August 20, 2016


Top stories

Lawmakers rebuff Jerry Brown’s bid to slip cap and trade into climate bill – In a setback for Gov. Jerry Brown, legislative Democrats have rebuffed his proposal to amend major environmental legislation to authorize the extension of California’s cap-and-trade program beyond 2020. Sacramento Bee article

‘Meet your new neighbor’ cards paint extreme cases of criminal release — The campaign against Gov. Jerry Brown’s ballot measure to make certain nonviolent felons eligible for early release is distributing sportslike trading cards with photographs of prisoners under the headline, “Meet your new neighbor.” Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics 

San Joaquin County candidate field finalized — Incumbents in two cities chose not to file papers for city council candidacy by Wednesday’s extended deadlines for the upcoming election. Stockton Record article


Surveillance stills from border patrol facilities show crowded, trash-filled cells — As part of a lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection, new images from surveillance video have been released to the public that show detained immigrants crowded into cramped concrete holding cells in Arizona. NPR report

New law equalizes injury damages for unauthorized immigrants — Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill this week, effective next January, that will exclude evidence of a victim’s immigration status in lawsuits for injuries or wrongful death. That means immigrants, legal or not, will be entitled to the same compensation for their injuries as anyone else. San Francisco Chronicle article

Other areas

‘When it’s someone you know, it puts a face on shootings’: For Assembly speaker, gun control fight is personal – In adopting a sweeping package of gun control laws this summer, many California lawmakers focused on the sobering statistics — the large number of shootings that they say represent an “epidemic” of gun violence. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon also saw faces: those of his relatives, who were killed by guns. LA Times article

Casino politics: Condit’s firm is lobbying for tribe in front of panel his son-in-law chairs – A casino operator has hired former Rep. Gary Condit’s firm to lobby the state Legislature at a time when the legislative panel overseeing gambling issues is chaired by Condit’s son-in-law. LA Times article

California homeowner drought-relief bill passes Senate – A bill to let drought-stricken homeowners seek state grants or low-interest loans for water and wastewater projects has passed the state Senate and is in the Assembly. Assembly Bill 1588, authored by Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday. Fresno Bee article

Water use disclosure bill sinks in California Senate – A measure to expand public disclosure of commercial, industrial and other institutional water uses in California fell far short of passage in the state Senate on Friday. Sacramento Bee article

California legalizes lane-splitting; CHP to create rules — California became the first state to make lane-splitting by motorcyclists legal when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 into law Friday, authorizing the California Highway Patrol to develop guidelines for the motorcyclists who delight in weaving in and out of traffic. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Ami Bera says his family is trying to move on; rips Scott Jones over lawsuit – Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, whose father was sentenced to a year in prison for election fraud, says the family is trying to move on from what was a “grave mistake” while ensuring that his 82-year-old mother is cared for. Sacramento Bee article

Hernandez: ‘I’m focused on my health,’ not congressional run — Brushing off domestic-abuse allegations that cost him political clout as the fabrications of a vengeful ex-wife, an unapologetic Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-Baldwin Park, returned to the Assembly on Friday after a prolonged medical leave and vowed to remain through the session’s end. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times articleKQED report

Ashby tries to move on from ‘a hundred million mistakes’ in her bid for Sacramento mayor — On the June night Angelique Ashby lost her bid to become mayor of Sacramento, she climbed on top of a wooden picnic table in a Natomas brewery armed with the rough-and-ready charisma that got her into the race – and helped knock her out. Sacramento Bee article

News Stories

Top Stories

Kern sheriff, DA’s office to make one more budget pitch — Six months of budget battles end Tuesday for the County of Kern. And it will be a fight. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood will make one final attempt to convince Kern County supervisors to leave his budget alone. Bakersfield Californian article

Court reverses $73.4 million award to new city backers – An appeals court has overturned a $73.4 million land and water rights verdict that had gone in favor of a new Kings County city proposal, further casting doubt on how the conceptualized city will secure a sufficient water supply. Hanford Sentinel article

