August 2, 2015

04Aug

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Political Briefs

Top stories 

Dan Morain: Political watchdog takes a break — The watchdog seems to be taking a little nap. Or perhaps the politicians, lobbyists and consultants suddenly are on their best behavior. In recent months, the Fair Political Practices Commission hasn’t been barking much. Its backlog has grown and enforcement actions and fines have fallen. Maybe the lull is temporary, an aberration that is the result of a changing of the guard. Morain in Sacramento Bee

New ‘super PACs’ help 2016 mega-donors customize their political clout – For discerning, super-wealthy donors looking for a distinctive way to advertise clout, the 2016 presidential election offers a new perk — their own specially tailored “super PAC.” LA Times article; New York Times article

Other areas

Conservative intellectual Dinesh D’Souza wows packed Republican crowd in Modesto — Complacency has hurt Republicans, but they could regain momentum by awakening and mobilizing against liberal “politics of envy, hatred and resentment,” nationally recognized conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza told a packed audience of appreciative GOP faithful on Saturday. Modesto Bee article

City clerks criticize Sacramento County elections office — Current and former city clerks in Sacramento, Galt and Rancho Cordova say the elections office has become less reliable in the past 18 months. The problems, they say, coincide with a decision by Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine in January 2014 to reassign her longtime campaign services manager. Sacramento Bee article 

Are ‘gayborhoods’ a victim of the gay rights movement’s success? — Laguna Beach eventually lost its critical mass of gay residents to places such as Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley, which became known as relatively affordable, safe and gay-friendly. In response to the change, more cities are making efforts to put a clear stamp on their gay neighborhoods to ensure their visibility, Ghaziani says. LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Rising expenses, accusations of bias confront state agency in farm-labor conflict — A long-running beef between the United Farm Workers and Reedley-based Gerawan Farming Inc. is chewing up millions of dollars in taxpayer funds by the state agency tasked with investigating, prosecuting and refereeing such disputes to protect farm laborers. Fresno Bee article

Will info drain into new well database? – Groundwater officials in Stanislaus County have reached a milestone by creating a database for well information. Whether they can persuade enough understandably skeptical well owners to divulge meaningful numbers is another thing. Modesto Bee article 

Valley hospitals rated average for heart surgery deaths — Hospitals in the central San Joaquin Valley have death rates from heart bypass surgery within accepted ranges, according to a state report released last week. One Valley hospital — Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital — had a lower death rate than the statewide average, and Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia improved its rating from two years ago when it was listed as one of only four hospitals statewide with a worse-than-average death rate. Fresno Bee article

 

Jobs and the Economy

Dan Walters: Rent wars erupted in 2 cities — The Haight has become a trendy, gentrified neighborhood, like many in the city, and a front in a sociopolitical war over soaring housing costs. The San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles are two of the country’s tightest housing markets, driving rents and home prices through the roof. Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

Jeff Jardine: From Gottschalks to go-karts: New life for Modesto’s Century Center? – It’s not uncommon for retailers to maintain control of properties they vacate, preventing competition from moving into the old one. Regardless, the center is starting to show signs of new life, with the opening of Planet Fitness three years ago and Ciao Bella Ristorante in the past year. And by Christmas, Century Center could be truly vibrant again. Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Michael Hiltzik: Tech industry’s persistent claim of worker shortage may be phony — The high-tech industry contends that U.S. universities simply aren’t producing enough graduates to meet demand, leading to a “skills gap” that must be filled from overseas if the U.S. is to maintain its global dominance.  Yet many studies suggest that the STEM shortage is a myth. Hiltzik in LA Times

 

Agriculture/Water/Drought 

Fresno County woman alleges pesticide made her sick — A Fresno County woman alleges that a crew working on a neighboring farm accidentally sprayed her with a pesticide while she was in her backyard. Fresno Bee article 

Stephen Grace: How water scarcity shaped America – The author of The Great Divide writes, “Water compromises are not the stuff of scintillating drama. But as we face a future of cities surging with growth in some of the continent’s driest regions, cooperation, not conflict, will be the best way to bridge our nation’s many water divides.” Grace op-ed in Fresno Bee 

