April 3, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Drought will prove a formidable opponent in Brown’s final term — It wasn’t the way he intended to make his mark in his final term as governor, but Mother Nature had other plans. With no relief from the drought in sight, his most critical tasks will be rallying Californians to conserve water, navigating the state’s fractious water politics and preparing for what could be a much drier future in America’s most productive agricultural region.  LA Times article

How Jerry Brown made up his mind on drought order — One week before Gov. Jerry Brown strode into a bone dry meadow in the Sierra Nevada to issue the first statewide water reduction order in California history, he discussed the order at length with his advisers at the Capitol. Brown knew he would order a 25 percent reduction of water use in urban areas, two administration officials said. But he waited to make the announcement for two reasons.  Sacramento Bee article


Valley politics 

AD 31:  Fresno City Council member Olivier mulls state Assembly run — Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier is considering a run, and Republicans are excited at the possibility. Olivier, they say, is one of the few local Republicans who can be competitive in the seat, which has a strong Democratic Party voter registration advantage.  Fresno Bee article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures 

Steve Westly mulls bid for California governor — Steve Westly, a wealthy Silicon Valley investor and former California state controller, met with friends and advisers over the weekend about a potential run for governor in 2018, a spokesman said.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article 

Drought drama: California Politics Podcast — Might the son of a California governor whose legacy was water reliability face his own legacy of water? On this week’s California Politics Podcast, the political implications of Gov. Jerry Brown’s new action on the state’s historic drought. We also mull new voter registration data and what it says about who does — and doesn’t — participate in the state’s political conversation.  California Politics Podcast in KQED 

Ben Boychuk: A troll becomes bogeyman for initiative reform — California, you just got trolled. If you’re unfamiliar with the lingo, a “troll” is someone who posts a provocative comment on the Internet with the goal of causing the utmost disruption. The act of “trolling” is to behave like a jerk on the Internet because, hey, it’s the Internet. To be “trolled” is when you fail to recognize a troll or the act of trolling and respond with anger, dismay or outrage. That brings us to the “Sodomite Suppression Act.”  Boychuk column in Sacramento Bee

Feds transfer immigrants to new detention center in Bakersfield — Federal officials have already moved around 60 people into the new center in Bakersfield since its doors opened two weeks ago. Virginia Kice, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says the Mesa Verde Detention Facility will house up to 400 people.  KVPR report


Other areas

CalSTRS won’t rush to sell firearms investment — CalSTRS, facing protests from schoolteachers, ruled out a quick sale Thursday of its investment in the manufacturer of the rifle used to massacre 26 students and teachers at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012.  Sacramento Bee article

Tony Quinn: The most important month — April 2015 marks 150 years since the most important month in American history, April 1865.  This anniversary probably won’t be remembered, although it should be.  In the span of a single week that April, two events occurred that have marked American history ever since: the end of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  Quinn in Fox & Hounds

Dr. Ben Carson to give keynote speech in Fresno — Acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon and potential GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson will be the keynote speaker Friday at the seventh annual Sunbird Conservatives Conference in Fresno.  Fresno Bee article 

Sacramento Bee: Medi-Cal rates don’t belong in the courts – Politics can be messy and we may not like the outcomes. But elected officials, not the courts, should decide spending priorities. That’s why the U.S. Supreme Court was right in Tuesday’s ruling on Medicaid. Sacramento Bee editorial 

George Skelton: California Sen. Janet Nguyen’s story may have you waving U.S. flag — Every time she looks up at California’s Capitol dome and walks into the grand old building, says freshman state Sen. Janet Nguyen, “I think to myself, ‘Wow!’ “I’m one of 40 state senators in California. Never in my entire life did I think I would become a state senator. It’s the coolest thing.”  Skelton column in LA Times


News Briefs

Top Stories 

California agriculture, largely spared in new water restrictions, wields huge clout – Brown ordered farmers to report more information about their use of water. But he sheltered the agriculture industry from a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use in cities and towns.  Sacramento Bee article 

Valley leaders urge Brown to release more Delta water for local livelihoods — In another of an ongoing series of pleas by elected leaders in the Valley, representatives of farming communities in Fresno and Tulare counties gathered Thursday in Selma and challenged Gov. Jerry Brown to do more to relieve the effects of drought on farms and families in the region.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article


