December 12, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

With fed water bill under the bridge, D.C. legislators look toward 2015 strategy — California lawmakers’ failure to pass water legislation this Congress raises questions about strategy, tactics and the ability to learn from falling short. It also sets the stage for next year when the whole anti-drought drama returns for an encore.  McClatchy Newspapers article; Dan Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

2016 election poised for initiative avalanche — If an avalanche of citizen initiatives morphs the 2016 ballot pamphlet into an encyclopedia-size volume, blame it on California’s growing legion of nonvoters. November’s record-low turnout means it will be easier than ever to qualify a voter initiative for the ballot, and plenty of groups pushing a cause will probably take advantage.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Gov. Brown 

Tony Quinn: Jerry Brown as the nation’s leading Democrat — The big story of 2015 may be the emergence of Gov. Jerry Brown as the new national leader of the Democratic Party.  That’s not due to anything Brown has done, but rather the thrashing the Democrats suffered in 2014 that has left them a leaderless party with both a weakened President and an uncertain President-in-Waiting.  Quinn in Fox & Hounds


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

John Myers: The retro election? Fewest votes for California governor since 1978 — The final tally from elections officials is that 7,317,581 votes were cast in the two-man race between Brown and GOP challenger Neel Kashkari. Brown won 60 percent of those votes, the most lopsided gubernatorial contest since 1986. It was also, it seems, the least inspiring in more than a generation. State elections data show last month’s gubernatorial election saw fewer votes cast than in the previous eight quadrennial contestsMyers in KQED


Other areas

Bay Area rain doesn’t stop protestors in San Francisco – The storm may have flooded highways, brought down trees and forced the closure of schools across the Bay Area, but it didn’t stop protesters from coming out Thursday evening in San Francisco, where they blocked traffic on Market Street.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Dianne Feinstein in real-time Twitter defense of Torture Report – Sen. Dianne Feinstein is engaged in a remarkable running Twitter defense of her Intelligence Committee’s torture report that she released the summary of Tuesday, as CIA director John Brennan went on counteroffensive Thursday at an unprecedented press conferenceSan Francisco Chronicle article

House approves $1.1 trillion bill financing government – Republicans have muscled a $1.1 trillion bill financing government agencies through the House after President Barack Obama phoned Democratic lawmakers and urged them to back the measure.  AP article; LA Times article; New York Times article

CHP defends undercover officer who pulled gun on protestors in Oakland – A plainclothes California Highway Patrol officer brandished his firearm at a group of about 50 people during an Oakland protest Wednesday night decrying police brutality.  KQED report; Oakland Tribune article; LA Times article

Koch-based group sues Attorney General Kamala Harris over donor list – A nonprofit charitable group backed by conservative mega-donors David and Charles Koch has sued Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris for seeking the names and addresses of the group’s donors.  LA Times article


News Briefs

Top Stories

How much will heavy rains ease California drought? –  As the biggest rainstorm in years slams into California, some are wondering how much it will mitigate California’s epic drought. The rain will definitely help. But by any measure, the drought is far from over.  LA Times article; Capital Public Radio report

Winning bid for next piece of high-speed rail comes in under cost — The apparent winning bid to build the second section of high-speed rail in the central San Joaquin Valley was announced Thursday — and it came in under the state’s original cost estimate. Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick submitted a bid of $1.23 billion to design and build the 65-mile stretch from the south end of Fresno to near the Tulare-Kern county line and was deemed the “apparent best value” bidder by theCalifornia High-Speed Rail AuthorityFresno Bee article; LA Times article; AP article

UC, CSU applications surge to record highs — Concerns over rising tuition costs and new student fees haven’t dimmed interest in California’s public university systems. Both the University of California and California State University saw a record number of applications from high school seniors and transfer students this year, according to figures released Thursday morning.  Capitol Alert
Jobs and the Economy

Population data shows most Valley counties on growth track – All Central Valley counties, with the exception of one, saw rising population rates in the last year, according to new data from the state Department of Finance.  The Business Journal article

California’s population inches up to 38.5 million — California’s population hit nearly 38.5 million last July after the addition of 335,000 people the previous year, a 0.9 percent rate of growth that reflected a continuing low birth rate, according to new state estimates.  Capitol Alert; Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

