December 10, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

House passes GOP drought bill, but Senate approval unlikely – Legislation addressing California’s drought reached an inconclusive high-water mark Tuesday, passing the House on a largely party line vote before trickling off to a bleak fate in the Senate.  McClatchy Newspapers article; LA Times article

Dan Walters: Boxer’s seat sparks list of wannabes — Santa Claus isn’t the only one making lists of who’s been naughty and nice this month. Political junkies and pundits in California and Washington are drawing up lists of who might be nice – or at least voter-attractive – enough to become the state’s next U.S. senator two years hence. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

CIA struggled to keep rationalizing brutal interrogations, report shows – The shifting explanation for Zubaydah’s treatment, laid out in the 500-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report made public Tuesday, provides an example of how the secret interrogation program from its inception became a self-justifying enterprise that slipped free of the constraints that top officials had promised would guide it.  LA Times article

Obama confronts Bush’s legacy with report’s release – For President Barack Obama, the long-delayed release of a scathing Senate report on harsh CIA interrogations underscores the degree to which the legacy of George W. Bush’s national security policies has shadowed the man elected to change or end them.  AP article; New York Times article

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: CIA abuses ‘a stain on our values’ – Saying that the CIA engaged in activities that were “a stain on our values and our history,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) defended the release of an Intelligence Committee report exposing abuses of its interrogation program as an essential step to show the world that the U.S. “is big enough to admit when it is wrong.”  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee editorial

Protestors differ on tactics, agree on need for reform – Their protest tactics may vary, and their end goals may be different. But demonstrators who have taken to the streets of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and other cities in recent days say they agree on an overriding point: Law enforcement in the U.S. is poisoned by racial bias that wounds or kills people of color and must change.  San Francisco Chronicle article

East Bay protestors block Highway 24, light trash fires — Frustrated that the Berkeley City Council canceled a meeting they had planned to pack, protesters denouncing racial injustice marched through Berkeley Tuesday for a fourth straight night — and then defied California Highway Patrol vows to block them from freeways by briefly shutting down Highway 24.  San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article; KQED report; New York Times article

VC Tim Draper not giving up on ‘Six Californias’ – but first, a reality show — Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper says he is still passionately pursuing his dream of “Six Californias,” a ballot measure that would split the Golden State up. But for right now, he’s got another dream — a reality show about a school for Valley entrepreneurs. San Francisco Chronicle article

Tom Scott: To fix Prop 65, end lawsuit abuse – The executive director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse writes, “Yes, we need to reform Proposition 65. But any reform must include provisions to end the lawsuit abuse that has lawyers cashing in while businesses shut down.”  Scott op-ed in Sacramento Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories

Report: Economic boom leaving some workers ‘out in the cold’ – The economic boom is leaving behind workers in California who lost their jobs in manufacturing and construction during the Great Recession and won’t ever regain those vanished positions, and the Bay Area is at the forefront of the upheaval in those and other sectors, according to a reported released Wednesday.  Contra Costa Times article

Creditor’s request looms over Stockton’s Chapter 9 exit – Six weeks after winning legal approval of its plan to exit bankruptcy, Stockton is expected this morning to reveal a timeline for the city’s final emergence from Chapter 9. But Stockton’s exit would be stalled indefinitely if the city’s one holdout creditor gets its way.  Stockton Record article

Almond industry gives $21 billion boost to California economy, study says — California’s booming almond industry generates more than 100,000 jobs and more than $21 billion in gross revenue across multiple industries, according to a new study by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center.  Fresno Bee article; Stockton Record article; Sacramento Bee article; The Business Journal article

Jobs and the Economy

Workers lose fair-pay case over hours spent in security screenings – Workers need not be paid for the time they are required to spend in line for security screenings, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a victory for Amazon and other retailers.  LA Times article

Modesto approves pay raises for third labor group – The Modesto City Council on Tuesday approved pay increases for another one of its labor groups, which eventually will cost the city more than $1.5 million annually.  Modesto Bee article