Jobs and the Economy 

Growing inequality visible in Merced County, report shows – Growing inequity in health care, education and income is placing Californians and Mercedians on very different life paths, according to a presentation on human development by United Ways of CaliforniaMerced Sun-Star article

Halliburton provides notice of 90 local layoffs – The oil downturn has cost Halliburton Energy Services Inc. 90 jobs in the Bakersfield area since mid-February, according to letters filed recently by the Houston-based company.  Bakersfield Californian article

CalSTRS reports slight improvement in funding CalSTRS’ financial situation has improved slightly, but the state teachers’ pension system is still well short of being fully funded. In its annual valuation, the California Teachers’ Retirement System said it was 68.5 percent funded as of last June, up from 66.9 percent the year before. The fund faces a $72.7 billion shortfall between its assets and its long-term obligations to members.  Sacramento Bee article

Daniel Borenstein: CalPERS looking at more rate hikes to guard against losses in next recession – Unless it alters its current funding structure, CalPERS will be even more vulnerable to market losses in the next economic downturn than it was during its devastating plunge in the Great Recession. That’s why leaders of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System are looking to shift more assets to less-risky investments. But, as they do that, CalPERS will need additional up-front money from state and local governments.  Borenstein in Contra Costa Times

Protests hit McDonald’s in LA, nationwide — Labor organizers displeased with McDonald’s Corp.’s decision to raise wages only for workers at company-owned stores, leaving out employees at franchises, held protests across the nation Thursday.  LA Times article

California exports fell in February, port dispute a factor – California exports dipped nearly 9 percent in February, an economic consultant said Thursday. The state’s merchandise exports totaled $12.55 billion in February, down 8.8 percent from a year earlier, according to a report from Beacon Economics consulting in Los Angeles.  Sacramento Bee article

Report advises home building boom – On the surface, the scenario that is presented in a new University of the Pacific report seems rooted somewhere between fantasy and delusion. What would construction of 1,000 new homes a year mean for Stockton’s economy?  Stockton Record article

Dan Walters: Professional licensing process under fire – In February, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling written by Californian Anthony Kennedy, declared that agencies “controlled by active market participants” without oversight and review by other state agencies or the public, can be monopolistic. And that may include most of California’s licensing boards. The Legislature has taken notice of the decision and is researching which of the dozens of state licensing agencies could be considered to be monopolistic and must be changed.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Fresno favorite Charlotte’s BakerEatery is closing – Charlotte’s BakerEatery, the bustling bakery and sandwich shop in the Tower District, is closing April 24. Food truck and restaurant Dusty Buns plans to take over the space.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Stock split could cost Google more than $500 million — An unorthodox stock split designed to ensure Google CEO Larry Page and fellow co-founder Sergey Brin retain control of the Internet’s most profitable company could cost Google more than half a billion dollars.  AP article 

B.J. Mitchell: Free public libraries are essential to a truly functioning democracy – The retired librarian writes, “I have just finished reading James Burger’s article, ‘Documents show library privatization talks in 2014,’ just when I thought I couldn’t be shocked any more than I had already been. Our Supervisors made the decision to pander to the rich by taking away free access to one of our most important educational resources for not only our children, but also our adult citizens who want to educate themselves on a particular issue.” Mitchell op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Zillow: Low inventory squeezes Sacramento home affordability – A tepid housing supply has helped pushed Sacramento into the top 10 least-affordable major U.S. metro markets for renters and homeowners, according to Seattle-based real estate data tracker Zillow.  Sacramento Bee article 

Rents rise again in Southern California, but not so fast this time – The average rent paid in Los Angeles County in the first quarter climbed 2.4% compared to last year, to $1,520 a month, according to new figures out Thursday from real estate data firm Reis Inc. That’s roughly in line with inflation. Orange County is up 3.5%, to $1,660.  LA Times article

Mayor Robert Garcia wants to transform Long Beach into high-tech hub — Now, as Long Beach gropes afresh for its identity, the mayor of this famously blue-collar town is arguing for what seems an unlikely vision: Long Beach as high-tech hub, a world-class mecca of innovation, an incubator of cutting-edge entrepreneurship. Or, as he likes to put it: “The Silicon Valley of the south.”  LA Times article

