August 3, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Cathleen Decker: Trickle-down politics: Drought could force real change among city, state leaders — It’s something of a relief, if a mixed one, that the drought has surged into the role of the latest scourge to freak out California. It’s a relief in the sense that it means that the California economy, so recently frighteningly rocky, has receded as the top-billed problem facing the state, even if the recovery is more patchy and vulnerable than anyone might wish. But it’s mixed, of course, because the drought carries its own dangers, and the ultimate solution — rain — remains wholly out of the power of politicians or everyday Californians. Decker in LA Times 

Adam Gray: A canny California politician forges his own path — Gray, the latest in a line of middle-of-the-road Central Valley Democrats who periodically cross the party line, has proved to be an adept operator who can draw on years of experience inside the Capitol to advance his agenda. He has gained notice for his bare-knuckle approach to chairing the so-called GO committee, which considers measures affecting well-heeled and politically generous gambling, alcohol and tobacco industries. Sacramento Bee article


Valley politics

School board recall elections popping up in Valley — Recall elections for three Valley school boards have been confirmed, while efforts are ongoing in other local districts to do the same, following a recent spate of superintendent ousters. Fresno Bee article



Immigrants object to growing use of ankle monitors after detention — GPS ankle monitors are becoming standard equipment for immigration officials along the border. In July, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, used about 9,300 ankle monitors at a time — 40% more than about six months ago. They are run by a government contractor, BI Inc., a subsidiary of the country’s second-largest prison company, which also operates immigration detention centers. LA Times article


Other areas 

Dan Walters: David Crane still an irritant to California unions – There may not be a bounty on his head, but David Crane sits atop the enemies list for California’s public employee unions. Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

Obama’s new emissions rules likely to help shape White House race — With Monday’s release of landmark rules to combat global warming, President Obama is putting into place what probably will be the last piece of his ambitious second-term agenda – one that highlights deep divisions in the country and helps shape the race to succeed him. LA Times article

Is GOP resurrecting its ‘war on women’ image? — Political observers say Republicans may again be toying with a strategy that threatens to resurrect the theme, this time with a GOP-backed drive to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides health care to 2.7 million Americans annually and that studies show has served 1 in 5 American women. San Francisco Chronicle article


News Briefs

Top Stories

Fresno County’s Measure C may aid land purchase for high-speed rail maintenance site — For more than five years, county leaders have cast covetous glances at about 510 acres at Fresno’s southern edge, along Cedar Avenue between Malaga and Adams avenues, as a proposed site for a heavy maintenance facility. Such a facility, which would serve as a central work site for assembling, testing and maintaining electric train sets for the statewide high-speed rail system, is coveted by Valley communities as an economic golden goose because of the estimated 1,500 jobs it would provide and its effect in attracting rail-related support industries to the region. Now the county may be getting ready to put its money where its mouth is, and to do so sooner than expected. Fresno Bee article 

Rise in college food banks linked to the economy and campus demographics — The economy undoubtedly played the largest role in the increase of college food banks, with several related factors probably contributing, including a greater number of older students returning to campus without much family support and a higher number of foreign students who have limited access to federal assistance. LA Times article


Jobs and the Economy

Airfares drop while airlines score big profits –  If you plan to travel this fall, expect to pay the lowest airfares in years. The average domestic airfare for the September-through-November period is forecast to be $248, or 3.6% cheaper than in fall 2014 and 8.1% cheaper than in the same three months of 2013, according to the Boston flight research site LA Times article

Mel’s Original Diner is coming back to the Valley — The diner made famous in “American Graffiti” is opening up shop less than 30 miles away. What’s more, there’s a chance you could be rolling in to order a Melburger and a malt right here in Modesto in the not-too-distant future. Modesto Bee article

Wine distributor ready to roll — Trinchero Family Estates pushed in the clutch and shifted gears last week. The nation’s fifth-largest wine company, with sales of nearly 19 million cases in 2014 according to Wine Business Monthly, took the week off from customer deliveries to focus on moving its cased-goods inventory from the Napa Valley to its new $180 million distribution center and bottling plant in Lodi. Stockton Record article

Uber, Lyft not popular with business travelers — Although ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft continue to expand across the country, the services remain one of the least popular ground transportation options among business travelers. LA Times article

Sale of lottery tickets at gas pumps fuels concerns over gambling — Drivers in California now can shove their credit card into a gas pump and come away with more than fuel — they can buy lottery tickets. And that’s sparking complaints from groups concerned about the continuing growth of state-sponsored gambling. San Francisco Chronicle article



Water & farmers: Things to know about the AP-GfK drought poll — A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds most Americans think of water as a limited resource that can be depleted if people use too much. When asked to rate priorities when water is scarce during a drought, more said agriculture should be a top or high priority over residential needs, wildlife and industry. Here is a look at some of the poll’s key findings. AP article

