August 16, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters: California Capitol emulates Congress — The Legislature once prided itself on being different from its larger cousin in Washington – more transparent, more creative, less hidebound, etc. Politicians who made the transition from the Legislature to Congress would often lament losing their ability to draft and carry single-subject pieces of legislation, being relegated to seeking tiny amendments in large omnibus bills, or being compelled to focus on minor local matters rather than major policy issues. Slowly, but surely, the Legislature has adopted Washington’s ways. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Gas, tobacco taxes to be debated in California Legislature – When lawmakers return from summer break on Monday, they’ll have less than a month to solve two huge problems that have vexed the Legislature for decades — fixing California’s crumbling roads and funding health care for the poor. Contra Costa Times article; LA Times article


Gov. Brown 

Joe Mathews: Too much Brown and personal history — I realize I’m one of the biggest sinners when it comes to the sin I’m about to condemn. I love California history. I often write about it. And I love to connect California history to today’s political debates and policy choices. But enough. There is way too much history in stories about today’s California news, especially where it involves Jerry Brown. Mathews in Fox & Hounds 

Fiorina, Cruz and Walker respond to Jerry Brown on climate change — California Gov. Jerry Brown, blaming climate change for hot weather that has exacerbated the state’s historic drought, has pressed Republican presidential candidates in recent weeks to address the issue in their campaigns, first scolding them in a letter and then telling reporters, “My message is real clear: California’s burning. What the hell are you going to do about it?” On Saturday, a rejoinder. Sacramento Bee article


Valley politics 

Modesto Bee: Too few willing to do the work of democracy — You can’t really call it an election if there is no one to vote for. No matter how many votes are cast in November, 40 elective offices will remain unfilled in Stanislaus County. Either no one cared enough to run or … well, we don’t have any other explanation. Modesto Bee editorial


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Joel Fox: More consider the gov race in 2018, but not the Senate in 2016 — The story last week that state Treasurer John Chiang is “contemplating” a run for governor in 2018 potentially expands the field in what could prove to be a very interesting and competitive race. Already announced for the seat is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Former state controller, Steve Westly is said to be considering another run for the corner office. Other well-known names have been floated as well, including both the current and former mayors of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti and Antonio Villaraigosa and environmentalist Tom Steyer. Democrats all. But don’t count out a credible Republican candidate. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto mentioned as possible Republican candidates.  Fox in Fox & Hounds



Border Patrol on the hunt for more female agents — The Border Patrol plans to hire 1,600 agents by the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. Not all the slots must go to women, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection got a federal exemption to target women. LA Times article


Other areas 

Activists, community members march through southwest Fresno neighborhood to protest racial profiling — Around 70 community members and activists from throughout California gathered at New Light for New Life Church of God in southwest Fresno on Saturday morning to march through the surrounding neighborhoods and protest racial profiling and police brutality. Fresno Bee article 

Dan Morain: Stepping toward full voting rights — Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, is carrying Senate Bill 589, to make clear that California citizens who need conservators retain the right to vote. The bill, which is backed by the ACLU and disability rights advocates, is a step on the path toward a more perfect union. Morain in Sacramento Bee

Joyce Terhaar: Good luck trying to figure out California’s campaign finance data — It is the “most knotted ball of string you ever imagined.” That’s how Richard Hertz – pollster, professor and former Fair Political Practices Commission staffer – describes California’s campaign finance database, called Cal-Access. Terhaar in Sacramento Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories

The next drought: Water officials endorse a ‘less is more’ strategy for the future — Mindful that only nature can whip a drought, those who study and manage water in California are focused not on the current epic, but on better preparing the state for the next drought, and the drought after that, and the drought after that. LA Times article

Hospitals battle over region’s tiniest and most fragile patients — Competition between Valley Children’s Hospital and Community Regional Medical Center for the region’s youngest patients is heating up. Community Regional now has a surgical team that is performing operations on newborns and preemies who previously had to be transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital on the San Joaquin River bluffs in Madera County. Fresno Bee article


Jobs and the Economy 

Chukchansi reaches deal with union for resort workers — Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino officials confirmed Friday that they have reached a five-year collective bargaining agreement for its 700 union workers. The Coarsegold-area resort, closed since last October, is projected to reopen in September pending approval from the National Indian Gaming Commission and state Attorney General. Fresno Bee article