After years without water, taps are turned on in East Porterville — Tania Ramirez stepped into her family’s front yard Friday morning, leaned down toward a pipe protruding from the garden, and twisted a spigot. For the first time in three years, water came pouring out. LA Times articleKQED reportKVPR reportFresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Valley unemployment rates: Unemployment rates stayed mostly steady in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley region in July, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department. Here are the July jobless rates, followed in parentheses by the June 2016 and July 2015 rates:

  • Fresno– 9.4 percent (9.3, 9.8)
  • Kern– 10.6 percent (10.8, 10.2)
  • Kings– 9.6 percent (10.2, 9.7)
  • Madera– 9.5 percent (9.4, 10.3)
  • Merced– 10.5 percent (10.4, 10.8)
  • San Joaquin– 10.5 percent (10.4, 10.8)
  • Stanislaus– 8.9 percent (9.1, 9.5)
  • Tulare– 11.3 percent (10.8, 11.5)

Unemployment rate inches up in state, Sacramento – Unemployment rates inched up in California and the Sacramento region last month, although job growth remained steady around the state. California’s unemployment rate grew to 5.5 percent in July, up one-tenth of a point, the Employment Development Department reported Friday. Sacramento Bee article

Fresno County jobless rate continues downward trend since last year – The unemployment rate in Fresno County continued its long-term improvement thanks to an increase in government jobs. Fresno’s July unemployment rate was 9.4 percent, below the 9.8 percent rate from July 2015, according to numbers released Friday by the state Employment Development DepartmentFresno Bee article

Kings jobless rate drops into single digits –  Kings County’s unemployment rate dipped to 9.6 percent in July, down from 10.2 percent in June and below the rate of 9.7 percent a year ago, according to numbers released Friday by the California Employment Development Department. Hanford Sentinel article

Farm jobs surge in Merced County; July jobless rate lowest since 2007 — An increase in farm and manufacturing jobs played a large part in Merced County’s 10.5 percent unemployment rate last month, the lowest for the month of July since 2007, labor market analysts reported Friday. Merced Sun-Star article

State jobless rate up slightly, but Stanislaus down – In the Northern San Joaquin Valley, Stanislaus County had an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent in July, down from its 9.1 percent unemployment rate in June and 9.5 percent rate in July 2015. San Joaquin County had an unemployment rate of 10.5 percent in July, up from its 10.4 percent rate in June but better than its 10.8 percent rate in July 2015. Modesto Bee article

Will Visalia Macy’s close? — While Macy’ announced last week that some of their stores would shutter, it remains unclear if Visalia is on that list. Visalia Mall Manager Richard Feder said his bosses at General Growth Properties and Macy’s are in talks about the future of the Visalia location, which General Growth owns. Visalia Times-Delta article

New Grand Save owner files motion to stop receivership — While south Stockton residents begin planning to replace the New Grand Save Market, the building’s owner has filed a motion to stop the receivership of the property. Stockton Record article

Streets in downtown Sacramento’s railyard open to drivers for first time — After decades hidden away, Sacramento’s massive railyard officially opened its doors to the public Friday, ushering in what officials predict will be a building boom in the northwest corner of downtown for decades to come.  Sacramento Bee article

San Diego city employees help themselves to free parks program — Some city employees have been skimping out on registration fees for their kids’ Park and Recreation activities, a secret practice that city officials say has apparently gone on for decades. LA Times article


The biggest California water decision you’ve never heard of —  There’s another root of the problem, often overlooked, that controls both the state’s water supply and the fate of endangered fish: the San Joaquin River. Soon, state officials will make a pivotal decision about how much water should flow down that river each year and the decision will stick for years to come. Some say it could be the most revolutionary change in decades for the West’s largest estuary and the site of California’s fiercest water battles. KQED report

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Bill McEwen: How about complying with police officer’s commands? – The 16-year-old Hoover High student who failed to comply with a Fresno police officer’s commands, as well as the bystander who videoed the incident, did the Black Lives Matter movement no favors. McEwen in Fresno Bee

