December 17, 2014


Political Briefs

Top stories

Jerry Brown plans to target cost of retiree healthcare – Gov. Jerry Brown plans to address the growing cost of healthcare for retired state workers next month when he releases his new budget proposal, a spokesman for his finance department said Tuesday.  LA Times article; John Myers in KQED; Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

End game: No immigration deal, just divisions — A Congress that began with bright hopes for immigration legislation is ending in bitter divisions on the issue even as some Republicans warn that the political imperative for acting is stronger than ever for the GOP.  AP article


Gov. Brown

Jerry Brown calls criticism of Supreme Court pick ‘logically deficient’ — Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest California Supreme Court nominee isn’t likely to run into serious resistance at her confirmation hearing next week, but criticism of Leondra Kruger’s residency (out of state) and judicial experience (none) has brought Brown to her defense.  Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown gives state workers a gift: Time off — Happy Holidays, state workers. Gov. Jerry Brown is giving the 224,000 or so employees up to four hours of paid time off between now and year’s end. The “informal time off” is a tradition that governors both Democratic and Republican have carried on for many years.  Sacramento Bee article
Valley politics

Vern Warnke sworn in as Merced County sheriff — Merced County Sheriff-elect Vern Warnke took his oath of office Tuesday in what was meant to be a private ceremony for friends and family after his predecessor announced he would retire early.  Merced Sun-Star article



U.S. judge says Obama immigration action invalid – A federal judge in Pittsburgh is declaring that President Barack Obama‘s recent executive actions on immigration are unconstitutional.  AP article 

Immigration detention center on Terminal Island declared unsafe again — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stopped using a former immigrant detention center on Terminal Island after an internal review found the agency shouldn’t be operating there because the facility is unsafe.  LA Times article

Sacramento Bee: License law will make roads safer, if we do it right — Licensing undocumented immigrant drivers will go a long way toward making California roads safer. But the logistics and trust issues are challenging, and we need more outreach.  Sacramento Bee editorial
Other areas

Protests: Demonstrators try to raise awareness – Dozens of demonstrators stood in the rain near a busy Stockton intersection Tuesday evening to protest police brutality and a series of officer-involved shootings that have rocked communities from coast to coast.  Stockton Record article

Protestors slam police tactics at Berkeley council meeting – Dozens of protesters took to the mike at a special City Council meeting in Berkeley on Tuesday evening to voice their anger with government officials over police tactics at recent protests.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Lawyers lie down in the rain to protest killings by police – Amid calls for justice and chants of “black lives matter,” more than 100 lawyers, law students and others staged a “die-in” outside a downtown Los Angeles courthouse Tuesday, arguing that the legal system in which they operate is broken.  LA Times article 

Father of Michael Brown to ‘stand strong’ with Bay Area teens — The father of slain Ferguson, Mo., teen Michael Brown addressed a group of San Francisco high school students Monday night, promising his solidarity during ongoing protests in the Bay Area.  LA Times article

Powdered alcohol draws opposition from state legislatures — Powdered alcohol hasn’t even arrived in stores yet, but states already are moving to ban the product touted by its inventor as an easy way to mix a drink on the go.  AP article

Senate ends chaotic session with a late flurry of votes – A turbulent lame-duck session of Congress came to a sudden end Tuesday as the Senate rushed to clear a lingering tax bill and some key presidential nominations in a late-night flurry of final votes.  LA Times article

113th Congress ends with more fights than feats — The tempestuous 113th Congress has limped out of Washington for the last time, capping two years of modest and infrequent legislating that was overshadowed by partisan clashes, gridlock and investigations.  AP article


News Briefs

Top Stories

No resolution yet in Bakersfield’s bullet train lawsuit — After a nearly two-hour closed session City Council meeting Tuesday, the city of Bakersfield appeared to be chugging along on its quest to stop the bullet train — but its exact destination was unknown.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Critics say college graduation rates don’t tell the whole story – Encouraging students to get their degrees in four years rather than five or six — and, for community college students, in two years rather than three or four — will not only reduce tuition bills but free space for more students to enroll, many of these advocates say. But a growing chorus of opposition argues that graduation rates by themselves may not accurately measure campus performance and that using the rates to determine allocation of federal and state funds would be especially troublesome.  LA Times article


Jobs and the Economy

Controller Chiang’s proposal would pay down retiree medical costs – California’s tab for state government retirees’ future medical and dental care has soared to nearly $72 billion, prompting State Controller John Chiang on Tuesday to propose a five-year plan to whittle down a chunk of the unfunded obligation.  Sacramento Bee article

