December 24, 2014


Political Briefs

Top stories

Californians to Watch: How the Class of 2014 fared – Capturing legislative seats. Shepherding a massive shift in school funding. Running the state’s court system. The seven Californians we picked to watch a year ago had an active 12 months. Before we announce the 2015 watch list, here’s how the 2014 group did.  Sacramento Bee article

Jerry Brown names former aide president of PUC – Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday designated Michael Picker, a former renewable energy adviser to the governor, as president of the embattled California Public Utilities Commission.  Capitol Alert; San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article

Valley politics

2014 in Review: Mathis had surprise win — It was no surprise that Mendoza received the most votes in June primary election, but it surprised some that the second most votes went to fellow Republican Devon Mathis, a wounded combat veteran turned veterans’ advocate from Visalia.  Visalia Times-Delta article


With new driver license law, indigenous groups may be left behind — Starting in 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles expects about 1.5 million undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver license. For many, this will be their first time legally driving in the state. Immigration advocates applaud this change but also say there’s a big concern. Some are worried they will fail the behind the wheel test since it won’t be offered in the native languages many immigrants speak.  KVPR report

Other areas

Girding for California fight, Airbnb retains lobbying firm — Prefacing a legislative showdown over the popular apartment-sharing service, Airbnb has retained a prominent California lobbying firm. It had been widely expected that the Legislature would consider one or more bills to regulate Airbnb during the impending legislative session. The popular service allows people to rent out their apartments or houses to visitors for a nightly fee.  Sacramento Bee article

CalPERS hires two lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. — CalPERS said this week it has hired two lobbying firms to represent the big pension fund in Washington, D.C. as it continues to split up a contract that previously belonged to one firm.  Sacramento Bee article

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has big leads over likely rivals in new poll – Mayor Ed Lee’s election team is feeling pretty confident going into the 2015 election — especially after viewing their latest poll of San Francisco voters showing him holding double-digit leads over four of his most oft-mentioned competitors: Mark LenoTom AmmianoDennis Herrera and Art AgnosSan Francisco Chronicle article

U.S. gun deaths data:  Nearly two-thirds are suicides – The people most affected by gun violence in the United States don’t look much like the images of shooting victims on television, movies or the news, according to a recently released study from UC Davis. They’re old. They’re white. And they haven’t fallen victim to a violent crime – nearly two-thirds all Americans who died from gunshot wounds in 2012 killed themselves.  Sacramento Bee article

Demonstration organizers: Postponement shows ‘all lives matter’ – Organizers of Tuesday afternoon’s Black Lives Matter Stockton rally that was to be a “peaceful demonstration” starting in Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza outside City Hall postponed the event after learning a veteran Stockton police investigator had been critically injured in a hit-and-run.  Stockton Record article

Michael Hiltzik: GOP moves to bring a bogus New Math to the federal budget — “Dynamic scoring,” Washington’s phrase of the moment, is a method that aims to incorporate the broad economic effects of a policy into the analysis of that policy. For Republicans, the virtue of dynamic scoring is that it allows them to claim that, say, a tax cut will spur so much economic growth that it will end up producing more revenue, not less — that it will pay for itself.  Hiltzik column in LA Times

Obama’s approval ratings climb as year ends.  Trend or blip? — Perhaps it’s just holiday cheer, but a few weeks after his party suffered painful losses in the midterm election, President Obama is ending 2014 with his highest approval ratings of the year.  LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

U.S. growth is strongest in a decade – The U.S. is rolling into the new year with impressive strength as plunging oil prices have ignited consumer spending and helped fuel the best stretch of growth in more than a decade — even as economies around the world are struggling.  LA Times article

Groceries, building materials boost Bakersfield sales tax – Backyard pool parties and housing starts may be paying off for Bakersfield, which saw its third quarter sales tax revenue rise by more than 6 percent compared to 2013. The past 12 months ending Sept. 30 were also kind. Bakersfield’s annualized sales tax revenue — tracking the past year to date — rose more than 4 percent compared to the same period in 2012 and 2013.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