Drought-tolerant landscaping sends grit onto plates of outdoor diners – Lately, patrons dining outside of Montrose Bakery & Café have been getting their orders with a side of grit. Several patches of grass along the Honolulu Avenue eatery have been swapped for decomposed granite to comply with state mandates to reduce urban water use. The new sand-like material, said bakery owner Henry Baeza, is becoming a growing complaint among his customers. LA Times article

Hospitals seek water savings amid drought — From nurses washing their hands every time they enter a patient’s room to steam scalding surgical instruments sterile, water is everywhere in a hospital. San Diego Union-Tribune article


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

Massive search for suspect in murder, shooting of Kern deputy — Deputies, police officers and rangers are scouring the area near Weldon, east of Lake Isabella, for a suspect involved in a shooting that wounded a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy late Saturday night. Bakersfield Californian article

Manhunt: Deputy risks his life to save colleague – A Kern County Sheriff’s deputy injured Saturday night risked his life pulling a colleague to safety when an armed suspect believed to be connected to an earlier kidnapping and slaying opened fire on SWAT team members in the area of Jawbone Canyon Road 70 miles east of Bakersfield. Bakersfield Californian article 

Probation may sound light, but punishments can be harsh – As more states turn to probation and parole to reduce incarceration, some cases highlight how a supposedly light punishment can severely disrupt a life. New York Times article

Stanislaus County judge removes himself from death penalty case — A Stanislaus County judge has removed himself from a death penalty case he has presided over for the past six years, but it’s not exactly clear why he’s recusing himself now. Modesto Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Find the gunshots, but preserve privacy – From GPS trackers to license plate scanners to body cameras, technology is revolutionizing public safety, but crime-stopping must be balanced with civil liberties. Sacramento Bee editorial

Sacramento police say bait bikes’ crime-fighting role goes beyond deterring bicycle thefts — A bait bike program intended to deter bicycle thefts in Sacramento is also reeling in thieves suspected of other property crimes in the city, police say. Sacramento Bee article

Loomis businessman pleads guilty to providing illegal gambling machines to Internet cafes — A Loomis-based corporation and its owner pleaded guilty Thursday in Sacramento federal court to conducting an illegal gambling business by providing computerized “sweepstakes” games that were once available in coffeehouses statewide. Sacramento Bee article



CSU Bakersfield athletes make the grade — CSUB, which at one time left all things academic for athletes to tackle pretty much by themselves, now has a support structure in place and a new $870,000 grant dedicated to academic services for athletes. The school is less than one point away from its goal of a cumulative GPA of 3.0 for its athletes. School officials report the highest collective GPA in CSUB history among those playing intercollegiate sports, a 2.96 at the end of the 2014-2015 year. Bakersfield Californian article

Ed Ring: Specter of school bonds is haunting California – The executive director of the California Policy Center writes, “Now is the time for Californians to demand accountability and refuse to allow vested bond interests to remain in the shadows. Without reform, California’s financial well-being will continue its downward spiral, burdening future generations and failing to address the shortcomings in the state’s public education system.” Ring op-ed in Sacramento Bee



Fresno County crude oil production modest, but rising – Plenty in the central San Joaquin Valley know that Bakersfield and Kern County are the epicenter of oil production in California. But fewer realize that tucked among the hills to the west near Coalinga — and scattered across farmland closer to Fresno — are subterranean pools of liquified and gasified remains of plants and animals that thrived millions of years ago. Fresno Bee article

Cascadel Woods residents get OK to return home as Willow fire containment grows – A mandatory evacuation order will be lifted at 9 p.m. Sunday for the Cascadel Woods community as fire officials continue work to control the Willow fire in North Fork. Fresno Bee article

Firefighters in Merced County, across state keep busy — Fire consumed two boats and about a quarter-acre of brush Sunday in Atwater, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Merced County. Merced Sun-Star article

Firestorm grows near Clear Lake, 12,000 ordered from homes – Fueled by withering dry brush left by an historic drought, a wildfire near Clear Lake ballooned into a ravenous fire storm Sunday, more than doubling in size and forcing authorities to order 12,000 people out of their homes. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; KQED report; San Francisco Chronicle article

Dealing with climate change won’t be easy — Will other states or nations follow California in pursuing deep emissions cuts? Will California be able to meet the new targets, and if so, how? What are the total costs and benefits of the programs? How much will the price of gasoline and electricity increase? Here’s some of what we know. CALmatters article

