December 11, 2016


Political Stories – Top stories

After years of drama, farmers score a big win in California water battle — The California water bill now ready for the president’s signature dramatically shifts 25 years of federal policy and culminates a long and fractious campaign born in the drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley. A rough five years in the making, the $558 million bill approved by the Senate early Saturday morning steers more water to farmers, eases dam construction, and funds desalination and recycling projects. Its rocky road to the White House also proved a costly master class in political persistence and adroit maneuveringMcClatchy Newspapers article

John Myers: Get ready for hundreds of extra bills in 2017 – The decision to expand to 50 bills per Assembly member — a 25% increase from the 40-bill limit put in place in December 2002 — was tucked into a 69-page resolution last Monday that set in place the chamber’s organizational rules. The state Senate, on the other hand, kept in place its previous rule of only 40 bills per member.  Myers in LA Times

Valley politics

Lewis Griswold: A fireman elected to office makes history on his hometown council — Councilman Carlton Jones has been named by his fellow council members as the mayor of Tulare, making him the first African American mayor in city history. Griswold in Fresno Bee

He grew up in Clovis. Now, Steve Ly is the nation’s first Hmong mayor — When Hmong refugee Steve Ly was elected mayor of Elk Grove – a part-time position that pays $9,400 a year – his Nov. 8 victory was celebrated worldwide. His successful campaign to become the nation’s first Hmong mayor was backed by Hmong in Minnesota and Wisconsin, who contributed more than $10,000 to help him get elected. Sacramento Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Mike Males: Why do California’s whites vote so differently than whites elsewhere? – The senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco writes, “The stark absence of either a pro-Republican majority or rightward shift among California white voters in 2016 is unique. What makes West Coast whites different – particularly younger ones, whose voting approaches nonwhites’? Speculatively, California’s white population may be self-selected for greater tolerance. Those who stay in the first major state where whites have become not just a demographic minority, but a voting minority, may be inured to racist, xenophobic demagoguery more than those in states where whites are just beginning to lose their majority grip.” Males op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

John A. Pérez drops congressional bid to focus on health – Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez announced Saturday that he is withdrawing from the contest to succeed Rep. Xavier Becerra, citing an unspecified heath issue, scrambling the race that was triggered by Becerra’s surprise nomination as state attorney general. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Zuckerberg 2020: Facebook may have political ambitions, according to lawsuit — Mark Zuckerberg has spent much of the past month of so defending the role or lack thereof that his company, Facebook, played in the 2016 presidential election. But despite his insistence that the idea of Facebook somehow influencing the election of Republican Donald Trump through the spread of fake news is “pretty crazy,” the billionaire CEO could potentially seek political office or a government role, according to recently unsealed documents from an April lawsuit. McClatchy Newspapers article

Presidential Politics

Fearful of the future under Trump, more minorities are buying guns — Post-election fears, again, are driving gun purchases – this time less by those worried about losing their gun rights than losing their lives. Since Donald Trump’s win last month, hate crimes nationwide have surged, and so has the number of people of color buying guns for protection. According to an NBC News report, some gun store owners have seen a four-fold increase in minorities inquiring about and purchasing firearms in recent weeks. Boston Globe article in Fresno Bee

Trump, mocking claim that Russia hacked election, at odds with GOP — An extraordinary breach has emerged between President-elect Donald J. Trump and the national security establishment, with Mr. Trump mocking American intelligence assessments that Russia interfered in the election on his behalf, and top Republicans vowing investigations into Kremlin activities. New York Times articleLA Times article

News Stories- Top Stories

Dan Walters: Two decisions could make big changes in California’s public pension system — The state Supreme Court had accepted the Marin case and is awaiting a ruling in the other before deciding whether the California rule, first enunciated in a state Supreme Court case 61 years ago, is still valid. Were it to be junked, it would allow public employers to offset their rising costs with pension changes, such as preserving benefits already earned by current workers, but lowering benefits tied to their future work. Those two decisions, one by CalPERS itself and another by the Supreme Court, will likely make 2017 a landmark year in the perpetual pension debate, with consequences that last decades.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

If Obamacare is repealed, millions could lose Medi-Cal coverage – How health care is delivered to half the people in the San Joaquin Valley could be decided by a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. A lot is at stake for Valley residents: About 2 million residents, half the population from Kern to San Joaquin counties, depend on Medi-Cal to pay for doctor visits, operations, prescription drugs and laboratory tests. Fresno Bee article

Taking a bit of the bonds: Rail agency will seek $2.6 billion from Prop 1A for Valley construction – More than eight years have passed since California voters approved a $9.9 billion bond act to help pay for construction of a high-speed rail system in the state. On Tuesday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority may take its first step toward getting its hands on a sizable chunk of that money for work now taking place in the central San Joaquin Valley. Fresno Bee article