Ray Martinez: Cities should talk to unions, not consider bankruptcy – The chapter director of Cal Fire Local 2881 writes, “Nobody has a greater stake in a city’s financial solvency than its employees. Public employees have shown time and time again that they are willing to be part of the solution. State, county and city workers are paying more than ever toward their own retirement costs. But as the rulings in San Bernardino and Stockton confirmed, the place to have these discussions is at the bargaining table, not at the ballot box or in the courts.  Martinez op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Boeing to lay off 561 employees in Southern California – Boeing Co. plans to lay off 561 employees in Southern California this month and early next year, according to documents the company filed in Sacramento.  LA Times article

Average gasoline price in Fresno, Tulare counties below $3 and falling – Gas prices have tumbled past the $3 mark and are expected to keep falling in coming weeks, according to AAA of Northern California. The average price for a gallon of unleaded in Fresno fell 22 cents in the last month to $2.92. In the Visalia-Tulare-Porterville area, the average price fell 25 cents to $2.92 a gallon.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno County supervisors vote to end fee for new facilities – Fresno County supervisors voted Tuesday to repeal a fee program for new development that could have collected millions of dollars to pay for public facilities.  Fresno Bee article

Uber sued over unlawful business practices; Lyft settles – Los Angeles and San Francisco district attorneys filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Uber on Tuesday, alleging that the popular ride-hailing company misleads consumers about the service’s safety, overcharges them and thumbs its nose at the law.  LA Times article; KPCC report; AP article

Bakersfield home prices fall amid lower supply, even lower demand – A modest decline in Bakersfield’s supply of existing, single-family homes failed to keep up with a much larger drop in demand last month, contributing to a 1.7 percent decrease in the city’s median sale price, appraiser Gary Crabtree reported. Bakersfield Californian article

New lending guidelines open door to Fresno homebuyers – New lending guidelines adopted by mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae on Monday will allow more people nationwide and in Fresno to buy homes.  Fresno Bee article

Old Walmart building poised for comeback – Hobby Lobby aims to open its doors in Hanford by mid-2015, bringing new life to the old Wal-Mart building at 12th Avenue and Lacey Boulevard.  Hanford Sentinel article

Unconventional lender raises millions to help businesses offer loans — James Gutierrez, who founded Progreso Financiero to make loans to poor immigrants with limited credit histories, said Tuesday that he has raised $16 million in private funding and has lined up $65 million in credit to help companies offer loans to similar customers. LA Times article

Two LA lawmakers target tax certificates for unlawful pot shops — Two Los Angeles lawmakers are pushing to end a controversial city practice of issuing tax registration certificates to medical marijuana shops without determining if they are allowed to operate under a voter-approved crackdown on the businesses.  LA Times article



Merced supervisors delay action on groundwater ordinance – The adoption of a Merced County ordinance regulating groundwater transfers was halted today by a handful of last-minute comments and suggestions from stakeholders, including a text message sent by Merced Irrigation District’s general manager to the county CEO.  Merced Sun-Star article

Oakdale Irrigation District postpones decision about paying farmers not to water – A proposal to pay Oakdale farmers to voluntarily fallow their land has been postponed to January. The Oakdale Irrigation District is considering paying some landowners not to irrigate next year. OID then would sell that water to outsiders for an estimated $400 per acre-foot and give district farmers most of the proceeds to finance water conservation projects on their land.  Modesto Bee article

Madera County supervisors OK water meters on new wells – Madera County officials have approved a system to monitor how much water is being used in the county in an effort to stave off the state deciding on its own plan to control the local water supply.  Los Banos Enterprise article

Desperate workers on a Mexican mega-farm: ‘They treated us like slaves’ – Scorpions and bedbugs. Constant hunger. No pay for months. Finally, a bold escape leads to a government raid, exposing deplorable conditions. But justice proves elusive.  LA Times article

Drought: East Bay poised for higher water rates — East Bay residents may see a spike in their water bills next month as local water managers seek to boost the levels of drought-stricken reserves.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Steve Bass: Bakersfield has a huge problem about water conservation – its own – The retired Bakersfield City School District teacher writes, “Even if Bakersfield was not in the middle of an extreme drought, it is vitally important for, and incumbent upon, the powers that be to rethink and solve this wasteful situation.”  Bass op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Lois Henry: Hey, kids, more proof that water is big indeed – In the world of water, money is always big. I’m talking capital “M” kinda money. So, Kern County’s $230,000 to hire two water consultants and a deputy County Administrative Officer to focus on the new groundwater law is on the seriously undercapitalized side.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Tulare governing bodies meet to discuss water system – A hydraulic study shows the Tulare water delivery system may be over committed, City Manager Don Dorman said. The study shows water production to meet demands from Tulare residents, Matheny Tract dwellers, who will be added, and county residents, some of whom are seeking a safe water source, must be increased, Dorman said.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Water board adds $40 million to conservation budget as drought persists — The Metropolitan Water District’s board of directors added $40 million to its conservation budget Tuesday and revised its water allocation plan in response to California’s continuing drought.  LA Times article