The vanishing male workers:  How America fell behind – The share of prime-age men — those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent. More recently, since the turn of the century, the share of women without paying jobs has been rising, too.   New York Times article

Kevin Valine: City of Modesto getting smarter on budget – The city is doing something really smart: It’s developing tools to give officials and council members 10-year forecasts of the city’s revenues and expenses as part of the city’s effort to become financially sustainable.  Valine in Modesto Bee

Visalia optimistic 700 Cigna jobs can be saved – The City of Visalia was notified Tuesday that prospects now look good for Cigna and other insurers seeking expatriate provisions added to a key Senate bill to be voted on this week.  The Business Journal article

Stockton Record: City’s endless trips before bankruptcy judge – It’s frustrating for Stockton that this all must play out, when other creditors long ago came to agreements with the city. It would be beneficial to the city to move on, and it certainly would be positive if the outside legal bills would stop mounting.  Stockton Record editorial

U.S. won’t stop Native Americans from growing, selling pot on their own land – Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice.  LA Times article

Congress poised to allow cuts to private pension payouts – More than 1 million Americans who were promised secure, predictable retirement income probably will see part of their monthly benefit checks evaporate as Congress moves to stabilize some private pension systems veering toward insolvency.  LA Times article

Merced County joins forces with six cities to promote economic development – A new agreement that unifies the economic development efforts of Merced County and its six cities is off to a strong start, according to some officials. It’s their hope that the effort will make the area a more competitive place to attract and grow businesses.  Merced Sun-Star article

Homebuilding permits fall in November – Fresno and Visalia homebuilders had a busy summer, but looks like the building scene is slowing down as we hit the end of the year.  Fresno Bee article

Merced County retirement board calls special meeting to discuss $8.4 million real estate payment – The Merced County Employees’ Retirement Association has called a special emergency meeting for Friday morning to discuss a $8.4 million payment due to an investment firm for the purchase of real estate.  Merced Sun-Star article

Chukchansi casino will redeem slot tickets and gaming chips next week – Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino will begin meeting commitments to redeem casino tickets and chips for people who left the casino on Oct. 9, the night it was evacuated during a raid of the casino’s gaming office.  Fresno Bee article

Rideshare company arrives in Visalia – The company that calls itself “everyone’s private driver” and has stirred up both support for its cheap rates and criticism for its business practices has arrived in Tulare County. Uber is a private car rideshare service that can be summoned with a few clicks of the cellphone or computer keyboard. The service launched Dec. 1 in Visalia.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Striking San Francisco airport restaurant workers: Bring your own food – Travelers at San Francisco International Airport, already grappling with delayed or cancelled flights because of Thursday’s big storm, may also want to bring their own food because of a 48-hour strike by restaurant workers.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Consumer groups ask PUC to deny Comcast, Time Warner merger – A coalition of California consumer groups fighting a huge nationwide cable TV merger is asking state telecommunications regulators to oppose it. LA Times article 

Raft creator wins Stanislaus business contest – Elias Ruiz crafted a raft that carried him to victory in the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge. The Hughson resident topped three other finalists Wednesday night in the business idea contest, decided by a panel of judges and audience voting. He entered his Feather Raft, aimed at anglers and others for use on lakes and streams.  Modesto Bee article

Wathan Castanos Homes transfers company ownership — The top two leaders at Wathan Castanos Homes have transferred ownership to three others in the company so that they can spend more time with their families, the Fresno-based homebuilding company announced on Thursday.  Fresno Bee article

Google gives $2 million to San Francisco nonprofits to aid homeless — First on Google’s gift list to the city was transit passes for low-income kids, then it was free Wi-Fi in some San Francisco parks, now it’s $2 million for the homeless.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Climate change won’t dry up Southern California, study finds — Overall rainfall amounts in the Los Angeles region will remain the same in coming decades, according to a new study that examined the effects of a warming climate on Southern California precipitation.  LA Times article

Monster storm rips through Kern County with a vengeance – Here it comes. The weather front some are calling Stormageddon blew into Kern County Thursday, bringing winds that surpassed the standard for a category-one hurricane.  Bakersfield Californian article

Windy, then rainy, but no big problems as storm hits Valley — A wet, blustery storm that wreaked havoc in other parts of the state brought gusty winds and relatively moderate rain to the Northern San Joaquin Valley on Thursday. Modesto Bee article; Stockton Record article

