December 16, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Political handicappers are already weighing in on 2016 congressional races — For those that follow central San Joaquin Valley politics, it’ll all look very familiar. Both Cook and Sabato say that the 21st Congressional District, represented by Hanford Republican David Valadao, and the 10th Congressional District, represented by Turlock Republican Jeff Denham, “lean Republican.” They also agree that the 16th Congressional District, represented by Fresno Democrat Jim Costa, is “likely Democrat.”  Fresno Bee article

Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical marijuana — Tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy.  LA Times article

Gov. Brown

While protests continue, Jerry Brown mum — While protests flared just blocks away over grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, Gov. Jerry Brown declined on Monday to offer any reaction.  Capitol Alert

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Plastic bag-ban supporters complain referendum drive is misleading — Supporters of a state ban on single-use plastic grocery bags filed a complaint Monday, calling for the secretary of state to investigate allegations that opponents seeking to overturn the measure are misleading voters to get them to sign petitions that would place the matter on the ballot.  LA Times article

Jon Fleischman: Top 10 measures likely to appear on November 2016 ballot — The General Election ballot in 2016 is likely to have more statewide ballot measures on it than California voters have seen in a long time. The main reason for this is that the number of signatures needed in order to qualify a statutory measure or even a constitutional amendment have plummeted with the pathetically low turnout in last month’s election (the signature requirement is 5% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election).   Fleischman in Fox & Hounds

Brulte, Dhillon to seek reelection as state GOP leaders — California GOP chairman Jim Brulte, widely credited with reviving the state Republican party’s fortunes, announced Monday that he would seek reelection to the post.  LA Times article


Immigration official to applicants for temporary status: ‘Don’t worry’ — One of the nation’s top immigration officials is urging those who are newly eligible for temporary legal status to apply for the program without fear.  LA Times article

Obama braces for immigration battle with GOP — President Obama is bracing for a political and legal battle with Republicans next year over his executive actions on immigration, but as he seeks to rally support against the anticipated assault, a lingering frustration among some Latinos could mean renewed pressure on him to do even more to protect illegal immigrants.  Washington Post article

Other areas

California Senate leader calls for state funds to pull out of coal – Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said Monday that he will propose legislation requiring California’s massive pension funds to divest their holdings in coal.  Sacramento Bee article; Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee; San Francisco Chronicle article

Dan Walters: Los Angeles seeks increase in voter turnout – Merging local elections with statewide voting would have another effect that some Los Angeles politicians might regret. It would end the “free ride” that local officials have had in running for statewide offices, the Legislature, Congress or even county offices without giving up their current positions.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Activists seek reforms in ethics and transparency in Sacramento – Two groups active in city of Sacramento politics said they will push for ethics and transparency reforms similar to those that were part of the failed strong-mayor ballot measure.  Sacramento Bee article

Protestors block Oakland police headquarters – Protesters chained their bodies to the front doors of Oakland police headquarters and high school students rallied together in both Oakland and San Francisco on Monday in the latest in a series of actions aimed at drawing attention to what demonstrators say is police aggression against minorities. San Francisco Chronicle article

Jeannie Oropeza picked to head HR for California Senate – Jeannie Oropeza, an administrator with the California Department of Education, has been named the new head of human resources for the state Senate, replacing Dina Hidalgo who retired this fall amid complaints of nepotism and favoritism.  Capitol Alert

Sacramento Bee: The opposite of term limits: Pay for longevity — We’re no fans of term limits. They result in a constant churn of new and inexperienced legislators, allowing long-lived special interests to dictate policy to their advantage. But though we like elected officials with institutional knowledge, it’s tough to defend giving them bonuses for winning elections.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Rights battle rises as businesses decline to serve gays — Local governments are taking a hard line against a small number of bakers, florists, photographers and others who are declining to provide services for same-sex weddings.  New York Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

U.S. board: Federal law on high-speed rail trumps state environmental lawsuits — A three-member panel of presidential appointees has apparently derailed seven lawsuits challenging the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s approval of its Fresno-Bakersfield bullet-train route.  Fresno Bee article; AP article

