December 13, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California sets state record for low voter turnout — California set a record last month for low voter turnout in a regularly scheduled general election. The secretary of state’s office says final statewide results Friday show that 42.2 percent of registered voters cast ballots.  Sacramento Bee article

De León eliminates government oversight office — California Senate leader Kevin de León has eliminated a legislative staff unit that focused on government oversight, a creation of his predecessor, former Sen. Darrell Steinberg.  Capitol Alert


Valley politics

Perea committee assignment:  promotion, punishment – or just business for Fresno legislator – Last week, new Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins appointed Fresno Democrat Henry T. Perea to head the ag committee. His last chair assignment: insurance. The appointment has people wondering: Is it a promotion? Punishment? Or just Atkins doing what any incoming speaker would do by putting her mark on the Assembly?  Fresno Bee article


Other areas

Conservatives blast Kevin McCarthy for CRomnibus – A conservative super PAC is trashing House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, for helping pass the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus” spending bill, which some say doesn’t do enough to roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.  Political Blotter

Canceled this year over scandals, Pro Tem Cup is reinstated for 2015 — State Senate Democrats have decided to resume the annual Pro Tem Cup golf fundraiser in 2015, a year after the event was canceled in the wake of criminal charges filed against three Democratic Senators.  LA Times article

Millions March protest Saturday in San Francisco, Oakland — A pair of planned protests could bring thousands of people onto the streets of San Francisco and Oakland on Saturday as a string of demonstrations denouncing racial injustice continues in the Bay Area.  San Francisco Chronicle article

From anti-apartheid to ‘Black Brunch,’ Bay Area protests break new ground – Many of the thousands of protesters who marched in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland this past week are not old enough to have seen earlier social causes championed on those same streets.  KQED report

White protestors dominate Bay Area protests of racial inequality – The issue of black inequality has been front and center in the national dialogue for weeks as protests rolled out nightly, but now the conflict has ignited in the heart of the protest movement itself. With each new demonstration against the killings of unarmed black men by white police in Missouri and New York, questions — and in many cases, objections — proliferate about the role of white voices in a movement that centers on African Americans’ grievances.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Oakland protests’ OT costs for cops: $1.3 million – The protests in Oakland over the past three weeks have cost the city more than $1 million in overtime pay, officials said Friday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

President Obama, Democrats face rift exposed by spending bill debate – For much of the last six years, liberal Democrats in Congress have been loyal foot soldiers for their often unpopular president. Now, a rare clash between President Obama and members of his own party suggests Democrats on the left may be marching in a new direction.  LA Times article

Senate passes bill that could keep cross atop Mt. Soledad, end legal battle – The U.S. Senate passed a defense policy bill Friday that would allow a 43-foot cross to remain atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego, possibly ending a 25-year legal battle.  LA Times article

LA voters will be asked in March to move municipal elections — The Los Angeles City Council put the finishing touches Friday on a March referendum asking voters whether to move city and school board elections to line up with state and federal races.  KPCC report

Bill to revise government records law falls short – Advocates for greater openness in government were frustrated Friday after Congress failed to update the Freedom of Information Act despite bipartisan support in the House and Senate. AP article

Joel Fox: Cal Facts Quiz —  The Legislative Analyst’s Office has opened up its vault of data and information with its Cal Facts report accompanying it this year with the introduction of an on-going blog to add to and enhance the information.  Fox in Fox & Hounds


News Briefs

Top Stories

State will finally break ground in Fresno on high-speed rail construction – The California High-Speed Rail Authority will officially break ground next month in Fresno on construction of its statewide bullet-train route. The Jan. 6 groundbreaking ceremony, announced Friday afternoon, comes about a year and a half after the agency awarded its first construction contract, a $1 billion deal to design and build the first 29-mile section from Madera to the south end of Fresno.  Fresno Bee article; AP article

Estimate: 10 trillion gallons drenched California – How much rainfall has hit California in the last 10 days? Ten trillion gallons, according to Ryan Maue. That’s enough to fill 15.1 million Olympic-sized swimming pools or power Niagara Falls for 154 days.  LA Times article

Fresno State will reject 5,000 applicants for fall semester — Fresno State will turn away at least 5,000 qualified applicants next school year, continuing a trend fueled by recession-era budget cuts that have kept the university from enrolling most applicants who come from outside the central San Joaquin Valley.  Fresno Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

UC Davis study: Women still trail in leadership roles at top California firms — Women hold only about 1 in 9 executive and board positions among California’s top public companies and continue to earn less than their male counterparts, according to an annual UC Davis study that examines gender diversity in boardrooms and executive suites.  Sacramento Bee article