Valley leaders hope to get lawmakers all aboard for train funding — 
Valley leaders have a Christmas request for state lawmakers beginning a new two-year session in Sacramento: Set aside some money for our trains. Legislators, under big pressure to fill huge gaps in transportation funding, are getting first looks at new package proposals. But none so far would create a permanent source of money for equipment needs of intercity passenger rail, including the Amtrak San Joaquin Corridor. Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Jim Mayer and Bill Mueller: Addressing income inequality is critical to California’s prosperity – Mayer, CEO of California Forward, and Mueller, CEO of Valley Vision and a leader of the California Stewardship Network, write, “When the California Economic Summit convenes in Sacramento on Tuesday, regional stewards from throughout the state will be asking the hard questions about what else can be done to restore upward mobility. While we have many pressing problems, addressing income inequality is foundational to our aspirations for healthy and safe families and neighborhoods, social justice and even environmental sustainability.” Mayer/Mueller op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Michael Fitzgerald: At last, serious ideas to cut homelessness – What is to be done about the homeless? Leaders countywide spent a year seeking solutions. Their task force recently released its ideas. So, did they come up “things” that will get the homeless off the streets? I think they did. Whether they can afford them is another question. Helping the homeless is a heavy lift. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Kings supervisors considering financing for $6 million project — The Kings County Board of Supervisors Tuesday will consider approving financing for a two-story modular building that will be used by the county’s Human Services Department. The proposed project would cost, including interest, about $6 million. Hanford Sentinel article

For some, Morada water rate hike hurts more — Since losing her job six years ago, Katherine Bittner has lived a modest life in the Morada home she has owned for close to half a century, relying on Social Security checks to make ends meet. But it’s getting harder. While Bittner’s income is fixed, everything around her has gotten more expensive. And that’s what makes a proposal to raise her water rate from $285 per year to $1,035 per year – a 263 percent increase – so difficult to accept. Stockton Record article

Young workers replace down-and-out at residential hotels in downtown Sacramento — Many newer tenants are minimum wage workers needed to support revitalization, and they qualify under the income rules for single-resident occupancy slots. The switch in tenant demographics between old SROs and new studio apartments can be seen a few blocks from the Sequoia at the refurbished Ridgeway Studios on 12th Street. Sacramento Bee article


Lois Henry: Water odds and ends – It’s all about water. At least this column will be. If you haven’t read the big, giant water bill that had Sen. Barbara Boxer’s panties in a big, giant twist, I encourage you to give it a skim. That bill has everything in it. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

San Jose drinking water to receive fluoride, years behind other Bay Area cities — San Francisco has had it since 1951, Oakland since 1976. Los Angeles and San Diego, along with Contra Costa, Marin and San Mateo counties, have it too. And starting Monday, large sections of San Jose — the nation’s biggest city without fluoride in its drinking water — finally will begin to receive the additive. San Jose Mercury News article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Proposition 64: Legalizing pot a game-changer for many — According to Verber Salazar and Deputy District Attorney Todd Turner, roughly 20,000 applicable cases involving possession and cultivation of marijuana passed through their office from 1990-2015. Proposition 64 has the potential to make many of those cases go up in smoke. Stockton Record article

Drivers could pay more when police tow their cars — It could cost drivers a lot more when they get their cars towed after Modesto police officers cite them on suspicion of DUI, driving on a suspended license and other driving-related offenses. Drivers now pay a $160 administrative fee at the Police Department to get their vehicles back. The towing companies charge drivers $215 for the tow and $39 a day for storing the car. But some of those amounts would go up under a proposal a Modesto City Council committee will hear Monday. Modesto Bee article

Santa Clara County settles alleged jail beating case for $3.6 million as deputies await trial — Santa Clara County has agreed to pay $3.6 million to settle civil claims in the death of a mentally ill man who authorities say was beaten to death last year by jail deputies. LA Times articleAP article


Now that Prop 51 passed, when will the school construction dollars start to flow? – Before the November election, Proposition 51’s supporters called the $9 billion state bond a critical lifeline for school districts desperate for safe and updated classrooms, while its opponents lambasted it as a measure written by and for developer and construction interests. Now that voters have spoken, the biggest question is what happens next? School districts, many of which have been waiting for millions of state bond dollars to build or upgrade their schools, are eager for the money to start flowing. San Jose Mercury News article

Restorative justice? Teachers say McLane High classrooms are spiraling out of control – As Fresno Unified officials were praising McLane High School’s restorative justice program at a California School Boards Association conference earlier this month, teachers at the school were circulating a petition that says those same strategies have led to an unsafe campus plagued with fights and disruptions. Fresno Bee article

Top-notch Davis High program’s success tests district’s patience – A battle is brewing over whether the most-effective program for educating new immigrants has to take them. The Language Institute at Davis High School in Modesto has earned state and national awards over the past two years for its intensive high school program, moving even teens with no formal education forward multiple grades in one year. Of the program’s 35 graduates in the Class of 2016, 31 were headed to college. Modesto Bee article

Homework, but no home: How Bay Area housing affects some UC Berkeley students – On a weekday evening when they could have been studying for midterms, a group of students at UC Berkeley gathered instead around a conference table to discuss a campus issue of growing concern – homelessness. Less than a semester into the new school year, the group is still going, trying to find housing for individual students and working to get data about how many others at one of the nation’s most sought-after public universities need help. Sacramento Bee article

