December 20, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Jerry Brown’s budget: Five things to watch — Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal is just around the corner, and it’s the event every lawmaker, lobbyist and chief financial officer in your life will be talking about over the holidays. Walk away if “Test 2” or “triple flip” come up. Otherwise, here are some top budget issues to keep you at the punchbowl.  Capitol Alert

Options floated for Golden State version of U.S. tax credit to help poor — A California version of a popular federal tax credit meant to help poor people would cost an estimated $400 million to roughly $1 billion annually, depending on its scope, the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analyst said in a report this week.  Capitol Alert

Valley politics

Conway, Vejvoda marry — Who say’s politicians can’t keep their promises? Early this year, Connie Conway said that once she was done being a member of the California Assembly, the first thing she planned to do was to get married. It took several months, but she kept her promise last Saturday by marrying her long-time boyfriend, Tulare City Councilman Craig Vejvoda. Visalia Times-Delta article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Joel Fox: 2014 Black Bart Award winner: The non-voter — There are 10,289,851 Californians who share this year’s Fox and Hounds Daily’s Black Bart Award — because they didn’t vote. They are the registered voters who did not bother to vote in the November Election. This is not a good thing, but since the Black Bart end of the year award recognizes the individuals or groups or even actions that greatly affects California policy or politics during the year there is no ignoring the impact of non-voters on our governing process.  Fox in Fox & Hounds


Arizona sheriff scrapping squad targeting immigrant ID theft — An Arizona sheriff known for arresting hundreds of immigrants on charges of finding work using fake or stolen identities is planning to close the controversial squad that investigates such cases.  AP article

Other areas

California Supreme Court nominee wins high praise from key panel – A State Bar panel gave Leondra Kruger, Gov. Jerry Brown’s nominee to the state Supreme Court, its highest rating Thursday, saying the U.S. Justice Department attorney was “exceptionally well qualified” and would bring “a unique and valuable perspective” to the court despite her lack of judicial experience.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Bill gives job rights to California state workers returning from military – Hourly-paid state workers on military leave would receive guaranteed work when they return from duty under the terms of an Assembly bill introduced this week.  Sacramento Bee article

Lawsuit shows resistance to legalization of pot — Despite growing public support for legalizing marijuana, a lawsuit filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma shows that at least two segments of American society are prepared to fight the idea before the nation’s highest court — social conservatives and law enforcement.  AP article

Same-sex marriages begin in Florida as Supreme Court denies stay — Same-sex couples can begin marrying in Florida next month after the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday denied a request for a stay from the state’s attorney general.  LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

New bullet train path to be developed  in Bakersfield — The state’s high-speed rail agency will collaborate with Bakersfield to develop a new path through the city for the multi-billion dollar bullet train, officials announced Friday. Under terms of the agreement reached with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the new conceptual alignment would parallel Union Pacific railroad tracks from where it enters Bakersfield at 7th Standard Road to downtown. It would impact 100 to 150 structures and would impact just two city facilities, both of which can easily be replaced, City Manager Alan Tandy said in an interview.  Bakersfield Californian article; Fresno Bee article; AP article; LA Times article

Experiment in democracy:  Community groups vie for voice in new funding plan – In Fresno, an experiment in democracy is bubbling, with more than two dozen community organizations and several more parent and student groups calling on school officials for a voice. The relatively new movement is part of the state’s revamp in funding public schools.  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Valley unemployment rate climbs in November – Unemployment rates in all eight Valley counties increased in November but remain well below November 2013 levels, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department.  The rates ranged from a low of 9.6 percent in Kern County to a high of 11.2 percent in both Merced and Tulare counties.  Here are the November unemployment rates, followed in parentheses by the October 2014 and November 2013 rates:

  • Fresno – 11.2 percent (10.2, 12.6)
  • Kern – 9.6 percent (9.0, 10.4)
  • Kings – 11.7 percent (10.7, 12.5)
  • Madera – 10.7 percent (8.9, 11.0)
  • Merced – 12.3 percent (10.3, 13.6)
  • San Joaquin – 10.7 percent (9.9, 12.3)
  • Stanislaus – 10.7 percent (9.9, 12.2)
  • Tulare – 12.3 percent (11.6, 13.0)