West Sacramento port leaders optimistic after docking first cement ship since 2010 — A rare sight is docked at the Port of West Sacramento: a Singapore-registered ship that sailed in from China loaded with tens of thousands of metric tons of bulk cement, the first imported cargo of its kind here in five years.  Sacramento Bee article



State officials launch new advertising campaign for water conservation – When it comes to conserving water, Gov. Jerry Brown needs Californians’ help. His administration has launched a new advertising campaign to drive the message home, with billboards, radio messages and posts on social media.  LA Times article

The environment, agriculture and urban consumers drink up California’s water – With California entering its fourth year of drought, the question takes on new urgency: Where does all of the state’s water go? The answer can vary depending on how the data are compiled, but according to the California Department of Water Resources, the biggest users are the environment, agriculture and urban consumers.  Fresno Bee article

Most cities, water districts have a long way to go to hit Gov. Jerry Brown’s target  — California’s cities and water districts have a long way to go to cut water use by 25 percent, the amount Gov. Jerry Brown is now demanding, according to a new analysis of state records by this newspaper. Last year, only 14 of the state’s 412 largest cities and water districts –just 3 percent — reduced consumption by that amount despite the historic drought.  San Jose Mercury News article

California moves to kill the lawn, save the water – What’s it going to take to get people to use a lot less water in drought-stricken California, the Technicolor landscape of lush yards, emerald golf courses and aquamarine swimming pools? Residents may be about to find out as California imposes the first mandatory statewide water-use restrictions later this year.  AP article

Californians who conserved wonder if state can overcome those who didn’t – A day after Gov. Jerry Brown announced sweeping mandatory cuts to water use, Californians said they worried that their efforts to scrimp and conserve were simply not enough in the face of a four-year drought that has drained reservoirs, robbed mountains of snow and raised concerns about an increasingly scarce and precious resource. New York Times article

‘First Look’: Valadao addresses new state water restrictions – For months now Valadao said he and other local leaders have tried to change water policies that are hindering locals. An example is the significant number of water that goes out to the ocean everyday, water that should be captured and used in the state, he noted.  Bakersfield Californian article

Water cutbacks to hit cities, farmers – An executive order issued Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce water use statewide will likely have a major impact on Kings County cities, their residents and farmers, although some of those effects remain unknown.  Hanford Sentinel article

Mandatory water cuts puts pressure on California communities — Gov. Jerry Brown’s new drought orders for California call for the first-ever mandatory water usage cuts in California. Here is a look at where L.A. stands from The Times archives. LA Times article

Zip line, anyone? Drought pushes skiers, resorts to seek alternative fun – California’s unrelenting drought has meant four straight years of below-average snowfall, forcing more skiers and snowboarders to find alternative activities. The dry conditions have also prompted more resort operators to invest in zip lines, mountain bike trails and other ways to draw visitors during snow-free months.  LA Times article

UC Merced professor named to water advisory group — A UC Merced professor has been named to the new Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center, which was established this year to attempt to help meet the state’s need for timely information and innovative water management during its record drought. An expert in water resources management with UC Merced’s School of Engineering, Joshua Viers was recently appointed to serve with the center’s team of advisers, university officials announced Thursday.  Merced Sun-Star article

See how much water your community used last summer — The Sacramento region cut its water use by almost 20 percent from the summer of 2013 to the summer of 2014, but we still use a lot more water per capita than most of the state.  Sacramento Bee article 

Water cutback has golf courses, cemeteries scrambling — The biggest mandated cutback on water use in California history is landing like a cold shower on park departments, cemetery owners, golfers, manicured-lawn lovers and others who appreciate the type of greenery that has essentially become an enemy of the state.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Why parole board voted to release Chowchilla kidnapper – Wednesday’s hearing at the state prison in San Luis Obispo was contentious, with prosecutors from both Madera and Alameda counties and nine victims testifying, in person or in letters, against Schoenfeld’s release. But three victims testified in support of parole, including one who had met with the inmate as part of a restorative-justice program arranged by the prison, said Schoenfeld’s lawyer, Scott HandlemanSan Francisco Chronicle article 

