April 23, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

California vaccine bill approved by committee on second try – Legislation requiring vaccinations for nearly all California schoolchildren revived Wednesday, winning the approval of a Senate committee that a week earlier looked poised to reject the measure.  Sacramento Bee article; KQED report; LA Times article; San Jose Mercury article; San Francisco Chronicle article; New York Times article 

Fresno Bee: Obama whiffs again on the Armenian genocide – Unless Obama reverses course, his legacy will be forever stained by his refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide.  Fresno Bee editorial


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Joel Fox: Business interests and pension reform — As the battle over public pension reform heats up as Calpensions Ed Mendel explained last week, the question for California’s business community is will it get involved? A number of reasons have been offered to suggest business would stay on the sidelines if a pension reform initiative qualified for the ballot. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Joe Mathews: Which Low-down do you prefer on pensions? — And you thought it was just all the math and actuarial tables that make pension ballot measures confusing. Now California faces the prospect of old-fashioned human confusion as San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed pursues another pension measure: key voices both for and against the measure have the same name. Welcome to the David Low vs. Dave Low contest. Mathews in Fox & Hounds

Neel Kashkari backs Rocky Chavez in race for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat — The Republican field in next year’s U.S. Senate contest is still taking shape, but Neel Kashkari, the party’s 2014 candidate for governor, threw his support Wednesday behind state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside. LA Times article



Immigrant on detention center hunger strike:  ‘We want to be free’ — Earlier this month, Cruz and about three dozen other mothers in Karnes began the hunger strike to demand better conditions at the facility, subsisting on only water for about a week, then fasting with just one meal a day for another week. Their latest fast ended Tuesday. She talked by phone with the Los Angeles Times from the detention center about their reasoning for the strike.  LA Times article


Other areas

George Skelton: Vaccine legislation properly puts public health above personal beliefs – It’s pathetic that more legislators aren’t fully embracing a bill that essentially would tell parents: Vaccinate your kids against infectious diseases or they won’t be allowed in school where they could jeopardize the health of other children.  Skelton column in LA Times

Scott Martelle: What’s so hard about calling a genocide a genocide? – What two-word phrase is so fraught with history and undeniable truth that the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth dares not use it? Armenian genocide. President Obama’s refusal yet again to see that historic and abhorrent event for what it was is an embarrassment to the nation and to the truth, as well as an insult to the victims, the survivors and their descendants. Martelle in LA Times 

California Influencers Index: Vaccines, water dominate spring media chatter — OK, it’s been a while since we did this, but it’s about time for a check in with the California Influencers Index. The index, powered by software from Zignal Labs, tracks all Twitter mentions and activity of a select list of California political insiders, including elected officials, lobbyists and members of the media.  Grizzly Bear Project article 

Capitol lobbyists, staff jump security line during vaccine debate – The controversy surrounding California’s mandatory vaccine bill has brought the Capitol long lines, crowded hallways and signs asking visitors to use the stairs as anti-vaccine advocates fill committee hearings to demand the state keep its personal belief exemption in place. Now you can add a special entrance for staff and lobbyists to the list.  Capitol Alert

Bill would ban California schools from using ‘Redskins’ – Public schools in California would have to stop using the term “Redskins” for their sports teams or mascot if a bill is approved by state legislators. The four high schools in California that still use Redskins as their mascot are Chowchilla in Madera County, Gustine in Merced County, Calaveras in Calaveras County and Tulare Western in Tulare County. Merced Sun-Star article

Drinks, dinners, favors helped PG&E lobbyist build PUC ties, emails show — Former Pacific Gas & Electric Co. chief lobbyist Brian Cherry was a master at schmoozing with state regulators. A can-do political operative, Cherry always had a ready joke or a sympathetic ear for top officials and managers at the California Public Utilities Commission, who oversee just about every aspect of PG&E’s operations — and its bottom line. All that changed last fall when revelations of Cherry’s persuasive powers set off a scandal over undue PG&E influence at the PUC. LA Times article

Outside spending tops $3 million in East Bay Senate race – Outside groups have spent more than $3 million in the Democrat-vs.-Democrat runoff campaign in the East Bay’s 7th Senate District.  Capitol Alert 

Anti-human trafficking bill passes Senate – The Senate unanimously passed legislation Wednesday to help the victims of human trafficking, ending a tortuous partisan standoff over abortion that also delayed confirmation of President Barack Obama’s attorney general nominee.  AP article

Pentagon to launch cyberstrategy push in Silicon Valley – Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will unveil a new military cyberstrategy Thursday in the heart of Silicon Valley, reaching out to Facebook Inc. and other companies to help boost the nation’s digital defenses. LA Times article 