Central Valley job seekers pin hopes on high-speed rail – More than 100 people, most of them out of work, packed a community center in the rural farming town of Orange Cove recently for a workshop on how to get jobs building the nation’s first high-speed rail train.  KQED report

Industry groups sue over LA’s minimum wage for hotel workers – Two hotel industry groups filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging a new Los Angeles law that requires a higher minimum wage at the city’s larger hotels.  LA Times article

Sacramento’s housing market continues seasonal cool-down The housing market’s seasonal slowdown continued in Sacramento County in November, with the number of sales and median prices falling compared with October, CoreLogic DataQuick reported on Tuesday.  Sacramento Bee article

Bay Area housing market throttles back but San Francisco still hot — Home prices in the nine-county Bay Area grew in November at their slowest pace in two and a half years, with the median price of $601,000 up 9.3% from the same month last year. The number of homes sold dipped 9.9%.  LA Times article

Apple wins ruling in $1-billion antitrust suit over iTunes updates –  An Oakland jury found Tuesday that Apple did not violate federal antitrust laws when it blocked music downloaded from competitors’ software from playing on iPods and other devices, ending a nearly decade-long legal battle that could have cost the California tech giant as much as $1 billion.  LA Times article; AP article

P*DE*Q Corner café in Fresno closing next week – The P*DE*Q Corner cafe near Fresno High School will close next week as manufacturing activity of the gluten-free, Brazilian-inspired cheese bread ramps up.  The Business Journal article

State’s banks, credit unions boost earnings in 3rd quarter — California’s state-chartered banks and credit unions saw increased earnings in this year’s third quarter compared with the same period in 2013, according to the state Department of Business Oversight.  Sacramento Bee article 

USOC to bid on 2024 Olympics; San Francisco in the running – The United States will bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, but whether the contender will be San Francisco or one of three other finalist cities is a decision for another day.  San Francisco Chronicle article

LA’s ExpressPark connects motorists to downtown parking spots —  In congested commercial and residential areas, circling block after block to find an empty parking space can be tedious and irritating. But in downtown Los Angeles, one of the more innovative programs in the nation is making the hunt less irritating.  LA Times article

Some theaters drop ‘The Interview’ amid Sony hacker threats — Concerned about threats to moviegoers, theater owners are starting to pull “The Interview” from their holiday lineups amid a relentless cyberattack that has wreaked havoc on Sony Pictures Entertainment.  LA Times article

Chargers staying in San Diego in 2015 — A sigh of relief and some breathing room. The Chargers will play in San Diego in 2015. The team announced late Tuesday that it will not exercise the termination clause in its Qualcomm Stadium lease, something it has had the ability to do every Feb. 1 since 2007.  U-T San Diego article; LA Times article

Remote Mojave Desert town blasts off into the future — A 15-foot tall stone road sign greets drivers as they roll into town: “Welcome to Mojave, Home of Space Ship One.” It was Space ship One’s sister craft Space Ship Two, designed to ferry passengers to the stars and back, that crashed during a test flight shortly after take-off from the Mojave Air and Space PortKQED report



Mark Grossi: Earth Log: Ten trillion gallons of rain – just a drop in the drought bucket — What does 10 trillion gallons look like? It’s a little more than 30 million acre-feet of water, if I’m doing the math right. Pine Flat Reservoir holds 1 million acre-feet. So, it’s a little more than Pine Flat times 30.  Grossi in Fresno Bee

Rain could spell trouble for California water conservation – Recent storms eased the drought somewhat, but there’s a long way to go. And state officials are worried that the rain will give people an excuse to abandon the already inconsistent conservation efforts adopted to deal with the dry spell.  AP article

Divided Merced supervisors reject emergency groundwater ordinance – Merced County will not consider developing an “emergency moratorium” to temporarily stop groundwater exports and new well construction while its staff works on the county’s permanent groundwater ordinance, a divided Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.  Merced Sun-Star article

Dairies brace for long price downturn – Kings County’s $773 million dairy industry — along with the rest of the state’s powerhouse milk machine — is going into a downturn that could last for most of 2015, forecasters say. Hanford Sentinel article

Merced tentatively approves farming, despite protests – The council voted 4-2 to allow developer Greg Hostetler to use a portion of the north Merced development Bellevue Ranch West as agricultural land, if he meets environmental and other requirements. The property had been planned for residential development.  Merced Sun-Star article