Number of California cities with police body cameras growing – A surge in the use of body cameras by California police officers is on the rise. Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, head of the California Police Chiefs Association, said Thursday about 20 percent of the state’s police departments now use body cameras.  KPCC report 

Thousands mourn slain San Jose police officer as hero, friend — A skilled marksman with a black belt in martial arts, San Jose police Officer Michael Johnson had a soft side as a caring husband who loved to bake, his family, friends and colleagues said Thursday at a public funeral service that combined personal reflections with gratitude for the officer’s 14 years of service.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Federal judge orders California prison inmate be granted sex change – A federal judge Thursday ordered that a California prison inmate be allowed to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Should the operation occur, it will be the first in state prison history and cost as much as $100,000, according to Joyce Hayhoe, spokeswoman for California Corrections Health Care Services.  LA Times article 

Another suspect in Foster drug case ordered to stay in jail — A fourth alleged co-conspirator in a federal drug case involving Fresno police Deputy Chief Keith Foster was ordered Thursday to be held in jail while the case makes its way through the courts.  Fresno Bee article 

In Sacramento, Matthew Shepard’s parents urge law enforcement to protect gays, lesbians —  The parents of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student whose brutal murder in 1998 helped transform the nation’s perception of gays and lesbians and their struggle for equal rights, brought their campaign for justice to Sacramento on Thursday.  Sacramento Bee article 

Pasadena residents protest lack of transparency on shooting report — An independent consultant’s report on a 2012 fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager by Pasadena police was highly critical of the officers’ tactical decisions, calling some of their moves leading to the 19-year-old’s death “troubling” and “potentially disastrous,” according to portions of the report made public at a City Council meeting this week.  LA Times article



Electronic GPA submissions for financial aid rise under California law – A new California law is speeding the transition away from paper financial aid applications – and could help expand access to the Cal Grant scholarship program. Sacramento Bee article

Stanford extends financial aid to families with $125,000 income — Under a new policy, the expected parental contribution for tuition will be waived for many undergraduates from families with incomes up to $125,000 a year — up from the previous threshold of $100,000. And parents with incomes below $65,000 generally will not have to pay for tuition, room or board — up from the previous limit of $60,000.  LA Times article

New emergency program at Cal State Long Beach to aid students in need — Cal State Long Beach is creating a program to provide meals, temporary housing and cash to students dealing with unexpected emergencies. LA Times article

Buhach Colony social experiment results in 80 detentions — A social experiment for a class at Buhach Colony High School led to hundreds of kids breaking the dress code and roughly 80 students being detained.  Merced Sun-Star article

Marc Boyd: Will Calaveras County finally get its community colleges? — It’s been over 10 years since the passage of two community college bond measures that contained explicit promises of establishing new education centers in Calaveras County. Boyd column in Modesto Bee



Report: Climate change puts Valley at risk – Imagine a San Joaquin Valley with hotter, longer summers, more drought/rain extremes and a lot less snow in the mountains. That’s the picture you’re going to see as the 21st century progresses because of to global warming, according to a report released Thursday by the Risky Business Project, which studies the economic risks of climate change.  Hanford Sentinel article

Regulators propose timetable for closing injection wells – Emergency rules proposed by California regulators Thursday spell out a series of timetables for closing more than 2,000 wells, most of them in Kern County, that inject oil field wastewater into federally protected aquifers.  Bakersfield Californian article; AP article

Non-native fish in San Joaquin River newest invasive species – A small fish native to China has been found swimming in the San Joaquin River, and scientists warn that it could join a list of exotic, invasive species that have colonized California.  Sacramento Bee article

From the gutter: How your litter ends up in the ocean — Even on a dry day, tens of millions of gallons of dirty water dumps into the ocean through the region’s vast storm drain system. The 3,500-mile network was designed and built to empty streets of rainwater, but tons of litter also flow into the ocean through the intricate system of curbside drainages, underground channels, pumps and creeks. Stormwater pollution puts beach swimmers at risk, particularly after it rains. Marine animals and plants can also get sick or die.  LA Times article