Ex-Sen. Calderon may face additional criminal charges, prosecutor warns – A federal prosecutor indicated in a court filing Wednesday that a superseding indictment containing more criminal charges is possibly on the way in the corruption case of former state Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello).  LA Times article

Hillary Clinton hires 2 state directors to step up campaign — Preparing for her official White House campaign kickoff, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team is bringing on two paid regional directors in California as part of what’s being described as a “major grassroots organizing effort” to create a presidential campaign infrastructure in all 50 states.  San Francisco Chronicle article


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Amid Capitol Hill opposition, high-speed rail gets second wind — Is President Barack Obama’s vision for high-speed rail dead? If so, you couldn’t tell it from a group of rail supporters gathered in Washington this week. And for the first time, they can point to tangible progress. California’s $68 billion system broke ground in January. Efforts are under way to bring high-speed rail projects to Texas, Florida, Minnesota and North Carolina.  McClatchy Newspapers article 

High-speed rail land-taking looms in Kings — If anybody was hoping that bad blood between the California High-Speed Rail Authority and a very vocal group of residents in Kings County who want to torpedo the project would lessen over time, they’re in for some major disappointment. It’s just taken a turn for the worse. Hanford Sentinel article 

At Supreme Court, raisin rules get scoopful of arguments – A decades-old program for managing surplus San Joaquin Valley raisin production might be in jeopardy, following a heated Supreme Court argument Wednesday. With a blend of skeptical questions and scornful asides, conservative justices in particular voiced doubts about the program, which can require raisin handlers to set aside a portion of the crop for a reserve. By keeping some raisins off the free market, the program is supposed to stabilize prices.  McClatchy Newspapers article; LA Times article; AP article; New York Times article


Jobs and the Economy

Latest Smart & Final project in Fresno is dead – for now — Smart & Final doesn’t want to be on a certain corner in central Fresno, after all. It’s back to square one in this bumpy lesson about business development in the new Fresno. Fresno Bee article 

Clinton J. Olivier: Blackstone needs investment – not meetings and new taxes – The Fresno City Council member writes, “The Smart & Final project at Clinton and Blackstone avenues is officially dead, leaving boarded-up buildings and a dark, unsafe parking lot to stand as a memorial to one of the city of Fresno’s biggest missteps in recent memory.”  Olivier op-ed in Fresno Bee

San Joaquin County leaders go to Washington, plead for funds – Forty-four San Joaquin County transportation leaders, elected officials and business leaders are currently in Washington, D.C., to advocate for projects and policy issues that will have a long-term effect on the region.  Stockton Record article 

City Hall, artists push for plaza makeover – Mariposa Plaza is the next downtown landmark in line for a makeover, and Fresno City Hall wants your ideas. Top city officials joined artists and downtown advocates Wednesday evening in launching an effort to re-energize a familiar gathering place grown a bit musty over the decades. Fresno Bee article

Unnecessary roughness?  Oakland stadium leader takes aim at NFL — Floyd Kephart, the businessman seen as Oakland’s best chance to keep the Raiders, found himself on the spot Wednesday, as his shadowy efforts to build a stadium drew criticism from the NFL and impatience from the city’s mayor.  Oakland Tribune article

Granville opens Brio development in downtown Fresno – The urban development arm of Granville Homes molded together the new and the old to create its eighth downtown Fresno project called Brio on BroadwayFresno Bee article

Rents soar in San Francisco, up 3.7 percent nationwide — The influx of tech money fueled San Francisco rents up 14.8 percent, while nearby San Jose jumped 12.3 percent. Rents average more than $3,000 a month in these areas. That’s roughly $600 more than rent in the Los Angeles area, $800 more than metro New York City, and $1,000 more than the Washington, D.C. area. LA Times article 

Joe Mathews: Gritty Inland Empire is leading California comeback – An unemployment rate that topped 14 percent in late 2009 has been cut in half. Housing prices have roared back. If there really is a “California comeback” like one the governor is touting, this region is driving it.  Mathews in Sacramento Bee

San Francisco becomes most sought-after location for Chinese buyers – Chinese buyers looking to invest off-shore are most interested in San Francisco, according to a report from luxury listing sitePropGoLuxury.com, which tracked millions of online searches from Chinese buyers in the first quarter of 2015.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Comcast bid for Time Warner Cable faces regulatory resistance – Comcast Corp.’s legal team met Wednesday with federal regulators to discuss mounting concerns that the company would be too powerful if it is allowed to swallow Time Warner Cable. LA Times article

