April 25, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

State revenues surge in April, could exceed estimates by billions through June — California income tax collections in April have already exceeded the Brown administration’s January estimates, underscoring the surge of higher-than-expected money flowing into the state treasury and possibly offering health and welfare programs – not just schools – a piece of the windfall. Sacramento Bee article

CD16: Costa brushes off GOP fundraising jab, says he plans to have $1 million in his account by year’s end — Fresno Democrat Jim Costa had another close call in his 16th Congressional District reelection bid last year, narrowly defeating underfunded and unheralded Republican challenger Johnny Tacherra. Then he raised $80,000 in the first three months of this year — and spent $78,000. The National Republican Congressional Committee quickly took notice, calling the amount “paltry” and calculating that Costa spent more than 97% of what he raised in the quarter. But Costa doesn’t seem too worried. Fresno Bee article

Valley politics

‘Poster child’ of Fresno DA election gets 10 years in prison — A Fresno County Jail inmate who was injected into last year’s nasty District Attorney’s Office election was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison after pleading no contest to felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in connection with a drunken-driving collision that killed a Clovis woman in November 2013.Fresno Bee article

Stockton City Council: Health activist considers run for office — LaCresia Hawkins, a lifelong Stockton resident who has worked for years to address health issues that plague the city’s underserved communities, took to Facebook recently with what seemed a straightforward declaration of her intention to launch her political career. Stockton Record article


Fewer immigrants are being caught crossing U.S.-Mexico border – The number of immigrants caught crossing the Southwest border continues to fall sharply, Obama administration officials said Friday, a decline due in large part to the end of the surge in people coming from Central America. Border agents caught about 152,000 people crossing during the last six months, 28% less than the same period a year earlier.  LA Times article

Modesto Bee: Revolutionary War soldiers didn’t have to wait for papers –Were the original soldiers in George Washington’s army – the men who won this nation’s freedom – citizens of the United States? We’d like the anti-immigrant crowd to consider that question. The answer is obvious: No, they were not. Modesto Bee editorial

‘Maternity tourism’ witness held after trying to board flight to China – A material witness in an ongoing federal probe of alleged “maternity tourism” operations in Southern California was arrested after she tried to leave the country, authorities said Thursday. LA Times article

Other areas

Supreme Court to hear arguments on same-sex marriage – The court will confront two distinct questions during the unusually long, two-and-a-half hour oral argument. One question is whether the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection of the law, compels states to recognize same-sex marriages. The other is whether the same constitutional protections require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Anti-vaccine leader tells parents to fight immunization bill – Andrew Wakefield, the British scientist and former physician whose discredited research linking autism and immunizations helped launch a worldwide anti-vaccination movement, encouraged Californians Friday to fight back against a state Senate bill that would make childhood vaccinations mandatory.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Modesto Bee: Gray’s compromise on gun permit info makes sense – Our commitment to open government hasn’t changed, but we liked the changes Adam Gray made to his Assembly Bill 1154 before its passage in committee last week. Merced Sun-Star editorial

Fresno Armenians mark 100th genocide anniversary with raw emotion, pledges to never forget – Themes of healing, forgiveness and wrath dominated the fiery speeches given by local Armenian religious leaders and an Armenian-American dignitary at St. Paul Armenian Church in central Fresno Friday night. Fresno Bee article

City Hall flag-raising marks 100th anniversary of Armenian genocide – A flag-raising ceremony at Fresno City Hall commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide on Friday was punctuated by a number of emotions — sadness, anger and pride.  Fresno Bee article

Huge LA march commemorates Armenian killings – Tens of thousands of people marched in Los Angeles on Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during the Ottoman Empire, and to press for recognition by Turkey and U.S. that it was genocide. AP article; LA Times article

Susan Bonilla, Steve Glazer clash in key California Senate race debate – Primed by a special election for state Senate driven by millions in outside spending and a barrage of negative mailers, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer tangled sharply Friday over high-speed rail, public pensions and their allegiance to government unions. Capitol Alert

Villaraigosa: Democrats stuck in the past, Clinton in tight race – Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a close ally of Hillary Clinton, voiced concern Friday that the Democratic Party was “kind of stuck in last year,” saying he expected the former secretary of state to face “a very close election” for president. LA Times article

Hillary Clinton to hold first Hollywood fundraisers May 7 — Less than two weeks after the former secretary of State officially announced she was running, Clinton’s supporters in the film and TV industry already have lined up several fundraising events when she visits Los Angeles on May 7. LA Times article

Joel Fox: The California introduction machine — Much is made during presidential election periods that the state is merely an ATM machine for candidates. As a solid blue state that has not voted for a Republican for the White House since 1988, California is considered safe for whoever the Democratic nominee will be (we’re talking to you, Hillary Clinton.) Yet, candidates from both major parties come to the Golden State for the gold – dollars for their campaign accounts. Fox in Fox & Hounds

