August 10, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories 

40 years later, Jerry Brown is still evolving on agricultural labor law — Though the Democratic governor signed the labor relations act when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, protecting the right of farmworkers to organize, Brown has frequently sided with industry interests since returning to office in 2011. Yet Brown’s evolving approach to farm labor in California appears guided more by a shift in the state’s agricultural landscape – with a sharp decline in the influence of farmworker unions – than by any change in his own ideology. Sacramento Bee article

Labor, business and local governments groups to put forward roads funding plan — Interests with a stake in better roads will put forward their principles this morning. The approach includes higher taxes on gas and diesel fuels and higher vehicle fees to generate an estimated $6 billion in additional money for state and local road maintenance and improving corridors that enhance trade, such as those to ports. Capitol Alert



Santa Maria slaying suspect was in the U.S. illegally, had numerous brushes with the law – A man who was in the U.S. illegally and charged with raping, torturing and killing a Santa Barbara County woman last month had been arrested repeatedly in recent years — and was released from jail just days before the fatal attack, authorities said. LA Times article


Other areas 

Professional poker players compete in Turlock to push for Internet poker legislation – The online poker site PokerStars sponsored the tour to raise awareness and support for legislation to authorize and regulate online poker in California, an issue that has been circling the Capitol for more than seven years. Modesto Bee article

Ruben Macareno: What’s in a name? – The chair of the Tulare County Democratic Party writes, “Tulare Union High School has used the Redskins name for more than 100 years and now, if legislation is passed in Sacramento, the school will need to find a new name for its mascot or a new mascot altogether. The California Racial Mascots Act (AB 30) would force a ban of the name. All points indicate that Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the bill into law.” Macareno op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta


News Briefs

Top Stories 

Madera family still in high-speed rail limbo – More than a year ago, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said it was working on a solution to help a Madera family whose home was rendered unsellable because it’s in the path of work for the statewide bullet-train project. Fresno Bee article

Where the drought has brought Head Start to a stop — The gutted cinder-block homes slated for demolition in the western Fresno County town of Five Points are a haunting symbol of Toscano’s struggle during one of the worst droughts in California’s history: finding enough children to keep the local Migrant Head Start Center from shutting its doors. LA Times article


Jobs and the Economy

Pete Weber: Fresno rolls out the red carpet for business – The retired corporate executive and chair of the Business Friendly Fresno Task Force writes, “Fresno’s economy is already growing. We’ve built a national reputation as a city that’s making the right moves in the right direction. If Ms. Carter wants Fresno to become a ‘national example’ by making fundamental changes that help small businesses thrive, we encourage her to get on the BFF bus. It left the station two years ago.” Weber op-ed in Fresno Bee

How to leave CalPERS without paying a huge fee — It may surprise cities that did not switch new hires to 401(k)-style plans because of huge CalPERS termination fees, not to mention the authors of a proposed initiative giving voters power over pensions. Calpensions article

Modesto considers fining problem hotels – Modesto is considering an ordinance that would let it recover its costs for providing police, fire and code enforcement services at hotels that generate excessive calls for service regarding prostitution, gambling, drugs, gangs, fighting and other criminal activity. Modesto Bee article

Sacramento Bee: CEO pay gap is just what we feared – The “CEO pay-ratio rule” isn’t perfect and almost certainly will be challenged in court. But it rightly offers the general public a much-needed glimpse into the inner workings of corporate America. Sacramento Bee editorial

Bootstrapped startups buck trend toward VC bucks — At a time when most high-tech entrepreneurs dream of VC money, he’s among a cadre of startup founders who prefer the more organic growth and self-determination of funding companies from their revenue. Although they’re geographically dispersed — and largely outside the Bay Area — many collaborate through Slack chats and Google Hangouts, forming “mastermind groups” to share updates and ideas. San Francisco Chronicle article

Vaping shops say FDA regulation could put them out of business — Thousands of vaping businesses across the nation face an uncertain future as the Food and Drug Administration considers how to regulate the fledgling industry. LA Times article 