Privacy getting taken for a ride — It’s as if they can read your mind: Before customers even ask to be picked up, apps let Uber or Lyft know you’ll need them. That’s because personal data housed in smart phones tell ride-sharing companies when and where their customers most frequently need rides.  Capitol Weekly article 

Mega sports complex expected to generate more tourism for Roseville and South Placer — A mega sports complex planned for west Roseville is expected to deliver a jolt to Placer County’s tourism industry. The city of Roseville is partnering with the nonprofit Placer Valley Tourism to build a collection of eight to 12 synthetic turf fields on 55 acres off Hayden Parkway. Sacramento Bee article



Bakersfield council approves odd-even watering days — The Bakersfield City Council dried up residential landscaping Wednes­day, passing an emergency ordinance that immediately limits outdoor irrigation to three days a week.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Bill in Congress sets deadlines for California water studies – A House panel passed legislation Wednesday designed to speed up the federal government’s study of five major water-storage projects in California. AP article

California government says it’s meeting water-saving goal – Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration says it met its own water conservation goal for 2014 despite early struggles to track usage amid the state’s drought. Data released Wednesday show state agencies last year cut water use by 23 percent compared with 2013. The goal was 20 percent.  AP article; Sacramento Bee article; AP: ‘Annual California agency water use at a glance’

Drought drains Hanford water fund – As residents use less water to combat the drought, and therefore buy less water, Hanford’s water service has less money coming in to improve the water system, dig new wells or whatever else may be needed to keep clean water flowing.  Hanford Sentinel article

Sacramento-area water district calls state drought plan illegal — In a defiant letter to the state Wednesday, Fair Oaks Water District officials contend California’s emergency water conservation plan is illegal and unfair to water agencies that have done a good job preparing for the drought.  Sacramento Bee article

When city codes clash with state water rules, confusion reigns – In some California cities, brown is not quite the new green. In fact, it’s downright illegal. Take the Kings County city of Hanford, where we found Tim Atkinson taking a pickaxe to his lawn, sweating and huffing as he hacked away at a stubborn root. He was pulling out some grass and putting in a rock planter to help save water.  KQED report

Livingston council considers new water rules, approves police body cameras – Livingston has trimmed its water consumption by 18 percent compared to 2013, but city leaders are considering scaling back even further. The City Council on Tuesday considered a resolution that would reduce outdoor watering from three days per week to two, ban washing cars and prohibit irrigating outdoors within 48 hours of a storm. Merced Sun-Star article

Lucrative but thirsty almonds come under fire amid drought – Now California is in the fourth year of severe drought, and it’s the farmers who are scrambling: They’re spending huge sums on any available water to keep their almond trees alive. That takes about 1 million gallons of water per acre per year, according to research by UC Davis agricultural engineer Blaine Hanson—enough to supply six average California households. It seems there may be a downside to almonds after all.  National Geographic article 

Woodlake concerned about private water pumping near Bravo Lake – Tulare County has the highest number of well failures in the state making it is ground zero for concerns over sinking ground water tables. With tight water supplies around the state this spring, it is not a surprise that communities like Woodlake are suspicious of anyone who appears to be helping ground water leave town. Visalia Times-Delta article

Beverly Hills Oks limit on watering lawns, backed by $1,000 fine – The Beverly Hills City Council has cracked down on water waste, agreeing to enact a slew of new rules aimed at slashing the city’s consumption amid an unrelenting drought.  LA Times article

Netafilm USA expands Fresno operations — Netafim USA, a leading maker of drip irrigation, is expanding its Fresno operations with a 102,000-square-foot distribution center at 1550 N. Peach Ave. Company officials say the expansion was necessary to handle the increased demand for its drip irrigation systems, especially among California farmers who are struggling through a fourth dry year.  Fresno Bee article

Shauna Lorance and Robert Roscoe: Merging water districts makes more sense during drought – Lorance, general manager of the San Juan Water District, and Roscoe, general manager of the Sacramento Suburban Water District, write, “t’s rare that you will find two general managers encouraging a merger of their agencies, but we believe strongly that given current regulations and uncertainties, now is the time to act.” Lorance/Roscoe op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Event will showcase CSU Stanislaus ag students — Employers in farming and related businesses can get an idea Saturday of the training going on at California State University, Stanislaus.  Modesto Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Inmate fatally shot at Kern Valley State Prison – An inmate at Kern Valley State Prison was shot dead by a correctional officer at Wednesday morning after ignoring warnings and continuing to attack another inmate who was unable to defend himself.  Bakersfield Californian article

