August 8, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California lawmakers raise more than $24 million in first half of 2015 — Recently filed campaign-finance reports show that, during one of the quieter stretches on the political calendar, members of the California Legislature raised more than $24 million from January through June. Sacramento Bee article

U.S. Senate drags its feet on federal judicial nominations — It’s well known that Fresno’s federal judges are overworked and struggling under the weight of one of the nation’s largest caseloads. The U.S. Senate, however, appears in no hurry to help. Federal legislation that would approve more judges for California’s Eastern District, which includes courthouses in Fresno and Sacramento, is going nowhere. And there appears to be no hurry to approve U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii’s replacement. Fresno Bee article 

California effort to issue driver’s licenses receives surge of applicants — Most of the immigrant drivers who are now getting their licenses have been on the roads for years, usually driving registered cars with insurance to minimize the possibility of steep fines or of having their cars impounded. But critics say that with measures like the driver’s license program, the state is interfering with federal policy. They argue that such laws will only entice more immigrants to enter the country illegally, increasing the need for public spending. New York Times article


Gov. Brown 

Gov. Jerry Brown signs law targeting illegal marijuana grows — Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed into law a measure allowing steep civil fines against marijuana farms that damage the environment by dumping wastewater and chemicals, removing trees and killing wild animals. LA Times article

David Lazarus: An issue potent enough to divide Brown and Nader: the malpractice damage cap — What has Nader so cheesed is Brown’s reluctance to take a leadership role in fixing California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, a 1975 statute that Brown signed into law during his first stint as governor. Lazarus in LA Times


Valley politics

Tulare Republican Mathis turns in weak finance report — Mathis’ first campaign finance report since taking office was less than stellar. He raised just $71,000 between Jan. 1 and June 30, and has around $48,000 in his campaign account. Some Sacramento-based GOP analysts and fundraisers, who asked not to be identified because they were speaking ill of a fellow Republican, say Mathis needs to pick up the pace if there is a chance he may face a credible challenger next year. Fresno Bee article

Crowded field for Modesto mayor, council elections  — Modesto voters will not lack for choices in the November election. They will pick among five candidates for mayor and at least nine for three City Council seats. The filing period to run for office ended Friday for races throughout Stanislaus County, though the filing period was extended to Wednesday for races in which the incumbent is not seeking re-election. Modesto Bee article



Border Patrol weighs use of body cams — U.S. Border Patrol agents and officers may join a growing list of police agencies nationwide using body cameras in an effort to increase safety and transparency. San Diego Union-Tribune article

Andrew Fiala: On Ethics: What kind of message would an American border wall send to the world? – The professor of philosophy and director of The Ethics Center at Fresno State writes, “A wall along the U.S.-Mexican border would be built on another bad idea. We permit goods and capital to move freely across borders. But we prevent human laborers from following suit. That’s an unstable system.” Fiala op-ed in Fresno Bee
Other areas

‘Shrimp Boy’ Chow’s court filing in California political scandal won’t be sealed, judge rules  U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer on Friday denied a federal prosecution request that pre-trial filngs by Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow — which included excerpts of confidential wiretap evidence against a number of politicians — be sealed, saying that doing so would “serve no useful purpose” as the documents “are available on the Internet and have been widely publicized.” LA Times article

Foon Rhee: Bad roads cost motorists, but are we willing to pay for fixes? – The big question is whether legislators will listen more to commuters who want a smoother ride – or to voters who would be angry if their taxes or fees go up. Rhee in Sacramento Bee

California Assembly agrees to pay six figures to settle lawsuit against former lawmaker – The California Assembly has agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former employee of ousted Democratic Assemblyman Steve Fox of Palmdale. Sacramento Bee article

Why in politics is it OK to call a woman a pig? — When is it OK to call a woman a pig, or worse? In the hypercharged partisan state of American politics, it may depend on whether the woman is a conservative or a liberal. McClatchy Newspapers article

Barack Obama: We only get one planet, let’s save it from climate change — We only get one planet. We only get one chance to protect the health of our kids. For the sake of ourselves, and future generations, we must make the most of it. Obama op-ed in McClatchy Newspapers


News Briefs

Top Stories

California prison population drops under Prop 47, but public safety impact still unclear — Only a spotty picture has emerged of the law’s early effects: Supporters celebrate that tens of thousands of current and former convicts have already had the felonies on their records changed to misdemeanors, opening up new opportunities for jobs, housing and public benefits. Police and prosecutors argue that it has made their jobs more difficult. Sacramento Bee article