Country club golf course plans sewer plant as newer fix for grass water woes — Responding to Mother Nature and bureaucrats ordering water cutbacks, a century-old private golf course at the base of Mount Diablo plans to become what is likely the first in California to build its own mini-sewage plant to keep its greens and fairways lush for years to come. Contra Costa Times article

The difference between knowing something and seeing something – In June, the Oroville Chamber of Commerce put out a plea for people to come visit – letting them know there’s still some water. People aren’t coming as often – but maybe they should: Lake Oroville’s drop has become a symbol of the California drought.   And there’s a difference between knowing something and seeing it. LA Times article

Kern River still a killer even with low water flows — So far this year the Kern River below the Lake Isabella Dam has claimed two lives — Nedu’s and that of Antonio Rubio, 43, of Wofford Heights. Another person has died on the upper Kern in Tulare County. And Isabella Lake has had one drowning. Bakersfield Californian article

Markos Kounalakis: Tunnels here, there, bad and good – Drive around drought-devastated Northern California and you will invariably see cars with “Stop the Tunnels” bumper stickers. “Stop the tunnels” has also become a rallying cry in the United Kingdom, where politicians in London are scrambling to halt the sudden free-flow of immigrants using the Channel Tunnel to pour into England from Calais, France. Kounalakis op-ed in Sacramento Bee

 

Marcos Breton: Water memories fade to Brown — What I wouldn’t give now for a soothing summer rain, for snow in the winter, for a day free of water shaming – and to stretch out on my lawn and feel free and serene. Breton column in Sacramento Bee

 

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Public memorial held for family members killed in east Modesto homicide — Hundreds of people gathered at the Gallo Center for the Arts on Saturday morning to pay tribute to the mother and her two daughters who were slain inside an east Modesto home two weeks ago. Modesto Bee article

Education

Top UC coaches earn more money than top UC brain surgeons – Coaching college football or basketball at a major University of California campus isn’t brain surgery; it’s much more lucrative. The 15 highest-paid University of California athletic coaches collectively made about $18 million last year, according to salary data released by the UC system in July.  By contrast, the five highest-paid neurosurgeons at the University of California at San Francisco earned $4 million last year. Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Yudof’s joke is on us; we are not amused – After months of hearing UC complain about its inability to make ends meet without more state funds or a tuition increase, it turns out that for a year after Mark Yudof stepped down to make way for Janet Napolitano, the UC was still paying his old salary, which had crept back up to $591,000. Sacramento Bee editorial

Stanislaus State joins statewide teacher conference, site of live-stream feed — Add conferences to the list of things technology has made over. The Better Together California Teachers Summit took place at 33 sites Friday, includingCalifornia State University, Stanislaus. Besides an event phone app, the sites shared video feeds from keynote speakers. Folks at home could follow along through social media and a live stream from the Turlock campus, broadcasting the videos, speakers who called in and online chats. Modesto Bee article 

TOPS injects added experience — Schneider and others with backgrounds in science are involved with the Teaching Opportunities for Partners in Science (TOPS) program, put on by the San Joaquin County Office of Education. It places retired scientists or science teachers at a school or after-school program within San Joaquin County to put their knowledge to use, volunteering eight to 10 hours a month. Stockton Record article 

Teachers making a difference every day — The alarm will go off early Monday for teachers in Lodi Unified School District for the first day of school. The routine will soon follow for teachers in Stockton Unified and Lincoln Unified schools, St. Mary’s and everywhere else in the county. Stockton Record article

 

Energy/Environment 

Fracking foes, friends air differences – A small group of “fracking” opponents traded heated words with an even smaller number of oil industry supporters Saturday morning on the Panorama Drive bluffs in northeast Bakersfield, during an airing of differences over the controversial oil extraction technique. Bakersfield Californian article

Willow fire grows, but so does containment; fire chief reports good progress — A week after a teen boy allegedly lit pine branches with a lighter and sparked a raging wildfire, fire officials reported that the Willow fire could be mostly under control by Monday. Fresno Bee article

Lightning, drought main culprits in Northern California wildfires – In drought-plagued Northern California, “dry thunderstorms” — lightning and wind with very little rain — are the main cause of roughly two dozen large blazes that have led to one firefighter’s death and prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. LA Times article 