It’s raining; so how do those reservoirs look? – So the snowpack so far this year? As of Monday, it’s 41 percent of normal for the date. That’s not great. If you’re looking for a silver lining to that meager-sounding number, here it is: We’re still early in the season, and historically most of the snowpack is built during January and February. So there’s still lots of time to catch up.  KQED report

Jobs and the Economy

Senate vote likely to save 700 Visalia jobs – The holiday season got a lot merrier over the weekend for about 700 people working at the Visalia Cigna office after the U.S. Senate cleared a $1.1 trillion spending bill for President Barack Obama’s signature.  Visalia Times-Delta article

‘First Look’: New report on Kern shows areas for improvement but also provides solutions — Kern County seems to always be labeled as a region that needs improvement in all different matters, including education, health and income. The results are not always good but that’s all they show, the areas that need help. But the newest report, A Portrait of California, created by Measure of America, looks at how people are doing in the state and offers solutions to improve in areas across the board. Bakersfield Californian article

Merced council approves raises for workers – The Merced City Council approved a new contract Monday with hundreds of city employees – an agreement that will give those workers raises for the first time in at least five years. The contract was passed despite some resistance to a “me too clause.” The three-year contract will give 259 employees 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. The contract passed 4-2.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno County assessor may hire lawyer after supervisors decline $2 million grant for his office – Fresno County Assessor Paul Dictos wants to fight for a three-year, $2.06 million grant awarded to his office that county supervisors are unwilling to budget. Dictos plans to hire a lawyer to learn whether supervisors overstepped their jurisdiction by rejecting the money.  Fresno Bee article

Lemoore to reconsider Kings EDC — The Lemoore City Council will continue its discussion Tuesday about whether to resume the city’s relationship with the Kings Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  Hanford Sentinel article

Stockton: Council to vote on downtown project – The latest piece in the fledgling puzzle of downtown revitalization may be a place where you can grab lunch at the deli counter, then shop for a week’s worth of groceries to carry upstairs to your new, affordable apartment.  Stockton Record article

Bureaucracy blocks families from state’s CalFresno food program — Only about half of the California families who qualify for food stamps are getting that help, but an effort to boost those numbers by tapping into school lunch data has failed to get a single grocery bag to a hungry child.  San Francisco Chronicle article

LA will make pitch to host 2024 Olympic Games — The clock starts ticking as soon as Mayor Eric Garcetti and a handpicked group of advisors step into a corporate conference room on Tuesday morning in this San Francisco suburb.  LA Times article

California bill would start nation’s first diaper assistance program – If passed, Assembly Bill 1516 would make California the first state in the country to create a diaper assistance program for families on welfare.  Sacramento Bee article

Relocation plan clears Hanford Costco – The City of Hanford has agreed to fund the relocation of the Helena Chemical Co. from its current spot on East Lacey Boulevard to a city-owned industrial park across town. The move is designed to help make the area near Highways 198 and 43 more retail friendly, appeasing recent concerns raised by developer John Kashian.  The Business Journal article

Port of Stockton: Ribbon rail arrives ready to roll – Unloading 480-foot-long bundles of steel from a ship and gently placing them on six railcars at a time is an unusual assignment, and Port of Stockton workers were taking extra care Monday as they handled the cargo for the first time.  Stockton Record article

LA officials set to move AEG out of downtown plan’s design process — Los Angeles officials are moving to keep developer Anschutz Entertainment Group from serving on a design review panel that will help shape the city’s backup plan in case a proposed NFL stadium isn’t built next to the convention center.  LA Times article

U.S. home construction drops 1.6 percent in November – Construction of new homes fell slightly in November, reflecting weakness in construction of single-family homes.  AP article

Southland home prices hit plateau — After a furious run-up in home prices in 2013, the Southern California housing market flattened out this year — setting the stage for slow but steady growth next year.  LA Times article

Elk Grove, Folsom adopt moratoriums on massage businesses — Elk Grove and Folsom have approved moratoriums on new massage businesses, joining other communities across the state that have sought to stop prostitution from operating under the guise of a legitimate enterprise.  Sacramento Bee article


