August 15, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

For a price, lobbyists keep Sacramento watch for Valley organizations – Sacramento is swarming with lobbyists, and central San Joaquin Valley governments, trade groups and others are paying for their services. Sometimes a lot. Valley organizations have paid more than $400,000 in lobbying fees just in 2015, according to data on the Secretary of State’s website. Sacramento Bee article

Bill looks to put state lobbying laws on par with local rules — A bill moving through the California Legislature that would force disclosure around lobbying for state contracts would put California in a group of just 18 states that require disclosure of procurement lobbying — which sounds good until you consider that a number of local communities have had similar rules on the books for years. KQED report

Spurned by local law enforcement, ICE tracks down deportation targets — It used to be simpler for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to locate and deport immigrants who had been convicted of crimes. The agency would contact local jails and ask that such inmates be held until an ICE van could pick them up. But last year a federal judge found that practice illegal, prompting hundreds of counties to stop honoring the detainer requests. LA Times article


Gov. Brown 

Brown’s retiree health care proposal stalls — Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal called for an overhaul of California’s state worker retiree health care system. It faces more than $70 billion in long-term debt. Seven months later, nothing’s changed. Capital Public Radio report


Valley politics 

Newman leaders will weigh replacing outgoing Mayor Ed Katen After seven years at the city’s helm, Mayor Ed Katen presided Tuesday at his final City Council meeting, and remaining council members on Aug. 25 will discuss how to replace him. State law requires the council, within 60 days of Katen’s departure, to appoint a successor or call a special election. The same rule applies if a new mayor is chosen from among the four council members, creating another vacancy. Modesto Bee article



Merced residents discuss health for undocumented residents with Adam Gray — Merced organizers and community members continue efforts to seek health coverage for undocumented residents – a move they call a “basic human right.” On Thursday, about 100 people gathered at Mount Pisgah AME Zion Church in south Merced to share testimonies and concerns in front of Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced. Merced Sun-Star article


Other areas

End of sessions: Stakes high, bills abound, time short — The California Legislature faces a lengthy to-do list for the final days of this year’s session and little time to get it done. In what promises to be one of the busiest sessions in recent memory, lawmakers convene Monday and face a midnight Sept. 11 deadline to finish their work on hundreds of bills.  In addition, Gov. Jerry Brown has called two special sessions to deal with transportation and health care costs. Capitol Weekly article; ‘Key bills on the table’ on Capitol Weekly

California legislators to eye police push for use of drones — California lawmakers will try to strike a balance between protecting civil liberties and aiding crime-fighting when the Legislature reconvenes Monday and faces a Sept. 11 deadline to pass several bills related to drones. AP article

Five Bay Area lawmakers still undecided Iran nuclear deal — As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi continues rolling out Democratic supporters one by one, almost half of the Bay Area’s House delegation has not yet committed to support or oppose the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran. Political Blotter 

Victor Davis Hanson: The Trump catharsis — The coarser and cruder Donald Trump becomes, and the more ill-informed on the issues he sounds, the more he coasts in the polls. Apparently, a few of his targets must be regarded as unsympathetically as their defamer. Hanson column in Fresno Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories

Fresno has high poverty concentration, national study finds — Fresno is suffering from a double-dose of poverty, a new national study indicates. Not only does Fresno, vis-à-vis other large California cities, have one of the higher rates of poverty, but its poor residents are among the most isolated of any American city, regardless of race. Sacramento Bee article

Yosemite deaths put focus on killer toll of drought on trees – The deaths of two children at Yosemite National Park after a tree limb fell on their tent while they were sleeping is again focusing attention on the toll the drought is taking on trees. Officials don’t know why the limb fell. But the drought has caused major problems for trees both in cities and forests. LA Times article 

Merced County school districts dig deep for high-demand teachers – If you’re looking for a job, it’s probably a good time to consider teaching – especially in math, science or special education. School districts across the country had to dig deeper than ever to fill their teaching positions for the 2015-16 school year. Some districts offered signing bonuses. Most granted provisional internship permits so teachers could begin working while they completed their credential. Merced Sun-Star article


