December 15, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California immigrants can soon seek driver’s licenses — State officials are encouraging more than a million undocumented immigrants living in California to step forward and apply for licenses. Reactions in the immigrant community, Aguilar said, span a spectrum.  Sacramento Bee article

Dan Walters: Arizona Republicans’ lawsuit could help California Democrats — With Republicans now controlling most state legislatures, conservatives may hope that the Supreme Court will side with Arizona’s Legislature and enhance the GOP’s chances of maintaining control of Congress for many years. But California’s Democratic members may yearn for that outcome as well, because they could count on Democratic legislators to make their districts safer.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Gov. Brown

Willie Brown: Puzzled over Jerry Brown’s East Coast nominee for Supreme Court — Leondra Kruger, Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest nominee to the California Supreme Court, is young, African American and, from the looks of her resume, extremely talented. One thing Kruger has not been for many years is a California resident. She lives in Washington, D.C. She was admitted to the California State Bar in 2002, but she hasn’t been practicing in the state.  Brown column in San Francisco Chronicle


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Dan Walters Daily: Will Californians get to vote on plastic bag ban? — Plastic bag makers are working to overturn California’s ban through a voter referendum, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee



Immigrants get advice on eligibility for delayed-deportation programs — The government is still working out the details of the programs, which will offer work permits and deportation deferrals for three years to many people who came to the U.S. as children, as well as many parents of U.S. citizens. Major questions, including what kinds of criminal records might disqualify an applicant, still loom.  LA Times article; New York Times article


Other areas

Contemplative crowds unite in Bay Area a day after large protests – After more than a week of daily, often disruptive demonstrations against police violence toward black men, Bay Area protesters took a contemplative turn Sunday as religious leaders joined the movement with renewed calls for justice.  San Francisco Chronicle article

The $1.1 trillion deal: School lunches, light bulbs, pot — School kids, truckers, marijuana smokers and fans of old-fashioned light bulbs are among the millions of people who had something extra riding on the big spending bill passed by Congress to keep the government running.  AP article

Salty foods and belching cows are winners in spending bill – Health insurance companies preserved their tax breaks. Farmers and ranchers were spared having to report on pollution from manure. Tourist destinations like Las Vegas benefited from a travel promotion program. Also buried in the giant spending bill that cleared the Senate on Saturday and is headed to President Obama for his signature were provisions that prohibit the federal government from requiring less salt in school lunches and allow schools to obtain exemptions from whole-grain requirements for pasta and tortillas.  New York Times article

Dan Morain: Torture report senator’s triumph — Despite dire warnings about consequences and withering attacks she would endure, Dianne Feinstein had no choice. Morain in Sacramento Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories

George Skelton: Government is being a drip on the drought — There are two things very annoying about the deluges that have been drenching California. And neither involves nature. Both involve government.  Skelton column in LA Times

Law enforcement officials’ views mixed over new law – Law enforcement officials and defense attorneys in San Joaquin County remain divided over a controversial law that was approved by California voters in the November election. Proposition 47, also known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” has reduced several felony crimes to misdemeanor offenses, resulting in lesser penalties for certain drug possession and property crimes.  Stockton Record article


Jobs and the Economy

‘Cal Facts’ offers snapshot of state’s finances, demographics, trends — Want a whirlwind tour of California’s economy and to delve into the Golden State’s often-baffling finances, demographics and social trends? Try Cal Facts. It’s all there, jampacked in 72 pages of charts and graphs published every two years by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office.  LA Times article

CalPERS: Extra contributions can yield big savings – CalPERS is encouraging government employers to make extra payments to reduce their pension debt or “unfunded liability” if budgets allow, saying millions can be saved in the long run.  Calpensions article

Merced to talk raises, public safety – The Merced City Council has a full agenda Monday, when it will discuss giving raises to city employees and begin to look at spending more on public safety. The three-year contract up for discussion would give the 259 employees, represented by three different unions, a 2 percent raise in the first year, a 2.25 percent raise in the second year and a 2.5 percent raise in the third year.  Merced Sun-Star article

San Joaquin County board spars again over proposal – For the second week in a row, elected county officials sparred over a proposal to expand on a new online-portal to hundreds of social services and programs provided by public and private organizations across the county.  Stockton Record article

California receives U.S. funding for earthquake early-warning system — California has received congressional funding to begin rolling out an earthquake early-warning system next year, capping nearly a decade of planning, setbacks and technological breakthroughs, officials said Sunday.  LA Times article

Fresno, Madera, Clovis post offices after Sunday hours before Christmas – Santa can’t be expected to deliver all those holiday packages, so the U.S. Postal Service is keeping some of its Valley post offices open on weekends to help.  Fresno Bee article

Hidden homeless make do in the shadows of downtown LA’s luxury — Ammo and friends are part of downtown Los Angeles’ other homeless population. Tucked under freeway overpasses and along onramps, their encampments are surrounded by the shining towers of Bunker Hill or financial district lofts. A mile or so from the shelters and soup kitchens of skid row, they live off welfare, the increasingly ritzy downtown’s castoffs — and their own ingenuity.  LA Times article



