December 11, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Brown, Legislature study ways to avoid UC, CSU tuition hikes – The fate of the proposed tuition increase at University of California campuses now rests in the hands of the governor and state lawmakers, who are aligned in opposition to it but divided over how to scrap it.  LA Times article

Swearengin, Peterson have best showings among GOP statewide candidates — The semi-official results are in from last month’s election, and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin turned in one of the best — but not the best — performance of any Republican seeking statewide office.  Fresno Bee article

Gov. Brown

George Skelton:  A more mature Gov. Brown has less to say in speeches, plenty  to do — Maybe it’s because he is a contrarian. But Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t go for conventional celebrating. Also, he now believes, why give two speeches when one will do just fine?  Skelton column in LA Times

Valley politics

Brown outperforms fellow Democrats in four Democrat-leaning Valley districts — Around the central San Joaquin Valley, Gov. Jerry Brown did pretty good in last month’s election in competitive districts where Democrats have a significant lead over Republicans in voter registration. In fact, compared to the Democrats running in these congressional and state Senate districts, he did awesome. This should concern Democrats.  Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California plastic bag ban backers launch ads — Hoping to fend off a referendum campaign from their better-funded rivals, advocates for California’s newly passed plastic bag ban have launched an ad assailing a plastics company seeking to overturn the law.  Sacramento Bee article


DMV prepares to issue driver’s licenses to people who are here illegally – Just weeks before California begins to issue driver’s licenses to people in the country illegally, the Department of Motor Vehicles has opened four new offices and hired more than 900 additional staffers to help handle the expected flood of applicants.  LA Times article

Bill would extend fraud protections for California immigrants — Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez on Wednesday introduced a bill to extend protections for immigrants in California against scams as they seek relief under President Barack Obama’s recent Immigration Reform Executive Order.  U-T San Diego article

Other areas

CHP defends Bay Area protest actions — The California Highway Patrol, which has sought to keep protesters from blocking Bay Area freeways, defended its actions Wednesday after officers fired projectiles that are designed to be less lethal than bullets into a crowd of demonstrators, hitting at least one man in the leg.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Nearly 9 in 10 doubt Obama, GOP can break gridlock – Americans may not agree on much lately, but one opinion is nearly universal: There’s almost no chance that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and the Republican Congress can work together to solve the country’s problems.  AP article


Chief justice expects chattier California Supreme Court — Should Leondra Kruger, Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest nominee to the California Supreme Court, be confirmed this month, she will be the fourth new justice on the seven-member bench in four years. The turnover is propelling a change in culture on the court, according to Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye – especially as Brown has appointed three members in a row who have no previous judicial experience.  Sacramento Bee article

Dan Walters Daily: Isadore Hall elected by tiny minority of district — This year’s record low voter turnout looks downright impressive compared to Tuesday’s special Senate election, Dan says. Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

News Briefs

Top Stories

Stockton’s bankruptcy exit plan set to become effective – Stockton will bridge a milestone by the earliest days of 2015 in its ongoing effort to exit bankruptcy, then will be forced right back into federal court to protect its victory before the new year is even one week old.  Stockton Record article

Bakersfield’s lawsuit to stop bullet train could be resolved – Talks between the California Attorney General’s office and city officials could resolve Bakersfield’s nearly six-month-old lawsuit to stop the bullet train, the city attorney said Wednesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Children’s Hospital switching to old name, creating Valley health network — The name is old but new again at Valley Children’s Hospital, the crayon-colored hospital overlooking the San Joaquin River in Madera County. Children’s Hospital Central California is reverting to its original name, officials announced Wednesday to loud applause at an event that also disclosed a new partnership with Stanford Children’s Health.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article; The Business Journal article; KVPR report