Bill to save Visalia jobs gets a reprieve – By voting Thursday night to approve a $1.1 billion omnibus spending bill intended to avoid another federal shutdown, members of Congress also kept alive legislation that could save about 700 jobs in Visalia. Now it’s up to the Senate to pass it, too.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Why U.S. women are leaving jobs behind – As recently as 1990, the United States had one of the top employment rates in the world for women, but it has now fallen behind many European countries. After climbing for six decades, the percentage of women in the American work force peaked in 1999, at 74 percent for women between 25 and 54. It has fallen since, to 69 percent today.  New York Times article

Kings say developments near Sacramento arena will cost $250 million – The Sacramento Kings said Thursday the mixed-use tower and other developments they plan to build next to their new downtown arena will cost roughly $250 million.  Sacramento Bee article

Cal Expo Oks Sacramento soccer expansion, seeks redevelopment — Saddled with $45 million in repairs and no way to pay for them, Cal Expo took a first step Friday toward selecting private redevelopment partners who could breathe new life into the aging home of the State Fair.  Sacramento Bee article

State urges California consumers to be wary of auto-title loans — They’re commonly called “cash for cars” loans. And this week, the state is reminding consumers to be wary of auto-title loans, where personal vehicles are used as collateral for a cash loan – often at crushing interest rates.  Sacramento Bee article

See what it takes to afford rent in all of Sacramento’s neighborhoods — Paying the rent every month is getting harder for tens of thousands of Sacramento residents. The median rent in the region – the rent in the exact middle of a list ranked from top to bottom – was $928 in 2013, down about 5 percent from 2007, after adjusting for inflation, new census figures show.  Sacramento Bee article

Congress Oks bill banning purchases of Russian-made rocket engines — Despite lobbying from a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., the Senate voted 89-11 to approve a bill Friday that would ban the Pentagon from awarding future rocket launch contracts to firms using Russian engines. The ban is a blow to the Boeing-Lockheed venture called United Launch Alliance.  It is a victory, however, for local aerospace upstart SpaceX, which wants some of the Air Force’s satellite launching business. LA Times article

Local Internet TV producers bank on cord cutters — Production companies like Central Valley Talk and AnnMarie Pro (AMP) TV rely on the Web to relay their content to audiences around the country. This has allowed them to enjoy a greater degree of success than would have been possible if they were relying on more traditional broadcasting methods.  The Business Journal article



California storms help where it counts: Sierra snowpack — This week’s heavy rains are expected to aid California in one of the places it needs the most help: the depleted Sierra snowpack. Forecasters told state water officials that the storm is expected to add several feet of snow in parts of the Sierra. The state’s snowpack is important because when it melts during the summer months, the water can replenish reservoirs.  LA Times article

Storm gives bump to state water supplies – The pounding storm that shut down schools and inspired “hellastorm” hashtags on social media has California water managers, for the first time in a long while, talking about a possible dent in the drought.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Storm adds 30 percent to Shasta storage – There is no more important water reservoir in California than Shasta. It feeds the mighty Sacramento River. That’s why water users including in Tulare County should be cheering today as this week’s storm helped add more than 300,000 acre/feet of water to the dam, taking total storage from about 1 million acre-feet to 1.3 million.  Visalia Times-Delta article

In storm’s wake, Valley sees flooding, traffic snarls, power outages and Sierra snow – Storms that pummeled the central San Joaquin Valley are expected to fizzle by Saturday morning — leaving some much-needed soaked soil and Sierra snow in its wake as partly sunny skies are anticipated to emerge.  Fresno Bee article

Record rain closes freeways, kills power in and around Bakersfield – Bakersfield was spared the torrential rains that crippled northern California this week but what it did get Thursday night and Friday broke a 63-year-old daily record, forced highway closures, downed trees big and small and knocked out power throughout Kern County. Bakersfield Californian article

Almond growers lose trees to storm damage — Be careful what you wish for, right? The storm that hit the Central Valley late Thursday and early Friday may have helped ease the drought, but it also brought heavy winds that uprooted thousands of Kern County almond trees.  Bakersfield Californian article

Merced County sees minimum impact from storm – Merced County received ample rainfall from a large storm that struck the state Thursday and Friday – and was spared from the worst the system had to offer. The Merced area received about 1.76 inches of rain between Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.  Merced Sun-Star article

Storm drops an inch of rain, flooding closes Highway 99 – The powerful winter storm that slammed Northern California brought just over an inch of rain to Kings County in just seven hours, forecasters said, but the strong winds missed the Central San Joaquin Valley.  Hanford Sentinel article