Decades-old water dispute nears end — More than 45 years after five North County Indian tribes filed suit against two water agencies and the U.S. Government for having diverted 90 percent of the water flowing through the San Luis Rey, a settlement agreement has been signed by all the parties.  U-T San Diego article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Calls grow to eliminate grand juries’ secrecy in police killings – As thousands of protesters nationwide ask how a pair of grand juries could decline to indict police officers in the deaths of two unarmed men, retired Judge LaDoris Cordell has another question: Why do we allow secret hearings that — at the very least — appear unfair? And she’s not alone.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Merced County homicides reach all-time high – Two homicides last week placed the overall number of violent deaths for 2014 in Merced County above 30 for the first time ever. A total of 31 homicides have been reported in Merced County in 2014, a record high, law enforcement officials confirmed.  Merced Sun-Star article

Alleging sexual misconduct, Stanislaus sheriff bars attorney from inmates – The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department has revoked a defense attorney’s access to inmates at its jail facilities after a deputy caught the attorney engaged in a sexual act with a client inside a jail meeting room, officials said.  Modesto Bee article

Leticia Perez: District attorney turns a few heads by breaking the mold – The Kern County supervisor writes, “The stage has now been set for the State of California to see true partnership between our county’s justice system and Kern’s nonprofit community. Lisa Green, our sheriff, probation chief, public defender and all the members of the CCP should receive a standing ovation for unanimously agreeing that there is no time like the present to empower our local community programs to play a decisive role in helping tackle the problem of recidivism.”  Perez op-ed in Bakersfield Californian



Agricultural leaders to aid Fresno State multicultural scholars program – Five of California’s agricultural lenders will support Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences with a combined gift of nearly $300,000.  Fresno Bee article

Merced foundation strives to help educate – For some families an extra $30 here or $20 there is hard to come by, so one Merced County Office of Education staffer works year-round to try to make sure no child is turned away from extracurricular activities because of money.  Merced Sun-Star article

West Hills College Lemoore to get grant for STEM – West Hills College Lemoore will be awarded a grant in 2015 to help recruit more teachers with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and math as well as career technical education.  Fresno Bee article

Black effigies hanged on Berkeley campus spur debate – Effigies of black lynching victims found hanging at the University of California, Berkeley have sparked debate over whether the images are powerful protest art or just plain tasteless and racist.  AP article; KQED report

Student work program demystifies careers — Business involvement in schools is seen as a key part of efforts to better prepare students for college and careers, a main goal of the Common Core State Standards in math and English. Yet education officials say effective partnerships are often lacking.  EdSource article

Women’s colleges lead push to redefine gender rules — Women’s colleges across the country are reconsidering their admission policies to adapt to a changing world in which gender norms are being challenged and more transgender students are seeking to enroll. It’s a complicated calculus for many colleges, prompting concerns that these new considerations could affect the nature of single-gender schools.  LA Times article



Jose Gaspar: Displaced Arvin residents happy to be back home for Christmas — You know that feeling you get when you’ve been away from home for a while either because you’re on vacation, a work-related assignment or something else? You get tired and feel out of sorts sleeping somewhere other than your own bed. And if you have kids or elderly family members with you, the anxiety level increases while you’re away, as they, too, may get tired, bored or even depressed. So I can only imagine what it was like for eight families in Arvin who were forced out of their homes for more than eight months through no fault of their own. Last weekend, they finally got to go back home.  Gaspar column in Bakersfield Californian


Health/Human Services

Firebaugh doctor receives statewide honor for decades in rural health care — Just out of medical school in 1983, Dr. Oscar Sablan expected to work in Firebaugh for three years to pay off student loans. Instead, he and his wife Marcia, a family practitioner, nursed and mended residents in the rural town of 8,100 for 30 yearsFresno Bee article


Land Use/Housing

Steve Brandau: Proposed general plan ignores what Fresnans want – The Fresno City Council president writes, “This general plan is still focused on high-density infill development that is diametrically opposed to the free market. Until that fact changes, I cannot support this 2035 General Plan Update.”  Brandau op-ed in Fresno Bee



Watt Ave. interchange signals new traffic era in Sacramento — The big Watt Avenue interchange project at Highway 50 is nearly complete after two years of construction headaches for motorists. Early reviews are positive, although some of the project’s novel features have drivers wondering where they legally can go. Sacramento Bee article


Other Areas

Outgoing Stockton councilmembers proud of service – Tuesday night, three council members who served for the past six, four and two years, respectively, will attend their final meeting. Stockton Record article

Tulare County to hire fire station architect — Tulare County Supervisors are expected on Tuesday to approve a contract with an architect to design a new county fire station. County officials say they essentially want to combine two current stations in Visalia and Tulare into one station south of Visalia.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Fitz’s Stockton: Just a regular guy – made of metal — The Downtown Stockton Alliance is compiling a catalog of downtown art. But a mysterious sculpture in what was supposed to be the new City Hall had them buffaloed.  Fitz’s Stockton in Stockton Record


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeObamacare is working, but problems must be solved.

Sacramento Bee – Sacramento streetcar project deserves to stay on track.