April 5, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown now owns California’s big drought — Brown is now engaged, but may have left himself open to criticism that it’s too late and too little. And if it turns into a full-blown disaster, it may undermine his hopes for better standing in political history.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Special committees boost lawmaker budgets but do little — The California Assembly Select Committee on Community Colleges met just once in its two-year existence, but it provided its Democratic chairman 14 personal aides at a cost of $644,000. It was one of 68 special committees that were supposed to study issues such as wine, ports and community development in the 2013-2014 legislative session but also provided lawmakers $6.7 million worth of additional staffing, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.  AP article; AP: ‘California select committee spending at a glance’

Valley politics

Stockton councilman proposes contribution limits — It took upwards of $250,000 for six candidates to run for three seats on the Stockton City Council in 2014, with some of the biggest-spending developers and employee unions pouring in $5,000 or more to their favorite campaigns. But in 2016, the spending may not be quite so unfettered.  Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Kamala Harris: California attorney general’s tenure a mix of style and substance — This newspaper’s review of Harris’ tenure as the state’s 32nd attorney general, undertaken as her early entry in the Senate race dissuaded potential contender after contender, shows her to be something of a paradox. She’s often viewed as politically fretful and overly cautious, but at times she’s surprisingly willing to take risks. San Jose Mercury News article

GOP donor Charles Munger Jr. finds wealth buys few friends — The spending by the Palo Alto physicist has thrust him into an unlikely role for a man whose occupation is to research the fine points of protons and electrons: He is a central force in the Republican Party’s attempted comeback from its two-decade slide in California.  LA Times article

Other areas

Indian Americans advance in national, California politics – While their ranks on Capitol Hill have not swollen, Indian Americans have been making political inroads, from city councils to state capitols. One is even flirting with running for president.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Mike Madrid: Politics meets its ‘Moneyball’ moment – The partner at GrassRoots Lab writes, “Today, data allow us to predict voting behavior among policymakers on a much broader scale than ever before. What any good lobbyist knows intuitively about a handful of legislators is now possible among hundreds, even thousands, of policymakers across the state.” Madrid op-ed in Sacramento Bee

The Pentagon’s $10-billion bet gone bad — Expensive missteps have become a trademark of the Missile Defense Agency, an arm of the Pentagon charged with protecting U.S. troops and ships and the American homeland. Over the last decade, the agency has sunk nearly $10 billion into SBX and three other programs that had to be killed or sidelined after they proved unworkable, The Times found.  LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Drought 2015: Brave words won’t be enough — Let everything die. Rat on your neighbor. Pay through the nose. Then wait until summer when Big Government gets really mean. Welcome, central San Joaquin Valley residents, to new rules for surviving Drought 2015. Local cities are hustling to figure out how they’ll comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent executive order listing 31 drought-fighting mandates.  Fresno Bee article

California drought tests history of endless growth – A punishing drought — and the unprecedented measures the state announced last week to compel people to reduce water consumption — is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been this state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature.  New York Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Pensions throw wrinkle into Kern library privatization talk – This year the Kern County Library Department is obligated to spend about $1.1 million of its $7.2 million budget on contributions to employee pensions — roughly 42 percent of employee pay. A private company has no such obligation. So handing over Kern’s libraries to Library Systems & Services Inc., the principal suitor for the department’s hand in marriage, would generate $1.1 million in extra library services. Right? Not really.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other privatized libraries flourish — Three cities in Ventura County have pulled their libraries out of the county system and hired the Maryland company to run them. And the city of Santa Clarita has had a successful five-ear deal with LSSI. What do those communities have to show Kern about library outsourcing?  Bakersfield Californian article

Soaring dollars puts the world on sale for Americans – Americans have long complained that the dollar doesn’t buy much anymore. Suddenly, the dollar’s problem may be that it buys too much — a change that has huge implications across the global economy for consumers, businesses, investors and governments.  LA Times article