California adds 90,100 jobs; unemployment rate drops to 7.2 percent – California employers added more than 90,000 jobs in November, one of state’s largest monthly employment gains in more than a decade, according to federal data. The state unemployment rate dropped to 7.2%, down from 7.3% last month. LA Times article

California saw ‘striking’ job gains in November – Recovering from the Great Recession has been slow and uncertain for many Californians, especially in the Central Valley. But a state labor report released Friday provided evidence that the Sacramento region is now adding higher-paying jobs.  Sacramento Bee article

Public Policy Institute of California blog:  What the unemployment rate doesn’t show us — While California’s economy is improving, the recovery has not been strong or fast enough to keep up with the growth in California’s working-age population. Additionally, the recovery has been uneven across sectors and metro areas, and the unemployment rate is still higher than it was before the recession began. PPIC blog

Seasonal farm-job slump forces Fresno County unemployment higher — Fresno County’s unemployment rate rose to 11.2% in November, climbing by a full percentage point over October as agriculture reported a seasonal decline of about 5,500 jobs. Still, last month was the 38th consecutive month in which the unemployment rate was lower than a year earlier.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Kern’s unemployment rate creeps up again – Kern County joblessness grew again in November as farming companies shed another 3,700 jobs, or 5.6 percent, outweighing strong gains in professional and business services and other sectors, the state reported Friday.  Bakersfield Californian article

November jobless numbers in Kings – Kings’ unemployment rate in November was 11.7 percent, up from 10.7 percent in October. Hanford Sentinel graphic

As farm jobs end, Merced County jobless rate rises – The unemployment rate in Merced County was 12.3 percent in November, up from a revised 10.4 percent from the previous month, according to numbers released Friday from the Employment Development Department.  Merced Sun-Star article

Seasonal farm layoffs boost San Joaquin County jobless rate – With the fall harvest over, resulting farm worker layoffs pushed San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate up to 10.7 percent in November, from a revised 9.9 percent in October, state labor officials reported Friday.  Stockton Record article

Unemployment edges up in Stanislaus and throughout region – Unemployment edged up in November throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley and nearby foothills, which is common for the region during post-agricultural harvest months.  Modesto Bee article

Port of Oakland delays: ‘Absolute madness’ threatens business – At root is a system in which steamship lines, terminal operators, subcontractors, import and export companies, trucking companies, drivers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union operate in what might politely be called silos, often with conflicting interests. Drawn-out contract negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, representing the shippers at 29 West Coast ports, interspersed by walkouts and slowdowns, haven’t helped matters.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Tahoe celebrating but bracing for dry times — Snow has been falling in Tahoe, at long last, and nearly all of the major ski resorts expect to open by the end of the weekend. But behind the promising start to the season, California’s billion-dollar ski industry is trying to fortify itself for a future that may include warmer temperatures and less snow, allowing it to thrive even during dry times like the past three years of drought.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Possible hockey upgrade in Stockton’s future – A sale of the Stockton Thunder and it becoming part of a West Coast expansion into the American Hockey League could be a step closer toward becoming true.  Stockton Record article

Berkeley merchants react to damage after looting and protests — Merchants’ reactions to the destruction run the gamut from patience and praise of the peaceful majority, to criticism of the hands-off approach taken by the Berkeley police Sunday, Dec. 7, the night local businesses sustained the most significant damage.  KQED report

Ring given to charity worth at least $2,500 – The diamond ring donated this week to The Salvation Army’s Modesto Citadel Corps is worth at least $2,500, according to a professional appraisal.  Modesto Bee article

After gem of a career, a reluctant retirement – You could say that Robert “Bob” Van Gundy is a guy who really deserves retirement. Really, really deserves it. At age 94, the longtime face of Robert’s Jewelers/Robert’s Diamond Showcase is ready to take it easy after laboring in one capacity or another nearly his whole life. The store is expected to close by the end of December, selling everything down to the fixtures.  Hanford Sentinel article

LA’s pay policy for injured workers to be reviewed – Los Angeles’ top elected officials say reforms are needed in an unusually generous injury leave policy that pays city employees more when they are out with job-related ailments than when they come to work.  LA Times article

Apple ‘deeply offended’ by BBC report claiming poor working conditions – A senior Apple executive said he was “deeply offended” by the BBC’s allegations that Apple mistreats its workers in overseas factories.  LA Times article