Earth Log: Sierra snowpack looks better, but we need a six-pack of these storms — The storm brought the Sierra snowpack up to 41% of average, an improvement worth celebration. But let’s be clear, it does not mean we’re 41% of the way back to average for a whole season – which is what the reports sounded like. The 41% applies to the average expected by mid-December. This is still a puny snowpack.  Fresno Bee article

Kern: Storm damages no more than about 5 percent of local almond trees – Preliminary reports indicate last week’s storm destroyed between half a percent and 5 percent of Kern’s almond trees, the county agricultural commissioner’s office said Monday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Merced supervisors to discuss emergency groundwater moratorium – “Moratorium” is a word no one wants to hear amid the third year of a crippling drought, but it’s going to come up Tuesday as the Board of Supervisors considers temporarily stopping groundwater exports and the construction of new wells.  Merced Sun-Star article

December has been one of Modesto’s wettest – December is only halfway done, and Modesto already has one of the highest rainfall totals for the month in 127 years of records. The 5.59 inches recorded as of 5 p.m. Monday was the most since 1955, when December brought 6.34 inches, according to the Modesto Irrigation District.  Modesto Bee article

Monday’s storm dropped more than half inch of rain on much of Sacramento region – Monday’s storm brought a half-inch or more of rain to Sacramento and the surrounding metropolitan area, and more is on the way. As of 4 p.m., 0.51 inches had been recorded in downtown Sacramento, 0.47 inches at Sacramento Executive Airport and 0.60 inches at Sacramento International Airport.  Sacramento Bee article

Earthquakes could imperil LA’s water supply – Los Angeles gets 88% of its water from three major aqueducts, flowing from the Colorado River, Owens Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. But as they make their way into the region, the aqueducts cross the San Andreas fault a total of 32 times.  LA Times article

Storms and muddy Delta water lead to voluntary pumping cutback – The recent storms that have hit northern and Central California have much brought needed rain and snow to the state. But they also created a new problem for the operators of the massive pumps in the Delta that supply users in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California – too much water.  KVPR report

Midwest recruiting Valley dairies to pump up rural economies – DeHoog is a third-generation dairy producer from the Chino Valley east of Los Angeles. His grandfather immigrated to California from the Netherlands. Over 70 years, his family built a dairy business in what he says was once one of the most dairy-rich areas in the country. So why would he uproot his family to move halfway across the U.S.? A big reason is the valley that used to be dairy-country is quickly becoming part of the city.  NPR report

Don Curlee: Farmers observe meeting season — California farmers have been gathering by the thousands to complete one of the most strategic events on their calendars, the meeting season. Everything from marketing, cultural and production practices, economics, government regulations, research, politics, farm equipment and, especially this year, water and irrigation needs, are causes for meetings. Curlee column in Visalia Times-Delta

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Kern D.A., public defender reach agreement on domestic violence program – District Attorney Lisa Green’s proposed domestic violence diversion program is expected to earn approval from the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Public Defender Konrad Moore, who questioned the program one week ago, said he and Green have worked out a compromise and he will support the concept before supervisors.  Bakersfield Californian article

Lauren Smoot: How are we going to pay for Kern’s newest jail addition? – The director of policy and community affairs for Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government writes, “On Dec. 2, the Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to continue with the design/build process for an 822-bed addition to Lerdo Jail (“Supervisors OK new jail contract”). The financial foundation for this decision is troublesome. Kern County will now be building a new jail with no plan to pay for it.”  Smoot op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Oakland ordered to hand over disputed police documents — A federal judge ordered Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker to turn over dozens of documents to a court-appointed official investigating why independent arbitrators have frequently overturned discipline imposed against Oakland police officers.  Oakland Tribune article

Black men in business suits protest alleged police misconduct — About 50 African American men, all dressed in dark suits, gathered in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on Monday for a silent vigil to show support for Eric Garner and other alleged victims of police misconduct.  LA Times article

Still no verdict in trial of school shooter Bryan Oliver – Jurors in the trial of school shooter Bryan Oliver have deliberated about 16 hours over four days but have yet to return a verdict.  Bakersfield Californian article