As the wells right dry, Central Valley neighbors find common ground — When a man of 91 is downright cantankerous and has been on his land longer than most everyone else has been alive, he wastes no time speaking his mind. So after his new neighbor started sinking a well to plant a water-sucking almond orchard in the middle of the worst drought he’d ever seen, James Turner hurried over.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Valley economic index surges to four-year high – A surge in hiring in November helped boost the San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions Index to its highest point since the business survey started in 2010.  Fresno Bee article

California unemployment to drop closer to U.S. rate – California’s unemployment rate will nearly equal that of the nation within two years, according to a new forecast. LA Times article

California’s slow population growth likely to continue – California’s once-soaring population growth slowed markedly during the last two decades, barely keeping pace with the nation as a whole since 2000, and a new Census Bureau report indicates that the state’s growth will continue that pattern for the next half-century due largely to slowing birth and immigration rates.  Capitol Alert

StanCERA investments surge in value – The pension fund for Stanislaus County workers and other public employees gained 18 percent on investments in the past year. Modesto Bee article

Foreclosures rise in San Joaquin County – San Joaquin County foreclosure filings rose in November, up 40 percent from activity in October and a smaller 3.2 percent rise compared to November 2013, RealtyTrac Inc. reported today.  Stockton Record article

Assessor floats changes to Fresno County’s Williamson Act – Fresno County Assessor Paul Dictos spends a lot of time thinking about the Williamson Act, and he believes he has found a way to make it work better for family farmers. Dictos has completed a draft proposal that aims to redistribute tens of million of dollars among Fresno County landowners who participate in the program, which gives farmers a break on their property taxes as long as the property is involved in producing food or fiber.  The Business Journal article

Protests costing Oakland nearly $100,000 a day in overtime — The first two weeks of mass protests that have enveloped several East Bay cities cost Oakland $1.36 million in overtime costs alone, city officials said Wednesday.  Oakland Tribune article

San Francisco, LA lawsuit against Uber spurs backlash – The government’s lawsuit against ride-hailing upstart Uber has stirred a fierce backlash from advocates who fear regulation could put the brakes on innovation.  LA Times article

Disney, Koch used secret deals routed through Luxembourg, report says — Walt Disney Co., giant conglomerate Koch Industries Inc. and other companies channeled hundreds of millions of dollars in profits through units based in Luxembourg in secret deals designed to avoid paying U.S. taxes, according to a new report. LA Times article

Bee in Turlock: Doctors buy $4.4 million office park – A local doctors group has purchased the Turlock Professional Office Park on Geer Road for $4,415,000. It is Turlock’s largest office complex deal in at least 25 years, according to CoStar Group commercial real estate records.  Modesto Bee article

Stockton Record: Downtown dreams on display at new Newberry – It doesn’t always take a new movie complex, arena, baseball stadium or white-tablecloth restaurant to inject life into downtown Stockton.  Stockton Record editorial

Little wheels keep on turnin’ at Skateland, thanks to family – Over the last year or so, the destiny of a southside roller rink has experienced more ups and downs than a 5-year-old learning to skate. But after plans to convert the building into a warehouse fell through, new owners have taken control with a vision for the future that looks a lot like the past: Skateland will remain Skateland.  Bakersfield Californian article

Incoming San Jose mayor’s first order of business: settle feud with cops — As promised, incoming Mayor Sam Liccardo has made his first order of business to try and solve what continues to be the biggest issue at City Hall: the feud with rank-and-file cops. Liccardo on Wednesday said the city will seek to return to the negotiating table with its police union with renewed hopes of ending a legal battle over pension reforms voters approved in 2012.   Contra Costa Times article


Valley farmers welcome approaching rainstorm – A looming storm that is expected to bring high winds and heavy rain to the San Joaquin Valley has farmers more excited than fearful.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Real or fake? Debate intensifies over Christmas trees’ eco-friendliness — The question of which tree is more environmentally friendly — real or artificial? — is resurrected each Christmas season. But the discussion has gained urgency as California limps through a third year of drought. The debate now hinges on whether plastic trees give the environment a break because they don’t soak up a scarce resource, water.  LA Times article