Walnut harvest stronger than expected – California’s fall walnut harvest is coming in bigger than expected, and while that could mean farmers will see smaller crop payments, in coming months consumers should get relief from what had been record high walnut prices.  Stockton Record article

Endangered tricolored blackbird’s fate entwined with dairy industry – Tricolored blackbirds, once one of the most abundant birds in California, now depend largely on Central Valley dairy farmers for their survival.  Sacramento Bee article

Steve Knell: The water Oakdale Irrigation District sells is not the water it pumps – The general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District writes, “If I have sugar in my pantry and flour in my cupboard, does that make me a baker? No. But The Bee continues to assert that since the Oakdale Irrigation District pumps groundwater and sells surface water that makes it guilty of pumping and selling groundwater out of the county. It’s an unfortunate ignorance of our practices that seems to creep in and cloud many resource discussions we are engaged in locally.  Knell op-ed in Modesto Bee

Monson still needs help with its water – Ben and Lazara Luengas of Monson worried over the summer how much longer they could get by without water.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Organic farmers to get a break on agriculture fee – An organic farming seed planted in the latest farm bill sprouted Tuesday, broadening exemptions from conventional crop promotion fees.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Lindsay Ono: Recent summit at BC discussed ag’s strengths and challenges – The professor of agriculture at Bakersfield College writes, “When Congressman Kevin McCarthy made his opening remarks at the first-ever Kern Agriculture Summit on October 14, he spoke about how amazing it was that agriculture — arguably the top industry in the valley — had never come together to discuss the matters that affect the valley, state and nation.”  Ono op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Fiscalini Cheese racks up another major award — Fiscalini Cheese Co., a noted producer in the Modesto area, once again has taken home a major award from London. It was one of 18 trophy winners at the World Cheese Awards, which drew nearly 2,600 entries for its 2014 competition.  Modesto Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Matching funds for new Fresno County jail project may come up short – Fresno County supervisors learned Tuesday that they may not be able to spend up to $2 million from tobacco settlement monies for preconstruction work for the county’s new downtown jail annex.  Fresno Bee article

35 new Bakersfield Police Department officers to hit the streets – Bakersfield will add 30 newly trained police officers to its ranks by Dec. 29, and another five with more experience by the third week in January, Police Chief Greg Williamson said Tuesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Kern supervisors approve new domestic violence program – The deal went through without a hitch — this time. Kern County supervisors approved a new domestic violence diversion program Tuesday, one week after unexpected opposition sidelined the idea. The program, championed by District Attorney Lisa Green, would allow individuals charged with misdemeanor domestic violence crimes to have their cases dismissed by paying an $85 fee and finishing a counseling program.  Bakersfield Californian article 

LAPD’s plan for 7,000 body cameras comes with challenges – Los Angeles will purchase 7,000 cameras for police officers to wear while on patrol, making the city a laboratory in the use of devices that bring the promise of more transparent policing but also concerns about civilian privacy.  LA Times article; AP article

Mistrial declared in Bryan Oliver shooting trial; retrial set for Jan. 26 — The trial of school shooter Bryan Oliver featured students recounting the terror they felt as Oliver entered a classroom armed with a shotgun, contentious battles between attorneys over Oliver’s intent and strong disagreement between psychologists about whether Oliver was aware of his actions. But its end was relatively quiet as Judge John W. Lua declared a mistrial at 3:40 Tuesday afternoon after jurors failed in six separate votes to reach an agreement on the two counts of attempted murder against Oliver.  Bakersfield Californian article; Lois Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

LAPD announces reforms to boost accuracy of city crime statistics – Los Angeles police officials Tuesday announced a series of reforms to improve the accuracy of the city’s crime statistics, saying reporting errors undermine the public’s trust in the department.  LA Times article

CNN’s #AskaCop hashtag backfires, elicits brutal responses – A hashtag about asking police officers questions for a CNN panel turned extremely negative almost as soon as it was posted Tuesday.  LA Times article

Eight applicants vie to be next top cop in Ceres – Eight people applied to be Ceres’ next police chief. The application period closed Monday after three and a half weeks. City Manager Toby Wells would not say who any of the applicants are, only that all are from California and that one of the applicants is internal.  Modesto Bee article

Appeals court overturns sex-change for inmate — A divided federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned a ruling ordering Massachusetts prison officials to provide taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery for an inmate convicted of murder.  AP article



