August 17, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

John Myers: Big battles to watch in California Legislature’s final month – Legislators return on Monday to Sacramento for the final sprint to the end of this year’s duties, the halfway mark of the two-year legislative session that began in January. Hundreds of bills are left to be debated, covering topics from environmental policy to privacy rights and long-term funding for roads and highways. Here are our top picks for the battles worth watching.  Myers in KQED

Health care, transportation, climate to occupy returning California lawmakers — Higher taxes to fund health care and road repairs lead the agenda for the California Legislature’s closing month of business. Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial


Valley politics

Back in the Beltway: Richard Pombo returns to D.C., in more ways than one — Earlier this year, Pombo returned to Washington as a partner in a consulting firm, lobbying Congress on many of the same topics that dominated his own tenure there. Stockton Record article



Border crossings rise at San Ysidro, but so do some wait times — There’s some good news at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the busiest land port in the Western Hemisphere: After years of declining numbers, more people are crossing between Tijuana and San Diego. But there’s bad news too: Many drivers report that their wait times have been climbing back up since the opening of new inspection booths nearly a year ago led to dramatic drops. San Diego Union-Tribune article


Other areas

Kevin Aslanian, Shanti Prasad, and Parke Troutman: State Legislature should have a special session on poverty, too – The members of the Health and Human Services Network of California write, “There should be a special session to tackle deep poverty as well. That would not only bring attention to how serious the situation is, it would create an opportunity to develop solutions outside the rigid timelines of the normal legislative process.” Aslanian/Prasad/Troutman op-ed in Sacramento Bee

How to speak like a Capitol insider – To those unaccustomed to the inside baseball of policymaking, politicians can sometimes seem like they speak a different language. But fear not! With lawmakers returning from a summer recess Monday, this legislative dictionary will help you decipher how California Capitol creatures conduct business. Sacramento Bee article

Outside contender Fiorina has faced down tough odds before – In one of the most memorable scenes in her 2006 memoir, “Tough Choices,” Carly Fiorina recalled marching into the dark recesses of the Board Room — an upscale Washington, D.C.-area strip club — where a team of rival male AT&T colleagues had scheduled an important client meeting. San Francisco Chronicle article

Cathleen Decker: The anti-trump: Tom Bradley, a quiet giant who bridged divides — If the presidential campaign already serves as a near-constant reminder of why people hate politics and dislike the people who practice it, an antidote may arrive for some in the form of a new documentary called “Bridging the Divide.” Airing Tuesday at 8 p.m. on PBS SoCal, and across the nation early next year, it shines new focus on former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who died in 1998, five years after he left office. Decker in LA Times


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Dan Walters: Rating California schools is a big battle — California’s largest-in-the-nation public school system educates – or purports to do so – 6 million-plus kids from dozens of socioeconomic, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. National academic testing has found that California’s students rank near the bottom in achievement. The situation spawns two perpetual political debates – whether we’re spending enough money to raise that achievement, and whether there’s sufficient accountability for results. Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

Focus groups, polls to reveal mood toward Stanislaus County transportation tax – The march toward a 2016 vote for a Stanislaus County-wide transportation tax will continue Wednesday as leaders review wisdom gleaned from focus groups looking at potential road and transit projects. Next comes a survey of likely voters, to be conducted by newly hired Godbe Research, a consulting firm specializing in public opinion and marketing. The parallel efforts – focus groups and polling – are expected to cost the Stanislaus Council of Governments about $100,000. Modesto Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

Two more bargaining units await final Stockton City Council approval – Two more bargaining units have reached contract terms with the city, accepting short-term deals that include only modest raises yet speak to a semblance of stability for Stockton, which exited bankruptcy less than six months ago. Modesto Bee article

San Jose drops appeal of pension ‘California rule’ – Some thought an appeal of a court ruling blocking a key part of a San Jose pension reform could lead to a high court review of the “California rule,” an issue in an initiative ballot summary issued last week by Attorney General Kamala Harris. Calpensions article