Booze and Fresno: City circles how to balance prosperity, civility Ten bars in Fresno were so dangerous that City Hall asked the state for help in controlling them. But City Hall refuses to publicly identify the 10. That’s only half of it. Fresno officials also have a system of special rules to make sure bar owners run a safe business or face closure. But the system is so lifeless that the police don’t use it. Fresno Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

Group sues Modesto over general sales tax ballot measure – The Stanislaus Taxpayers Association is suing Modesto over its sales tax measure on the November ballot, claiming the language violates election law and misleads voters. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Stanislaus Superior Court and asks a judge to give the city the opportunity to change the language or have the judge stop the city from using it on the ballot measure. Modesto Bee article

ADA lawsuits concern Hanford business owners – With more than a dozen lawsuits filed against Kings County businesses, local leaders are making a big push to educate local business owners about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hanford Sentinel article

Exiting official steadied Stockton’s financial ship – Reached by phone Friday afternoon, Vanessa Burke had to laugh for a moment when asked to reflect on the past three-plus years working for Stockton. “It was fun, wasn’t it?” said the 49-year-old Burke, who left her job as Stockton’s chief financial officer on July 24 for a high-ranking position with Urban Futures, a municipal consulting firm soon to open a Sacramento office. Stockton Record article

Study credits Uber with decline in California drunk driving arrests — Now comes a study from researchers at Philadelphia’s Temple University that shows the entry of Uber’s low-cost ride service, Uber X, into 14 California counties led to a 3.6 to 5.6 percent decline in drunken driving deaths. KQED report

Support for business startups offered – Entrepreneurs, inventors and others with a business startup looking for a comfortable workspace, advice and tips on building a company, connections to people to help it grow and, perhaps, a shot at start-up capital can find all that and more through the Entrepreneur Lab. Stockton Record article 

Whole Food, school reopening signal downtown Sacramento growth – If thousands of new residents truly are headed for Sacramento’s urban core in the years ahead, it appears they’ll have both another place to educate their children and another high-end option to buy groceries. Sacramento Bee article 

At Silicon Valley Bank, risky tech start-ups are lucrative business – Part lender, part consultant, part cheerleader and part investor, Silicon Valley Bank has been a nursemaid to countless start-ups — Airbnb, Fitbit, Pinterest and TrueCar, to name some recent ones — as well as banking the venture capitalists who fund them. LA Times article

Food producers share tips for landing shelf space — Making the transition from a startup food producer to a household name brand can be daunting, yet more companies based in the Central Valley manage to earn shelf space in major grocery stores each year. The Business Journal article

Server at House of Juju in Clovis gets $585.50 tip — A customer at the House of Juju restaurant in Clovis enjoyed his lunch so much Thursday that he left a big tip — as in, $585.50 big. The server decided to share the tip with all the workers at the restaurant. Fresno Bee article



Bakersfield parks department ‘leads by example,’ cuts water use in half – The challenge for the city was to maintain and irrigate more than 160 miles of streetscaping and median landscaping, not to mention 59 city parks — all while slashing water use in the midst of an extreme drought. Had Bakersfield’s Recreation and Parks Department reduced water use by 36 percent, it would have been in line with the conservation mandate handed down by the governor’s office. But the city didn’t just meet the mandate, it exceeded it. By a lot. Bakersfield Californian article

Clovis meets state water consumption mandate — First the good news: Clovis exceeded the state’s guideline for reducing water consumption in July by cutting back 36.3%. The bad news will come in the mail: More customers will be fined, an amount that reached $144,060. Fresno Bee article 

What could El Nino mean for low water levels at Lake McClure? — Merced farmers and officials at the Merced Irrigation District hope the predicted El Niño weather pattern drops a lot of water, covers the Sierra Nevada with snow and Lake McClure reaps the benefits. Merced Sun-Star article 

Lois Henry: Fines should stick and water, water, water — Much of this column will be spent answering some of the many — many — questions we’ve received about water, watering, water costs, water everything. But first, I want to give a nod to a local man who was especially annoyed about recent news of how the court reduced fines for illegal fireworks tickets issued by the Bakersfield City Fire Department. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Don’t forget the trees – Californians are justifiably proud of their brown lawns. But after months of talk in the media that outdoor irrigation should be severely cut, that landscaping is a luxury we can no longer afford, drought officials have softened their message just a tad in recent weeks. Why? In our haste to let our lawns go, we forgot about our trees. Stockton Record article 