Popular UC Davis-run wildlife reserve closed due to Wragg fire — The Wragg fire has forced the closure of Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, a trail popular among local hikers for its nature-gazing opportunities and views of Lake Berryessa in close proximity to Davis and Sacramento. Sacramento Bee article

Obama to impose deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions — President Obama will impose even steeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants than previously expected, White House officials said early Sunday, in what the president called the most significant step the country has ever taken to fight global warming. AP article; New York Times article

Carl Zichella: Creating Western regional energy market could help state meet climate goals – The director for Western transmission for Natural Resources Defense Council writes, “Creating a regional energy market in the West is a fundamental component to addressing climate change and achieving the state’s renewable energy goal.” Zichella op-ed in Sacramento Bee 

Jane Braxton Little: Mass extinctions threaten our quality of life – The freelance writer writes, “As the world’s diverse species vanish, so do countless crucial functions we depend upon: the ecosystem services that have enabled humans to have a good standard of living.” Little op-ed in Sacramento Bee

 

Health/Human Services

Why Latinos aren’t taking the anti-HIV pill – and why they should consider it – In California, New York, Texas and elsewhere, health workers are trying to get more high-risk Latino men to use the drug, Truvada. The medication, which is used for “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis” or PrEP, was approved by the FDA in 2012 for HIV prevention and has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective when used correctly. But health workers are encountering barriers among many Latinos. KQED report

Sacramento Bee: Perhaps Congress will address mental health care – Mental illness doesn’t care about party affiliation. It’s time to address it with bipartisanship. Sacramento Bee editorial

Lemoore council to hear senior center update — The Lemoore City Council will hear an update Tuesday on a $1.4 million grant awarded to the Lemoore Senior Center nearly 10 months ago. Hanford Sentinel article 

Health officials kill proposal to curb mercury dental fillings — Senior U.S. health officials have squelched a Food and Drug Administration proposal that for the first time would have curbed dentists’ use of mercury – one of the planet’s nastiest toxins because it attacks the central nervous system – in treating Americans’ decayed teeth. McClatchy Newspapers article

 

Land Use/Housing

Hanford council to consider movie theaters — The Hanford City Council will consider an ordinance Tuesday that would allow movie theaters to build outside of the downtown area. Hanford Sentinel article

Franco Center’s new owners promise upgrades — Downtown’s beleaguered, bug-infested Franco Center — home to some of Stockton’s most vulnerable residents — will be getting a significant makeover starting this fall, according to its new owners. Stockton Record article

Transportation

Clearing the western road to Yosemite – finally — The time has finally arrived to deal with the 110,000 tons of rock and debris that buried a small part of Highway 140 in 2006. The state this year already has moved a lot of debris in this $133 million project to open up this bottleneck by 2019.  Fresno Bee article

Experts Caltrans tapped to study Bay Bridge tower rods stir doubt  —  Caltrans has tasked a panel of world-renowned experts to gauge the threat posed by salt water that is flooding into the foundation of the new Bay Bridge eastern span’s tower. The trouble, critics say, is that many of those same experts concluded in 2014 that the span had practically nothing to fear from water exposure, after spending $20 million in toll payers’ money on a testing program for the rods and bolts that hold the bridge together. San Francisco Chronicle article

Bay Area’s disjointed public transit network inspires a call for harmony — As housing costs here continue to escalate, with growing numbers of people moving farther afield in search of affordability, the disjointed nature of the region’s transportation fiefs, each with its own fare structures and nomenclature, has become the topic of increasingly intense debate among transportation policy experts. New York Times article

San Diego bike-share program hits snag over modest use, rental locations — Use of San Diego’s large network of rental stations has been modest since it began operating in January, and community leaders complain the company running the network is cherry-picking lucrative locations instead of focusing on sites that would get commuters out of their cars. LA Times article

Other areas

Lois Henry: When it comes to fireworks, some pay and some don’t — I want to talk about charities and fireworks. But first, pardon me while I go apoplectic over news that Kern County Court Commissioner Alisa Knight arbitrarily reduced fines from $1,000 to $480 on more than half (23 of 42) of the illegal fireworks citations issued by the Bakersfield Fire Department. And she dismissed five cases altogether. Are you kidding me? Bakersfield Californian article