Fresno’s Station 18 firefighters to get a permanent home — The beginning of the end is here for Fresno’s fire-station-in-a-house. It’s another sign of the rebuilding of Chief Kerri Donis’ department. The City Council recently approved the purchase of a small lot on Shaw Avenue west of Highway 99 for a new home for Station 18. Fresno Bee article

Free Wi-Fi comes to downtown Modesto – Salida-based technology firm Fire2Wire is bringing free wireless Internet service to downtown Modesto to help it attract more visitors. Modesto Bee article

A ‘jaw-dropping’ new world of ‘Star Wars’ is headed to Disney parks – A galaxy far, far away is coming to the happiest place on Earth. Walt Disney Co. announced Saturday that it will create 14-acre “Star Wars”-themed areas for Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Fla. The plans represent the largest expansions in the company’s history for a single-themed area, and in Anaheim they will require a major reconfiguration of the park, opened in 1955 by company co-founder Walt Disney. LA Times article; AP article

VC investing boom neglects startups tackling poverty – The venture capital investing boom has sent billions of dollars to startups that serve the upper crust of society with an app to deliver your laundry or order a valet to park your car, yet many VCs continue to resist investing in viable businesses bringing toilets, water and electricity to the rural poor. San Jose Mercury News article 

Modesto faces balance between hunger, order in park feedings – The Turlock-based United Samaritans Foundation feeds lots of people in Modesto. This charity comes as Modesto officials look at regulating feedings in city parks because of complaints that the feedings create litter, the food waste attracts vermin and the parks can become magnets for the homeless. And the proposed regulations come as Modesto officials are being inundated with complaints about vagrants sleeping in city parks, taking drugs and drinking, and engaging in other illegal conduct. Modesto Bee article

New state law aims to help military vets become homeowners – Unlike most people buying condos, military vets often have to jump through a few more hoops if they want to take advantage of the perks of a VA-approved mortgage – and the process can kill the deal. KPCC report

An ‘unlimited’ parental leave policy sounds great, but will it work? – Companies should think twice before playing copycat when it comes to parental leave. An unlimited policy sounds great in theory. Unless the culture really supports it, however, employees won’t know how to react and may even end up taking off less time than they otherwise would. LA Times article

Mike Klocke: You can help United Way with its ups, downs – United Way of San Joaquin needs a lift. Literally. United Way’s office on the corner of Sutter and Main streets in downtown Stockton has an open, airy feeling that makes it a nice place to do business and host community members. What the building lacks, however, is an elevator. Klocke in Stockton Record

Petunia’s Place flourishes as independent children’s book shop — As former teachers, Debbie Manning and Jean Fennacy have a passion for bringing children and books together at their northwest Fresno bookshop Petunia’s Place. And the love isn’t one-sided, as many in the community appreciate the shop for what it provides: The chance to find the perfect children’s book. Fresno Bee article



Lois Henry: In water conservation, there’s reality and then there’s the state – In trying to hit its state-mandated water conservation target of 28 percent, the West Kern Water District finds itself stuck between a California bureaucracy and that small thing the rest of us know as reality. A rock and hard place would be more comfortable. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian 

Drought dries up ‘mow and blow’ work, workers branch out – With outdoor watering restricted to once or twice weekly throughout the Sacramento region, many residents are forgoing their traditional green lawns for drought-tolerant plants or simply a patch of dry grass, leaving “mow and blow” lawn maintenance businesses with fewer customers. Sacramento Bee article

Time for next turnaround on San Joaquin River — More than six decades after their deaths, the San Joaquin River and chinook salmon are slowly coming back to life in an unprecedented, hard-fought revival. But raising the dead here is not the real magic. The trick in restoring this dried river is making water turn around and run uphill to be used on farms. It already has happened in the 6-year-old restoration, but it’s about to become a lot tougher and even more political than before. Fresno Bee article 

Christopher Thornberg: State needs an efficient water allocation system – The economist and founding partner of Beacon Economics LLC writes, “California won’t truly tackle its water crisis until it focuses on those whose feckless behavior is largely to blame for the shortage the state is experiencing – the agricultural industry itself.” Thornberg op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Cotton no longer king – Today, we in Kings and Tulare counties are still where cotton is grown, but the acreage has suffered “an amazing decline,” said Tulare County Ag Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita. “It is not just cotton but all the field crops” she adds. “It’s a lack of water.” Visalia Times-Delta article