San Diego parking groups sit on $17.8 million — The special districts that manage metered parking in San Diego have $17.8 million in the bank, even though there is no shortage of ideas about how to spend the money.  U-T San Diego article

Sony CEO worried for months about ‘The Interview,’ emails show — Kazuo Hirai was worried. For months, the Tokyo-based chief executive of Sony Corp. had been raising questions about his Hollywood studio’s plans to go forward with a film depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  LA Times article


California’s egg laws hatch uncertainty – Asked in 2008 whether hens and other farm animals deserve more space, California voters replied with a resounding “yes.”  Now, days away from the law taking effect, questions about what the law requires, how farmers will comply and who will oversee it continue to cloud the outlook for California’s hens.  Sacramento Bee article

Produce industry promises to improve Mexican farmworker conditions – Produce industry officials on both sides of the border say they are launching an effort to ensure that workers at thousands of Mexican farms that export fruit and vegetables to the United States have safe and sanitary housing, decent wages and access to healthcare and day care.  LA Times article

Mark Grossi: Earth Log: Running beats walking in a downpour to avoid getting soaked – who didn’t know that?Private meteorologist Jan Null in the Bay Area sent out an email this week that asked a question he hears all the time. I’m paraphrasing: “Should I walk or run to get out of the rain?”  Grossi in Fresno Bee

Farm Beat: Cow statues are coming — We had, at last count, about 550,000 live dairy cows in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties. Fiberglass cows? Not so much. The state’s dairy industry aims to fix that with a multi-city exhibition of cow statues next fall. Professional and amateur artists will paint and decorate the life-size pieces, which will be auctioned to benefit nonprofit groups that work to improve education.  Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Wrongly convicted inmates fight for compensation – The Los Angeles Times has documented dozens of cases nationwide in which people convicted and later cleared by DNA or new evidence never received state compensation. Some — especially the low-income minorities who make up a large share of the wrongfully imprisoned — never file a claim because they can’t afford a lawyer or find one willing to take the case.  LA Times article

‘Gang-related’: a controversial term with varying definitions — In a recent training session for gang officers, LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese told a class from across the county that more than half of all killings in the city are gang-related. But that term — “gang-related” — can have varying meanings. And it has long been controversial.  LA Times article

Capital punishment continues to decline in U.S. – The death penalty continued its slow and steady two-decade decline this year, as fewer convicted murderers were sentenced to die and most executions were limited to just three states, according to a report scheduled for release Thursday. The number of new death sentences plummeted from 315 in 1996 to 72 as of Wednesday, according to the Death Penalty Information CenterSan Francisco Chronicle article

Standards urged for use of police body cameras – Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, introduced a bill this week with the goal of creating statewide standards for the use of police body cameras.  U-T San Diego article

Modesto Bee: Sheriff not trying to pull fast one – If only one camera can do what the sheriff needs, then dealing directly with the company might be the best and fastest way to get it. Bottom line: Everyone did their jobs, including those who asked questions. We remind criminals to smile.  Modesto Bee editorial

Merced DA facing scrutiny over firearm – The California Attorney General’s Office on Friday launched an inquiry into whether Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II broke any laws when he stored his personal firearm in his Main Street office, the Merced County sheriff-elect confirmed.  Merced Sun-Star article

New program offers women ‘lifers’ more hope of being paroled — Largo is one of about 150 women graduating from a new program at theCentral California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, the largest women’s prison in the nation. It’s a months-long course designed to help prisoners tackle drug and alcohol addiction, anger management and family relationships. They also have to take an intensive class to help them understand the impact of their crimes on victims and others.  KQED report

Atwater detective paid while on leave for year after alleged DUI crash — An Atwater police detective facing misdemeanor DUI and hit-and-run charges has been on paid administrative leave for more than a year, the Merced Sun-Star has learned, costing taxpayers in the city nearly $110,000 in salary for an inactive employee.  Merced Sun-Star article