Dan Walters: Brown’s big school plan gets 3rd rap – It’s not exactly three strikes and you’re out, but neither is the third time a charm for Gov. Jerry Brown’s landmark overhaul of public school finance and governance. A third major research organization has examined how Brown’s “Local Control Funding Formula” is being implemented and found it wanting.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee; EdSource article

UC Berkeley hack: Personal data on 1,600 people possibly compromised – The personal information of about 1,600 people–including Social Security and credit card numbers–may have been hacked from UC Berkeley servers, a university official said.  LA Times article

UC boots deadlines to disclose spending — Missing its own deadlines, the University of California is now more than two months behind in disclosing to the state Legislature and the Department of Finance details of its expenses.  Capitol Weekly article

Merced Union High School teachers, employees to receive raises – Merced Union High School District’s teachers and classified employees are getting raises. The district’s Board of Trustees at their Dec. 10 meeting unanimously gave 491 teachers a 4.5 percent raise retroactive to July and increased contributions to their health insurance coverage for the 2014-2015 school year.  Merced Sun-Star article

UC Merced Connect: Research of tiny things could change students’ lives — For UC Merced students in this year’s nanoBIO internships and research program, working with something extremely small could have huge implications.  UC Merced Connect in Merced Sun-Star

Edison teacher who was shot and wife sue Fresno Unified and its superintendent – An Edison High School teacher who was shot at the school last year and his wife are suing Fresno Unified School District and employees for negligence, and the superintendent specifically for malice and oppression for allegedly referring to the teacher as a “knucklehead” after the shooting.  Fresno Bee article

CSU Stanislaus, Sierra College collaborate on Placer Ranch development – California State University, Sacramento, and Sierra College have agreed to collaborate with developers of Placer Ranch, a 2,200-acre site north of Roseville, to expand higher-education offerings to South Placer County.  Sacramento Bee article

San Diego State bans Delta Sigma Phi fraternity after Take Back the Night taunts — Fraternity has been banned from San Diego State University after some of its members allegedly harassed marchers during an anti-sexual-violence event — the breaking point for the university, campus officials said Tuesday.  LA Times article 

Maureen DiMarco, Wilson education advisor, dies at 66 — Maureen DiMarco, whose three-decade-long career in education policy ranged from service on a local school board to becoming California’s first cabinet-level education secretary, died Saturday in Sacramento. She was 66 and succumbed, her family said, after a recent illness.  Capitol Alert



New power bill formula embraced – The concept of some people paying for electricity before they use it won praise Tuesday by Modesto Irrigation District leaders.  Modesto Bee article

Daniel Jacobson: Fracking undercuts climate change, water advances – The state director of Environment California writes, “Increased drilling for fossil fuels, especially expanding dangerous and unconventional drilling methods such as fracking, will reverse any of their positive efforts. To slow down global warming, Brown and his colleagues should heed the advice of scientists and academics and stop fracking in California.” Jacobson op-ed in Sacramento Bee

PG&E email hints at improper contacts with PUC’s Mike Florio –  An ongoing scandal continues to unfold over what critics contend is an overly chummy relationship between electricity and natural gas companies and state utility regulators.  LA Times article

Steven Nilssen: LAFCo considered all sides in south county power dispute – The chairman of the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission writes, “I am the Public Member and current Chairman of the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission. I want to start by congratulating South San Joaquin Irrigation District in its successful vote by the Commission granting them the opportunity to supply retail electrical distribution to more than 30,000 of our county residents.”  Nilssen op-ed in Stockton Record

Local environmental groups receive funds for projects — Two Tulare County environmental groups were among eight across the Central Valley on Tuesday awarded a total $275,000 from the Fresno Regional Foundation.  Visalia Times-Delta article; Fresno Bee article


Health/Human Services

Covered California gives some consumers, agents a ‘break’ with early deadline extension – Covered California is giving some consumers a few more days to sign up for health coverage that starts Jan. 1.  Merced Sun-Star article

Valley Edition: Valley Children’s Hospital CEO Todd Suntrapak — Last week the valley’s only pediatric hospital announced some big changes, starting with a new name – Children’s Hospital Central California is now returning the name it had from 1950’s through the early 2000’s Valley Children’s Hospital. It’s also making some other changes that could affect the care your children receive. Valley Children’s CEO Todd Suntrapak joins us to talk about the new name, a new healthcare network, and a partnership with Stanford.  KVPR report