New homes offer water, energy efficiency – Sprinklers with sensors that determine if the lawn needs to be watered and faucets that cut water use by half used to be luxurious home upgrades. Now, they have become standard features in some new developments. Sacramento Bee article

California town, united by drought, split over new water park — On a typical hard-hat tour of a major municipal construction project, city officials extol the venture’s expansiveness and rave about how many citizens will benefit. But this city has taken a different approach to a nearly $44 million recreational complex underway: Officials boast how small it is and how few people are expected to use it. That is because Dublin is building a water park — in the middle of the worst drought in California’s modern history. New York Times article 

Sun-dried tomatoes sparkle on West Side — There they lie, acre upon acre of shriveled tomatoes. Another victim of the drought? Not on your life. Modesto Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

Manhunt suspect likely dead: ‘I’m confident that it’s him,’ sheriff says of man shot by deputies – A man matching the description of murder suspect Benjamin Peter Ashley was shot dead in the Inyokern area by law enforcement Saturday evening, likely ending one of the largest manhunts in Kern County history.  Bakersfield Californian article; LA Times article

Jump in San Francisco car break-ins prompts frustration, finger-pointing — An alarming 47 percent spike in San Francisco car break-ins in the first half of this year has prompted a blame game between police, prosecutors and politicians while repeat victims like Kelley Maulbetsch are left feeling exasperated and helpless. San Francisco Chronicle article

New San Diego Police Department training pushes community policing — Only a day after graduating from the 103rd police academy, dozens of officers in barely worn uniforms filed into the Islamic Center of San Diego for a crash course on customs within the Muslim and Arab-American community. San Diego Union-Tribune article

Debra Saunders: California crime wave coming? – “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” isn’t living up to its promise. Also known as Proposition 47, the ballot initiative that passed in November with 60 percent of the vote, the act downgraded drug possession and many property crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. Saunders column in San Francisco Chronicle

Exclusion of blacks from juries raises renewed scrutiny — As police shootings of unarmed black men across the country have spurred distrust of law enforcement by many African-Americans, the new findings on jury selection bring fresh attention to a question that has long haunted the American justice system: Are criminal juries warped by racism and bias? New York Times article



College students move off campus as room and board costs rise – Many students at public and private colleges across California and the nation are facing such decisions as the average costs of room and board are rising at rates double that of general inflation. Those higher living costs are increasing student debt and, experts say, leading students to enroll at commuter schools instead of out-of-town options that might be a better academic fit. LA Times article

Bakersfield Californian: Bakersfield College’s Christian’s tenure needs to continue — The district’s top administrator needed to let Sonya Christian do her job, continuing to build relationships in this community and leading Bakersfield College in a direction it needs to go. Bakersfield Californian editorial



Camper deaths, presence of plague darken summer at Yosemite – The deaths of two young campers killed when a tree branch fell on their tent and a campground closure because of plague cast a pall over California’s Yosemite National Park at the height of the summer tourist season. AP article 

Yosemite deaths illustrate a tragic but not uncommon risk in nature – What caused a tree limb to shear off and crush two sleeping campers in Yosemite on Friday has yet to be determined, but the children’s deaths underscore the National Park Service’s delicate and difficult mission: to manage a wild place. LA Times article

Additional firefighters called in to defend Hume Lake Christian Camps from Rough fire — The multi-agency firefighting team battling the Rough fire in the Sierra National Forest, Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks sent additional firefighters Saturday to Hume Lake Christian Camps and surrounding summer cabins to try and keep the fire from damaging them. Fresno Bee article

Trinity County blazes send smoke down to Central Valley — Smoke from wildfires blazing north of Sacramento was filling Central Valley skies Saturday, alarming many area residents. Sacramento Bee article; Stockton Record article

Efforts to douse Parkway fires bogged in controversy – It’s been another bad fire season on the tinder-dry American River Parkway, and Sacramento’s recreational jewel, a 23-mile swath of natural habitat that runs through a densely populated urban area, is proving again that it has two facets. Sacramento Bee article