Spoon Jackson: What does it say if dogs get better treatment than inmates? – Jackson, serving a life sentence for murder, writes, “Don’t get me wrong. I am not hating on the dogs. I agree they must have the proper space to be a dog – to bark, wag and howl. And I know the hounds have not broken any laws and are not lifers.Still these cells, judged too small for a single dog, house two human beings. Animal rights activists would have a fit and picket governors, wardens or even God, if a dog were forced to live in a cell-sized space with other dogs they didn’t get along with – the conditions we prisoners live in.” Jackson op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Final suspect detained in Chukchansi gaming office raid — The last of 15 men wanted in the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino gaming office raid turned himself in to authorities this week.  Fresno Bee article


Fresno Unified violating special education laws, state officials say — Fresno Unified school district is violating state education law that mandates schools provide speech services to children with communication impairments, an investigation released this week by state officials shows.  Fresno Bee article

Napolitano named UC public policy professor – University of California President Janet Napolitano has been appointed as a tenured faculty member at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.  AP article

Concerns remain as new funding rules take effect – School advocates say some districts may struggle to use new money as the Legislature intended when creating the Local Control Funding FormulaFresno Bee article

Visalia Unified hires ‘technicians’ to help families keep students in school — The officials, called “technicians,” are part of the new Student Advocacy and Family Engagement team at Visalia Unified School District. The team works with families of students missing too many days, or underachieving in school due to distractions at home such as their parents going through a divorce.  Fresno Bee article

Madera community day school offers students a second chance – Ripperdan — funded with state dollars provided by the Local Control Funding Formula — will incorporate some innovative programs to serve struggling students from grades seven through 12 in a refurbished 100-year-old school with seven classrooms, said Michael Mueller, Madera Unified’s director of student services, who first envisioned the new community day school.  Fresno Bee article

Fowler High uses new funds to convert disadvantaged teens into leaders – In Fowler High School’s cluttered art room, about 20 young women in matching blue sport coats crowd around four tables for a typical meeting in the inaugural year of the Redcat Women’s League. The students are flanked by two tutors on either side of the room, and each teenager is soaking up the daily briefing from the course’s instructor, Becky Caudle.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno Bee: Does local control set a path to excellence? Only time will tell — Let’s give the Local Control Funding Formula a few years and see how things go before touting The Next Big Fix for Education.  Fresno Bee editorial

Tom Torlakson: Local control leads to new optimism in schools – The state superintendent of public instruction writes, “Taken together, these changes — local control, new standards and assessments, and a focus on making sure our students learn the skills they need to be successful in their college and careers — add up to a transformation in California education — one that will help ensure our students have the skills they need to prosper and help our Golden State continue to lead the world in agriculture, technology and so many other fields.” Torlakson op-ed in Fresno Bee

Civil Rights violation alleged at Lodi Unified — The federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has been asked to look into an incident at a Lodi Unified campus to bolster the agency’s investigation into claims the district discriminated against black students after a former administrator testified that there was a pattern of such discriminatory behavior at the school site where she was employed.  Stockton Record article

Sandy Banks: A perspective on campus sexual abuse from an ‘empowered’ young feminist — Wellesley Daniels is a sophomore and senior writer for the university newspaper. I’ve read her pieces about changing the “rape culture”; they are smart and well-researched. She supports better training for college officials and more education for students. She thinks the explicit consent required by California’s new “yes means yes” law is a step in the right direction. But the most important changes won’t happen on campuses or in courtrooms, she wrote.  Banks column in LA Times


Hazards along West Napa Fault expected to develop for years — Nearly four months after Napa suffered a violent 6.0-magnitute earthquake, the ground there is still moving, and hazards are likely to develop along segments of the fault for at least another three years, scientists report.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Next Napa quake could be bigger, stronger – Recent studies of the magnitude 6.0 Napa quake in August suggest that the fault is longer and thus more powerful than previously thought.  KQED report

William Tweed: Remembering John Muir 100 years after his death – More than any other Californian — indeed more than any other American of his time — Muir defined how we still see and appreciate the natural world around us. In that regard, we are all his children.  Tweed column in Visalia Times-Delta

Ken Carlson:  Stanislaus catching complaints over Parklawn catch basins — A low-cost innovation to handle stormwater in the Parklawn neighborhood in south Modesto has not been well received.  Carlson in Modesto Bee