Porterville officer, suspect wounded in exchange of gunfire — A Porterville police officer was shot in the hip and a suspect with whom he exchanged fire was struck four times by bullets late Thursday night at a major intersection in the city, police reported. Fresno Bee articleVisalia Times-Delta article

Cops, community come together to talk about policing in Fresno – Law enforcement and community members came together Friday evening for the “We’re in this Together” event in central Fresno. Fresno Bee article

Foon Rhee: Breaking up with private prisons can be hard to do – In a major reversal, the feds announced Thursday they plan to phase out the use of private prisons. Good thing, too, after reports of abuses and safety problems. Rhee in Sacramento Bee

Probe continues into Merced court commissioner’s death — Investigators continue to unravel the strange chain of events on a June night that began with a retired Merced court commissioner suffering injuries outside a bar hours before he was killed in a possible drunken-driving crash. Merced Sun-Star article

Dan Morain: Lawrence Bittaker, a most depraved killer, twists justice system — Bittaker is one of 726 condemned men at San Quentin. They’re housed on various tiers and cellblocks, and in an immaculate new psychiatric ward for 40 of the most floridly insane murderers. As voters prepare to decide Proposition 62 to abolish capital punishment and Proposition 66 intended to speed it up, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation led a tour of this state’s death row last week. Morain in Sacramento Bee

Drunken driver who killed 7-year-old files to pull manslaughter plea — The lawyer for Loren LeBeau, the former Central High School basketball coach sent to prison for a drunken-driving crash that killed 7-year-old Donovan Maldonado, filed a motion Friday in Fresno County Superior Court to withdraw his no-contest plea to manslaughter charges. Fresno Bee article

Anger and addiction often drive arsonists, but convictions rare — He is generally a young white man, abused by his parents, bad at school, stuck in bottom-wage jobs and antisocial. He probably also is a drunk or drug addict, struggles psychologically and gets in trouble with the law. This is the typical arsonist, according to FBI and other law enforcement analyses. And he may be rare — only about 6 percent of wildfires in California each year are started by arsonists — but when he strikes, the result is often catastrophic. San Francisco Chronicle article


Kern High School District superintendent takes control of district police department – The superintendent of the Kern High School District announced Friday he has assumed direct administrative oversight of the district’s police department in the wake of allegations that administrators and employees improperly used the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, known as CLETS, to run background checks on students and other individuals. Bakersfield Californian article

Modesto City Schools rebuked for actions in teacher union battle – A state board has ruled Modesto City Schools violated the rights of teachers during the local union’s 2014 fight with its state affiliate. Modesto Bee article

Le Grand High team to showcase restorative justice at White House — Le Grand High School restorative justice leaders will travel to Washington, D.C., this weekend to show White House officials how their program could be a national model for reducing suspensions and expulsions and helping prevent students from ending up in prison. Merced Sun-Star article

Buses now Wi-Fi hot spots for Fresno Unified – Fresno Unified on Friday unveiled free Wi-Fi on all of its 99 school buses. The district said the change is to help make traveling time to athletic events and other student activities useful. Fresno Bee article

Stockton Unified’s Health Careers Academy makes Newsweek’s national ‘Beating the Odds’ list — Earlier this week, HCA was unveiled as one of 500 high schools across the nation included on Newsweek’s “Beating the Odds” list of 2016, identifying schools that prepare low-income students for college. Coming in at No. 330, the charter, part of the Stockton Unified School District, was graded on factors such as graduation rates and percentage of students living in poverty. Stockton Record article

UC Davis battles hunger on campus – Yolo County social worker Connie Perez huddled over a table on a recent weekday helping a UC Davis student fill out an application for food stamps. Sacramento Bee article

Tears, hugs follow jurors’ $3.1 million award to whistleblower in teacher credentialing case — A Sacramento woman fired from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing after disclosing a three-year backlog in teacher misconduct complaints has won a $3.1 million jury verdict in a lawsuit against the agency and two of its executives. Sacramento Bee article