Jobs and the Economy 

Kern County budget up for a final vote on Tuesday – All county departments have taken a 1 percent cut in the share of cash they get from the county’s main operational fund — the “general fund.” That hit will offset millions of dollars in funding losses created by the downturn in the oil and gas industry and the corresponding drop in county property tax revenues. Bakersfield Californian article

Chowchilla approves tax rebate, fee waivers for businesses – New incentives approved this week by the Chowchilla City Council are intended to ease the cost of doing business in the Madera County community. Fresno Bee article

Lemoore may renew lobbyist contract – The Lemoore City Council will consider renewing a contract with the CrisCom Co., a lobbying and public relations firm. As proposed, the one year contract would provide the company with $42,000 for business attraction consultant services and $18,000 for public safety government relations services. Hanford Sentinel article 

Inside Amazon: Wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace – At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” New York Times article

Contractors become employees as start-ups solidify a business model – Over the last two months, an increasing number of companies in the on-demand industry have announced plans to transition their independent contractors to employees. LA Times article

State signs new gambling contract with tribe that owns Thunder Valley – The tribe that owns Thunder Valley Casino Resort near Lincoln signed a new compact Friday with California that will potentially increase its slot machines and could redirect up to $9 million from the state to Placer County for infrastructure projects. Sacramento Bee article

Grocer Haggen closing 27 stores, including 16 California supermarkets — Haggen Inc., the grocery chain that has struggled since rapidly expanding this year, is closing 27 stores, including 16 supermarkets in California. One of the stores is along the Stockdale Highway in Bakersfield. LA Times article; Bakersfield Californian article

U.S. factory output climbed in July, lifted by auto production – Auto plants, clothing makers and plastics factories drove a sharp rebound in U.S. manufacturing in July. AP article

Hanford council to rule on theaters – The Hanford City Council will consider finalizing its decision Tuesday to allow movie theaters to operate outside the downtown area. Hanford Sentinel article 

HomeGoods, DSW may open early next year in Visalia — Work is underway to transform an empty storefront on Visalia’s South Mooney Boulevard into a new HomeGoods store. But if you’re hoping to be able do some of your holiday shopping at the discount home store later this year, you’re out of luck, as the store may not open at the Gateway Plaza shopping center until February or March. Visalia Times-Delta article



Storms, collaboration postpone a Bakersfield water crisis – Recent rain and collaboration among water agencies has helped Bakersfield temporarily stave off some impending bad news, City Manager Alan Tandy said Friday. In his weekly memorandum to Mayor Harvey Hall and members of the Bakersfield City Council, Tandy said thunderstorms in May, June and July, and an agreement between the Kern Delta Water District and the California Water Service Co. have extended Bakersfield’s water supply. Bakersfield Californian article

Tulare County, nonprofit work to help communities with failed wells – Denise England, water resource program manager for Tulare Couny, said at least four other communities in unincorporated Tulare County — some more clusters of homes than towns — are facing particularly severe threats of water loss. And county officials, with the help of Visalia-based non-profit Self-Help Enterprises are working with state and federal agencies to obtain funding for reliable water sources for these communities. Visalia Times-Delta article 

Palo Verde Valley farmers and MWD find fallowing deal a win-win, so far — In the smaller Palo Verde Valley, a 35-year agreement signed in 2005 with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has enjoyed public acceptance by farmers and local officials. More than 90% of landowners signed up for the voluntary program. LA Times article

Merced Irrigation District receives grant for drought resiliency projects – The Merced Irrigation District received nearly $300,000 of grant funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for drought resiliency projects. The money will help MID develop a real-time simulation water management model that will help the district analyze, predict and respond to drought conditions. Merced Sun-Star article

Crews begin work on drought fix at Folsom Lake – As water regulators continue to rapidly drain Folsom Lake to bolster supplies downstream, crews have begun construction of a floating barge that could keep water flowing to the city of Folsom this fall. Sacramento Bee article 

2015 raisin crop expected to be bigger than last year – Despite a continued decline in acreage and a devastating drought, California’s raisin grape crop is expected to be larger than last year. But how much larger is a source of debate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimates a 13 percent increase in tonnage, according to the results of its annual field survey. Fresno Bee article

Amid drought, California olive harvest expected to double in 2015 — The effects of drought have altered the quantity and quality of vegetables grown in Central California, but that may change for table olives. KVPR report