Commission still trying to preserve affordable lodging along California coast — When the Hotel del Coronado won state approval in 2010 to add 144 rooms, owners of the luxury ocean-view resort agreed to write a check for more than $1 million so that less well-heeled vacationers could afford an overnight stay on the coast — in a hostel. Five years later, that hostel has yet to be built, but the California Coastal Commission is still trying, as it has for four decades, to enforce a little-known mandate that everyone, regardless of income, is entitled to affordable lodging along the coast. LA Times article



Possible spoiler for El Nino: ‘A battle of the blobs’ – This time around, there are other things brewing in the Pacific: patches of freakishly warm water spread far and wide, up the California coast to the persistently warm vortex, hundreds of miles across, christened by climate scientists as “the Blob.” KQED report

Green waste collections fall by millions of pounds as Sacramentans let their lawns turn brown – As families across the region let their lawns go brown, garbage haulers for the area’s largest population centers have collected 26 million fewer pounds of green waste so far this summer compared to 2012, the first year of California’s drought, according to data obtained by The Sacramento Bee. That’s enough grass clippings to fill about a dozen Olympic-sized swimming pools. Sacramento Bee article

Innovation is blooming at water-wise urban farms —  As California moves through its fourth summer of drought, cutting back on water use means shorter showers, fuller dishwashers and drier lawns for most people living in urban areas. But for small farms nestled between city streets, saving water means recycling it — and finding new ways to keep plants alive without wasting the precious liquid. LA Times article

California drought hasn’t killed summer vacations — Unexpected summer storms in the Sierra, highly orchestrated water diversions, and Californians’ resourcefulness and sunny dispositions have kept the classic American vacation afloat — just as summer winds down and the first school bells are about to ring. Oakland Tribune article 

North Visalia water collection drive benefits county residents — The latest Water the Valley collection drive event held Saturday at a north Visalia shopping center is yet another example of locals’ care and concern for their neighbors, said Julie Torres. Visalia Times-Delta article


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

In a first, California agrees to pay for transgender inmate’s sex reassignment — California is first in the nation to agree to pay for a transgender inmate’s sex reassignment operation, but the state’s settlement of a recent court case sidesteps the question of whether such surgery is a constitutional right. LA Times article 

Sheriff to submit third application for San Joaquin County jail funding – The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office is hoping the adage “the third time’s the charm” will ring true in its latest attempt to apply for jail expansion funding. The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved the Sheriff’s Office application to the Board of State and Community Corrections for an $80 million grant to be used for building a new Honor Farm in French Camp. Stockton Record article 

On Duty: Explorer program offers road to CHP career — Are you between the ages of 15 to 21 and looking for an exciting opportunity to work side by side with California Highway Patrol officers? Is your dream to one day become a CHP officer? Then the CHP Explorer Program is for you. On Duty column in Fresno Bee



Summer remedial courses now required for nearly half of CSU freshmen – Converse’s students are among the 25,000 incoming California State University freshmen, or nearly half of all enrolled freshmen for this fall, required to participate in the system’s Early Start, a summer program for students who haven’t demonstrated they’re ready for college-level math or English courses. EdSource article

How foreign out-of-state students pad UC’s shrinking budget – About 95 percent of undergraduates enrolled in the system were California residents in 2007. That number dropped to under 87 percent in the 2014-15 academic year, as the state Legislature cut more than $810 million in funding, after adjusting for inflation. Meanwhile, international enrollment increased nearly fivefold over the same period, from 1.8 percent to 8.5 percent of the student body. The number of domestic out-of-state students grew by just under two percentage points. San Francisco Chronicle article

Bay Area schools in a hiring frenzy just days before students return to class – As students start heading back to school — some as early as this week — many Bay Area school districts are scrambling to make sure classrooms are complete with one essential thing: a teacher. San Jose Mercury News article

Riverbank United trustees table administrative raises again – Riverbank Unified School District trustees again put off deciding on significant raises and new titles for two top administrators and an administrative secretary. Modesto Bee article 

Atwater resident with cerebral palsy completes college degree — Physical limitations can make pursuing education difficult, but not impossible. Atwater resident Chris Cox is an example. Cox, 28, has cerebral palsy, a congenital disorder that affects the nervous system. He has struggled with verbal communication his entire life, and interacting with teachers and fellow students has not always been easy. Merced Sun-Star article



