according to a study paid for by the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.  LA Times article

Councilman gives vision to NFL stadium proposal in San Diego – In the race to build an NFL stadium, San Diego now has what Carson and Inglewood have had for weeks: an artist’s rendering of what a stadium could look like and some dollar figures on how it could be financed.  LA Times article

American Apparel to cut 180 jobs amid a turnaround bid and worker ire – American Apparel Inc. is laying off about 180 employees as the company tries to engineer a comeback in the midst of worker discontent with new management. Most of the job losses are coming from American Apparel’s sprawling manufacturing operations in Southern California. LA Times article

California reboots technology management – California is changing how it buys and manages information technology, as the Brown administration grapples with a multibillion-dollar question: Can government – slow-moving, deliberative, risk-averse and politically driven – cleanly mesh with the ever-evolving, innovative, risk-embracing, profit-driven IT industry?  Sacramento Bee article

Colorado’s tax revenue from marijuana sales may have to be refunded — A year after Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales, millions of tax dollars are rolling in, dedicated to funding school construction, marijuana education campaigns, and armies of marijuana inspectors and regulators. But a legal snarl may force the state to hand that money back to marijuana consumers, growers and the public – and lawmakers do not want to.  New York Times article



California farmers react to 25 percent mandatory statewide water reduction – Governor Jerry Brown announced Wednesday the first mandatory water restrictions in the Golden State’s history. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on how farmers in the Central Valley are reacting to the plan.  KVPR report

What’s old is new again: Brown called for 25 percent water cuts in 1970s – Gov. Jerry Brown’s order Wednesday for a 25% mandatory cut in water use, a response to the state’s devastating drought, comes almost four decades after the governor faced a similar water crisis that pitted water-rich Northern California against its thirsty southern neighbors.  LA Times article

8 images that explain how bad California drought has become — Electronic readings on Wednesday at about 100 stations across the Sierra Nevada showed that the water content of the snow was only about 5% of the state average for April 1, the date on which the snowpack is normally considered at its peak.  LA Times article

California drought is worsened by global warming, scientists say – The severe California drought that has led the state to order cutbacks in water use may not have been set off by climate change, scientists say, but global warming is making the situation worse.  New York Times article

Local golf courses brace for serious water restrictions – Steve Scarborough said he could see this coming several years ago. As superintendent at Bakersfield Country Club for about 30 years, Scarborough has been through wet and dry years. But these last few years of drought brought on some pre-emptive strikes. Now, water woes figure to worsen after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered water usage cut by 25 percent for residents, businesses and farms on Wednesday. And, yes, golf courses.  Bakersfield Californian article

California, is it time to wave goodbye to your front yard? – While agriculture is California’s largest consumer of water, Governor Jerry Brown wants to increase the focus on commercial and resident users. Jeffrey Hess with Valley Public Radio reports they are a big focus of Brown’s new mandatory water restrictions.  KVPR report

Assemblyman Adam Gray: Our water future is at a critical crossroads – The Valley assemblymember (D-Merced) writes, “The state of California has proposed a staggering increase in the unimpaired flows from the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus rivers.  This water take is completely unprecedented in its scope, and is inexplicable at a time when we are suffering from the worst drought in California’s recorded history.”  Gray op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

New California water reductions don’t apply to farmers – Agriculture in California consumes about 80 percent of water used by humans. Brown’s executive order requires farmers to submit information on water usage to the state, but not to cut back further.  Capital Public Radio report

Lois Henry: Sometimes the water questions are more telling – Sometimes press conferences aren’t informative so much for what the officials are saying as for what the reporters are asking. Wednesday afternoon, I listened in on a conference call with the Governor’s drought task force where I felt the questions were quite illuminating. As soon as it was time for questions, BAM, right out of the gate: Why aren’t water reductions being required of farmers?  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

For snow tracker, lots of attention but little work to do – Frank Gehrke has been measuring the snowpack at this site south of Lake Tahoe for nearly two decades, but Wednesday was unique. It was the first time he was joined by California’s governor, and the first time he was watched by a phalanx of television cameras. It was also the first time he didn’t have any snow to measure.  LA Times article

Drought: California’s 2015 cotton planting may be as small as the one in 1910 – California was once the number one cotton growing state in the nation, but the drought has changed that. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports on why the total cotton acreage in the state has dropped.  KVPR report