Advocates: Enforcement of heat-illness prevention rules for farm workers falling short — The triple-digit temperatures expected this weekend will once again raise the risk for heat-related illness for farm workers in California’s Central Valley.  Farm workers and growers don’t agree on how safe the fields are, and the numbers don’t provide a clear picture. Capital Public Radio report


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

Prominent Modesto defense attorney Frank Carson arrested on suspicion of murder; 3 CHP officers also arrested in connection with case – Prominent Modesto criminal defense attorney Frank Carson and eight others, including three California Highway Patrol officers, were arrested Friday for their suspected involvement in the 2012 death of Korey Kauffman. The 26-year-old Turlock man’s body was found in Mariposa County a year and a half after he went missing. Modesto Bee article; AP article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article 

Suspect may be in Onyx home Authorities said Friday night that the suspect in a murder, a kidnapping and the shooting of two Kern County Sheriff’s deputies may be holed up in a home in Onyx, just east of Lake Isabella, but they had not reported any new news Saturday morning. Bakersfield Californian article

Second claim filed against Kern in motorcyclist’s death — A claim was filed Friday against the county of Kern on behalf of the children of a motorcyclist struck and killed by a sheriff’s deputy. Bakersfield Californian article 

Parents sue San Jose police for daughter’s ‘wrongful death’ – The parents of a 19-year-old mentally ill woman fatally shot by a San Jose policewoman after refusing to drop a cordless power drill that the officer and other witnesses mistook for a submachine gun filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Friday in federal court. San Jose Mercury News article

Transcript of parole hearing shows different perceptions of slain inmate — Hugo “Yogi” Pinell, who was stabbed to death Wednesday in a maximum-security yard at California State Prison, Sacramento, in Folsom sought parole 10 times before his death, most recently in May 2014. The 191-page transcript of Pinell’s bid for parole, which was denied, offers a glimpse into the starkly different perceptions of the man. Sacramento Bee article



Doors open at San Joaquin Delta College – It is the great irony of California’s community college system: When the economy stinks, and loads of people need help, funding gets slashed. And in better times, when there’s finally more funding, fewer people are in need. So it is that just a few short years after cutting thousands of classes and turning away students, San Joaquin Delta College must suddenly scramble to boost its numbers and meet higher state enrollment targets in an improving economy. Stockton Record article

San Francisco board hands out diplomas after state bungles test — The San Francisco school board bucked state law Friday, voting unanimously during an emergency meeting to give 107 students their high school diplomas even though they hadn’t passed the California High School Exit Exam — a test the state stopped offering. San Francisco Chronicle article; KQED report

Skid Row program aims to stem summer learning loss — Many kids will forget what they learned during the school year as they take their summer break, but it’s especially true for low-income children who may be homeless. One program in Skid Row called the School on Wheels is helping disadvantaged children deal with their complicated lives and avoid the academic backpedaling known as summer learning loss. KPCC report 

CSU project to put history of Japanese internment online — Sacramento State is leading an effort that includes Fresno State to put online a trove of World War II-era letters and documents from when 120,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned at 10 remote camps scattered across America. Sacramento Bee article 

Teacher on leave over online photos — A Lincoln Unified School District teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave after allegations surfaced that he posted semi-nude pictures of himself on a public social media website. Stockton Record article



Mark Grossi: Valley actually had its best July air quality ever — Earlier this month, I wrote about the amazing lack of dirty air in July, calling it the best July in 20 years. Turns out, it was the best July on record, and I goofed. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District studied the same data and found the Valley had its fewest-ever July exceedances of the federal eight-hour ozone standard. Grossi in Fresno Bee 

Rocky Fire fully contained – Jerusalem fire nears same fate – Firefighters got the upper hand on the Jerusalem Fire in Lake County, achieving 71 percent containment Friday on the blaze that has burned more than 25,000 acres and destroyed four homes. San Francisco Chronicle article


Health/Human Services 

More California babies born addicted to drugs – A growing number of California infants are born addicted to drugs, according to a Bee review of new state data. About 1,190 California newborns were diagnosed with drug withdrawal syndrome last year, up more than 50 percent from a decade earlier, according to hospital discharge data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. That translates to about one addicted newborn for every 400 births. Sacramento Bee article 