Bay Area storm pounds region:  Rain, wind, outages pack punch – Pounding rain and howling winds hammered Northern California on Thursday, toppling trees, flooding roadways, damaging property and cutting power to more than a quarter million homes and businesses.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Rockslides, rescues as powerful rainstorm slams into LA – The biggest storm in several years slammed into Southern California early Friday with a vengence, producing heavy downpours, howling winds and rockslides that damaged homes in Ventura County, prompting rescues.  LA Times article

Farmers’ courtroom poke at Hetch Hetchy Project moved to California — California farmers suddenly care about preserving water supplies for endangered smelt, salmon and sturgeon, at least as a way to jab at San Francisco’s own water use.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Business is booming at California’s only certified organic Christmas tree farm — Paul Weubbe’s Christmas tree farm, tucked off Dillard Road in Wilton, occupies just 17 acres, but it has a special distinction: It’s the only certified organic Christmas tree farm in California.  Sacramento Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer notes spike in crime in wake of Prop 47 passage — The passage of Proposition 47 by California voters in November is at least partially to blame for an uptick in Fresno crime figures, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said this week.  Fresno Bee article

Jury continues deliberations in Bryan Oliver trial — Jurors deliberated for five hours Thursday but did not reach a verdict in the trial of school shooter Bryan Oliver.  Bakersfield Californian article



San Francisco teachers approve new contract with 12 percent pay hike — San Francisco teachers overwhelmingly approved a new contract Thursday night that gives them a 12 percent pay increase over the three-year term, union officials said.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Folsom Cordova schools chief calls for stronger bullying response following suicide — Folsom Cordova’s schools chief called Thursday for her district to track bullying victims as they move to different schools and intervene earlier when students are taunted by peers after a 12-year-old student committed suicide last week.  Sacramento Bee article 

Districts want to highlight retirees’ costs — A coalition of school districts wants Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature to clarify how much money will be available to schools following the deal that legislators struck earlier this year requiring districts to make higher pension payments.  EdSource article

Funding to expand schools’ high-speed Internet — The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to increase funding that supporters say will expand the Internet capacity for an additional 40 million students in 100,000 schools nationwide.  EdSource article 

UC Davis to pay $500,000 fine for false reporting on federal grants — U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said Thursday that the University of California will pay nearly $500,000 to resolve allegations that its Davis campus submitted false and misleading statements to obtain federal grants.  Sacramento Bee article


SSJID can boot PG&E from Ripon, Escalon, Manteca – Electricity service in Ripon, Escalon and Manteca may pass from private to public management, thanks to Thursday’s landmark decision favoring the South San Joaquin Irrigation District over Pacific Gas & Electric Co.  Modesto Bee article; Stockton Record article

Sacramento Bee: A sea of plastic bags upon an ocean of trash – Picture it this way: 269,000 tons of water bottles, Lego pieces, disposable pens and lighters, take-out coffee lids, Barbie heads, detergent containers and, of course, lots of plastic bags floating atop the sparkling blue horizon. That’s a helpful image for people to recall should they run across one of the petitions being circulated by the plastic bag industry trying to stop California’s ban on single-use plastic bags.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Digester project near Tulare would turn organic waste into renewable transportation fuel — Food processors, dairies and others in Kern County may soon have a new place to send their organic waste — and with it, a new source of renewable, compressed natural gas. This month, two state agencies awarded grants totaling $8 million to help fund construction of a $25-million biogas digester outside Tulare believed to be the first commercial-scale project of its kind in the Central Valley.  Bakersfield Californian article

Meredith Williams: Green chemical regulations based on science – The deputy director of the Safer Products and Workplaces Program at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control writes, “We are relying on science to make hard decisions and to create change. The more transparent we are about those decisions, the more likely industry, academia, consumers and others can imagine how possible it is in their own work.”  Williams op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Health/Human Services

In California, where you deliver your baby matters – Two women in California are having a baby for the first time. They are both low risk, having uneventful pregnancies. But how they will deliver their baby — whether they’ll have a c-section, for example — depends dramatically on the hospital each woman chooses when she delivers.  KQED report 