Gardeners, nurseries struggle to adapt as drought cuts their business – As one of California’s worst droughts continues, gardeners across the region have been faced with a choice: Become more water-savvy or risk being left behind.  LA Times article

Feared citrus pest found in Madera County — One of the citrus industry’s most feared pests — the Asian citrus psyllid — has been found in an insect trap in the Madera Lake area.  Fresno Bee article

‘First Look’: Lois Henry talks groundwater legislation — Once again Californian columnist Lois Henry has brought interesting numbers to light, and in this case, it’s salaries. As Kern County gets ready to hire two water consultants with $230,000 in the budget, apparently that amount of money is not enough.  Bakersfield Californian article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Hired guns: Armed security guards get little oversight or training – Armed security guards have become a ubiquitous presence in modern life, projecting an image of safety amid public fears of mass shootings and terrorism. But often, it’s the guards themselves who pose the threat.  Center for Investigative Reporting article

Group protests officer-involved shootings in Fresno — About 20 people gathered outside Fresno Police Department headquarters on Wednesday evening to protest officer-involved shootings in the city.  Fresno Bee article

Jury in Oliver trial begins deliberations — The courtroom Wednesday was packed with both prosecutors and defense attorneys watching Pafford and Cadman sum up the case and argue their respective points.  Bakersfield Californian article

Citizens’ response to Merced County police pursuit added to danger, says law enforcement — Police said a low-speed vehicle pursuit Wednesday from Atwater to Merced was apparently the result of three tourists not understanding officers were chasing them, the Atwater Police Department reported. However, Lt. Samuel Joseph said, while the people in the vehicle were ultimately harmless, the way several people in Merced responded to the police activity created potentially “an extremely dangerous” situation.  Merced Sun-Star article


Professor floats idea of 3-year B.A. to cut college costs –  In theory, it’s a simple idea. With the cost of attending college rising, why not reduce the typical time for a bachelor’s degree from four years to three? That’s the proposal floated by Johns Hopkins University professor Paul Weinstein in the latest edition of the Progressive Policy Institute. In his paper, Weinstein found that a four-year degree at a public school costs, on average, $35,572 in 2013. A three-year degree at a similar institution would cost $26,679 — a 25% savings.  LA Times article

Fresno State administrator set for top job at Texas A&M-San Antonio – Fresno State’s vice president for administration and chief financial officer is set to become the next president of Texas A&M University-San Antonio, a move that sends her back to her hometown after a decade of service in Fresno.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson gets contract extension – Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson will get an extra year tacked on to his contract following a positive performance evaluation on Wednesday from the board that oversees the district.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno Pacific University to raise tuition costs – Fresno Pacific University will raise tuition by about 4.5% for the 2015-16 school year, the university announced. Tuition and fees will total $27,754 for the school year, and costs for room and board with the full meal plan are also increasing, to $7,690.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

More on Bakersfield City School District pay demands, discipline policy concerns – Bakersfield City School District teachers raised more issues Tuesday at a board meeting than could fit in Wednesday’s Californian. Dozens of teachers and other union employees criticized district approaches to school discipline and district responses in ongoing employee pay negotiations.  Bakersfield Californian article

Denair Unified getting back on its fiscal feet – An updated Denair Unified School District budget being adopted by the board Thursday shows the district will hit state targets ahead of schedule, ending the year on solid fiscal ground after two years of insolvency and turmoil.  Modesto Bee article

Stockton Record: New-look Stockton Unified board has immediate challenges – The ceremonial part is over for a restructured Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees. Three newly elected board members have been sworn in. And now much difficult work lies ahead.  Stockton Record editorial