2nd California firefighter killed battling California wildfires – A U.S. Forest Service firefighter was killed Saturday night battling a wildfire in Northern California, becoming the second firefighter to die in just over a week. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article 

New fire erupts in Lake County — Just as firefighters seemed to have wrangled the massive and persistent Rocky Fire in Lake County into containment, a new, fast-growing fire a few miles away forced evacuations from the area, officials said Sunday. San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article 

Firefighters continue battling fires in Sierra, Sequoia forests – Firefighters battling the Rough Fire in the Sierra National Forest saw no change in activity between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Pilots’ families say Cal Fire owes them death benefits — For nearly a dozen years, top officials at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection knowingly withheld death benefits from the families of 14 contracted firefighter pilots killed in the line of duty, according to a claim that seeks more than $4 million plus interest for the survivors. Sacramento Bee article 

Drones getting in the way of emergency responders – The U.S. Forest Service has tallied 13 wildfires in which suspected drones interfered with firefighting aircraft this year — 11 since late June — up from four fires last year and only scattered incidents before. Last month, the sighting of five drones in a wildfire that closed Interstate 15 in Southern California and destroyed numerous vehicles grounded crews for 20 minutes as flames spread. AP article

Jim Barnes: General aviation advances firefighting services all across California – The board member of the Associated Aerial Firefighters writes, “Aerial firefighters utilize a variety of aircraft, including air tankers, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to deploy a rapid response initial attack system in the case of a fire. This system makes use of both air and ground forces to detect and put out fires across the state.” Barnes op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Meeting state energy goal could prove difficult – One sunny Saturday in Stockton, Mary Serrano climbed into the driver’s seat of a bright-red, all-electric Chevrolet Spark. A retiree who normally drives a 20-year-old Toyota Camry, she was curious about the new technology on display at the local fairground. CALmatters article

Thousands of mines with toxic water lie under the West — Beneath the western United States lie thousands of old mining tunnels filled with the same toxic stew that spilled into a Colorado river last week, turning it into a nauseating yellow concoction and stoking alarm about contamination of drinking water. AP article


Health/Human Services

Coca-Cola funds scientists who shift blame for obesity away from bad diets – Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, is backing a new “science-based” solution to the obesity crisis: To maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise and worry less about cutting calories. The beverage giant has teamed up with influential scientists who are advancing this message in medical journals, at conferences and through social media. New York Times article


Land Use/Housing 

Blighted Modesto property with hopes for restoration now in worse condition — While the city of Modesto had high hopes for a blighted street off McHenry Avenue when a new investor presented restoration plans last year, the property has only fallen further into disrepair. Modesto Bee article



Dan Walters: Ontario airport’s transition is chance to think big — A truly creative approach would be to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown, who yearns to build a bullet train, to dump, or at least delay, the half-baked project he’s now pushing and substitute a bullet train along the I-15 corridor linking Ontario with San Diego. It would benefit the air-travel needs of both regions and serve commuter and other surface-travel demands of inland Southern California, which is one of the state’s fastest-growing regions. Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Other areas

Frank Gifford, Bakersfield High School graduate and Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at 84 – Bakersfield High School football legend Frank Gifford, 84, died Sunday of natural causes in his Connecticut home. The passing of the iconic New York Giants player, Pro Football Hall of Famer and “Monday Night Football” broadcasting star was confirmed in a statement from his family to NBC News. Bakersfield Californian article; Robert Price column in Bakersfield Californian; New York Times article 

Parlier teen remains strong, returns to softball field — It might have appeared improbable that Brianna Ramirez would return to the softball field after being shot in the eye in February. But during a weekend in May, the 16-year-old shooting victim changed into her No. 9 white button-up jersey, blue pants, white high socks and placed blue and silver bows in her hair for her first game during the Tulare Summer Roundup tournament. Fresno Bee article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Shrimp Boy’s dish is best served cold.

Modesto Bee – Gun violence is an epidemic that must be thwarted.

Sacramento Bee – The “CEO pay-ratio rule” isn’t perfect and almost certainly will be challenged in court. But it rightly offers the general public a much-needed glimpse into the inner workings of corporate America.