Quarrel over water at quarry – Representatives from an international supplier of building materials will debate this morning a group of Lemon Cove-area property owners over a hole in the ground.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Wet weather allows Santa Cruz to end water rationing — A bit of drought relief is in sight for one of the communities hit hardest by California’s historic dry spell. The city of Santa Cruz announced Monday that it’s lifting mandatory water restrictions on residents, effective next week, after recent rains poured into creeks and forecasters warned of more wet weather ahead.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Kings officials weigh in on Prop 47 – The approval of a California proposition that reduces some felony offenses is already affecting the way local authorities handle certain crimes.  Hanford Sentinel article

Kern DA, public defender spar over domestic violence program – Kern County Public Defender Konrad Moore approached District Attorney Lisa Green after a contentious exchange before the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning. He extended his hand. Green turned her back on him and stormed out of the board chambers. The icy exchange came after the pair delivered passionate arguments on opposite sides of a domestic violence diversion court program proposed by Green.  Bakersfield Californian article

Suspect in killing of Sacramento-area deputies will face death penalty – Sacramento and Placer County prosecutors said Tuesday that they will seek the death penalty against Luis Enriquez Monroy Bracamontes, the Mexican national suspected of killing two law enforcement officers during a daylong rampage on Oct. 24 that spread from Sacramento to Auburn.  Sacramento Bee article

LA County Sheriff’s Department to get civilian oversight — Faced with a series of scandals that have roiled the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a civilian oversight system to provide greater accountability for the agency.  LA Times article

Shooter’s mother testifies as evidence portion of Bryan Oliver trial ends — Bryan Oliver’s mother grasped a tissue, voice wavering as she struggled Tuesday to answer questions about the meaning of the last conversation her son had with her before bringing a shotgun to school and opening fire on classmates.  Bakersfield Californian article



California’s ‘Game of Chicken’ over college tuition — Unlike nearly every other state, California lacks a central board that oversees higher education, pitting political leaders against university administrators. At issue now is a 28 percent tuition hike.  Governing magazine article

UC Merced tops off newest construction – Scores of the university’s faculty, staff and students turned out for the “topping” ceremony of the $54 million Classroom and Office Building 2, what will be a 77,000-square-foot structure featuring the newest in educational technology.  Merced Sun-Star article

Report: Matson to leave Fresno State for Texas A&M – Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, Fresno State’s vice president of administration and chief financial officer, was selected as interim president of Texas A&M University. According to a report by San Antonio Express-News, Matson will begin at the university’s San Antonio campus next year, leaving Fresno State after ten years in her position.  The Business Journal article

Change of leadership offers hope of progress for Stockton Unified – With the swearing in of three new trustees and a fourth who retained his seat in the November election, the Stockton Unified Board of Trustees underwent what could prove to be a game-changing shift in leadership Tuesday night.  Stockton Record article

Fate of City College of San Francisco now in judge’s hands — The fate of City College of San Francisco is now in the hands of a judge after lawyers made their final arguments Tuesday about whether the beloved institution deserves to have its accreditation revoked.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Student café cooking up gourmet meals at Madera High – The homemade potato chips were thinly sliced and well-seasoned, the soup was a balanced mixture of seasonal vegetables and the apple pie’s flaky crust was stuffed with a generous amount of Granny Smith apples. And all of it was made by students at Madera High School’s Blue Coyote Cafe.  Fresno Bee article

LA school board approves $11 million to fix faulty records system — The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday approved more than $11 million in additional funds to address problems caused by a new and faulty student records system.  LA Times article

LA board order Superintendent Cortines to analyze misconduct incidents —  In the wake of the Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal, the Los Angeles school district will analyze past incidents of misconduct to determine how to better safeguard students in the future.  LA Times article

