December 14, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Ex-California lawmakers enjoy second wind as D.C. lobbyists – Lobbying is a logical next step for former members of Congress: They’re well connected; know their way around Capitol Hill and the federal bureaucracy; and can offer their experience to corporations, trade associations, nonprofits, foreign governments and a long list of industries which have business with Washington.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Dan Walters: Pension cost avoidance creates gaps — California’s perpetual political debate over public employee pensions usually focuses on the benefits themselves – whether they are fair compensation for those doing the public’s work or, conversely, too generous.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

It’s official: Voter participation hits record low — The state’s official snapshot of the Nov. 4 general election depicts a politically disengaged populace with marginal interest in deciding who will govern. Less than a third of California’s eligible voters cast ballots on Nov. 4.  Capitol Weekly article

Faith Bautista and Alan Thian: Asian Americans could provide swing vote in future elections – Bautista, CEO and president of the National Asian American Coalition, and Thian, president of the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce of North America, write, “If both parties committed more efforts to engage Asian American voters, a little investment could well make the difference in the 2016 presidential election and future elections, even in seemingly one-party states such as California.”  Bautista/Thian op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Other areas

Where campaign spending was highest, disdain for it is bipartisan – The priciest congressional election in the country wasn’t a slugfest in some silk-stocking district or free-for-all on the pricey Westside of Los Angeles. It was fought here in Northern California, where the American River winds from Folsom through the workaday suburbs of Sacramento.  LA Times article

Merced protest calls attention to black men killed by police – About 50 demonstrators marched down Main Street and gathered in Bob Hart Square on Saturday to draw attention to the killings of people of color by police.  Merced Sun-Star article

Thousands in San Francisco, Oakland join Millions March protest — National anger at the killing of unarmed African American men by police officers translated Saturday afternoon to the sight of thousands of people marching in San Francisco and Oakland.  San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article; KQED report

Protestors block Hollywood intersection, burn flag; four arrested — Protesters blocked a tourist-filled Hollywood intersection Saturday afternoon and burned an American flag as part of nationwide marches protesting recent police killings of unarmed black men.  LA Times article

Marchers rally at Capitol for ‘Just Justice’ – A boisterous crowd of 75 people marched from Southside Park to the state Capitol on Saturday morning, chanting “Hands up don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” to draw attention to the deaths of young black men at the hands of police.  Sacramento Bee article

Lynching effigies hung at UC Berkeley, quickly taken down — UC Berkeley students found enlarged photos of lynched African Americans hanging from the university’s famed Sather Gate and a tree near campus Saturday morning.  San Francisco Chronicle article; KQED report

Obama getting $1.1 trillion spending bill from Congress – Congress cleared a $1.1 trillion spending bill for President Barack Obama’s signature after a day of Senate intrigue capped by a failed, largely symbolic Republican challenge to the administration’s new immigration policy.  AP article; LA Times article

Victor Davis Hanson: The forgotten American flourishes — America is not saved by our elected officials, bureaucrats, celebrities and partisan activists. Instead, just a few million hardworking Americans in key areas — a natural meritocracy of all races, classes and backgrounds — ignore the daily hype and chaos, remain innovative and productive, and dazzle the world. The silent few of a forgotten America have given the entire country an astonishing standard of living that is quite inexplicable.  Hanson column in Fresno Bee

Montana dress code has female legislators sporting new look: Clenched jaws — New guidelines, including a maxim that women “should be sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines,” have produced a rolling of eyes and anger among Democratic representatives.  New York Times article


News Briefs

Top Stories

California needs more big storms to beat drought – Despite the heavy storm that hit California last week – complete with flooded creeks and mudslides, closed highways and downed trees – it will take a lot more of the same to end the drought. In fact, experts say it may take five or six more storms like it to consider the drought over. Sacramento Bee article

Bullet train’s eventual link to LA rail system far from clear-cut —  As California’s bullet train officials begin to lay plans for the system’s Los Angeles segment, a major technical issue is coming under close scrutiny: incompatibility between the sleek, high-speed electric trains and the region’s older, diesel-powered commuter rail network.  LA Times article


Jobs and the Economy

Some SEIU members want to leave 4,500-member Fresno County union – A large chunk of members from the law enforcement unit of Fresno County’s Local 521 of the Service Employees International Union are seeking for the second time in two years to decertify SEIU as their representative.  Fresno Bee article

Union eatery workers end strike at San Francisco airport — Restaurant workers at San Francisco International Airport returned to work Saturday morning, ending a two-day strike. The strike involved as many as 1,000 workers who’ve been working without a contract for more than a year, according to the union, Unite Here Local 2. The union said the walkout prompted the closure of 80 percent of the airport’s restaurants.  LA Times article

Fallout from Sony hack may alter how Hollywood conducts business — The internal emails leaked in a massive computer hack at Sony Pictures have captivated an entertainment industry that’s all ears for scandalous revelations. Beyond the dirty laundry, however, the release of inside information is expected to force significant changes in the way freewheeling Hollywood does business.  LA Times article