Health/Human Services

Michael Hiltzik: How a $1.3-billion, 21-year study of U.S. children’s health fell to pieces – The National Children’s Study was launched with a fanfare of expectation and ambition in 2000. The idea was to follow 100,000 American children from the pre-natal stage to age 21, collecting an unprecedented volume of data on “environmental influences (including physical, chemical, biological, and psychosocial) on children’s health and development,” in the words of the enabling federal legislation, the Children’s Health Act. Today, after 14 years and the allocation of $1.3 billion to the task, it’s dead.  Hiltzik in LA Times

Kern ranks high in tobacco sales to minors – The rate of illegal sales of tobacco products to minors in Kern County is almost twice higher than that of the state, according to a report the Kern County Public Health Services Department released Friday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Trailer donated to Magdalene Hope for HIV testing service — With its pastel pink and white exterior, an outsider would never guess that a 1960 vintage camping trailer, nicknamed Bunny, would be used for HIV testing. But the trailer was donated to Magdalene Hope Ministry, a nonprofit organization that does outreach to prostitutes and women who are being trafficked through sex trade.  Bakersfield Californian article

Walter Weber: State’s dental program is in serious trouble – The president of the California Dental Association writes, “A recent audit of California’s Medi-Cal dental program confirms that the state is failing to provide access to oral health care for millions of children.” Weber op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Hospital to pay $2.2 million to settle false claims — A hospital is Northern California has agreed to pay the federal government $2.25 million to settle allegations it submitted false Medicare claims. The settlement comes after a former employee of St. Helena Hospital filed a lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act.  AP article

Land Use/Housing

Affordable housing complex opens in Reedley – The Fresno Housing Authority and the city of Reedley on Thursday celebrated the grand opening of a new affordable housing complex in the eastern Fresno County community. The 60-unit complex has three- and two-bedroom apartments. The property also has a pool, picnic area, playground, fitness center and community center.  Fresno Bee article


Safety experts make case for getting teens newer, larger cars — Attention Santa Claus: If there are some teenagers on your list who have been very good this year and will be getting cars for Christmas, please make sure those cars are relatively new and relatively large.  LA Times article

Bridge panel votes to keep rods, bolts in place on eastern span — A Bay Bridge oversight panel voted Friday to leave more than 2,000 potentially problematic rods and bolts in place on the new eastern span, rejecting a metallurgist’s attack on the $20 million testing program that vouched for their safety as unmerited.  San Francisco Chronicle article; Sacramento Bee article

Other Areas

Judge finds Kern pot fine excessive – Superior Court Judge David Lampe struck a blow Friday to the Kern County ordinance that prevents medical marijuana patients from growing more than 12 marijuana plants on a single parcel of land. In a verbal ruling, Lampe found the county can only fine violators of the ordinance up to $1,000, said County Counsel Theresa Goldner.  Bakersfield Californian article

Concentrated cannabis qualifies as medical marijuana, California court rules – A state appellate court in Sacramento has ruled that “concentrated cannabis” qualifies as marijuana for purposes of medical use.  Sacramento Bee article

Homeless deaths more than double in 2014 – A new study shows a significant increase in the number of homeless dying in Sacramento County.  The Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness says in an average year 45 homeless people die in the county. So far this year, 110 have died.  Capital Public Radio report

New Coalinga mayor and two new council members sworn in — Ron Ramsey was sworn in as mayor of Coalinga on Thursday. The Coalinga City Council elected the mayor and mayor pro-tem from among the five-member council during Thursday’s meeting. Patrick Keough stayed in his post as mayor pro-tem.  Fresno Bee article

Men of Bethany Mennonite church have cared for quadriplegic friend every day for 19 years — The men of Bethany Mennonite Brethren Church believe in serving others, especially when it comes to LeRoy Goossen Jr. Goossen, 55, is one of them, a “brother in Christ” at the church. He was working as a custom homebuilder on Jan. 5, 1995, when he fell from the balcony of a home and landed on rebar below.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Let’s give the Local Control Funding Formula a few years and see how things go before touting The Next Big Fix for Education; We can’t let dictators mess with our First Amendment rights.

Merced Sun-Star – There is nothing funny about North Korea’s attack on Sony.

Modesto Bee – If only one camera can do what Stanislaus County’s sheriff needs, then dealing directly with the company might be the best and fastest way to get it. Bottom line: Everyone did their jobs, including those who asked questions. We remind criminals to smile.

Sacramento Bee – A re-energized President Obama exerts his power; Dripping with pride over Sactown’s beans.