April 20, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

Critics hold a town hall to talk issues with Devin Nunes, but he wasn’t there — About 150 people showed up Wednesday to a town hall meeting here to send a message to Rep. Devin Nunes – even if the Tulare Republican decided to skip the meeting and call its organizers a bunch of “left-wing” activists. Fresno Bee article

Gas tax deals illegal? ‘Preposterous,’ says Jerry Brown – Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday dismissed as “preposterous” suggestions that he broke the law by providing district-specific projects to lawmakers to win their support for his $52 billion road repair package with tax and fee increases. Sacramento Bee article

Sheriff proposes ‘non-sanctuary’ status for Kern – Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood will weigh in on the immigration debate raging over “sanctuary cities” early next month when he asks the Kern County Board of Supervisors to declare Kern a “non-sanctuary county.” Bakersfield Californian article

Gov. Brown

George Skelton: Was Gov. Brown wrong to make side deals to push through the gas tax hike? No, that’s democracy — To secure the necessary two-thirds supermajority vote for the fuel taxes, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders distributed some very nice local pork to holdout legislators. Congrats to those lawmakers and their constituents. Skelton column in LA Times

Sacramento Bee: No fan of marijuana legalization, Jerry Brown offers partly baked regulation — Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to implement the 2016 marijuana legalization initiative is a work in progress, raising serious questions about inspections, taxation, licensing, disclosure to consumers about pesticide use and more. Sacramento Bee editorial

Valley politics

County retiree asks Stanislaus County leaders to take a stand against bigotry — Stanislaus County leaders are being asked to approve a proclamation against bigotry, hate-based violence and discrimination. In a continuing reaction to shock columnist Ann Coulter’s talk in Modesto next week – and what some see as a rising tide of racial tensions – speakers urged county supervisors Tuesday evening to take a stand against an increase in bullying, harassment and hate crimes in the nation. Modesto Bee article

Jeff Jardine: Can City Schools’ map help cure problem of dismal voter turnout in south Modesto? — The inability to get Latinos to vote is something that has perplexed Latino leaders for decades, and the city’s first round of district elections in 2009 didn’t reverse the trend. Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Stockton Record: Late panel change lends intrigue to Manteca Unified case — The bizarre nature of ongoing litigation over alleged election fraud in Manteca Unified School District got even stranger last week. Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Former Sacramento developer opens committee to run for lieutenant governor in 2018 — Eleni Kounalakis, a former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, on Wednesday opened a committee to raise money for a possible lieutenant governor’s bid. Sacramento Bee article

Barbara Boxer will lobby for an environmentally controversial desalination plant in Huntingdon Beach — A Boston-based water development company is paying former Sen. Barbara Boxer to push for approval of a proposed seawater desalination plant that has been mired for years in environmental controversy. LA Times article

A TV ad for a marijuana vaporizer has hit the airwaves – with no mention of the drug itself — Six months after California voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana, a television commercial has begun airing in the state that promotes a product aimed at cannabis users, but without ever mentioning the drug itself. LA Times article


Immigration reform talk: Opportunities, obstacles, fears, frustrations — The topic of comprehensive immigration reform got a comprehensive discussion Wednesday morning that encompassed jobs, education, crime and safety, family and community, fears and more. Modesto Bee article

Deportation’s orphans: Who cares for children when parents are sent away? — As immigration enforcement ramps up, so rises the fear of undocumented parents about the fate of their children if they are separated by deportation and returned to their native country. Will the children stay in the United States? Who will care for them? Will someone transport the children to the parents wherever they are? Will U.S. authorities place them in foster care? And if so, will the parents be able to reclaim custody? CALmatters article

Feds say they didn’t deport ‘Dreamer,’ but acknowledge error on his DACA status — Federal officials acknowledged Wednesday that Juan Manuel Montes’ protected immigration status was not due to expire until 2018, correcting themselves on one point in a case that thrust the 23-year-old Mexican national into the center of a heated debate on illegal immigration. LA Times article