Farmworker Head Start numbers down – Brenda Tamayo-Pagan has 171 Head Start slots to fill. That’s how many positions in the Kings County early child development program are federally funded for children of migrant and/or seasonal farmworker parents. So far, however, only 131 of the positions are filled. Hanford Sentinel article

Public hearing set for Fresno County mental-health plan – A proposed three-year $59.3 million plan for mental health services in Fresno County would maintain or increase programs and add a few new ones. Fresno Bee article

Plague threat closes another Yosemite campground – The 304 sites at Tuolumne Meadows Campground in Yosemite National Park will be closed next week Monday through Friday after authorities confirmed they found the bodies of two plague-infected squirrels. Fresno Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article; LA Times article 

San Francisco won’t enforce law banning soda advertising on city property — San Francisco will not enforce a new law banning soda advertising on city property, including Muni buses and shelters, that passed the Board of Supervisors in June with much fanfare. San Francisco Chronicle article
Land Use/Housing

New approach to housing the homeless — In what’s being called the first program of its kind in the state, Santa Clara County is partnering with a housing nonprofit and private organizations to get 150 to 200 chronically homeless folks off the street — and will only pay for the effort if it succeeds. Contra Costa Times article



Uber allowed at Oakland airport after new agreement — Passengers will now have more transportation options coming and going from the Oakland International Airport, airport officials announced Friday. Transportation network company Uber has made an agreement with the airport authorizing the company’s UberX service to legally pick up and drop off passengers as of Thursday, according to airport officials. San Francisco Chronicle article


Other areas 

Video reveals world of firefighting – The Stockton Fire Department released dramatic video of a fire rescue Thursday, giving the public a fascinating glimpse into the work firefighters do behind the smoke and flames when they enter a burning building. Stockton Record article 

Fallen tree limb kills two children in Yosemite — Two children were killed when a tree limb fell on them in their tent in Yosemite National Park early Friday, officials said. Fresno Bee article

Tim Ward: About recent attacks on the grand jury system – Tulare County’s District Attorney writes, “In Tulare County, we utilize the criminal grand jury process sparingly, yet we have great reverence to the process. We have seen time and time again how it can be beneficial to our community. Though I’m sure the national focus on police officer use of force will continue, based on Gov. Brown’s actions this week, no longer can a criminal grand jury be utilized as an option in these decisions. The impact in California will be interesting to watch.” Ward op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Home Garden official officially challenges grand jury report — In the wake of a recent Kings County Grand Jury report criticizing the unincorporated area known as the Home Garden Community Services District, a key district official and others are challenging some of the report’s conclusions. Hanford Sentinel article 

Hanford Fox Theatre repairs are slow, steady — Nearly 17 months after a ceiling collapse forced the Hanford Fox Theatre to close for repairs, the historic venue is still under construction. The theater closed in March 2014 after a portion of the concrete ceiling collapsed in the middle of the night, blanketing much of the theater with dust and debris. Since then, it’s been a slow-but-steady stream of planning, inspections and approvals. Hanford Sentinel article 

Many poorer areas of LA get less trash service, analysis shows – The data show that residents receive dramatically different levels of street-cleaning service depending on where they live: More than one-third of pleas to remove refuse from dozens of neighborhoods in Central, Northeast and South L.A. were ignored even as sanitation workers responded to 99% of requests in other parts of the city. LA Times article

Foon Rhee: Face it, baby boomers, we’re getting old — During the next 15 years, as baby boomers retire, California’s population of seniors will skyrocket; the fastest growth will be among Asians and Latinos, and many more will be single and even childless. Uh-oh, that sounds suspiciously like me. Rhee in Sacramento Bee


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – On this weekend, let’s pause to remember and give thanks to people who celebrated a war’s end seven decades ago.

Modesto Bee – On this weekend, let’s pause to remember and give thanks to people who celebrated a war’s end seven decades ago; There is nothing sweet about Coke’s slanted science. 

Sacramento Bee – It’s sad to see Coke reduced to blowing smoke on this issue. Habits are changing and the beverage industry should change with them. Evolution should be soda’s new real thing.