California’s health insurance exchange admits problems — Officials with California’s health insurance exchange said they’re pleased with the number of new people signing up for coverage during this year’s open enrollment, but they admit there have been some problems for those who want to change their existing plan.  KPBS report

California battles whooping cough epidemic — California officials are battling the worst whooping cough epidemic to hit the state in seven decades as a recent rebound in cases raises questions about the effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine.  AP article

California faulted for poor access to children’s dental care — More than half of the 5.1 million children enrolled in California’s health care program for low-income residents did not receive dental care last year, and some counties may lack the providers to meet patients’ dental needs, according to a Bureau of State Audits review released Thursday.  Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Parents of developmentally disabled express concern over lack of services — More than 50 people attended a meeting Thursday with a panel of officials with the California Department of Developmental Services and the State Council on Developmental Disabilities to share how recent budget cuts have hurt the needs of developmentally disabled county residents.  Bakersfield Californian article

UC Davis Medical Center helps newborns miles away – At the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology, telehealth experts are determined to deliver virtual care, especially emergency neonatal care, to remote facilities across Northern California.  Sacramento Bee article

Robert O’Neill: Pain relief for vets doesn’t have to lead to deadly prescription drug addiction – The Vietnam-era veteran and chairman emeritus of the VetFund Foundation writes, “It is imperative that injured and recovering veterans have access to pain relief. But promising new technology from certain drugmakers can help offer palliative care, while also helping to curb abuse of opioid drugs.”  O’Neill op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Jahi McMath still hooked to machines one year later — A year later, Jahi remains on a ventilator and hooked to feeding tubes, and her case has ignited a debate over the definition of brain death. Here’s a look at the latest.  AP article

Land Use/Housing

Hundreds show up for hearing on Fresno’s 2035 general plan — Fresno on Thursday couldn’t get its fill of land-use talk. An estimated 350 people gathered at the Convention Center New Exhibit Hall for the City Council’s hearing on the proposed 2035 general plan update.  Fresno Bee article; KVPR report 

Dora Westerlund and Ryan Jacobsen: Approve Fresno’s general plan Dec. 18 – Westerlund, president and CEO of Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation, and Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, write, “A balanced, sensible plan for a vibrant city is within our reach. We are hearing opposing voices in our community argue for delayed action, but those of us in the middle think that it’s time to act. We urge the City Council to approve this plan on Dec. 18 and are committed to working with the city and all interested stakeholders on the successful implementation of the plan.” Westerlund/Jacobsen op-ed in Fresno Bee


Bakersfield council, Kern supervisors to talk high-speed rail settlement — The Bakersfield City Council will likely meet next week to discuss settling its lawsuit against the multi-billion dollar bullet train, City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said Thursday.  Bakersfield Californian article


Other Areas 

Gustine city manager to retire; replacement ready to go – As the retirement of Gustine’s city manager nears, the City Council recently approved a contract with the man who will take over in the new year. City Manager Greg Greeson will retire Dec. 31 after about five years as Gustine’s head administrator. He’ll be succeeded by Sean Scully, who has been assistant city manager for about the same amount of time.  Merced Sun-Star article

Michael Fitzgerald: Surreal artwork emerges from city vaults – Ten thousand bucks would barely have nicked Stockton’s billion-dollar debt. It probably wouldn’t even cover attorney’s fees from this week’s bankruptcy hearing. OK, but why does the city own Salvador Dalis?  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Is Harry Baker competent for molestation trial?  Court hearing seeks answer — A battle among experts will determine whether former Madera County Supervisor Harry Baker is competent to stand trial in his long-running felony molestation case involving a 13-year-old girl.  Fresno Bee article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Jerry Brown seeks to add a point to dull Prop 65 warnings.

Merced Sun-Star – There are ways for Californians to derail the plastic industry’s fight to keep profiting from polluting our state.

Modesto Bee – There are ways for Californians to derail the plastic industry’s fight to keep profiting from polluting our state.

Sacramento Bee –. There are ways for Californians to derail the plastic industry’s fight to keep profiting from polluting our state.

Stockton Record – It’s frustrating for Stockton that this all must play out, when other creditors long ago came to agreements with the city. It would be beneficial to the city to move on, and it certainly would be positive if the outside legal bills would stop mounting; Community helps fight hunger, and more help is needed.