Susan Sward: Losing a grip on the American Dream – The writer who lives in San Francisco writes, “This fall, I went on a road trip looking for the American dream and found it badly battered. Driving to and from Oklahoma in a monthlong journey, I heard people say what the pollsters tell us: Many Americans know the income gap between rich and poor has widened, and a lot have a bleak view of the country’s path going forward.” Sward in Sacramento Bee



Rainstorm not enough to cause dent in drought, but more on the way – The heavy rainstorm that drenched the Valley on Thursday and Friday didn’t compensate for the region’s three-year drought, but more wet weather is on the way, meteorologist William Peterson of the National Weather Service in Hanford said Saturday.  Fresno Bee article

Lois Henry: 7 things this storm won’t do for the drought – Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but even 50 more such storms can’t make California’s water boo-boos all better. Because it’s not our hydrology that needs fixin’, it’s our mind set. To illustrate my point, I’ve come up with a list of seven things these storms won’t do for the drought.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Significant amounts of rain reach Kings County – A storm described by local meteorologist as the most powerful of the season brought over an inch of rain to Kings County – along with power outages and minor floods in some areas.  Hanford Sentinel article

Farmworker children uprooted by California rules – This December, thousands of migrant farmworker children are making their annual trek to new schools in California, but they do so also at other times throughout the country. During growing season, their parents rent low-cost housing in federally subsidized labor camps, but state rules mandate that families move at least 50 miles away when the camps close for the winter.  AP article

Children harvest crops and sacrifice dreams in Mexico’s fields — An estimated 100,000 Mexican children under 14 pick crops for pay. Alejandrina, 12, wanted to be a teacher. Instead, she became a nomadic laborer, following the pepper harvest from farm to farm.  LA Times article

Brie Witt: Growing next crop of farmers, ranchers – The chairwoman of San Joaquin Young Farmers and Ranchers writes, “Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers are a group of agriculturalists between the ages of 18-35, involved in production, banking, business, and many other areas of the industry. We currently have an active group of more than 35 members who are developing leadership skills while volunteering time as active, vital members of the community.”  Witt op-ed in Stockton Record


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Prop 47 may keep addicts from using drug court’s treatment program – Drug court, long backed by legal experts as a cheaper and more effective alternative to prison sentences for people with addictions, provides substance abuse treatment for defendants who face low-level felony drug or theft cases. The program relies upon collaboration among addicts, their lawyers, prosecutors and judges. But at the heart of the program is the threat of a felony sentence if participants flunk out. That threat was sharply reduced last month when California voters approved Proposition 47.  LA Times article

Use of body cameras on rise in Sacramento area — In the months since police in Stockton began wearing body cameras to protests, the men and women rallying against law enforcement’s use of force have all but stopped getting in the faces of police officers. Instead, they zero in on the little black box in the center of officers’ chests and scream.  Sacramento Bee article



Dean Florez: The Governor versus the Board – The former California Senate majority leader and current president of the 20 Million Minds Foundation writes, “The current tuition battle needs to be refocused on allowing students more affordable choices. In the Internet era, we should move to an advanced higher education paradigm which rewards students on what they have learned, not the physical time spent and invested in scarce costly seats which has limited their ability to move through college at a faster pace costing them yet another year of crushing student debt.”  Florez op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Stockton Record: Invest in our youth – There’s no question Stockton has literacy and learning challenges for its youth. But there’s no doubt how many dedicated people — from educators to librarians to nonprofit agencies to parents to the children themselves — who are dedicated to making this a strong community for our youth.  Stockton Record editorial

Mentor program designed to support at-risk kids – A 13-year-old boy is having a difficult time staying focused in class. He is more occupied with making the other children laugh. But a group of volunteer mentors, county workers and school representatives see his potential to veer back on track.  Stockton Record article

PGA’s Barnes donates $20,000 to Stockton school – Sara Garfield arrived Saturday morning at Stockton Golf and Country Club excited and grateful her organization was about to receive a donation from the Ricky and Suzanne Barnes Foundation.  Stockton Record article

Microsoft taps three from Manteca Unified for global panel of experts — Microsoft Corp. has named 40 educators nationwide as Innovative Educator Experts for 2015. Three of them work in Manteca Unified School District: teachers Tammy Brecht Dunbar and Kristen Messer, and Superintendent Jason Messer.  Modesto Bee article



Sweating 2014: Record warmth not considered climate change, but maybe a symptom — For Fresno, Bakersfield and the state as a whole, 2014 will probably be the warmest year on record. Fresno’s eye-popping year features 11 straight monthly averages that landed among the 10 warmest on record. December might make it 12 in a row. Is this climate change? Or is it just nature doing what it has done for many thousands of years? Scientists say it’s nature.  Fresno Bee article