Linda Darling-Hammond and Hilary McLean: California must test students on right skills for college or career – Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, and McLean, deputy director of the Linked Learning Alliance, write, “As our state is refocusing its efforts, determining how to assess college and career readiness should be a high priority. We have an opportunity to develop new accountability systems that support the kinds of learning that matter in the real world and that provide valuable feedback to our schools and our communities, while motivating our students to take pride in showing what they know and can do.”  Darling-Hammond/McLean op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Students, business leaders look together toward future – College. Jobs. The future and all it could hold took center stage at a meeting of business leaders and high school students. The conversation turned to Common Core and the lynchpin role that industry and educators hope it will play in raising the bar for our local economy. Modesto Bee article

UC student workers’ union urges divestment from Israel – Members of the union that represents UC students who work as teaching assistants, tutors and readers have voted to urge the UC regents to divest from Israeli institutions and international companies that backers say violate human rights and aid the occupation of Palestinian territories.  LA Times article

Visalia Times-Delta: Trustee rift needs an about face – It is sometimes painfully obvious that after five years on the Visalia Unified School Board, trustee Charles Ulmschneider still manages to burrow under the skin of his fellow board members and rub them the wrong way.  Visalia Times-Delta editorial

Ethnic studies courses coming to all San Francisco high schools — All San Francisco high schools will offer ethnic studies courses starting in the fall, a $500,000 annual expense the school board approved Tuesday in a unanimous vote.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Seeds of learning: School uses garden to teach valuable lessons – Gently tucking seeds into the ground ahead of today’s anxiously awaited storm, students at Taylor Leadership Academy might have been having too much fun getting their hands dirty to notice the striking metaphor laid out before them in garden beds full of rich, ready soil. Stockton Record article

San Joaquin Delta College to pay $4 million in settlement – San Joaquin Delta College has agreed to pay a contractor $4 million to settle a lawsuit related to the construction of the new math and science building on the north side of campus.  Stockton Record article

LA school board approves $2.5 million in spending on arts education — Thirty-two middle schools that either lack or are grossly deficient in arts instruction will get a share of a $2.5 million allocation approved by the Los Angeles Unified School District school board on Tuesday.  KPCC report


South San Joaquin County: PG&E urges agency to let it keep control — As Pacific Gas and Electric Co. linemen patrol the streets for power outages today, consultants and attorneys for the San Francisco-based utility will be engaged in their own urgent work on the sixth floor of the San Joaquin County administration building. Their task: To convince a board made up mostly of local elected officials that PG&E should remain the retail electric provider for south San Joaquin County.  Stockton Record article

Corps: U.S. falling way behind on waterway levees, dams — The nation is falling behind on maintaining its aging levees, dams, ports and harbors and needs to get creative as it seeks ways to pay for the critical projects, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ commander general said Wednesday.  AP article

Health/Human Services

California health exchange notches more sign-ups — Nearly 50,000 Californians have signed up for private health insurance plans offered through the state’s exchange, officials said Wednesday.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article

Fresno Bee:  Valley parents are heeding the plea to vaccinate their children – As The Sacramento Bee’s Phillip Reese reported Tuesday, more parents in California, encouraged by physicians, are getting their kids immunized, reversing a dangerous decadelong trend that had alarmed public health advocates.  Fresno Bee editorial

42.9 million Americans have unpaid medical bills – Nearly 20 percent of U.S. consumers — 42.9 million people — have unpaid medical debts, according to a new report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  AP article

Doctors face steep Medicaid cuts as fee boost ends – Primary care doctors caring for low-income patients will face steep fee cuts next year as a temporary program in President Barack Obama’s health care law expires. That could squeeze access just when millions of new patients are gaining Medicaid coverage.  AP article

Breast cancer prevention drug gives lasting protection, study finds – Taking the cancer drug tamoxifen for five years drives down the incidence of breast cancer in women at high risk for the disease by close to 30%, researchers have found. And the medication’s protective effects against breast cancer appear to last, unabated, for as long as 16 years after a woman stops taking it, a new study says.  LA Times article

Health centers’ employees want to address board – Physicians and employees who are critical of Chief Executive Officer Tony Weber are hoping to speak to Golden Valley Health Centers’ board of directors Thursday.  Merced Sun-Star article