U.S. officials to consider milk price controls — U.S. farm officials will consider installing a federal pricing system for California’s $7.6 billion milk industry, replacing the current state-run pricing scheme, during a public hearing beginning Sept. 22 in Clovis and expected to run for several weeks. Stockton Record article

Farm Beat: Managers report growth at farmers markets — Farmers markets across the country report growing interest in this way of getting fruits, vegetables and other fare to consumers. A survey of almost 1,400 market managers found that 64 percent had increased traffic in 2014, the federal Agricultural Marketing Service reported this week. Even more of them – 85 percent – want to add vendors. Modesto Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Sheriff Mims: Man with fake weapon shot dead by Fresno police – A Fresno police officer responding to a report of a man armed with a shotgun shot and killed a man who pulled what turned out to be a real-looking imitation firearm out of his pants Friday morning, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said. Fresno Bee article

Transgender prison inmate seeking sex-reassignment surgery will be released — California has agreed to pay for the sex-reassignment operation of a transgender inmate who said the surgery was medically necessary. The settlement agreement was reached Friday even as the inmate whose court victory had paved the way for such taxpayer-paid surgery learned she will not get it but be released from prison instead. LA Times article

Kern playing an active role in state Internet café task force — A joint state and local Sweepstakes Gambling Task Force that includes the California Attorney General and the Kern County District Attorney’s office among its leaders has redoubled its efforts to target Internet cafes following a June victory in the state’s highest court. Bakersfield Californian article

How long can subject of Piute Mountain manhunt hold out? No telling – The mountainous area of east-central Kern County where a massive manhunt for a murder and kidnapping suspect has entered its 10th day is hot, rugged, unforgiving terrain. How has the suspect managed to evade capture this long? Bakersfield Californian article

Convicted California school bus kidnapper released on parole – A man who was among three convicted in the 1976 kidnapping of 26 children and their school bus driver was released on parole Friday after nearly 40 years in prison. AP article 

Fresno County will settle jail dietary lawsuit – Fresno County is expected to settle an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over its food policies at the jail. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of inmates by Fresno-area citizens, who said the jail’s food policies didn’t meet with religious guidelines. Three inmates had requested kosher meals, but those requests were not granted. Fresno Bee article

ShotSpotter alerts Fresno police about gang-related shooting – Lt. Joe Gomez said the department’s Shotspotter detection technology notified officers of gunfire in the 400 block of North Diana Street. They found a man nearby who had been shot in the calf. The injury was not serious. Fresno Bee article

Law enforcement Explorers get a taste of academy training – Over four 10-hour days, Tuesday through Friday, about 50 Explorers got a fast-paced taste of what they could expect at a real academy, such as the six-month San Joaquin Delta College Basic Peace Officer Academy offered in Stockton. Modesto Bee article 

Chicago and LA have used ‘dirt box’ surveillance for a decade — The Los Angeles and Chicago police departments have acquired “dirt boxes” – military surveillance technology that can intercept data, calls and text messages from hundreds of cellphones simultaneously, as well as jam transmissions from a device, according to documents obtained by Reveal. Center for Investigative Reporting article 

LA County jail itself poses hurdles to helping mentally ill inmates — Under a settlement reached with the federal government this week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department agreed to sweeping reforms of the county’s jails in an effort to end deputy abuse and improve conditions for the mentally ill. But, jail officials say, they won’t be able to eliminate the suicide risks caused by the aging and poorly designed Men’s Central Jail, which houses 4,000 of the county’s 17,000 inmates. LA Times article



LA Unified asks state Supreme Court to hear Fresno Unified’s case on leaseback — The Los Angeles Unified School District is supporting Fresno Unified in its fight against a recent appellate court ruling that questions the intent of Fresno’s use of no-bid contracts. LA Times article

Worsening teacher shortage has schools scrambling to fill jobs — California school districts have long anticipated they would be scrambling to fill teacher jobs once boomer-age teachers began retiring. But combine that with declining enrollment in teacher credentialing programs and increased state funding for new hires, and you’ve got “the perfect storm,” said Donna Glassman-Sommer, a Tulare County Office of Education administrator who handles teacher recruitment. KQED report 

Modesto City Schools trustee stepping down to attend law school – Modesto City Schools trustee Jordan Dickson will head to law school this fall, resigning his post, effective Aug. 21. Modesto Bee article