Dollar’s surge could delay Fed decision to raise rates – The dollar’s steep ascent against many of the world’s currencies since last summer could help delay the first Federal Reserve rate hike since 2006. In turn, that could affect mortgage and other long-term rates.  LA Times article

Trade workers set to benefit from Gov. Jerry Brown’s project list –  At his recent groundbreaking for the state’s high-speed train, Gov. Jerry Brown paused while extolling the project to laud the union workers who will build it.  LA Times article

New soldiers in Airbnb battle: PR and politics — L.A.’s “sharing economy” faces an unexpected alliance of critics as armies of PR pros, lobbyists and activists prod city leaders to protect their interests.  LA Times article

When NFL teams move, cities left shaken — Indeed, a clear, consistent consequence of teams moving away is that their owners become that jilted city’s supervillain for the rest of their lives. And, evidently, beyond.  U-T San Diego article

Why job growth and cheap gas aren’t doing what they should — Steady hiring is supposed to fire up economic growth. Cheap gasoline is supposed to power consumer spending. Falling unemployment is supposed to boost wages. Low mortgage rates are supposed to spur home buying. America’s economic might is supposed to benefit its workers. Yet all those common assumptions about how an economy thrives appear to have broken down during the first three months of 2015.  AP article

Robert Lapsley: California is losing middle class jobs – The president of the California Business Roundtable writes, “We are growing higher and lower-wage jobs, and losing middle-class jobs. Recent data show our largest growth industry since the recession is not high-tech or green jobs but individual and family services – an industry dominated by government-paid jobs with an average annual wage of about $14,000.” Lapsley op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Tax returns may be helped or hurt by health law – As the April 15 tax deadline nears, people who got help paying for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s law are seeing the direct effect on their refunds – hundreds of dollars, for better or worse.  AP article

Return of the mac (and cheese) — If you’re going to spend an afternoon eating unlimited mac and cheese samples, you’ve got to be prepared to spread out — and so does any festival devoted to the all-American comfort food. That was lesson No. 1 for the organizers of Bakersfield’s inaugural carbs-and-cream celebration last year. As it turns out, putting on an event that draws thousands of hungry attendees is not as simple as whipping up a blue box of the beloved childhood favorite.  Bakersfield Californian article


As water runs dry, Californians brace for a new way of life – When Gov. Jerry Brown (D) told Californians last week that watering grass every day is “going to be a thing of the past” and announced the first mandatory water restrictions in the state’s history, people in a region full of swimming pools, pretty lawns and flowers bursting in technicolor began to worry that the place would start to look a lot more like Arizona.  Washington Post article

Fresno Bee: On water, but Big Ag should ante up, too – As the rest of California comes to grips with the state’s historic new water mandates, there’s an elephant in the room. And it’s wearing a farmer’s hat.  Fresno Bee editorial

Jim Costa: Everyone has a role in ending our water crisis – The Valley congressman (D-Fresno) writes, “For the last decade the people of Southern California and the Bay Area have seen this drought as a San Joaquin Valley problem that farmers, farm communities and farmworkers must solve alone. With the Metropolitan Water District having an 18-month supply of water left and Silicon Valley likely to receive no water from the San Luis Reservoir, it is clear that this water crisis is not a Valley problem, it is a California problem.” Costa op-ed in Fresno Bee

Rundown of California drought stories – With the announcement by Gov. Jerry Brown of a 25 percent reduction in water use due to the state’s longterm drought, news agencies around the country began to look at all aspects of the drought. In addition, politicians began looking at the issues and who to blame, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).  Bakersfield Californian article

Lois Henry: Are almonds really the water hogs they’re portrayed to be? — Agriculture uses most of the water in California, so it’s a big target. And, of course, the No. 1 whipping boy right now is California’s No. 1 cash crop — almonds. Well, marijuana probably bags more cash per pound, but since there aren’t any official crop reports on pot, we’ll stick with almonds. First, some basics.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