Students see teamwork in the workforce – Sierra Pacific High School students in the business and finance program were the first high school group to take a tour inside Samsung’s Silicon Valley headquarters in San Jose. Hanford Sentinel article

Forums for West Hills Community College District chancellor finalists – The finalists are: Dr. Sandra Caldwell, president of Reedley College; Dr. Melinda Nish, executive adviser to the president at College of the Marshall Islands; Dr. Jill Stearns, president of Modesto Junior College; Dr. Stuart Van Horn, interim president of West Hills College Coalinga. Hanford Sentinel article

 Stanford University band suspended after being accused of ‘systemic cultural problem’ — The notoriously irreverent Stanford band will be suspended through next spring after administrators found “a systemic cultural problem” in the student group that has “not been taken seriously by the band or its leadership.” The punishment requires the band to stop all activities, both on and off campus. Students who flout the order could be disciplined individually. LA Times articleSan Jose Mercury News article

Health/Human Services

Federal funding fuels new valley fever research — For seven years, Dr. George Thompson at the University of California, Davis, collected DNA samples from patients for research into valley fever. He sought funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest funder of primary biomedical research in the U.S., but could not secure any money to pursue his inquiry: Do genes protect some people from getting sick after inhaling the fungus that causes valley fever? KVPR report

California tests electronic database for end-of-life wishes — Prompted by a state law that took effect this year, a coalition of emergency and social service providers is working to create an electronic registry for POLST forms so they will be available to first responders and medical providers when they are neededC. The group is starting with a three-year pilot project in San Diego and Contra Costa counties that could serve as a model for a single, statewide registry. KQED report

Land Use/Housing

Prosecutors search for drug use, overgrown shrubs – even Wi-Fi – to curb blight – For generations, the Scandia Family Fun Center has been a place where kids while away a couple hours playing miniature golf, hitting balls in the batting cages or trying new arcade games. But a few months ago, less savory activities outside the amusement center near Interstate 80 were taking their toll, said general manager Steve Baddley. For generations, the Scandia Family Fun Center has been a place where kids while away a couple hours playing miniature golf, hitting balls in the batting cages or trying new arcade games. Sacramento Bee article

Could tiny homes solve SLO’s affordable housing crunch? — A San Luis Obispo County nonprofit organization, Hope’s Village, has promoted the idea of a tiny-house community if it can find the land, and local leaders such as newly elected San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon and county Supervisor Adam Hill say they would support tiny-house initiatives. San Luis Obispo Tribune article


 Other areas

 After Oakland warehouse fire, Fresno asks: Could it happen here? — Fresno is home to a number of empty warehouses and commercial buildings. A growing arts community also has roots in the heart of town, with artists choosing cozy studio spaces to do their work, and for many, nearby apartments to lay their heads. So it’s not hard to imagine a situation in Fresno like the Dec. 2 fire that killed 36 people in an Oakland warehouse that had been illegally converted into studios and living spaces. Fresno Bee article

Why the Ghost Ship ‘slipped through the cracks’ of Oakland’s inspection despite repeated safety complaints — Despite numerous complaints about conditions both inside and outside the warehouse, city officials have so far not produced any evidence that either fire or building code inspectors entered the building. LA Times article

Kern supervisors limit citizens’ power to alter agenda – Kern County supervisors, annoyed with a gadfly, have decided to limit citizens’ ability to open up discussion of business that administrators deem “routine.” Bakersfield Californian article

Hanford Fox roof collapses before concert – About five minutes before Saturday’s scheduled Brothers Osborne concert at the Hanford Fox Theatre, part of the historic venue’s roof collapsed. There were no injuries reported. Visalia Times-Delta article

Mike Klocke: Here’s a sampler of views to go with news – Klocke shares his views on the latest news.  Klocke column in Stockton Record

David “Mas” Masumoto: What kind of legacy are you creating? — I need to take a deep breath. After this political season and the terrible things slung at and by both presidential candidates, I think more about what we leave behind. My daughter is in the process of taking over the farm. Does that imply my work is complete? I don’t believe so. As I age, I think more and more about mortality. I leave behind a family, a business, a farm. And, as many have quoted, we all leave a legacy. Masumoto column in Fresno Bee

Jeff Jardine: Case dismissed 41 years ago gets civil grand juror dismissed from panel this term — Glenn White will tell you he’s had quite a life thus far. The 62-year-old Oakdale resident retired three years ago after 13 years working in Chevron’s IT security sector. Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, but it has allowed millions of previously uninsured Americans to receive opioid addiction counseling and prescription detox drugs at a reasonable cost. If the plan is to gut Obamacare, what then for the people in the Central Valley who desperately need these services?

Sacramento Bee –- Darrell Steinberg has the good fortune of arriving in the mayor’s office when the economy is strong. Given his energy, enthusiasm and vision, we anticipate the best yet to come.