News Briefs

Top Stories

Controversial study to prioritize funding for Delta levees – Flooding may seem a distant threat at the moment, but that’s the subject of a meeting Monday as a state agency pushes forward with a study of which Delta levees should be first in line for future funding. The study is controversial. Delta interests believe all of the levees should be upgraded to the same standard, since a levee failure on one island changes the flow of water and can harm other islands. Stockton Record article

Shared office space will help new Merced companies grow, innovate – A new venture in Merced called Vault Works will soon offer a shared workspace to fledgling companies and other groups. The building already has more applications than it has room for tenants, and it will look to places like Bay Area collaborative offices as examples of how to be successful. Merced Sun-Star article

Jobs and the Economy

California home prices hit new 7-year high – California home prices reached fresh seven-year-highs in March, a research firm said Friday, helping sales rebound from a two-month slide as some homeowners put their property on the market to reap gains. The median sales price for new and existing houses and condominiums was $397,000, up about 5 percent from $378,000 in February and about 6 percent from $376,000 in March 2014, CoreLogic said. AP article

Activists outnumber business owners at LA County minimum wage forums  At the first two in a series of forums convened for small businesses to weigh in on the effect of raising the minimum wage in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, business owners were significantly outnumbered by activists advocating for the increase.  LA Times article

Merced County terminates Make Someone Happy food truck contract – Merced County terminated its contract with Make Someone Happy after the state pulled its funding for the food truck project, two months after aMerced Sun-Star investigation. The loss of funding forced officials to terminate the county’s food truck contract, effective April 10. Merced Sun-Star article

Sacramento Bee: A loss for Comcast, a win for consumers – Comcast’s decision this week to abandon its bid to merge with Time Warner Cable was a victory for consumers. Sacramento Bee editorial

Department store plans Lincoln Center opening – Big changes are in the works for Lincoln Center, shopping center officials said Friday. McCaulou’s, an East Bay Area-based department store chain, will occupy a former department store space vacant since July 2012 and is expected to open by October. Stockton Record article

New warehouses heading to Visalia Industrial Park – Visalia broker Doug Burr says the Visalia Industrial park has only one 50,000 square-foot warehouse available for lease right now, making it prime real estate. The plan is to construct two new 400,000 square-foot warehouses for a built-to-suit for a tenant.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Merced business leaders have big plans for science museum – The Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce showed off its early plans for a hands-on science museum during a gathering Friday. The chamber is calling the museum the International Science Station, which they hope can fill the void left by the closing of the Challenger Learning Center, which was shuttered in 2012 because of funding problems. Merced Sun-Star article

Marcos Breton: Sacramento will get MLS team someday, commissioner says – Sacramento Republic FC has done everything it can do to join the ranks of Major League Soccer, but whether that ever happens is beyond the control of Republic owners, Mayor Kevin Johnson and the legions of fans packing Republic games in the state capital. That was the message of MLS Commissioner Don Garber, in an exclusive interview with The Bee in his office in midtown Manhattan on Friday.  Breton column in Sacramento Bee

One Uber driver’s story: How he was trapped by auto-loan program — Richard Brunelle says he feels trapped. He says he has to drive for Uber. The San Leandro man needs to make money for car payments. His 48-month loan is costing him $1,000 a month and has a 22.75 percent interest rate. He says he got into this mess through a vehicle financing program Uber created for drivers with poor or nonexistent credit. KQED report


Kern supervisors to move Indian Wells Valley water discussions to Ridgecrest — The white-knuckle question of how to control overdrafting of groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley comes to the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. But the issue, which has sparked intense debate in the desert communities around Ridgecrest, won’t be decided next week.  Bakersfield Californian article

Farmers, ag leaders bend Murkowski’s ear during Valley fundraising visit — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski came to Fresno earlier this month for what could only be described as a perfect mutually beneficial arrangement. The Alaska Republican got to stock her campaign coffers with around $100,000 at a lunch fundraiser at the Sunnyside Country Club, and around 50 central San Joaquin Valley farmers and agricultural leaders who paid the entry fee got to bend her ear about the region’s water situation. Fresno Bee article

Assembly bill could give farmworkers a greater voice during mediation – As a protracted legal fight over who will represent about 3,000 Gerawan Company workers simmers, state Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, is stepping in the fray with a bill that could prevent future conflicts between labor unions, farmworkers and their employer. Fresno Bee article

Michael Hiltzik: Desalinization plants aren’t a good solution for California drought – Enthusiasm for desalination tends to overlook its high costs, which stem in part from its enormous energy demand and weighty environmental footprint. The modern process, known as reverse osmosis, involves forcing seawater at high pressure through a membrane that screens out the salt, leaving behind a heavily brackish residue. Hiltzik in LA Times