Links in Hayward, Calaveras faults a big danger, scientists warn — New evidence shows clearly that traces of the long-feared Hayward Fault and the recently active Calaveras Fault are closely linked underground — indicating that both could rupture together in an earthquake more destructive than past forecasts have indicated, Berkeley quake scientists report.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Health/Human Services

Appeals court gives counties more power to remove kids from homes – Wading into a sensitive area of child welfare, a California appeals court panel has ruled that county officials can remove a dangerously incorrigible child from the home even if the parent has responded appropriately to the behavior problems.  LA Times article; AP article

Nurse training school possible for downtown Modesto site – At long last, Stanislaus County has a conditional agreement to sell the former Medical Arts Building at 17th and G streets in downtown Modesto.  Modesto Bee article 

NLRB overturns union vote held at Memorial last year – An administrative law judge has nullified the results of a union election held last year at Memorial Medical Center, opening the way for another election at the Modesto hospital. Modesto Bee article

John Mauro: Don’t fear CWS – we’re here to help – The deputy director of Child Welfare Service for Tulare County Health and Human Services writes, “Child Welfare Services is committed to serving children and families of Tulare County. We strive to provide families with the services and support needed to preserve the family unit. CWS recognizes that many families are affected by drought-related water shortages, which can add to the stress they may experience.” Mauro op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta


Land Use/Housing 

Panel Oks brewery at dairy farm near Turlock — A dairy family near Turlock won permission Thursday night to start a microbrewery in an old milking parlor. The Stanislaus County Planning Commission voted unanimously for the project, on Fulkerth Road about four miles west of town.  Modesto Bee article



Work for high-speed rail uncovers old trolley tracks in Chinatown — Construction crews working on relocating underground utility pilelines in Fresno’s Chinatown district for California’s high-speed train project unearthed remnants of a decidedly slower transportation mode when they began digging on F Street this week. Fresno Bee article


Other areas

Fresno Fire captain is stable after seven-hour surgery but remains in critical condition – Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern had seven hours of surgery Wednesday to remove dead skin and for temporary skin grafts and remains in critical but stable condition, a burn center official said.  Fresno Bee article 

Tulare blood drive for Dern nets 103 pints – Sofia Contreras said Thursday was her first blood donation in six years and the replacement drive for injured Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern was the motive.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Merced firefighters rally behind injured Fresno fire captain – Merced firefighters are rallying behind a Fresno fire captain who was injured earlier this week when he fell through the roof of a burning garage. “Firefighters up and down California are all pitching in, doing whatever they can to help him and his family,” Alcorn said Thursday. “Here in Merced, we’re organizing a blood drive and asking our community to get involved.”  Merced Sun-Star article

Investigators examine fire that severely burned Fresno captain – Fire investigators are still working to determine whether a fire that severely burned Fresno Fire Department Capt. Pete Dern was intentionally or accidentally set on Sunday. On Thursday, there was no significant outstanding person to interview, Fresno Deputy Fire Marshal Don MacAlpine said.  Fresno Bee article

City Beat: Homeless encampment lacks those privies – The portable toilets trucked in to the homeless encampment at 600 S. Union Ave. earlier this week are already gone. Russell Bilbrey, general manager for Knight’s Pumping and Portable Services, said the toilets — paid for by a customer he couldn’t identify — had to go.  Bakersfield Californian article  (second item) 

Kevin Valine: Modesto plays ball with nonprofit – It’s taken several years, but the Miracle League of Stanislaus County’s dream to build a baseball field for disabled children is nearing reality after the city went to bat for the nonprofit organization.  Valine in Modesto Bee

LAFD’s latest recruits are primarily white and overwhelmingly male – A second class of recruits hired after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s overhaul of the city’s firefighter hiring process is primarily white and overwhelmingly male, marking little progress toward the mayor’s pledge to diversify the Fire Department.  LA Times article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – While we applaud the governor’s announcement of the first statewide water restrictions in California history, we’re still not sure that Brown realizes the magnitude of the challenge; A step toward curbing Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions.

Sacramento BeeA big step to stop Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions; Politics can be messy and we may not like the outcomes. But elected officials, not the courts, should decide spending priorities. That’s why the U.S. Supreme Court was right in Tuesday’s ruling on Medicaid.