The new politics of the California almond – Almonds are now California’s largest food export, the sixth largest U.S. food export and the top specialty crop in America. The California crop is currently valued at over $6 billion dollars, according to the web site for Blue Diamond, the Sacramento based almond-processing collective that is the largest producer of almonds in the world. But the drought is quickly changing the narrative on the nuts.  Grizzly Bear Project article

California’s rich cities lag behind in drought water conservation – There are few signs of California’s epic drought along a stretch of Maple Drive in Beverly Hills. Deep green front lawns stretch out, dotted with healthy trees and sculpted foliage. The only brown lawn in sight was at a home under construction. As California gears up for the first mandatory water restrictions in its history, a long-standing class divide about water use is becoming increasingly apparent.  LA Times article

California drought: Woodside, Fremont on opposite ends of water-saving spectrum – Faced with tough new state water restrictions, lush towns like Woodside are going to have to start behaving a lot more like golden-hued Fremont.  San Jose Mercury News article

Stanislaus County ag preservation debate keeps flapping – Cities fearing that a new policy could hamper growth throughout Stanislaus County are maneuvering to reverse its adoption. Modesto Bee article

Dan Morain: Swimming upstream to save a victim of California’s water crisis — At the southern edge of the Delta, past a newly planted almond orchard, a vineyard and another young almond grove, 24 tanks are filled with roughly 400 tiny fish each, among the last of the Delta smelt.  Morain in Sacramento Bee

Suguet Lopez: Farmworkers need better safety protection now – The executive director of Lideres Campesinas writes, “Nearly 1 million agricultural laborers in California grow the food that ends up on dinner tables all over the U.S. – and they often get sick in the process. These farmworkers – California is home to more than a third of all agricultural workers in the U.S. – lack the protection they need to keep them safe and healthy.”  Lopez op-ed in Sacramento Bee


UC students petition Brown, Napolitano: ‘Come out of the shadows’ – The idea of a secret cabal deciding the fate of the University of California is enough to set off the activism gene in any self-respecting student of the revered institution. That’s why nearly 1,000 students and their supporters from across the state have so far signed a petition urging Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano to emerge from seclusion and hold their “Committee of Two” meetings about university finances in publicSan Francisco Chronicle article

New high school math books on the way – For the first time in eight years, the Kern High School District is adopting new math textbooks and is now at the point where it wants community input. A KHSD textbook review committee of 20 teachers and nine administrators analyzed texts from about a dozen publishers and has narrowed its list down to three.  Bakersfield Californian article

Donald Munro: Fresno State library ‘ranking’ brings out the skeptic in me — I did a double take recently when I read a news report, and then subsequently a news releaseposted on Fresno State News, the university’s public relations site, that the Henry Madden Library was ranked among the 25 best in the country by a website called College RankMunro in Fresno Bee

Sac City trustees struggle to fill huge gap in retirees’ medical fund — The Sacramento City Unified School District provides its longtime teachers, plant managers and office workers an increasingly rare benefit: lifetime medical coverage upon retirement. It’s a hugely expensive commitment, and the district and its employees have relatively little money set aside to cover the cost.  Sacramento Bee article

Markos Kounalakis: Foreign graduates of U.S. colleges become agents of change abroad – The visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution writes, “Beyond the dollars and cents that foreign students generate for the United States, however, is the immeasurable value they bring to the social and political sphere in their home countries and globally. There are so many U.S.-conversant – if not downright friendly – foreign officials that the State Department once compiled and published a list of them titled ‘Foreign Students Yesterday, World Leaders Today.’”Kounalakis op-ed in Sacramento Bee


PG&E minimizes quake risks at nuclear plants, critics say — PG&E has, at several times in Diablo’s complicated history, changed the way the company assesses the amount of shaking nearby faults can produce, as well as the plant’s ability to survive big quakes. To Diablo’s critics, PG&E keeps tweaking the math to make California’s last nuclear plant look safer than it really is. If PG&E’s seismic studies showed that nearby faults could produce more shaking than the plant was designed to handle, Diablo could be forced to close.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Wind company donated thousands to officials who voted in its favors — A wind farm operator donated more than $25,000 to three Alameda County supervisors who ignored strong environmental opposition and voted to allow the company to continue operating Altamont Pass turbines that have been blamed for scores of bird deaths.  Oakland Tribune article