Meet the foreign tech workers left in limbo by Trump – They are app makers, they are podcasters, and they are also H-1B visa holders — possibly putting them at risk from the president’s immigration policies.  New York Times article

Father of fallen Muslim-American soldier decries travel ban — The father of a Muslim-American soldier who died in combat in Iraq filed an amicus brief on Wednesday supporting a federal judge’s decision to block President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban. AP article

Other areas

Coulter vows to speak at Berkeley – a day before Modesto – despite UC cancellation – Controversial conservative Ann Coulter is slated to speak April 28 in Modesto, but her speech scheduled the night before in Berkeley has been canceled, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle. Modesto Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article

On 4/20, it’s a mixed bag for backers of pot legalization — With roughly 600,000 Americans facing pot charges every year, this year’s landscape is very much a mixed big for backers of marijuana legalization.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Phillp Morris moves to soften blow of California cigarette tax increase for smokers — In an email blast to California customers, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes offered three mobile coupons a week through June to offset the new tax increase that took effect earlier this month, as first reported by The New York Times. The subject line? “What Prop 56 Means for You.”  Sacramento Bee article

Dad’s turn for diaper duty: Bill would put baby-changing tables in men’s bathrooms — In the modern California family, mothers and fathers share diaper duty, and Assemblyman Ian Calderon wants to make sure that’s as true in public as it is at home. Sacramento Bee article

What’s happened in congressional recess town halls so far — Over a two-week congressional recess, many lawmakers have avoided meeting with constituents. For those who have held forums, the results have been telling.  New York Times article

Presidential Politics

Cathleen Decker: Republicans face a Trump problem as they look to 2018 contests — With the first two elections over in a series of off-season special House races, the Republican party’s biggest challenge is obvious: President Trump. Decker in LA Times

Forum takes on Trump over health care, immigration, Muslims — Some 200 people are expected to gather Thursday evening in a Modesto church to learn how they can take on the Trump administration and advocate for immigrants, ensure the poor do not lose their health coverage and support Muslims and other vulnerable people.  Modesto Bee article

News Stories – Top Stories

Experts say shooting rampage is a hate crime –but not an act of terrorism.  Here’s why — Fresno police said the federal government decides what constitutes terrorism. When asked about Muhammad’s acts, an FBI representative pointed to policies that define terrorism as premeditated violence that is “intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal.” Muhammad told police he was not affiliated with any terrorist group. Fresno Bee article; LA Times article; Visalia Times-Delta article; AP article; KQED report

Bill McEwen: Killer’s savage spree does not define who we are — This is a time to hold family members tight, and to support those who lost loved ones at the hands of confessed killer Kori Ali Muhammad. It is not the time to disrespect the four men of our community who were killed in cold blood – or their mourning families – by turning this tragedy into a debate on racism, terrorism and religion. McEwen column in Fresno Bee

Bakersfield City Council wary of Cal Water rate hike proposal — The Bakersfield City Council on Wednesday voted to have city staff prepare to intervene in California Water Service Company’s proposed 1.49 percent rate increase.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

Nasco hears customers’ cries, will open a replacement retail store in Modesto — Nasco, which plans to close its catalog outlet store on Stoddard Road in north Modesto at the end of May, will open a retail store at another Modesto location, its chief executive officer said Wednesday. Modesto Bee article

Immigrants flooded California construction.  Worker pay sank. Here’s why — Construction in Los Angeles has shifted from a heavily unionized labor force that was two-thirds white to a largely non-union one that is 70% Latino and heavily immigrant. LA Times article


Groups demand transparency on Oroville Dam spillway repairs — A coalition of environmental groups that had warned Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway was fatally flawed long before it nearly washed away this winter is demanding that federal regulators open up dam repair plans for public vetting.  Sacramento Bee article

Cancer-causing chemical in Valley water is one step closer to final regulation — 1,2,3-TCP is a known carcinogen that was used over 20 years ago as an industrial solvent and pesticide additive. The pollutant affects around 8 million people across the state and is now in the process of being regulated by the State Water Resources Control BoardValley Public Radio report