Study: Western states eliminate race gap on key health measures – A major new study looking at health disparities across the U.S. finds that significant gaps in managing heart disease and diabetes persist — except in western states, where the gap has been eliminated.  KQED report 

Congress agrees to widen federal help for disabled – Congress gave final approval Tuesday to the most sweeping legislation to help the disabled in a quarter century, allowing Americans with disabilities to open tax-free bank accounts to pay for needs such as education, housing and health care.  AP article

Miller steps in: New San Joaquin County Human Services Agency director plans to build on what the agency is doing – The San Joaquin County Human Services Agency weaves the social safety net meant to protect the county’s poor while helping them lift themselves out of poverty. It’s a $371 million-a-year operation with 1,300 employees, and since the start of the month it has been headed by Michael Miller, who had been a deputy director in the agency for the past four years. Stockton Record article

Ed Chau and David Benevento: State should let more providers treat patients – Assemblymember Chau (D-Monterey Park) and Benevento, former president of the California Chiropractic Association, write, “Consumers should be able to choose the type of provider that works best for them. Patients are best served when they have access to a team of health care professionals who work together. That is why it is especially important, while our state and nation continue to implement the Affordable Care Act, that we ensure access to all providers.” Chau/Benevento op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Sean Parker donates $25 million to Stanford for allergy research — Billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist Sean Parker says he has been hospitalized 14 times for allergic reactions in the past four years. That’s one reason he’s donating $25 million to Stanford University to find a cure for allergies.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Land Use/Housing

Bakersfield/Kern plan for Canyons land falls through — A deal that could have turned the ill-fated Canyons residential development into a nature preserve and system of public trails has fallen through.  Bakersfield Californian article

Stockton: Affordable housing project moves forward — Though the City Council unanimously approved a new affordable housing project Tuesday night to replace the tire store and another downtown building, shop owner Jim Donaldson said he plans to continue operating at the current site for at least six more months before relocating his longtime family business.  Stockton Record article



Tulare council to accept speed study, set public hearing — Tulare motorists with a need for speed be aware. A study commissioned by city officials is recommending a speed reduction on 17 street stretches, including two by 10 miles. The study, completed by Visalia-based engineering firm Quad Knopf, also recommends the increase of 5 mph to the speed limit in eight areas.  Visalia Times-Delta article 

Highway 12 repaving among projects to receive funding — San Joaquin County will receive more than $7 million in roadwork on Highway 12 as the California Transportation Commission allocated more than $250 million for 41 transportation projects last week.  Stockton Record article


Other Areas

Proposed Modesto marijuana ordinance sent back for more work – Modesto officials’ effort to regulate those who grow medical marijuana is not quite ready for prime time. That was the judgment rendered Monday night by the city’s Planning Commission, which declined to endorse a proposed marijuana cultivation ordinance and forward it to the City Council for possible adoption.  Modesto Bee article

Colleen Foster: Libraries crucial to future – The former director of the Stockton San Joaquin County Library system writes, “One of the tragedies of the recent recession and bankruptcy is the closure of the Fair Oaks Library. As the City of Stockton regains its financial footing, the revitalization of our public libraries – and dare we hope, the “re-commissioning” of the Fair Oaks Library to its original purpose – should feature prominently in the City’s plans.”  Foster op-ed in Stockton Record

Fresno woman helps homeless veterans reclaim their lives – Many veterans struggle as they return home after serving this country. Among that group are women who may have a hard time making that transition, sometimes ending up on the verge of being homeless. As part of our series “Common Threads: Veterans Still Fighting The War” FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports on how woman is determined to make a difference.  KVPR report 

Passing of the baton — Once upon a time, waves of Portuguese immigrants sustained a vibrant community in Kings County, a virtual culture-within-a-culture with its own local festivals, celebrations and, yes, an all-Portuguese radio station in Hanford. KIGS, AM 620, operating out of an iconic stucco building off Highway 198 just outside Hanford, has switched to an all Indian-language format, broadcasting in Hindi and Punjabi to serve a growing community of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent residing in Fresno, Selma and Kings County.  Hanford Sentinel article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Wall Street banks collect on a debt, as Congress prepares to raise more money.

Sacramento Bee – Licensing undocumented immigrant drivers will go a long way toward making California roads safer. But the logistics and trust issues are challenging, and we need more outreach; Plummeting oil prices could persuade Russia’s Vladimir Putin to stop his adventurism in Ukraine and elsewhere.