Santa Cruz, Tri-Valley show deep cuts in water use possible – Santa Cruz, Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin all reduced their water use by 25 percent or more in 2014 by imposing a mix of tiered water rates, penalties and bans on wasteful practices. Residents replaced old toilets and appliances with more efficient models, installed low-flow faucets and gathered water from shower buckets to landscape their yards.  San Jose Mercury News article

Drought etiquette: When is yellow no longer mellow? – It seems so simple. Stop hosing down your sidewalk. Forgo washing the car out on the street. Be prudent in all your outdoor watering. Quit letting the water run while you brush your teeth or shave or do anything else. Take Navy showers. Put a brick in the tank of your toilet or install a low-flow model. And don’t flush unnecessarily — if it’s yellow, let it mellow. But is saving water really so uncomplicated? KQED report

Livingston meeting sheds light on city’s water challenges – From water quality concerns to a lack of groundwater from the record drought, the city’s water challenges were chronicled during a community meeting this week.  Merced Sun-Star article

Visalia outdoor watering remains at once a week – It was no April Fools’ Day joke on Wednesday when Visalia city officials reminded residents Stage 4 watering requirements remain. The spring water schedule, which calls for outdoor watering no more than once a week, continues until the end of this month. Visalia Times-Delta article

Joel Fox: Finding the power to get fresh water from the ocean — Proposals to desalinate water from the Pacific Ocean have run into environmental concerns and cost issues. Environmentalists still raise alarms dealing with the health of the ocean and the creatures that live in it. The thinking on the cost issue is changing, however, because of the severity of the drought, the increased value of water, and potential energy resources to make the process work.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Turlock-area dairy farm seeks to add microbrewery — The area’s next microbrewery could launch from a dairy farm west of town, supplied in part by hops and wheat grown on site. The Stanislaus County Planning Commission on Thursday will consider a proposal by the Lucas Dairy to brew beer in a milking parlor that has not been used since 1978. Milk production would continue elsewhere on the farm, on Fulkerth Road four miles west of Turlock.  Modesto Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Chowchilla kidnapper granted parole at 20th hearing – James Schoenfeld, one of three men who kidnapped a busload of Chowchilla schoolchildren and their bus driver almost 40 years ago, was granted parole Wednesday in San Luis Obispo, where he is imprisoned at the California Men’s Colony.  Fresno Bee article; LA Times article; AP article

Prison doctors double pay with O.T. – Twenty-nine state prison medical workers were paid more than $100,000 in overtime last year, including 15 doctors and nurses who were able to more than double their wages with the extra hours.  U-T San Diego article

Law enforcement split on body cameras – Officer-worn body cameras are rare in northern California, but, perhaps not for long. About half of the law enforcement agencies in the greater Sacramento region are using the cameras or are testing them. But, some agencies are reluctant. Capital Public Radio report

Slain hostage’s family seeks police records – Legal wrangling between the City of Stockton and the family of a slain hostage continued Wednesday when an attorney filed a new round of records requests seeking specific information about all officer-involved shootings in Stockton over the past decade. Stockton Record article

Defendants declared medically incompetent face lengthy delays in jails — A backlog of mentally ill or developmentally disabled defendants who have been ruled incompetent to stand trial has become a persistent problem that judges, lawyers, doctors and jailers are scrambling to resolve. There are about 50 inmates like Mason in jails around California, waiting for beds to open up at Porterville, which they rarely do. As of early March, Mason was number 13 on the list.  LA Times article



Fresno Unified files for ‘No Child’ waiver extension – Fresno Unified officials are eying three more years of reprieve from stringent federal No Child Left Behind regulations. The district was one of six in California that submitted a request to the federal U.S. Department of Education this week that, if approved, would give the district freedom from certain federal testing rules and other restrictions, like how it uses Title I dollars.  Fresno Bee article; AP article

Nan Austin: On Campus: Central Valley needs more grads, good jobs to keep them here – On Wednesday, Henry Gascon showed neighborhood profiles laid out in “A Portrait of California 2014-2015,” released by Measure of America in December. Gascon is manager of programs and policy development for United Ways of California. The statistics for Stanislaus and Merced counties sit below the state and national averages – no surprise. But within those numbers can be found some wide gaps.  Austin in Modesto Bee

Universities add degree programs while spurning fads –  At Cal State Dominguez Hills, recreation and leisure studies are out and cyber-security is in. The geography major at USC has morphed into a new degree program called spatial studies. And Russian and German language programs at UC Riverside are virtually kaput, while Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern studies are on the rise. College courses such as English, history and math that form the core of a liberal arts education may be fixed like the North Star, but beyond those, universities are constantly evaluating degree programs and making additions and subtractions to fit needs.  LA Times article