Fallout from court ruling on fallowing scares some at Oakdale Irrigation District – How might losing a recent lawsuit affect all water sales contemplated by the Oakdale Irrigation District? A sizable audience heard that question debated at Tuesday’s OID board meeting, the last held before a recall election for one board member concludes next week. Modesto Bee article

AP Exclusive: Managers made errors in handling of dam crisis – Over six straight days, the operators of the Oroville Dam had said there was no immediate danger after water surging down the main spillway gouged a hole the size of a football field in the concrete chute. But now suddenly they realized that the dam’s emergency backup spillway — essentially an unpaved hillside — was falling apart, too, and could unleash a deadly torrent of water. AP article

Waterwise: Drought assistance ending with state funding — County administrators are recommending the Office of Emergency Services ends three water-assistance programs when state funds dry up. And Supervisors are likely to follow the recommendation. Visalia Times-Delta article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Shooting rampage could result in a rarity – death penalty for suspect — Fresno police were busy Wednesday preparing official reports in the wake of a deadly crime rampage that ended in four homicides – killings that could result in a death sentence for accused mass murderer Kori Ali Muhammad. Fresno Bee article

Dyer: Rampage shooter is ‘calloused’ racist who ‘set out to kill as many as he could’ — Kori Ali Muhammad is a “calloused” racist who laughed while talking to police and his mother after admitting to fatally shooting three white men in Fresno on Tuesday, police Chief Jerry Dyer said. Fresno Bee article; ‘Listen to police scanner audio from Tuesday’s shooting spree’ in Fresno Bee

Quadruple murder suspect cooperating with Fresno police – Fresno police say the man suspected of going on a murder spree Tuesday morning is cooperating with their investigation. Kori Ali Muhammad has walked police step-by-step through the process of how he killed three people and is showing no remorse for his crimes. Valley Public Radio report; ‘Victims in Tuesday murders identified’ in Valley Public Radio

‘The racism needs to stop,’ says family of shooting victim Mark Gassett, killed walking home with groceries — Rosie Wagner fights back tears as she recalls her son’s final moments on Earth – fatally shot by a gunman he didn’t know while walking home carrying a bag of groceries from Catholic Charities. A security guard from the social service agency rushed to her son’s side as he crumpled to the concrete. Fresno Bee article

Man ran from rampage shooter and got away; his friend was not as fortunate – Mark Greer was one of those who got away, as he managed to flee the gunfire meant for him from a seemingly gleeful Kori Ali Muhammad. As Greer ran, his friend and roommate, David Martin Jackson wasn’t so lucky. Fresno Bee article

Shooting victim Williams always tried to help others, ‘loved everybody’ – Carl Allen Williams III “was the kindest soul,” working two full-time jobs so he could buy a better home for his grandmother and trying to make his community better by volunteering and giving blood, his sister says. Fresno Bee article

Inmates in Valley State Prison learn traditional arts for therapy — Once a week, inmates at Valley State Prison who typically might not interact come together to make Native American jewelry from thousands of tiny beads that come in all colors. Merced Sun-Star article

Trump targets gangs with Valley ties — The Trump administration vowed to crack down on MS-13, a notoriously brutal Central American street gang with links to Tulare County, and accused Obama-era border policies of allowing its ranks to flourish. Visalia Times-Delta article

Sacramento man punched by police officer hires lawyer, prepares lawsuit — A man who was punched repeatedly by a Sacramento police officer after an alleged jaywalking stop has hired a prominent civil rights attorney and will likely sue the city for injuries that include a broken nose and concussion. Sacramento Bee article

Foon Rhee: Is California ready for frequent executions? — Arkansas is planning to execute five inmates before the end of April. California has the biggest death row in the nation, and voters called in November for speeding up executions. But is the public really prepared, especially given recent botched lethal injections? Rhee in Sacramento Bee