Storm brought Stockton’s wettest day in 18 years – Thursday will go down as the wettest day in Stockton since Dec. 21, 1996. A total of 1.92 inches fell on the city, more than a quarter of all the rain we got last winter. Stockton Record article

Storm moves on, leaving significant rainfall totals in Sacramento region – A Dec. 11 record for rainfall was set at Sacramento’s Executive Airport, where 2.39 inches fell on Thursday. That broke the previous mark of an even 2 inches set in 1995. The official Sacramento rain gauge near Sacramento State University registered 2.10 inches for Thursday. That amount fell just short of the record of 2.27, also set in 1995.  Sacramento Bee article

Farm Beat: Merced County crops set record in 2013 – Merced County farmers had a record $3.8 billion in gross income last year, Agricultural Commissioner David Robinson said in his annual report. The total was up 16 percent from the $3.28 billion in the 2012 report, thanks mainly to milk, almonds and sweet potatoes.  Modesto Bee article

Some Hanford residents report black water — As efforts continue to switch Hanford’s water supply over to full-time chlorination, an increased number of residents have been seeing black water coming into their homes.  Hanford Sentinel article

Company stores trap Mexican farmworkers in a cycle of debt — The mom-and-pop monopolies sell to a captive clientele, post no prices and track purchases in dog-eared ledgers. At the end of the harvest, many workers head home owing money. LA Times article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

California agrees to let prison laborers leave early – California prison officials have agreed to allow minimum custody inmates who provide the bulk of the state prison system’s menial labor force to be eligible for early release.  LA Times article

Sue Burrell: Juvenile justice can be less expensive and more effective – The staff attorney at the Youth Law Center writes, “A new report from the Justice Policy Institute gathers the full price tag of juvenile incarceration – not just the actual cost of detention, which is considerable, but also the long-term costs in future reoffending, to the economy and victimization of youths themselves. The report, released this week, could not come at a better time for California.”  Burrell op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Jurors to resume deliberations Monday in school shooting trial – Jurors failed to reach a verdict in the trial of school shooter Bryan Oliver on Friday and will return Monday morning to resume deliberations, which so far have lasted more than 10 hours over three days.  Bakersfield Californian article

Death Row inmate gets upset, curses judge in Fresno courtroom – A Fresno man who has been on California’s death row longer than anyone became agitated Friday in Fresno County Superior Court when a judge told him that he wanted two doctors to examine him. Douglas Ray Stankewitz, 56, told Judge Arlan Harrell that he dislikes doctors and would spit on them if they come to his cell to interview him.  Fresno Bee article

Retired Fresno County Undersheriff Scott Jones dies – Retired Fresno County Undersheriff Scott Jones, 52, died after collapsing in his Clovis home on Thursday night. Fresno Bee article

Mendota police chief retires — Mendota police chief Jerry Galvin, who has been on paid administrative leave since early November, has retired effective Friday, said city manager Vince DiMaggio.  Fresno Bee article


Latinos underrepresented among CSU applicants — Latino students once again made up the largest group of applicants. But while their numbers continue to gain – up to 40.1 percent of first-time freshmen and 33.9 percent of transfer applicants this fall – they remain underrepresented compared to the state’s student population.  Capitol Alert

Students could score low in new test – The nation’s new computer-based testing may be more of an adjustment for students than previously projected. Up to 44 percent of students across the nation are expected to score at grade level or above in math and English when they take the new state computer-based tests next spring, according to data from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  Hanford Sentinel article

Denair cheers good financial news for its schools – The stalwarts, the small cadre of employees and community members who sat through more than two years of grim Denair Unified board meetings, took a moment to applaud at this one. On the brink of being taken over by state regulators last spring, the district unveiled at Thursday’s meeting a budget that is back in the black.  Modesto Bee article

Special education teacher helps students become independent — Cheerleader, life coach, job developer, mentor, teacher — Anne Clifford is all of these things and more for a group of young adults with special needs. As lead teacher at the Community Based Instruction (CBI) Class No. 1 in Tulare, Clifford helps 17 young adults each year develop the life skills they’ll need to be as successful and independent as possible. Visalia Times-Delta article

UC Merced lab visit aims to spark interest in science – Young people stared into microscopes and formaldehyde-filled jars Wednesday in a UC Merced laboratory, where a growing science-literacy program worked to get them thinking about careers in science.  Merced Sun-Star article