California measure fails to create green jobs – Three years after California voters passed a ballot measure to raise taxes on corporations and generate clean energy jobs by funding energy-efficiency projects in schools, barely one-tenth of the promised jobs have been created, and the state has no comprehensive list to show how much work has been done or how much energy has been saved. AP article

Merced City Council asked to move retail project forward — Merced City Council members will consider two agreements Monday related to a large project along Campus Parkway, which has been identified as the council’s top priority. The project, called Merced Gateway, would include a number of restaurants, retail stores and other buildings at the northeast and northwest corners of Campus Parkway and Coffee Street. Merced Sun-Star article

Emeryville at forefront of Bay Area’s embrace of $15 minimum wage The push for a $15 hourly wage has made strides nationwide, beginning in Seattle. Los Angeles city and county recently approved the phased-in wage. And a New York state wage board has recommended that fast-food workers edge up to the target. But the changes have come particularly fast to the liberal Bay Area, now known for the highest cost of living in the nation. LA Times article

Ride-share companies snub San Jose airport before program kickoff — Not a single ride-booking company has registered to operate at Silicon Valley’s airport under the city’s trial rules taking effect next month, meaning passengers eager for a high-tech alternative to taxis will have to wait. Company officials and drivers say the city’s new rules are too costly and burdensome. Contra Costa Times article

Modesto entrepreneur is on the drone revolution – With a background that includes agriculture and aviation, and more than 20 years working as a computer programmer and software engineer, Thomas Davis was well-positioned to enter a field that’s set to soar: commercial drones. Modesto Bee article

Mobile program brings fresh food to those in need – Second Harvest, which serves San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, launched its pilot program in February, and since then has given away 91,000 pounds of produce to low-income families. Stockton Record article

Sacramento’s central city residents want parking rights protected – A downtown can’t prosper if its people can’t park their cars. Same goes for fragile central city neighborhoods. With a new arena rising and a surge in downtown development plans, Sacramento officials have been busy figuring out how to adapt their parking program to bring more order to downtown and avoid problems spilling into residential neighborhoods. Sacramento Bee article

The one San Francisco neighborhood where pot dispensaries aren’t welcome — Even with California voters expected to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana next year and polls showing strong support for medical marijuana, one area of the state’s weed-friendliest city bucks the trend: the Sunset District. San Francisco Chronicle article



California drought: ‘Emergency situation’ for California trees – The rush to save water is claiming legions of unintended casualties — California’s trees. Specimens that have stood tall and strong for decades are stressed and dying because of the drought, as Californians turn off spigots to comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory conservation measures. San Jose Mercury News article

Drought brings early harvest in California’s wine country — In Northern California’s wine country, the 2015 harvest has arrived shockingly early, amid years of drought that have progressively shifted vines’ growing season earlier into the year. AP article 

Cindy Forbes: State response to drinking water editorial – The deputy director of the Division of Drinking Water, State Water Resources Control Board, writes, “We recognize the risk that water shortages impose on some California residents, and will continue to collaborate to create solutions that will last beyond the drought.” Forbes letter in Fresno Bee

Drones can spot crop problems — Hawks flying through a nearly cloudless blue sky and yellow cabbage butterflies flitting over a tomato field in the San Joaquin Delta had to share the airspace Friday with an ink black, arms-width flying wing. Stockton Record article


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

Fingerprints ID man shot dead as suspect Benjamin Ashley — Benjamin Ashley, the subject of a 2 1/2-week manhunt in eastern Kern County, was indeed the man killed in Inyokern Saturday evening, but it’s unclear whether he took his own life or was shot to death by deputies, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Sunday morning. Bakersfield Californian article

Fugitive raised concern at Inyokern mini market — Gary Welfl said he knew right away. It was the eyes, he said, that told him the man entering Brady’s Mini Market Saturday at around 4:45 p.m. was Benjamin Peter Ashley. Ashley has been the subject of a manhunt for over two weeks. He is suspected of kidnapping, murder and wounding two sheriff’s deputies in a shoot out. Bakersfield Californian article