Stockton police hit coffee shop for visit with public – Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones and other members of the Police Department spent two hours mingling with citizens at a Stockton coffee shop Wednesday morning. Stockton Record article 

With smartphones everywhere, police on notice they may be caught on camera – The idea of an unseen camera capturing an officer’s conduct first became prominent after the Rodney King video in 1991, Arakawa said. But video’s starring role in controversial police actions, including beatings and shootings, has increased in the more than two decades since. And more and more police departments, including the LAPD, are planning to equip their officers with body cameras. LA Times article 

Transgender inmate’s attorneys oppose delaying surgery – Attorneys representing a transgender prison inmate on Wednesday asked a federal judge to stick with his order that California officials must immediately provide the inmate with sex reassignment surgery.  AP article

Lodi could face sanctions over files – A federal judge could sanction the City of Lodi for its resistance to surrender personnel files of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a mentally ill Gulf War veteran whose family had called police for help to control him.  Stockton Record article

LA County DA to create unit to review wrongful-conviction claims — The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is creating a unit dedicated to examining wrongful-conviction claims, joining a small but growing number of prosecutorial agencies around the country that are devoting resources to identify innocent prisoners. LA Times article



California parents are ill-informed about school reforms, poll finds – California has ushered in new academic standards, statewide testing and school finance reform in recent years, but the majority of public-school parents remain ill-informed about them, a new poll has found.  LA Times article; Bakersfield California article; San Francisco Chronicle article

John Myers: Californians willing to borrow big to 2016 to help schools — The times may change, but Californians don’t seem to do so when it comes to two things about K-12 public schools: a sense that they need money for construction and renovation, and a willingness to borrow the cash to make that happen.  Myers in KQED

Sacramento Bee: School day breakfast bill feeds more kids — Moving school breakfasts into the regular day, instead of before school starts, would encourage more kids to eat – and recoup more federal money for the state.  Sacramento Bee editorial

California bill would require union buy-in for teacher evaluations — The degree to which student test scores in California could be used to evaluate teachers’ job performance would be decided in union negotiations rather than by school districts or lawmakers under a bill that advanced Wednesday in the state legislature.  Reuters article

On Campus: Longer school days, better connections gaining ground – As Modesto City Schools considers moving high school start times later at a yawn-inducing pace, across the nation other affronts to the 19th century school day are moving forward. Modesto Bee article

‘Concerned Men’ to cook up college scholarships in Merced — An annual cooking competition that helps pay for college scholarships for local young people will take over City Hall on Sunday in Merced. Merced Sun-Star article

Jeff Jardine: Modesto program Sound-ing out need for new studio home — Modesto Sound, a nonprofit that helps students ages 13 through 22 learn the basics of recording, could go quiet if it can’t find a new home by May 15. After three years at Gregori High School, the school needs the space for other activities, leaving executive director Brenda Francis to look for new digs.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Tom Dalzell: Breaking up PG&E will hurt safety – The business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 writes, “When it comes to safety, bigger is actually much better. It means more resources, more expertise and the ability to focus resources on the safety of both electric and gas workers.”  Dalzell op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Sanger cranks up solar power for sewage treatment – Sanger celebrated Earth Day on Wednesday by formally dedicating a new 6.6-acre solar power farm that is expected to provide more than 85% of the electricity used at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Fresno Bee article

Nearly half of Americans threatened by earthquakes, study finds – Nearly half of all Americans — 150 million people — are threatened by possibly damaging shaking from earthquakes, scientists said Wednesday at a meeting of the Seismological Society of America. LA Times article 

The Big One could trigger series of large earthquakes, study finds – New research released Wednesday suggests that the shaking from “the Big One,” the long-predicted major earthquake on the San Andreas fault, could trigger additional large temblors on nearby faults, intensifying the overall seismic impact. LA Times article

Taking clean up a notch at Green Expo — At some point between picking up the discarded Doritos bags, stained mattresses and fully loaded diapers while serving on the mayor’s semimonthly volunteer crew, a thought occurred to Tom Burch about the city’s litter problem: “Two weekends a month is not going to clean up Bakersfield.” Bakersfield Californian article

Planada to expand wastewater treatment facility — Planada’s wastewater treatment facility will finally undergo a long-awaited upgrade – one that may help alleviate some burden on the community’s limited water supply.  Merced Sun-Star article


Health/Human Services

House committee slashes funding for French Camp VA clinic – The dream of many area veterans for an expanded medical facility in San Joaquin County was put in jeopardy Wednesday with a vote in Congress. Stockton Record article