Panel endorses bill aimed at reducing number of college students in remedial classes – Reformers have scored legislative progress in their efforts to enroll many more California community college students in credit-bearing courses instead of remedial classes, with placements based on high school grades rather than just placement exams. EdSource article

Majority of Californians polled favor vouchers for private schools — Rejecting President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, Californians overwhelmingly said in a poll released Wednesday that they favor designating their school districts “sanctuary safe zones” to protect undocumented students and their families from federal immigration enforcement efforts. And they support requiring staff to keep information about the immigration status of students and their families completely confidential.  EdSource article

Bill requiring UCs and CSUs to provide abortion pills advances — A measure by Democratic Senator Connie Leyva would require the systems to provide abortion pills at their student health centers. Leyva introduced the bill after UC Berkeley declined student petitions to provide the medication at its on-campus health center. Capital Public Radio report

Fresno Unified bus driver arrested twice on charges of sex crimes against children — A Fresno Unified School District bus driver who bailed out of jail earlier this week after his arrest on child pornography charges was rearrested Wednesday on new charges of child molestation, Fresno police said. Fresno Bee article


Valley air ranks among the worst nationwide, report says — Bakersfield and several other San Joaquin Valley cities rank among the worst in the nation for air quality, increasing the potential for health risks associated with breathing poor air, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association in California. Bakersfield Californian article; Merced Sun-Star article

UC Merced researcher: Plants are shielding us from climate change – for now — Recent data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere have risen close to 40 percent since before the industrial revolution. The effects of this rise on climate, sea levels and human societies are still being modeled, but one long-standing mystery for scientists has been how plants respond to rising CO2 levels, and how their ability to store the greenhouse gas feeds back into the carbon cycle.  Valley Public Radio report

Can California reverse EPA’s U-turn on pesticide ban? — A year and a half ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would ban the use of the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. Then, at the end of March—reversing course on decades of agency science and a decision that was years in the making—EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would not ban the pesticide after all. KQED report

Health/Human Services

Transgender patient sues Dignity Health for discrimination over hysterectomy denial — More than seven months after a Dignity Health hospital refused a hysterectomy to a Sacramento-area transgender patient, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday on his behalf. Sacramento Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Bay Area rent control movement continues to spread — Rent increases are moderating in the Bay Area, but the rent control movement is not. Encouraged by some success at the ballot box in November, grassroots efforts to limit rent increases and evictions are spreading to more cities, from San Jose to Santa Rosa. San Francisco Chronicle article


Sacramento leaders offer city streets as testing ground for driverless cars — Sacramento stepped up its push to become a national testing ground for driverless cars Wednesday, holding a private meeting downtown with automakers and technology company representatives, then calling a press conference to say Sacramento is hungry to be an robot car leader. Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Columnist Thomas Friedman says big forces are changing things in Fresno and around the world — Economics, politics, ethics, employment and communities are being greatly affected by three major global forces – and places like Fresno are squarely in the path of that change. Fresno Bee article

‘Wait, you don’t have data for that?’ Where California files data-blind — Sometimes the state has legitimate reasons for not collecting or publishing such data: confidentiality concerns, resource constraints, the inherent limitations of what technology can and cannot track. Sometimes the explanations are less compelling. Whatever the case, the data points below represent a diverse set of policy questions for which Californians are flying data-blind. CALmatters article

Maddie’s Fund to donate $100 for every pet adoption after illness hits shelter — What started as a devastating illness has become a ray of hope at the Stockton Animal Shelter with news of a grant from the Maddie Fund that could spur animal adoptions. Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The president isn’t releasing White House visitor logs or his tax returns, while issuing secret ethics waivers for ex-lobbyists. Instead of draining the swamp, he’s losing the public’s confidence that he will keep his promises.

Sacramento Bee –- Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to implement the 2016 marijuana legalization initiative is a work in progress, raising serious questions about inspections, taxation, licensing, disclosure to consumers about pesticide use and more; What really cost Bill O’Reilly his job at Fox News.

Stockton Record – The bizarre nature of ongoing litigation over alleged election fraud in Manteca Unified School District got even stranger last week.