Grand jury slams Home Garden district — Of all the reports issued by the 2014-2015 Kings County Grand Jury this year, one stands out above the rest, both for how long it is and because of how critical it is: the report on the Home Garden Community Services District. Hanford Sentinel article

Mike Klocke: Warm handshakes, a tardy reservoir, and a sad loss — Random thoughts for a Sunday morning. Klocke column in Stockton Record

Michael Fitzgerald: A little leg work to settle a grave concern — I would like to think of this column as a place of knowledgeable civic debate and good storytelling. Occasionally, however, it becomes The Department of Very Odd Problems. The Department opened on Wednesday. A Carolyn Sneed called. Sneed, 69, said she was saddled with a tombstone. One she solemnly had agreed to find a proper place for before realizing she had not the faintest idea what the proper place was or how to figure it out. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Valley Editorial Roundup

Sacramento Bee – Mark Yudof’s joke is on us, and we’re not amused; Mental illness doesn’t care about party affiliation. It’s time to address it with bipartisanship.

Upcoming Events

  • The Better Blackstone Association will hold a street festival, “Come Imagine the Possibilities for Blackstone …,” on Friday, Aug. 7, at the Susan B. Anthony school parking lot in Fresno from 5-8 p.m. More information: Call (559) 485-1416 or email info@betterblackstone.com.
  • “Unlocking Renewables: A Summit,” which will explore the clean energy potential in the San Joaquin Valley, will be held at Fresno State on Wednesday, Aug. 12, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Featured speakers include state Sen. Anthony Cannella and Ken Alex, senior policy advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown and director of the Office of Planning and Research. More information: www.RenewablesInTheValley.org.
  • West Hills Community College District will hold an event, “Shifting Ground — Adapting the San Joaquin Valley Economy to a Changing Climate,” on Oct. 8 at Harris Ranch in Coalinga. Senior leaders from business, agriculture, government agencies and nonprofits will gather to launch immediate actions and provide near-term guidance to create next generation jobs in a region battered by drought and struggling with multiple challenges. Visitwww.essentialelementsseries.com for details of this no-fee policy series.  

Interactive

Next 10: UPDATED California budget challenge For the first time in a decade, California’s budget is largely in balance.  However, the state has outstanding debts of $28 million, not counting long-term pension and retiree health care costs.  Budget choices affect us all.  Take the Challenge and decide how much should be spent on programs and where the money should come from.  Next 10 California Budget Challenge 

Next 10: Federal budget challengeThe Federal Budget Challenge is based on The Concord Coalition’s Principles and Priorities budget exercise, which has been used in numerous town hall meetings across the country by members of Congress from both parties, as well as in hundreds of high school and college classrooms.  Next 10 Federal Budget challenge at www.federalbudgetchallenge.org.

Next 10: California Water Challenge – As our state faces some of the most severe drought conditions in its history, Next 10 wants to issue a new challenge to Californians: can you create a plan to make sure there’s enough water for everyone?  Next 10 California Water Challenge

LEGISLATORS’ VOTING RECORDS: How often has a California legislator broken party ranks, abstained or switched sides? The Sacramento Bee has a database of the voting records of every member of the state Senate and Assembly. Enter a lawmaker’s last and first names to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. Check it out at this link.  http://www.sacbee.com/votingrecord/

Maddy Institute Updates List of San Joaquin Valley Elected Officials – The Maddy Institute has updated its list of San Joaquin Valley elected officials.  The list is available here.

Maddy Institute on Facebook and Twitter – To learn about Maddy Institute activities (e.g. The Maddy Report tv show, The Maddy Associates’ Luncheons, the Maddy Legislative Intern Program), become a fan of the Maddy Institute on Facebook or log on to http://twitter.com/MaddyInstitute. And if you have a Facebook or Twitter account, please add us and follow us!

The Kenneth L. Maddy Institute at California State University, Fresno was established to honor the legacy of one of California’s most principled and effective legislative leaders of the last half of the 20th Century by engaging, preparing and inspiring a new generation of governmental leaders for the 21st Century. Its mission is to inspire citizen participation, elevate government performance, provide non-partisan analysis and assist in providing solutions for public policy issues important to the region, state and nation.

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