Investigator says Oakland VA office sat on claims – A federal investigator looking into why thousands of veterans’ benefits claims were found languishing in a filing cabinet in theDepartment of Veterans Affairs’ Oakland office contradicted a top agency official’s testimony that all the claims had been processed correctly.  San Francisco Chronicle article

San Francisco on verge of smokeless tobacco ban, even at Giants games – San Francisco officials are looking to end the tradition with an ordinance that would ban smokeless tobacco from ball fields throughout the city, including at AT&T Park, where the Dodgers and Giants are playing a three-game series this week.  LA Times article

Anthem rate hike excessive for 170,000, regulator says – California’s insurance commissioner criticized healthcare giant Anthem Blue Cross for imposing an “excessive” rate increase on nearly 170,000 customers statewide. LA Times article

Deadline looming for CalPERS long-term care policyholders – The grim questions Shirley Neill thought she’d answered 20 years ago – with a reassurance from CalPERS – are bearing down on her again.  Sacramento Bee article 

Henry R. Perea: Lighthouse for Children symbolizes new First 5 direction – The Fresno County supervisor writes, “Situated in downtown Fresno, the Lighthouse for Children will serve as a hub of services supporting Fresno County families in their journey to raise healthy, happy children. The services that will be provided in the building will help redirect the course for many. The grand opening also is symbolic of great progress at our First 5.”  Perea op-ed in Fresno Bee

Tulare hospital enjoying rosier financial outlook – After years of financial struggles and legal woes, the prognosis for Tulare Regional Medical Center (TRMC) appears to be improving.  The Business Journal article

Samuel’s House opens its doors in Lemoore — A multi-year journey to provide rehabilitation and housing for men in Kings County has finally reached its end. Champions Recovery Alternatives Inc. opened the doors of its new 49-bed Samuel’s House facility in Lemoore last month. The house currently has 24 residents, all men 18 and older who have committed non-violent and non-sexual crimes.  Hanford Sentinel article


Land Use/Housing

Habitat director Tony Miranda leaving Fresno after 17 years — Tony Miranda planned to live in Fresno only for a month while volunteering at Habitat for Humanity Fresno County in exchange for a place to live in the summer of 1997. One month turned into 17 years and the construction of nearly 100 homes for low-income families in an unexpected career as the nonprofit homebuilder’s executive director. Friday is Miranda’s last day with the Fresno affiliate of the international Christian housing ministry that builds and renovates homes. He’s leaving to take the top job at Habitat’s Bakersfield office.  Fresno Bee article



High speed rail to use local product to control dust pollution — On this Earth Day, California’s High-Speed Rail Authority is demonstrating steps it is taking to minimize environmental damage from the construction of the rail. Rail construction workers will spray a biodegradable solution made of processed wood chips that holds down dust pollution.  KVPR report


Other areas

Fresno County, PG&E face complaints over gun range explosion – An attorney for a Fresno County Jail inmate injured in last week’s fiery gas line explosion filed a legal complaint on Wednesday against Pacific Gas & Electric in Fresno County Superior Court and a claim for damages against Fresno County.  Fresno Bee article

Seven remain in hospital, five critical, after Friday gas explosion in Fresno – Seven people remain hospitalized at Community Regional Medical Center after an explosion Friday at the Fresno County Peace Office’s Range.  Fresno Bee article

Police subdue man cutting himself outside Turlock City Hall – A man set up camp in front of City Hall and started to light paper on fire and cut himself Tuesday, authorities said. Police subdued the man and took him to a hospital for treatment. Modesto Bee article

Mayor predicts end to homelessness for vets in San Francisco this year – Mayor Ed Lee predicted one success in San Francisco on Wednesday, saying the city would win the battle against chronic homelessness among veterans by the end of the year.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

LA City Council calls for new plan to get homeless off the streets – Signaling a more assertive approach on homelessness, five Los Angeles City Council members introduced a measure Wednesday aimed at developing a comprehensive plan for getting 23,000 transients off the streets and into housing.  LA Times article 

Venice Beach council seeks topless sunbathing for women — Venice Beach, looking to its European roots, is asking the L.A. City Council to let women sunbathe topless at the beach.  LA Times article 


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Assembly Speaker Atkins punishes Adam Gray for trying to help the San Joaquin Valley; Unless Obama reverses course, his legacy will be forever stained by his refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide.

Modesto Bee – In the Middle East, our alliances shift like sand.

Sacramento Bee – In the Middle East, our alliances shift like sand; Moving school breakfasts into the regular day, instead of before school starts, would encourage more kids to eat – and recoup more federal money for the state.