Human-caused wildfire in Sequoia National Forest now fully contained — The wildfire in Sequoia National Park that prompted the evacuation of some campgrounds in the afternoon had been fully contained by Saturday night.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

High price of specialty drugs prompts backlash – The cost of these new hepatitis drugs has inflamed debate about whether pharmaceutical companies are charging outlandish amounts to treat life-threatening diseases and has prompted legislative efforts this year to rein in drug costs.  Sacramento Bee article

Jeff Jardine: Disability? What disability? Modesto boy shines in life — There are those fortunate children who seem to have it all: loving and attentive parents, brains, athletic ability, musical acumen and the desire to put them all to good use. Azad Aghdam is one of those kids with one notable exception: He was born with virtually no left hand. The fingers never developed. But while others might consider it a disability, the 10-year-old Modesto boy accepts it as a way of life and ignores it as an obstacle.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Moved by the Wright spirit: Modesto teens help kids choose healthy eating — Valley Christian High students, led by senior Caitlyn Wherry, volunteer to help Orville Wright Elementary third-graders learn about healthy food choices, and how to grow fresh produce in their airport district neighborhood, which has no grocery store.  Modesto Bee article

Other areas

Fresno Fire Captain Pete Dern remains in critical condition — Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern remained in critical but stable condition early Saturday afternoon, said Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo. Around 1 p.m., Escobedo said Dern had just been rebandaged. Another surgery is planned Monday.  Fresno Bee article

Faith, perseverance helped turn McFarland runners into winners – Fast legs, tough endurance and natural athletic ability help. But the secret, as has been documented on the big screen and in the Valley’s backyard, is faith and perseverance. For McFarland coach Jim White, whose championship-winning teams inspired the Disney film “McFarland, USA,” that was it. He, along with four of his former athletes from the 1987 undefeated team the film focused on, told an overflow audience at Northside Christian Church in Fresno on Saturday how faith and guidance served as the nucleus for McFarland’s dynasty.  Fresno Bee article

43 California judges were reprimanded for misconduct last year — Two judges had sex with women in their chambers, one with his former law students, the other with his court clerk. A traffic court judge delegated his job to his clerk. While the judge was in chambers, the clerk heard pleas and imposed sentences. A family law court judge excoriated two parents who appeared before him as “rotten” and the mother a “train wreck” and a “liar.”  LA Times article

Cal Fire Academy cadets, instructors were good for bar’s business, until scandal broke — Before the murder, before the manhunt and the police investigation, before the salacious Cal Fire scandal, Bg’s Lounge in Jackson was a go-to watering hole for the department’s Ione academy instructors and cadets.  Sacramento Bee article

C.V. Allen: In praise of a good man — A good man died in Modesto the other day. Like all obituaries, Larry Robinson’s could not fully describe the man and what he did for Modesto over the years.  Allen column in Modesto Bee

Chuck McFadden: Moscone’s ties to Stockton endured — On March 26, the University of the Pacific announced that the long-lost papers of San Francisco Mayor, State Senate Majority Leader and University of the Pacific student George Moscone would find a permanent home at the university. One-time Associated Press reporter Chuck McFadden covered the state Senate when Moscone served there. He recalls Moscone’s Sacramento years.  McFadden op-ed in Stockton Record

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – As the rest of California comes to grips with the state’s historic new water mandates, there’s an elephant in the room. And it’s wearing a farmer’s hat.

Sacramento Bee – As the rest of California comes to grips with the state’s historic new water mandates, there’s an elephant in the room. And it’s wearing a farmer’s hat;  Ranadive’s vision of the future and NBA championship.