Richmond Police Chief Magnus says he’s hold protest sign again — Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus, who set off an avalanche of emotions when he held up a “#Black Lives Matter” sign at a local protest, says he wouldn’t hesitate if placed in the same situation.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Sex offender had GPS bracelet removed and went unmonitored – A high-risk sex offender now charged with raping and murdering four women had his GPS tracking bracelet removed and went unmonitored for nearly two weeks as the string of killings continued in Orange County, according to court records reviewed by The Times.  LA Times article

Settlement near in 2012 police dog mauling case — A proposed $500,000 settlement is in the works in the case of a woman whose right ear was nearly bitten off by a Bakersfield police dog, her lawyer said Monday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Bruce Maiman: Once punished, criminals deserve a second chance — Last month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that restrictions in 2012’s Proposition 35 infringed on the free speech rights of registered sex offenders to communicate on the Internet. The plaintiffs had completed their sentences decades ago – decades, because, you know, sex offenders can never be rehabilitated. Anyone empathizing with ex-cons wanting to start a new life, however, faces vilification.  Maiman column in Sacramento Bee

San Jose cop on leave over tweets on protests — A San Jose police officer was placed on leave after he posted, and later deleted, two threatening Twitter messages directed at protesters rallying against police brutality.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Kern High School District gets record number of Paramount grants – The Kern High School District won an unprecedented 36 grants from a local school grants program in Kern County, Paramount Education Programs (PEP) announced Monday. The agriculture and education collaborative will give KHSD more than $111,000 to fund projects that enhance science and technology studies, college readiness programs, agricultural career preparation, creative arts programs, community engagement and other school initiatives.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno State gets $211,000 for Asian student research – Fresno State was awarded two new research grants to fund projects studying how best to gear higher education toward Southeast Asian-American students.  The Business Journal article

Jacobsen’s establish $25,000 Fresno State endowment — More scholarships will be available to agriculture students at Fresno State following a new $25,000 endowment established by alumni Ryan and Ashley Jacobsen.  The Business Journal article

Stanislaus State, high school students get to see through other eyes – University students and high-schoolers took a novel kind of final exam, displaying joint projects on the immigration experience and comparing how schools work in different countries.  Modesto Bee article

Modesto partners with UOP on engineering interns – Modesto is working with the University of the Pacific to bring in engineering students for seven-month paid internships with the city.  Modesto Bee article

State likely to support existing lunch standards – California’s enthusiasm for healthy school lunches appears unlikely to change under a Congressional budget bill headed to President Barack Obama for signature that would allow states to weaken new federal school nutrition requirements.  EdSource article

Fresno Unified’s Baird Middle School receives national recognition – Baird Middle School in Fresno was selected as a national demonstration school to serve as a model for new Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) sites, officials said Monday.  Fresno Bee article

Jerrold Jensen: No basis for UC tuition hike – The Visalia resident writes, “Don’t ask the University of California Regents to buy hamburger for your next barbeque — based on their personnel policies they are likely to bring something that is 70 percent fat.”  Jensen op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Bill Maher still expected to keynote Cal’s winter commencement Saturday – Comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher is still expected to speak Saturday at UC Berkeley’s winter commencement ceremony — and he will likely encounter protests over statements he has made linking Islam to violence and intolerance.  Oakland Tribune article

Group takes claim for UC Berkeley lynching effigies — An anonymous Bay Area group is taking credit for the racially-charged effigies hung from nooses at UC Berkeley this weekend, saying they were meant to be provocative art pieces.  San Francisco Chronicle article


California leaders vow to continue climate change action – California’s political leaders pledged Monday to advance the state’s landmark laws on climate change and fend off challenges from opponents such as oil companies.  LA Times article

CPUC commissioner tied to e-mail saying he’d help PG&E — California Public Utilities Commission official offered to write a favorable opinion on a $1.3 billion gas rate case if Pacific Gas and Electric Co. “did not like” one from another commissioner, according to an e-mail the company was forced to disclose by a judge’s order.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Modesto Irrigation District to look at way to help those struggling with electric bill – If approved, a $1.4 million pilot program for residential customers, called Power Up, could roll out in about three months. Participation would be voluntary, and it isn’t meant for everyone.  Modesto Bee article