Bay Area housing costs force high school students into 70-mile commute – A tight and astronomically expensive housing market is forcing families to face wrenching choices: to uproot, make marathon drives or cram together. But the market is also reshaping the size and makeup of some Bay Area schools, as displaced families leave and re-enroll their children elsewhere. San Jose Mercury News article

USC faces federal lawsuit over ‘excessive’ retirement plan fees – A lawsuit filed this week against USC claims that university officials failed to prevent more than 28,000 employees from overpaying for third-party retirement investment and administrative services, “resulting in millions of dollars in excessive recordkeeping fees each year.” LA Times article


Cedar Fire 6 percent contained, has cost $2.5 million — The Cedar Fire has consumed 9,500 acres and was just 6 percent contained Friday, fire officials said.The blaze that began Tuesday afternoon east of Glennville has cost about $2.5 million to date and led to more evacutations, according to fire officials. Full containment is expected Aug. 31. Bakersfield Californian articleVisalia Times-Delta articleFresno Bee article

93 homes, 216 other buildings destroyed as California’s fire season takes another grim turn — The tally of California’s harsh fire season ascended to even grimmer terrain Friday as officials announced that the Blue Cut fire in the Cajon Pass has destroyed nearly 100 homes and more than 200 other structures. LA Times article

Why fighting wildfires in California costs more than in other states — Wildfires in California are notoriously expensive. The state has some of the highest total fire expenditures of any region in the country in a given year, according to research by the US Forest Service. KPCC report

Land Use/Housing

New city idea is an old idea — Ever heard of Quay Valley, the new city proposed for land off Interstate 5 south of Kettleman City? It’s not the first new settlement proposed for the flatlands of southwestern Kings County. Hanford Sentinel article

Coming soon to Cal Weber 40: tenants — The sign went up earlier this month, the characters “CW40” enclosed in a large circle aloft above the main entrance to the new Cal Weber 40 affordable housing project downtown. Stockton Record article

Developer: First phase of Granite Park restoration to be done by October — The effort to bring Granite Park back to life is in full swing — and the developers of the project hope to be hosting ball games at the long-vacant facility later this fall. The Business Journal article


Lisa Stabler: Railroads and Denham deliver on safety – The president of Transportation Technology Center, Inc. writes, “Californians and citizens across the country must understand the power of this transportation mode to forego misguided proposals – like the tax on hazardous materials – that disregards how railroads help make life better. The industry asks public leaders to do their part and applauds Rep. Denham for his tireless work.” Stabler op-ed in Modesto Bee

Other areas

Luis Santana: Let’s transform 93701 neighborhood into Family Success Zone – The executive director of Reading and Beyond writes, “Like the people of the favelas, while the residents of 93701 may live in poverty and lack education, they have a tremendous will to survive and get ahead, no matter what the struggle. That is why Reading and Beyond, a nonprofit organization, has taken as its mission the transformation of 93701into the Family Success Zone.” Santana op-ed in Fresno Bee

Fresno judges assaulted in reports about probation chief – The investigation of Fresno County Probation Chief Rick Chavez was riddled with errors, misperceptions and omissions, Fresno County’s top lawyer says in response to an investigation done on behalf of Fresno County judges who are calling for Chavez’s dismissal. Fresno Bee article

Vaunted group home for sex-trafficking victims closes amid state scrutiny; big donors pull back – For years, Jenny Williamson of Granite Bay has heralded her dream of rescuing girls from sex traffickers, spreading the gospel while raising hundreds of thousands to open a unique group home in the Sacramento region. Sacramento Bee article

Congressman calls mail thefts an ‘epidemic’ in Kern, across the state – Congressman Kevin McCarthy on Friday addressed the slew of mail thefts in Kern County this past year and reiterated such crimes are a federal offense punishable by five years in prison, 10 if the culprit is caught with a counterfeit mailbox key. Bakersfield Californian article