LA County inmate ‘democracy’ tackles conflict verbally, not violently – In the nation’s largest county jail system, where violence and substandard living conditions have long been the norm, the inmate councils may be part of a larger shift toward more humane treatment of inmates, as a federal judge oversees reforms and a plan to replace the dungeon-like Men’s Central Jail moves forward. LA Times article

LAPD broke labor laws in requiring some officers to repay training costs, court rules — Last week, a state appeals court ruled on behalf of Alvo and dozens of other former LAPD officers who were sued by the city, saying an LAPD requirement that officers pay for their training — often tens of thousands of dollars — if they quit within five years of graduating from the academy violates state labor laws. LA Times article



ETS offers Summer Balanced test scoring training to teachers — With California officials warning that scores on Smarter Balanced tests will likely be lower than those on previous standardized assessments, many teachers want to know how they can better prepare students. To help demystify the Common Core-aligned tests, the Educational Testing Service, or ETS, is providing several scoring training workshops for teachers this month. EdSource article



More than 10,000 acres in Sierra Nevada protected in deal that aims to boost water supply, reduce fires – More than 10,000 acres of scenic meadows, forests and trout streams in the Sierra Nevada 10 miles west of Lake Tahoe have been preserved in a deal in which environmentalists hope to prove that thinning out overgrown forests can increase California’s water supply. San Jose Mercury News article 

Rough Fire continues to grow near Hume Lake — The Rough fire in the Sierra National Forest grew Sunday by more than 3,000 acres to 16,390 acres. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is working closely with the U.S. Forest Service to monitor the fire, which is burning near Hume Lake. Highway 180 is closed to eastbound traffic at the Hume Lake turnoff. Fresno Bee article

Big blazes under control, fire officials redeploy crews in state — Firefighters have contained enough of the big Jerusalem Fire in Lake County to allow fire officials Sunday to begin relieving or redeploying firefighters who have been battling blazes in the area for three weeks. San Francisco Chronicle article 

As California wildfires rage, Marin prepares for the inevitable — A bulldozer-like vehicle with a spiky metal grinding wheel rolled through the woodlands next to Bon Tempe Lake in Marin County last week, devouring bushes and small trees and spitting out the mulched remnants like some kind of forest Pac-Man. San Francisco Chronicle article

It’s official: Don’t blame the sun for climate change — New information about the energy output of the sun appears to contradict the claim, made by climate skeptics, that the sun is responsible for global warming. That idea relied on apparent evidence showing a rise in solar activity since 1800. But newly revised data, published in July, suggests instead that our yardstick of solar activity was warped. KQED report


Land Use/Housing 

Visalia council could choose park design — The Visalia City Council could choose on Monday one of two proposed designs for a planned 299-acre park east of the city and authorize city staff to begin annexing the land from Tulare County. Visalia Times-Delta article

Attention on Liberty Ranch Estates — After eight years, San Joaquin County is finally about to move forward on a small subdivision planned for the north county. The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is scheduled to approve a Sept. 15 public hearing date to authorize water and street lighting services in an area within the Forest Lake community service area district. Stockton Record article


Other areas

Homeless Fresnans say it’s hard to find shade in summer heat – As the temperature reached 104 degrees Sunday in Fresno, homeless people said was hard to find shade downtown. Fresno Bee article

California moves to provide interpreters in all court cases – California only guarantees access to an interpreter in criminal cases, not civil cases. But the state is looking to change that. Under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, California’s Judicial Council this year approved a plan to extend free interpretation services to all cases by 2017. AP article 

Ticketed and towed: Owner of minivan hopes his court victory inspires others – J. David Sackman won an unexpected court victory this month against Los Angeles parking officials. The Westside lawyer got a judge to agree that he had been unfairly ticketed for leaving his minivan in the same space on the street for more than 72 hours. LA Times article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Merced Sun-Star – Nothing is sweet about Coke’s slanted science.

Sacramento Bee – California legislators have a long to-do list, little consensus.