Major charter school expansion in the works for LA Unified students – A prominent local education foundation is discussing a major expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles aimed at boosting academic achievement for students at the lowest performing campuses. LA Times article



Willow fire 95 percent contained, suspect in evacuation burglaries arrested – The Willow fire, which has scorched more than 5,700 acres in North Fork over the last two weeks, is nearly finished, but a criminal investigation into who burglarized several homes evacuated during the fire is picking up steam. Fresno Bee article 

Fearing fires, mountain residents desperately try to get rid of dead trees – Hudson Fisk’s Tree and Excavating Service is under a lot of pressure these days. A deadly mix of drought and beetle infestation has killed millions of Ponderosa pines in the southern Sierra Nevada. And mountain residents are practically begging for Fisk’s help. KQED report

C.W. Nevius: Life, and the threat of death, on California’s fire lines — Some people like their jobs. Firefighter Steve Andres isn’t one of them. “I love it,” said the Ventura firefighter. “This is the best job in the world. The best.Nevius in San Francisco Chronicle

Smoke, smog mixing over Valley — “My sinuses are going nuts,” Scott Borgioli said Friday, adding that he’s heard similar complaints from others in the Valley whose allergies are acting up considerably. And you don’t have to be a meteorologist like Borgioli to see why. Just look up into the sky over Tulare County, and other parts of the Valley, and chances are you’ll see brownish haze. Visalia Times-Delta article

Stanislaus River quality to decline — State officials will allow water quality in the Stanislaus River to deteriorate in order to hold back more water for later in upstream New Melones Reservoir. Stockton Record article


Health/Human Services

First human case of West Nile virus illness found in Stanislaus County – A 52-year-old Stanislaus County woman has been hospitalized with the West Nile virus, the first human case in the county this year, the Health Services Agency reported Friday afternoon. Modesto Bee article

Memorial’s cardiac accreditation a sign of maturing medical environment – In another sign of the continuing maturity of Kern County’s health system, the American Heart Association announced Friday it was giving Memorial Hospital an accreditation that recognizes the Bakersfield hospital’s acute cardiac care program. Bakersfield Californian article

Organizations to help fight preterm births in Fresno County being sought – Organizations interested in coordinating activities and groups involved in a community effort to reduce preterm births are being sought by the steering committee of the Fresno County Preterm Birth Collective Impact Effort. Fresno Bee article 

Sacramento City Council backs off healthy vending machine requirements — Sacramento City Council members are reluctantly allowing more junk food offerings into city-owned vending machines. The city struggled to find vendors willing to stock healthy food in the machines.  Capital Public Radio report

Ana Ibarra: Violence and health: What’s the connection? — Medical researchers across the nation have spent years studying the health consequences of violence, and have connected it to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, among other conditions. Ibarra in Merced Sun-Star


Land Use/Housing

Hanford theater rules may soon change – The race may soon be on to build a state-of-the-art movie theater in Hanford, with action this week to allow theaters to operate outside of the downtown area. Hanford Sentinel article

Bill Balsley: Sign, sign, everywhere a sign – The Leadership Visalia alumnus and retired civil servant writes, “The Visalia City Council has found itself in quite a legal pickle, all because of ‘signs. The city’s Municipal Code has a lot of out-of-date regulations, although many of them are still valuable and legally constitutional. However, a few of these laws haven’t been enforced for quite a while. That’s why we see illegal signs all over town.” Balsley op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta


Other areas 

Family of girl run over after Asiana crash drops suit against San Francisco – The parents of a 16-year-old girl run over by San Francisco Fire Department rigs after she was ejected during the 2013 Asiana Airlines crash dismissed their wrongful death lawsuit against the city. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Debra Saunders: San Francisco’s summer of urine and drug-addicted homeless – How bad is the urine situation in San Francisco? This is not a joke: Monday night, a light pole corroded by urine collapsed and crashed onto a car, narrowly missing the driver.  Saunders in San Francisco Chronicle

Cecil the lion’s killer paid California $45,000 at auction to bag trophy elk — Six years before Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer ignited a global firestorm when he killed an African lion named Cecil, he posed for a photo beside the carcass of another trophy – one he killed 60 miles from Sacramento. Sacramento Bee article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down. 

Sacramento Bee – After the 2012 election, the GOP vowed to remake itself into a more inclusive and tolerant party, reaching out to women and gay Americans and supporting real immigration reform. So much for that campaign promise.