Delta: As hyacinth clears out, focus turns to next year – Recent storms have mostly cleared Stockton waterways that were hijacked by hyacinth the past two months, but officials at a standing-room-only town hall meeting Monday said it’s important to stay focused on the future.  Stockton Record article

Residents upset about catch basins dug in front of south Modesto homes — Parklawn residents are happy about the new sewer lines and repaved streets after years of fighting for modern services for the Modesto neighborhood, which is south of East Hatch Road.  Modesto Bee article

Health/Human Services

Covered California extends deadline to sign up for Obamacare — California’s health insurance exchange extended its deadline for consumers who want Obamacare coverage in effect beginning Jan. 1.  LA Times article

Tough sell getting students interested in health insurance — At a recent Covered California forum at San Diego State University, you could have heard a pin drop. There were only three students in the audience.  KQED report

California, Merced see slight gain in overall health – Californians seem to be improving their overall health – placing No. 17 out of 50 states, four spots better than last year, in the latest America’s Health Rankings report by the United Health Foundation. In county rankings, Merced County ranked No. 37 out of 57 counties in California studied, a two-spot improvement from last year.  Merced Sun-Star article

Domestic calls for help increase at Family Services — From July through September, calls to Family Services’ domestic violence hotline increased from 131 in 2013 to 178 in 2014. And during the same months, the number of people provided shelter by Family Services increased from 77 in 2013 to 132 in 2014.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Valley Crisis in Merced gets $10,000 donation — The owners of a nursing center in Atwater last week gave $10,000 on behalf of their employees to the Valley Crisis Center, which advocates for the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Merced Sun-Star article

Study offers support for notion of e-cigarettes as gateway drug —  Do e-cigarettes lure teens into a world of vice that turns them into smokers of regular cigarettes? This is the big fear of anti-smoking activists, and new data from Hawaii suggest they may be right.  LA Times article; AP article

Land Use/Housing

Patience Milrod: Bad optics cloud hearing – The Fresno resident writes, “Even if motivated by friendship, by common political views, or just by the desire to avoid meeting a Granville-funded opponent in a dark alley come re-election time — council members need to get into the habit of making Granville play by the same rules that apply to council gadfly Barbara Hunt.”  Milrod op-ed in Fresno Bee


Bike sharing still not rolling in San Diego — San Diego’s bike sharing program was supposed to start between January and March of this year. Now it’s December and there are still no bikes to be shared.  KPBS report

Other Areas

Modesto planners ask for changes to medical pot ordinance – Modesto’s Planning Commission declined Monday night to endorse an ordinance restricting those who legitimately grow medical marijuana and instead directed city staff to revise the proposal.  Modesto Bee article

Tulare boards need time to adapt to by-area system – The appointment of Maritsa Munoz Castellanoz to the Tulare City Council and the election of Linda Wilbourn to the Tulare Local Health Care District board have given Tulare true by-area representation on the city’s most influential elected boards.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Stockton: Council to select replacement member on Jan. 6 –  Councilwoman Kathy Miller’s replacement will be appointed following a public interview process at a special meeting of the City Council on Jan. 6, City Clerk Bonnie Paige said Monday.  Stockton Record article

Stockton councilman Tubbs pleads ‘no contest’ to DUI charge – City Councilman Michael Tubbs has pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges stemming from his October arrest for driving under the influence.  Stockton Record article

On Duty with the CHP:  In a collision? Here’s what to do next — Have you ever been in a traffic collision? If so, did you experience surprise, shock, maybe a bit of fear or anger? Whatever the cause of the collision, the question is, what do you do next? Today’s column covers the basics when in a minor (non-injury) motor vehicle collision. In addition, what are some of the services the state has to offer? On Duty column in Fresno Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Sacramento Bee – We’re no fans of term limits. They result in a constant churn of new and inexperienced legislators, allowing long-lived special interests to dictate policy to their advantage. But though we like elected officials with institutional knowledge, it’s tough to defend giving them bonuses for winning elections; Wall Street banks collect on a debt, as Congress prepares to raise more money.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers: Putting a muzzle on game announcers, key issues facing Stockton’s charter commission and other issues.