Expanse of warm water dubbed the blob consumes North Pacific – Weird things are happening off the Pacific Coast. And at the center of the action is a warm-water mass that scientists call “the blob.” It’s turning the coastal ecosystem on its head. Species are dying along Washington, Oregon and northern California: sea stars, marine birds and sardines, among them. AP article

Severin Borenstein: Will every house be its own electrical generator? – The E.T. Grether Professor of Business Administration and Public Policy at the Haas School of Business writes, “Renewable energy technologies have made outstanding progress in the last decade. Solar panels and wind turbines have become massively more efficient. In many locations, some forms of renewable energy are cost competitive. And yet…just as these exciting changes are taking place, many advocates are shifting their focus to an issue disconnected from the fundamental environmental goals: distributed generation.” Borenstein op-ed in Modesto Bee 

Proposed bobcat trapping ban feeds debate over government’s role — The California Fish and Game Commission will consider a statewide ban on bobcat trapping this week, a proposal that has reignited debate over wildlife protections and the power of regulatory agencies. Sacramento Bee article


Health/Human Services

Some fast-food menus go healthy, others go whole hog to attract customers – As Americans grapple with their waistlines and become more calorie-conscious, some fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s, are peddling healthier options including salads and chicken wraps. Others, such as Carl’s Jr., have unleashed outrageous options to appeal to a different market, primarily young men. Sacramento Bee article

Variety of medical scopes pose the risk of serious infection – Infection experts have been warning for years in speeches and research papers that many types of endoscopes can remain dirty after cleaning — only to have their concerns mostly ignored by doctors performing the procedures. LA Times article 

A killer on the loose: UCLA doctors race to stop superbug outbreak and save patients — Doctors at UCLA’s flagship hospital were baffled: A healthy 40-year-old woman had fallen deathly ill after a routine procedure. A long black scope had been threaded down her throat to treat troublesome gallstones. Now antibiotics were powerless to stop a raging infection. LA Times article

Vaccine-injured children, adults can seek compensation from federal government – Vaccines remain one of the greatest success stories in public health. But for some Americans, rare side effects of inoculations have led to hardship, serious injury, even death. For almost three decades, the federal government has quietly acknowledged as much: It has paid out more than $3.2 billion to 4,150 individuals and families for injuries caused by everything from flu, diphtheria and tetanus shots to whooping cough vaccines. Contra Costa Times article

Most picky eating harmless, but it can signal emotional woes — Parents of picky eaters take heart: New research suggests the problem is rarely worth fretting over, although in a small portion of kids it may signal emotional troubles that should be checked out. AP article


Land Use/Housing

Developer looks to build more Merced apartments – B.P. Investors L.P. is looking to build a 216-unit complex on 9.8 acres of land near G Street and Merrill Place. The city Planning Commission denied the project, and the developers have appealed to the City Council for approval. Merced Sun-Star article



Modesto’s old Pelandale bridge comes tumbling down — Workers demolished the Pelandale Avenue bridge spanning Highway 99 in north Modesto over the weekend as part of a $55 million project to build a new interchange at the highway. Modesto Bee article

Sacramento airport offering ticketless parking option — Parking is a bit confusing at Sacramento International Airport this summer. The airport is making parking technology upgrades, and, at the moment, patrons can choose to use the old payment system or one of two new ones. One option the airport is pushing is to go ticketless: You slide your credit card in the entry slot to get into the lot or garage and then slide it again at the exit booth when you leave. Sacramento Bee article


Other areas

No shortage of vital records paper in San Joaquin County – San Joaquin County residents will still be able to purchase birth, marriage or death certificates in the future, despite a neighboring county’s looming shortage of special paper. Stanislaus County Clerk Recorder Lee Lundrigan issued a statement this week to let residents know that vital records may soon be in short supply. Stockton Record article 

Bee Investigator: Expired license tags everywhere, it seems to area motorist — It’s difficult to quantify if a quarter of the cars on the street are actually behind on their registration fees, but some numbers from the California Department of Motor Vehicles suggest Mrs. L.A.G.’s cursory count could be pretty close. In the fiscal year 2013-14, 95 percent of the state’s 31 million vehicle registrations were paid, but 23 percent of those were paid late, according to DMV spokesman Artemio Armenta. Modesto Bee article

Inglewood files suit over disparaging videos of City Council meetings — Inglewood has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the online video posts violate the copyright of council videos — a tactic some legal scholars say is unusual, unlikely to succeed and fraught with financial risk for the small city that is set to break ground on a $1.86-billion NFL stadium. LA Times article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – State legislators need to develop body-cam laws that will equip large and small departments, create sensible rules for public access and thwart bad cops who try to game the system. We haven’t a day to lose.

Sacramento Bee – From GPS trackers to license plate scanners to body cameras, technology is revolutionizing public safety, but crime-stopping must be balanced with civil liberties.