Fresno State ‘spring breakers’ equip Lowell woman’s home with solar panels – The students are working during their spring vacation with nonprofit renewable energy company GRID Alternatives to install solar panels on two Lowell neighborhood homes. The equipment and maintenance are covered through a state energy grant program for low-income families.  Fresno Bee article

Control of LA school funds at risk in dispute over teacher evaluations — The Los Angeles Unified School District could lose control over $57 million a year in federal funds because of a disagreement over performance evaluations with the teachers union.  LA Times article

Modesto’s Fremont students write to save shade trees — A rumor that shade trees at Fremont Elementary School would be axed over spring break prompted heated discussions, with students starting a letter writing campaign to protect the campus canopy. The 14 trees are safe for now, Modesto City Schools officials said Tuesday, and parents and students will get to have their say at a meeting being planned for later in April.  Modesto Bee article

Turlock charter school shoots, scores with team sports — A new school for at-risk secondary students is scoring points with kids through team sports.  Modesto Bee article



Oceans might take 1,000 years to recover from climate change, study suggests — Naturally occurring climate change lowered oxygen levels in the deep ocean, decimating a broad spectrum of seafloor life that took some 1,000 years to recover, according to a study that offers a potential window into the effects of modern warming.  LA Times article

Mark Butler: Don’t let clean energy projects stain national parks – The recently retired superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park writes, “The Interior Department has made missteps in proposing and approving industrialized renewable energy development on some of California’s most impressive desert landscapes, forever harming the same lands it is entrusted to protect. There is no clearer example of this than the proposed Soda Mountain Solar project, which would be built only a stone’s throw from the Mojave National Preserve.”  Butler op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Entrance fees rising in some national parks – Be prepared to pay a bit more if you’re headed to some national parks and recreation areas this summer. After a six-year moratorium, the federal government is increasing the price of admission at some of its public lands and raising the fees charged for camping, boating, cave tours and other activities. The National Park Service says the money expected to be raised is just a fraction of the $11.5 billion needed to repair and maintain roads, trails and park buildings.  AP article

Hanford continue energy project – If you’ve driven along 10th Avenue in Hanford recently, the street signs may have seemed a lot more noticeable. Public Works Director Lou Camara said the new light-emitting diode (LED) illuminated signs with larger letters are part of a citywide project aimed at cutting the city’s energy bill. The project will also replace the overhead intersection lights, known as luminaires, with new energy-efficient LED fixtures.  Hanford Sentinel article

FBI investigating break-in at PG&E substation — The FBI’s investigation into a break-in at a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation continues, a bureau representative confirmed Wednesday, though details about the crime remain few.  Bakersfield Californian article

Judge rules Navy underestimated threat to marine mammals from sonar – A federal judge has ruled in favor of environmentalists who assert the Navy has vastly underestimated the threat to marine mammals posed by its use of sonar and explosives during training off Southern California and Hawaii.  LA Times article


Health/Human Services

Central Valley and rural northern California counties rank unhealthiest — People living in California’s Central Valley and rural northern counties have the poorest health outcomes in the state, according to a report released last Wednesday. HealthyCal article

Ian Johnson and Robert Ryan: Dan Brown Legacy Fund helps brain tumor patients here – Writing on behalf of the University Neurosciences Institute in Fresno, the doctors write, “We understand the many stresses that arise when dealing with a medical condition, and one of our aims is to provide care in a local setting to keep patients close to their homes, families and support systems. We are proud to live in the Central Valley, and provide advanced care to its residents. One of the goals of the Dan Brown Legacy Fund was to improve access to world-class treatments for neurologic disease without the need to travel.”  Johnson/Ryan op-ed in Fresno Bee

New LA city guidelines take aim at sharp health disparities — In what experts say reflects a shift in thinking about public health policy, Los Angeles lawmakers Tuesday adopted new planning guidelines aimed at reducing sharp health disparities across the city.  LA Times article


Land Use/Housing

Bay Area is almost rock-bottom in U.S. for housing creation – The latest confirmation that the housing supply in the Bay Area can’t possibly meet demand comes from Zillow. In fact, the region lags behind only Los Angeles in its ability to provide newcomers with a place to live.  KQED report

Sacramento council votes to allow development in Natomas — North Natomas, once the region’s boomtown, is about to starting growing again. The Sacramento City Council Tuesday ended a six-year building moratorium in Natomas, allowing 1,500 new residential units per calendar year, starting this summer.  Sacramento Bee article