Bruce Maiman: Another fish tale mucks up debate over the Stan – An innocent email exchange provokes the latest distortion on California’s drought. The constant stream of misinformation about California’s drought is like a bad game of Whack-A-Mole. From the email exchange between Congressman Jeff Denham and the National Marine Fisheries Service, someone somehow spun a tale about wasting water on six fish. Maiman op-ed in Modesto Bee

Sod companies turn to tech, hardy grasses as industry takes a hit from the drought – Motorists snaking through the steadily drying scenery along Highway 101 might notice a break in the beige just as they enter this town: a lush green oasis proudly on display, emerald blades of grass defying the drought’s decree to wither and die.  San Jose Mercury News article

Program to help Hanford residents save water, energy – As the demand for Californians to conserve water increases, Hanford residents will soon have a new option to help pay for water-saving improvements for their homes and businesses.  Hanford Sentinel article

Farm Beat: More schools join eat-California campaign — Three school districts in the region have joined a campaign that showcases California-grown food in cafeterias. The Manteca, Tracy and Calaveras districts are taking part in California Thursdays, which launched last fall with Turlock and 14 other districts. That day of the week is devoted to highlighting food from the Golden State. Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Different kind of crime-victim group lobbies against rolling back Prop 47 – Morales was taking part this week in a rally with a twist: She and other self-described crime victims were not backed by the usual law enforcement groups. And the last thing they wanted was for California to get tougher on crime. Morales was joined by former inmates, families of people in prison, those who had lost loved ones to murder. LA Times article

Female victims of homicide often know their killers — This year, 19 women have been killed in L.A. County, according to coroner’s records. In the majority of cases where the suspect has been identified, the victim knew the assailant. LA Times article

Sandy Banks: Videos of individual police encounters are part of a bigger picture – Are these just individual cops gone rogue? Or are they the tip of a giant iceberg of on-duty misconduct? That’s become the subject of private small talk and public dialogue, as we grow uncomfortably accustomed to the sight of law enforcement officers meting out street justice. Banks column in LA Times

San Francisco settles suit against Police Chief Greg Suhr for $725,000 — The city of San Francisco agreed to a $725,000 settlement Friday for a former Police Department attorney who said Police Chief Greg Suhr fired her for exposing his mishandling of a domestic violence case. San Francisco Chronicle article


Bakersfield City School District to appoint new board member — The Bakersfield City School District board will soon appoint a new board member to replace exiting Trustee Bill McDougle. His resignation takes effect April 30. Bakersfield Californian article

Two Manteca Unified trustees face charges of fraud — The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office has filed a felony complaint against two Manteca Unified School District trustees on charges they lied about their residence when they ran in the last election. Stockton Record article


Discovery channel airs stunning film on Yosemite climbers – “Valley Uprising,” directed by Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen and Josh Lowell, traces the history of climbing in the valley from the 1950s through the present day and finds an almost religious fanaticism among climbers about what they do.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Digging, earth moving are biggest causes of gas-pipeline breaches in California – There have been 58 serious natural gas-pipeline breaches in California over the last 20 years, but last week’s Fresno blast was the first to cause injuries in California since the 2010 San Bruno disaster. Fresno Bee article

Conflict over off-road expansion plan – A plan to triple the size of an off-highway vehicle park southwest of here lurched forward this week with the release of a formal proposal. But the road ahead will be bumpy, if comments submitted by the public are any indication. Stockton Record article

Weather office hits new milestone — The National Weather Service in Hanford hits its 20th anniversary on Sunday. Since 1995, the organization has provided Valley residents with weather forecasts, warnings and information on how to stay safe in a weather emergency. Hanford Sentinel article

Turlock might return to Stanislaus landfill — The city has reached a tentative agreement to resume sending trash to Stanislaus County’s landfill and waste-to-energy plant. The 10-year deal, up for a City Council vote next week, would reverse Turlock’s decision in 2013 to send its waste to a Merced County dump that has lower fees than Stanislaus. Modesto Bee article

Golden Valley shows how the environment affects health at Earth Day event – Patients and an estimated 500 students from local schools learned about water conservation, air pollution, recycling, saving energy and alternative transportation through activities such as planting seeds, relay games and crafts. Merced Sun-Star article

Feeling overrun by moths? You’re not alone — Moths are everywhere. It’s like we’re on the set of a bad horror movie. The specific culprit is a miller moth, the adult stage of the army cutworm. It’s a gray or light brown moth with a wingspan of 1.5 to 2 inches. The moth feeds on nectar late spring through early fall. Bakersfield Californian article

Researcher says a sinking Santa Catalina could pose tsunami threat — A Stanford University researcher says new underwater imaging suggests Catalina could be completely submerged in 3 million years, though that remains in dispute. He also contends the movement could pose a tsunami risk for Los Angeles and Orange counties. LA Times article