Jillian Melchior: EPA’s stringent smog rules could suffocate economic opportunity – The energy fellow for Independent Women’s Forum writes, “The reality is that Americans want clean air and economic opportunity – and with few exceptions, they currently enjoy both. Ignoring that, at enormous economic expense, the EPA is pursuing standards that even the federal government can’t meet on national park land.” Melchior op-ed in Sacramento Bee 

Vineyard gas stations in Ceres, Salida to add electric chargers — Electric cars, it would seem, are the enemy of traditional gasoline stations. Jeff LeBeouf doesn’t see it that way. The president of E.R. Vine & Sons, a Valley petroleum distributor that has been around for more than 80 years, sees electricity as an opportunity. Modesto Bee article


Health/Human Services

Bakersfield doctor participates in global study published in New England Journal of Medicine — Treating a heart attack patient is all about coordination and speed, but some procedures have been called into question thanks to a large-scale study that involved a Bakersfield cardiologist. Bakersfield Californian article
Land Use/Housing

Lewis Griswold: Visalia goat owner circulates ballot proposal — Gingi Freeman of Visalia, a goat owner who has butted heads with city officials, is circulating a petition for a proposed ballot initiative to allow any “family household” to keep up to six chickens and four miniature goats. Griswold in Fresno Bee

Shamus Roller: Inclusionary housing ordinances would create opportunity – The executive director of Housing California writes, “Inclusionary housing ordinances help create affordable development, but they also counter a history of excluding whichever group was politically undesirable at the time from communities through zoning restrictions.” Roller op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Other areas 

Ruling against rousting sleepers gets San Francisco’s attention – Jennifer Yap, 50, who has been sleeping beneath cardboard on the streets of San Francisco for nearly two years, said she shouldn’t be constantly awakened and told to move under the city’s homeless policy. She has no other place to go. The federal government agrees. The Department of Justice has lifted a little-known case in Boise, Idaho, into the national spotlight by declaring in a court filing that it’s unconstitutional for cities to criminalize homelessness for those who don’t have another option. San Francisco Chronicle article

AT&T helped U.S. spy on Internet on a vast scale — The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. New York Times article 

Sacramento City Council has inconsistent record of sexual harassment training – While legislators at the state Capitol and their staffers are required to take anti-harassment training every two years, there appears to be some discrepancy over whether elected officials at the local level are doing the same. At Sacramento City Hall, for example, some council members either haven’t taken sexual harassment prevention training offered by the city or haven’t taken a course in several years. Sacramento Bee article 

Social media empowers Sacramento Fire Department to shape its own story – As fires erupted throughout Sacramento in recent weeks, journalists, politicians and the public flocked to the Sacramento Fire Department’s Twitter page. The Internet allows anyone with a smartphone to become a broadcaster, and the Fire Department is taking full advantage. Sacramento Bee article

Naimat Khan: Modesto helping to change views about America – The Pakistani journalist writes, “I have three weeks to spend in Modesto, and many things are awaiting me. When my visit ends, I will again have a chance to write about my perceptions of American society. Maybe I will take back some of these changes with me to Pakistan and leave some of my old thoughts behind. As more stereotypes and misconceptions are broken, I hope to get a better view of America.” Khan in Modesto Bee 

Bill Dozier: 1915-2015: ‘Long, lucky, adventurous life’ comes to an end — If there was ever a real man’s man, Bill Dozier, mountaineer, judge, veteran, trailblazer, fit the bill. By last December, he’d filled a millennium’s worth of experiences into a century of life. On Wednesday, at his home with his loving wife, Zulka, by his side, he took his last gentle breath. Stockton Record article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian The district’s top administrator needed to let Sonya Christian do her job, continuing to build relationships in this community and leading Bakersfield College in a direction it needs to go.

Fresno Bee – California long has pioneered the future, from climate change to pay equity. Now, in the absence of national reform, Gov. Jerry Brown is offering a way forward on yet another evolving issue: immigration.

Modesto Bee – You can’t really call it an election if there is no one to vote for. No matter how many votes are cast in November, 40 elective offices will remain unfilled in Stanislaus County. Either no one cared enough to run or … well, we don’t have any other explanation.