Karen Ross:  Rice farms could provide offsets in carbon markets – The secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture writes, “Sometimes it takes a crisis like climate change to reveal a golden opportunity. Our rice farmers in Northern California have long been exemplary stewards of their land, both in terms of providing habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife and for their ongoing efforts to work with environmental and research organizations to improve their farming practices. Now, in response to climate change, they stand ready to take the next step.” Ross op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Deal reached at U.N. climate change talks in Peru – After late-night wrangling at U.N.  talks in Peru, negotiators early Sunday reached a watered-down deal that sets the stage for a global climate pact in Paris next year.  LA Times article; New York Times article

Dick Hagerty: For some, going solar pays off — One year ago, I took the bold plunge, invested a lot of money and installed a solar electrical system at our home. The results for a full year are now in, and the savings and the outcome have proved this to be a very solid investment.  Hagerty column in Modesto Bee


Health/Human Services

Health reform proves a mixed bag in Kern – A year after the historic implementation of the Affordable Care Act, policyholders, healthcare providers and insurers say it’s been a bit of a mixed bag.  Bakersfield Californian article

Uninsured rates fell under Obamacare, but who is reaping the benefit? — Hospitals and health insurers have reaped a financial windfall from the 2014 rollout of the federal health law, even beyond what was expected. Now, employers and consumers are seeking a share of the Obamacare dividend.  LA Times article

Kern supervisors trusting but verifying glowing Kern Medical Center numbers – It’s been one year since Russell Judd and his team of contract managers took over control of county-owned Kern Medical Center. He took an organization that bled an average of $2.6 million a month between October 2013 and March 2014 and, by August, was reporting a modest monthly profit.  Bakersfield Californian article

Davis considers making restaurants offer kids milk, not soda – Officials in the university town moved forward earlier this month with a proposal that could eventually change the way restaurants sell soda to kids by requiring water and low-fat milk to be the standard beverages offered with children’s meals. Parents would have to ask for pop.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno Bee: Alzheimer’s takes and takes – when will Congress give? — Last week, though Alzheimer’s advocates begged for a $200 million increase in federal funding, Congress parted with just $25 million extra for the coming fiscal year. It’s a drop in the bucket. And it’s particularly frustrating given the bipartisan momentum that seemed for a while to have gathered amid promising clinical trials on early diagnosis and prevention.  Fresno Bee editorial

Fifth annual event helps hundreds of Stockton’s homeless – Christine Vega and her husband, Thomas, used to take food to her brother when he was living on the streets near the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. Now they’re providing care packages for hundreds of homeless people in Stockton.  Stockton Record article

Local woman grateful after surviving flesh-eating bacteria — The first sign of a life-threatening bacterial infection was exhaustion. Not the kind that comes with the territory of being a working mother of four. Jennifer Sutherland had never felt anything like what slammed her two years ago as she was preparing for a vacation in Seattle. Bakersfield Californian article


Land Use/Housing

Mark Arax: Blackstone is the boulevard of broken dreams – The Fresno author writes, “I’ll explain to my son that a city’s general plan, at best, is a philosophical document. That the real document — the one that lays down the actual incentives and disincentives to create a new model of growth — is yet to come. That these two documents together will mean everything or nothing depending on whether future city councils choose to follow or ignore them. That a developer’s work at subverting the commonweal is never done, and our city’s disdain for general plans is what led to Operation Rezone and the overbuilding of the Bust.”  Arax op-ed in Fresno Bee


Other Areas

Modesto looks to limit medical pot – Modesto wants new restrictions for the sick and their caretakers who grow medical marijuana, including limiting cultivation to indoors in single-family homes and not in residences where children live.  Modesto Bee article

Lewis Griswold: Woman are in the majority on Lindsay, Exeter city councils — The city councils of Lindsay and Exeter have women in the majority.  Griswold in Fresno Bee

Mike Klocke: Recalling a tragic flood heroine – Today: We relive the story of Flo the Cow. Farmers as well as people in trailer parks and residential areas faced severe flood waters in 1997. The San Joaquin River rose, levees broke and a mess was created that was not cleared for months. Amid all of this, a Holstein cow battled the flood waters, hanging on for life.  Klocke column in Stockton Record

Michael Fitzgerald: An idiot’s Christmas carol — Today, the story of a real Christmas jerk. Just know that for much of 2014 I was plagued by a homeless female dope fiend — scratch that harsh term, a homeless woman — who used my backyard as a day shelter.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Last week, though Alzheimer’s advocates begged for a $200 million increase in federal funding, Congress parted with just $25 million extra for the coming fiscal year. It’s a drop in the bucket. And it’s particularly frustrating given the bipartisan momentum that seemed for a while to have gathered amid promising clinical trials on early diagnosis and prevention.

Sacramento Bee – Last week, though Alzheimer’s advocates begged for a $200 million increase in federal funding, Congress parted with just $25 million extra for the coming fiscal year. It’s a drop in the bucket. And it’s particularly frustrating given the bipartisan momentum that seemed for a while to have gathered amid promising clinical trials on early diagnosis and prevention.

Stockton Record – There’s no question Stockton has literacy and learning challenges for its youth. But there’s no doubt how many dedicated people — from educators to librarians to nonprofit agencies to parents to the children themselves — who are dedicated to making this a strong community for our youth.