Health/Human Services

In suit, Blue Shield cites extravagant spending by fired executive – Blue Shield of California fired a top executive last month after he spent more than $100,000 on his corporate credit card, the company says, including on trips with girlfriend and “Sharknado” actress Tara Reid. LA Times article

Health plan adds option of payment in cash at local stories – With Obamacare in its second year, health officials are still working out the kinks in expanding health coverage to millions of Californians. In the latest fix, members of a health plan for low-income Los Angeles County residents now can pay their premiums with cash at neighborhood stores, a more convenient option for some people without bank accounts. LA Times article

Oakdale boy diagnosed with viral meningitis – Stanislaus County public health officials responded this week to a case of meningitis involving a student at Fair Oaks Elementary School in Oakdale. Dr. John Walker, county public health officer, said the 8-year-old boy was hospitalized and returned home Friday.  Modesto Bee article

Hawaii poised to become first state to raise smoking age to 21 — A bill that would make Hawaii the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21 cleared the Legislature on Friday and is headed to the governor. It’s unclear whether Gov. David Ige will sign the measure.  AP article


South Stanislaus County expressway plan resurfacing — The vision of a hassle-free drive from Highway 99 in Turlock to Interstate 5 will loom large at a second round of public workshops for the future South County Corridor. Modesto Bee article

Other areas

Golf tournament beer run raises question about county vehicle use – A Ceres resident on Friday demanded an explanation for a Stanislaus County car that was parked outside a supermarket Wednesday with several cases of beer stacked on the back seat. Modesto Bee article

Judicial panel: Fresno judge committed misconduct – A Fresno County judge committed judicial misconduct when he ordered correctional officers to release from jail a friend facing spousal abuse charges, a panel of three judges has ruled. The panel concluded that Judge James Petrucelli violated several of the Canons of Judicial Conduct and the California Penal Code.Fresno Bee article

Kings authorities try to deal with transients – Despite appearances, local authorities say there doesn’t seem to have been a recent surge in Kings County’s transient population. While most of the county’s less fortunate don’t cause problems, law enforcement is often asked to get involved. Hanford police Chief Parker Sever said Civic Park generates a large number of complaints, often from citizens who are uncomfortable with the presence of transients. Hanford Sentinel article

Carol Lawson-Swezey: Volunteer work: The pay isn’t great, but the pay-off is – The Fresno resident writes, “Volunteers embrace and sculpt the world with their generosity. Whether it is a passion to battle hunger or abuse or human trafficking, the hours they commit, the years they devote and the eagerly donated minutes they offer are incalculable in their worth. The world, nor I, could not survive without those who give of their time and gifts each and every day. There is not enough money nor gratitude for what they do.” Lawson-Swezey op-ed in Fresno Bee

San Francisco could be much whiter in 25 years, while the rest of the region gets more diverse — Sarah Treuhaft has lived in San Francisco’s Mission District since 2001. She’s seen the transformation of her neighborhood and the city as a whole. But by 2040, it’s likely to change a whole lot more. In fact, she says, the notion of the city as a diverse and inclusive place might simply be a “mirage” by then. KQED report

Selma enacts moratorium on smoke shops – The Selma City Council recently approved an ordinance calling for a moratorium on the establishment of any new smoke or vapor shops within city limits. The 10-month ban is meant to allow city officials time to research potential hazards and change the language of its existing laws monitoring the industry.  The Business Journal article

Rosemary Caso: United Way’s 2-1-1 is more than just a number – The executive director of United Way of Tulare County writes, “The 2-1-1 program is more than just a number, it is a resource center, insurance agent, crisis line, drought services hotline, and a potential for more services is always growing.” Caso op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Life after California Chrome – Once Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome galloped in these dry pastures, tucked away off Interstate 5 north of the famous Harris Ranch restaurant and cattle feedlot. It’s been awhile since hundreds of visitors and multiple media outlets descended on this quiet stretch of Westside soil to touch a piece of history after Chrome became the first California horse to win the Derby since 1962. Hanford Sentinel article

Medical marijuana proponent finds a novel way to skirt city bans in Orange County — Orange County lawyer Randall Longwith has been hired by about 75 eager medical marijuana growers and suppliers across California to find a way to legitimize medical marijuana in O.C. cities where it is currently illegal. And he thinks he’s found a way to do so: the voter initiative process. KPCC report

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – Gray’s compromise on gun permit info makes sense: Our commitment to open government hasn’t changed, but we liked the changes Adam Gray made to his Assembly Bill 1154 before its passage in committee last week.

Modesto Bee – Were the original soldiers in George Washington’s army – the men who won this nation’s freedom – citizens of the United States? We’d like the anti-immigrant crowd to consider that question. The answer is obvious: No, they were not.

Sacramento Bee – Comcast’s decision this week to abandon its bid to merge with Time Warner Cable was a victory for consumers.