Lawsuit filed on behalf of gun carrying vice principal — A Tevis Junior High School vice principal has sued the Bakersfield Police Department claiming he suffered injuries and damages as a result of his arrest last August for carrying a concealed firearm on campus.  Bakersfield Californian article

Censure of Visalia Unified board member approved by trustees — Visalia Unified School District board members voted 6-1 Tuesday night to publicly censure fellow board member Charles Ulmschneider. The vote comes after Ulmschneider reached out to board members regarding a school district topic outside of public meetings.  Visalia Times-Delta article



Turlock Irrigation District rates will rise 2 percent overall – Electricity customers of the Turlock Irrigation District will get a rate increase averaging 2 percent as of Jan. 1, following a 5-0 vote by its board Tuesday morning. The average residential bill, now $125.33 per month, will rise to $127.42. Actual use is much greater in summer. Modesto Bee article

New crude oil trains from Canada arrive in California — In a sign that crude oil train shipments to California refineries are on the rise, Union Pacific railroad officials confirmed last week they are now transporting full trains of Canadian oil through Northern California on a route that likely cuts through central Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article

UC Merced earns LEED certification for sustainable design — UC Merced received another Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification, this time for the Student Services Building. The award brings the campus total for LEED certifications through the U.S. Green Building Council to 13. UC Merced continues to be the only campus in the nation with LEED certification for all its facilities.  Merced Sun-Star article

Health/Human Services

Vaccination rates up for California kindergarteners — More California kindergartners are getting their vaccinations before starting school, curbing a decadelong trend of falling immunization rates, new state figures show.  Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial

Fresno Bee: Fresno County fills big gap in teen mental health care — After many years of hard work, local leaders are filling a gaping hole in care for teens that created significant emotional and financial hurdles for Valley families.  Fresno Bee editorial

San Joaquin County, AMR agree to 5-year contract — The network of ambulances whisking people to hospitals in San Joaquin County will stay the same into 2021 through a Tuesday vote by county officials.  Stockton Record article

Obamacare discussion on Valley Edition: One year after the rollout — Joining VE host Joe Moore for a conversation on the ACA are reporters Deborah Schoch and Emily Bazar. Both are reporters with the CHCF Center For Health Reporting at USC. They’ve just finished a piece that ran this weekend in newspapers across the state and on websites like   KVPR report

Clinical trial seeks answers to sudden deaths of healthy young people — Sudden deaths such as Jason Lappies’ often go unexplained because standard autopsies cannot detect arrhythmias that cause the heart to stop in otherwise healthy young people. But a new clinical trial to be announced Wednesday by the Scripps Translational Science Institute may someday provide answers for San Diego County residents and eventually others across California.  LA Times article


Land Use/Housing

Fresno Planning Commission sends 2035 General Plan to City Council — It’s one down, three to go for Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s 2035 general plan update. The proposed blueprint for Fresno’s growth now has the Planning Commission’s blessing.  Fresno Bee article



John Gunderson: Let Caltrans know what you want for our city roads – The Modesto City Council member writes, “Let’s inform Caltrans that Modesto wants a real (and artsy) sound wall, might as well throw in the moon while you’re at it.” Gunderson op-ed in Modesto Bee


Other Areas

Bakersfield council will consider road projects, artificial turf – Wednesday’s Bakersfield City Council meeting starts on a lighter note with the swearings-in of new and returning members, then gets serious as representatives talk artificial turf, highway projects, and buying land for road improvements.  Bakersfield Californian article

Turn in a gun, get a gift card in LA’s buyback program Saturday —  As part of a periodic “anonymous gun buyback” program Saturday, Los Angeles gang reduction officials will offer a grocery store gift card worth up to $200 to people willing to hand over a firearm to police.  LA Times article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – After many years of hard work, local leaders are filling a gaping hole in care for teens that created significant emotional and financial hurdles for Valley families.

Merced Sun-Star – Justice can’t be found by trashing grocery stores.

Modesto Bee – Justice can’t be found by trashing grocery stores.

Sacramento Bee – A well-intentioned idea shows results in vaccination rates; The harsh truth on CIA torture finally comes out.

Stockton Record – Photographer Tim Ulmer is a worthy selection as Stocktonian of the Year.