Birth rates decline nationwide, down slightly in Merced County – Locally, the decrease in number of births has been less noticeable. According to the California Department of Public Health, Merced County residents gave birth to 4,161 babies in 2013. That’s only a slight decrease from the 4,311 babies born to county residents in 2012. Merced Sun-Star article

Joe Mathews: If Obamacare flourishes anywhere, it will be San Diego — If Obamacare is ever to fulfill its core promises – of bringing health coverage to those without, of innovating the health care business and of improving community health – I’d bet those promises get fulfilled in San Diego first.  Mathews in Sacramento Bee

Carolyn Evans: We must team up on wellness and recovery – The chairwoman of the Fresno County Mental Health Board writes, “The Fresno County Board of Supervisors will conduct a public hearing Tuesday on possibly creating a Behavioral Health Board, through the consolidation of the Mental Health Board and the Alcohol and Drug Advisory Board.”  Evans op-ed in Fresno Bee

This vending machine can use facial recognition to deny you junk food — The vending machine of the future is here, and it’s going to food-shame you. The Luce X2 Touch TV vending machine, recently released in England, can use facial recognition to deny certain customers junk food.  LA Times article

Land Use/Housing

Council to tackle key issues for California’s future – The Fresno City Council’s long-awaited hearing on the 2035 general plan update is Thursday night. But anyone curious about how the plan’s words might turn into deeds should watch what the council does Thursday afternoon.  Fresno Bee article

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee launching affordable-housing program — When Mayor Ed Lee looks at a subway construction site in San Francisco’s South of Market area or a fenced-in parking lot framed by low-slung, vacant buildings in the Mission, he doesn’t see blight. He sees affordable housing.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Sliding fuel costs could mean lower airfares next year, airlines say — With fuel prices dropping and airline profits soaring, travelers could reap the benefits with a 5% drop in fares next year, according to a trade group for the world’s airlines.  LA Times article

Other Areas

Jeff Jardine: Storm will leave many out in rain, cold – The biggest storm to hit the area since 2008 will leave plenty of people out in the cold. Local shelters simply can’t accommodate all the homeless people who want a warm, dry place to sleep. And others live on the streets, weather or not, by choice.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

How effective are grand juries?  We ask Fresno County Superior Court Judge Robert Oliver – Some have questioned the effectiveness of these secret panels, yet they remain an important part of our legal system today. The soon-to-retire Judge Robert Oliver of the Fresno County Superior Court joins Valley Edition host Joe Moore to tell us more about the grand jury system.  KVPR report

Chowchilla city council sworn in, stalemate over mayor’s seat — Two new members of City Council took their seats on Tuesday, as did two interim officials, but the council could not agree on who should serve as the city’s top official during the next two years.  Merced Sun-Star article

New councils to face growth, challenges — The newly seated city councils in Hanford and Lemoore will have their hands full over the next couple years as both cities prepare to face an assortment of challenges.  Hanford Sentinel article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – As The Sacramento Bee’s Phillip Reese reported Tuesday, more parents in California, encouraged by physicians, are getting their kids immunized, reversing a dangerous decadelong trend that had alarmed public health advocates; The harsh truth on CIA torture finally comes out.

Merced Sun-Star – The harsh truth on CIA torture is finally revealed.

Modesto Bee – The harsh truth on CIA torture is finally revealed.

Sacramento Bee – Ronin Shimizu’s short life shines light on bullying, again; Twin Rivers Unified School District stumbled by shutting out public.

Stockton Record – The ceremonial part is over for a restructured Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees. Three newly elected board members have been sworn in. And now much difficult work lies ahead; Downtown dreams on display at new Newberry.

Visalia Times-Delta – It is sometimes painfully obvious that after five years on the Visalia Unified School Board, trustee Charles Ulmschneider still manages to burrow under the skin of his fellow board members and rub them the wrong way.