Salida Elementary students take a stab at code-making – Kids across America got a taste of programming last week, taking part in Hour of Code activities promoted by tech-world celebrities.  Modesto Bee article

Sacramento City Unified delays mediation over teacher health changes — The Sacramento City Unified School District and the Sacramento City Teachers Association, split over unilateral changes to 2015 health insurance options, will not start mediation next week as the California Public Employment Relations Board had proposed. Sacramento Bee article

Troy Pope: Enough is enough – stop group projects – The Fresno State student writes, “College is full of challenges meant to test and prepare students for the real world. Some tasks can be intense or overwhelming due to the sheer volume of content that’s due for a class. Other assignments are full of tedious research or repetitive memorization. However, no project is the bane of a student’s existence quite like the group project.”  Pope op-ed in Fresno Bee


Tiny water district to seize PG&E power lines, transformers – For years, San Francisco progressives have dreamed of breaking free from PG&E and setting up their own electric utility. Now a small irrigation district in the Central Valley might beat them to it.  San Francisco Chronicle article

House budget bill kills foothills easement program — California lawmakers used their power of the purse this year to kill an Obama administration plan for conserving the state’s sprawling foothills.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Galgiani seeks hyacinth solution — In advance of a Monday town-hall meeting about this year’s explosion of water hyacinth, state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani said Friday that she will introduce legislation to establish new requirements for when and how control efforts can take place.  Stockton Record article


Health/Human Services

California’s whooping cough epidemic is waning in central San Joaquin Valley – A whooping cough epidemic in California has lost steam in the central San Joaquin Valley, health officials say.  Fresno Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Don’t let good news go bad on health reform – With the season’s first Obamacare deadline approaching, the good news is that the Affordable Care Act has made a difference here.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Young adults who regularly spend time in bars are more likely to smoke — Young adults who frequent bars are at least twice as likely to smoke as young adults in the general population, according to a study presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.  HealthyCal article


Land Use/Housing

‘Capping’ freeways may be a way to provide more open space in LA —  As cities become more dense, finding new open space is proving a difficult task. Urban planners in several areas around Southern California believe we don’t need to look any farther than our local freeways. The idea is to “cap” the freeway by building a park above it.  LA Times article



State Oks condemnations for 37 parcels for high-speed rail in Fresno, Madera — About three dozen pieces of property in Fresno and Madera counties were targeted for condemnation Friday by the state Public Works Board to make way for high-speed rail construction.  Fresno Bee article

Speed limits increasing on U.S. highways – along with safety concerns — U.S. speed limits are rising nationwide, especially in wide-open Western states, reflecting the more-harried lifestyles of a fast-paced nation. But many safety officials are scratching their heads over a perilous trend they say will lead to more — and more ghastly — fatalities. Each year, excessive speed contributes to one-third of highway deaths nationally.  LA Times article


Other Areas

Oliver Baines: Now, about those dark streetlights – The Fresno City Council member writes, “Streetlight outages will be an ongoing challenge as long as we have three things: streetlights, their parts that break down from wear and tear, and copper-wire thieves who are enticed by an accepting recycling market place and lax state legislation.”Baines op-ed in Fresno Bee

McDaniel sworn in as Merced County supervisor – The rainy weather didn’t stop dozens of people from turning out to Castle Commerce Center on Friday to witness the swearing-in of Daron McDaniel, the newest member of the Merced County Board of Supervisors.  Merced Sun-Star article

Sanger council hears from community: Don’t fire city manager – More than 200 Sanger residents turned out for a public meeting Friday night to speak in support of city manager Brian Haddix, whose ouster was being considered by the City Council.  Fresno Bee article

Silva’s presence looms over commission meeting – Though Mayor Anthony Silva was not in attendance at this week’s meeting of a citizen’s commission reviewing Stockton’s charter, his presence was felt nonetheless. In a two-page memo read at the meeting, Silva presented a list of questions and comments.  Stockton Record article

Beyond the Grapes of Wrath — People from Tulare County weigh in on the contributions of Dust Bowl migrants to the Central Valley. Visalia Times-Delta article; ‘Grapes of Wrath 75th anniversary’ in Visalia Times-Delta


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – There’s a sea of plastic bags upon our oceans of trash; Thumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – Clearly, parents in our region are doing the smart thing and getting their kids vaccinated. That keeps all of us healthier.

Modesto Bee – Clearly, parents in our region are doing the smart thing and getting their kids vaccinated. That keeps all of us healthier.

Sacramento Bee – With the season’s first Obamacare deadline approaching, the good news is that the Affordable Care Act has made a difference here.