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee plans $250 million housing bond for November ballot — Mayor Ed Lee will put a $250 million affordable housing bond on the November ballot, a key part of his plan to build 30,000 housing units before 2020.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Allegiant Airlines pilot strike averted by court ruling – Pilots at discount carrier Allegiant Air were prevented in their plans to strike Thursday after a Las Vegas court issued a temporary restraining order.  AP article; Stockton Record article

Swalwell calls for better sensors at porous San Jose airport — The arrest of a woman found wandering the grounds of Mineta San Jose Airport International Airport — the fifth breach there in the past year — is proof that its perimeter fence must be outfitted with live sensors, a Bay Area congressman said Wednesday.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Other areas

Injured Fresno fire captain improving but remains in critical condition – Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern remained in critical condition but was stable Wednesday afternoon, a burn center official said. He was able to breathe on his own without the assistance of a ventilator, said Sandra Yovino, director of the Leon S. Peters Burn Center. Dern was severely burned Sunday when he fell through a garage roof into an inferno.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno shooting puts Hmong murder-suicides in spotlight – The death of a woman at the hands of her estranged partner in Fresno has reopened conversation about murder-suicides preceded by domestic violence, a subject that begs to be better addressed, according to Merced women’s advocates.  Merced Sun-Star article

Merced advocates want to educate about sexual violence – April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month so advocates in the community and at UC Merced have planned events to educate people and raise money for advocacy. Many of the efforts are meant to push back against a “blame the victim” mentality that sexual assault survivors are often subjected to, said Meghan Kehoe, program director of Valley Crisis Center, an organization that advocates for victims of physical and sexual abuse.  Merced Sun-Star article

LA agrees to spend $1 billion to fix sidewalks in ADA case – Los Angeles has tentatively agreed to spend more than $1 billion over the next three decades to fix a massive backlog of broken sidewalks and make other improvements to help those with disabilities navigate the city, leaders said Wednesday.  LA Times article

LA will seek to impose new ban on living in vehicles — The Los Angeles City Council is considering reinstating a ban on homeless people living in their cars and RVs. A federal appeals court last year struck down the city’s existing ban as unconstitutionally vague. In a March 26 report, City Atty. Mike Feuer proposed a new ordinance with a tighter definition of living in a vehicle that he said would pass court muster.  LA Times article

Gene Tackett: Here’s to strong memories of the real McFarland USA – The former Kern County supervisor writes, “I recently watched the movie for the second time. What pride in the fact that the gym in the movie was my high school gym. I played basketball in that gym. I told jokes on the stage during assembles and acted in plays in that gym. I learned about life and the world at that school. What a thrill I felt watching a movie — about my high school.” Tackett op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Pacific football great LeBaron dies at 85 — Edward “Eddie” LeBaron Jr., the “Little General,” passed away early this morning of natural causes at the age of 85 in Stockton.  Stockton Record article; Sacramento Bee article

Dentist found dead weeks after license revoked — Dr. Robert Tupac was found dead in his Bakersfield dental office early Wednesday morning, just days before the revocation of his license for negligently treating patients was set to take effect.  Bakersfield Californian article

San Francisco fire officials reject D.A.’s call for tougher alcohol rules — The San Francisco Fire Department has not acted on a warning from the city’s district attorney that it needs to toughen its alcohol-testing rules for firefighters — a warning that anticipated a judge’s dismissal of drunken-driving charges against an ex-firefighter who crashed his rig.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Farming is not gardening. Farmers take risks in deciding what to plant. During droughts, those risks can be enormous. Farmers are willing to take them, and don’t need the help of others to determine what they can and can’t plant; A clear line needs to be drawn: When doing the public’s business, California’s public officials should use only their official email accounts.

Merced Sun-Star – It’s no longer optional, we must conserve water.

Modesto Bee – It’s no longer optional, we must conserve water.

Sacramento Bee – After three grinding years of drought, Gov. Brown has taken serious action. To which we say: Finally. Brown is to be commended for heeding the alarm bells. But California’s response to this slow-motion natural disaster has been nerve-wrackingly tentative until now; When public officials use their private emails for work, there’s too much room for confusion, and even mischief.

Stockton Record – In this case, the popular hire also is the correct hire. You can search Stockton and San Joaquin County and probably not find anyone with negative things to say about Suzy Daveluy, who was named Monday as Stockton’s deputy community services director for the library; St. Mary’s girls basketball dynasty is Ram tough.