Steve Nelsen: Legislative collaboration preserves 700 jobs in Visalia – Visalia’s mayor writes, “The holiday season is merry and bright — especially for about 700 people working at the Visalia Cigna office, thanks in great part to the significant efforts on the part of our local Congressman, Devin Nunes, our Senators, and many local people who voiced their concern to Federal officials about the potential loss of jobs in this area.  Nelsen op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Distressed home sales inch up in Fresno County – Distressed home sales picked up slightly in Fresno County during November, which wasn’t the case with most of the Central Valley.  The Business Journal article

Stanislaus County home price gains outpace California – Stanislaus County home price gains continued to outpace the rest of California. The median home sales price was $220,100 last month, which was 19 percent more than November 2013.  Modesto Bee article

Retail scene perks up in Sacramento, along with economic recovery – The end of the holiday shopping season finds Sacramento’s economy displaying more and more promise. Unemployment stands at 6.7 percent, and 905,900 Sacramentans hold payroll jobs, the highest total in nearly 61/2 years.  Sacramento Bee article

LA seeks to keep taxis competitive with Uber, Lyft — City Hall officials say that the playing field isn’t level because taxis must obey rules that can stifle innovation. Now, regulators face a difficult balancing act as they try to help the city cab system: How do they aid taxis in becoming more nimble competitors without sacrificing important protections for consumers?  LA Times article

Obama administration takes sides in disability suit against Uber – The Obama administration weighed in Tuesday on the side of advocates for the blind in a San Francisco federal court suit accusing ride-on-demand company Uber of discriminating against passengers with guide dogs.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Super Saturday tops Black Friday as busiest shopping day – The Saturday before Christmas saw sales hit $23 billion, surpassing Black Friday’s $20 billion this year, according to research firm Customer Growth Partners.  LA Times article

Dow top 18,000 as U.S. economy surges ahead — In a year full of market milestones, Wall Street crushed a couple more Tuesday, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average past the 18,000-point mark for the first time and delivering the Standard & Poor’s 500 index its second record-high close in two days.  AP article

‘Interview’ to play at Maya in Bakersfield – Maya Cinemas in Bakersfield will screen the movie that has prompted an international incident with North Korea and outrage over its canceled release. Starting Christmas Day, the downtown theater will show “The Interview” for at least two weeks.  Bakersfield Californian article

Modesto’s State Theatre makes decision to screen ‘The Interview’ – Modesto will be in an elite category of cities beginning Friday when the nation’s most talked about – and controversial – film of the year opens here.  Modesto Bee article

Sony’s decision to release ‘The Interview’ is no tidy solution — After mounting pressure from theater owners, celebrities and even the White House, Sony has decided to release “The Interview” on about 200 screens beginning Christmas Day, reversing an earlier plan to scrap the opening of the controversial comedy.  LA Times article; AP article

Proposed U.S. regulations for drones expected soon amid soaring sales – Any day now, federal regulators will propose rules for safely operating small commercial drones over the U.S. But the fledgling drone industry — in Los Angeles County and across the nation — has not been waiting to take off. Sales of the robotic flying machines are soaring.  LA Times article

Roger Goodell tells teams no NFL in LA in 2015 — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell informed the 32 teams Tuesday that the league will not be accepting relocation applications for teams interested in moving to Los Angeles in 2015.  LA Times article

New law means it could be OK to dine with your dog — Dining out with your pet will be legal at some restaurants under California law starting January 1st.  Capital Public Radio report


Mike Dunbar: Tweaking tunnel plan won’t make a difference – Removing three pumps from north of Sacramento makes no difference. It’s not the pumps, it’s the water. Diverting most of the Sacramento’s flow will devastate the Delta and economically crush those who depend on it. By extension, it will have substantial negative impacts in Stanislaus and Merced counties.  Dunbar column in Modesto Bee

Advocate for waterless selected for community service award — There is a long list of actions that Elva Verna Serna Beltran has conducted in past decades in an effort to improve Tulare County, including recently helping get water access to local families whose wells have run dry.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Too late: Cops’ deaths highlight outdated systems — After Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot his ex-girlfriend and posted an online death threat against police, investigators in Maryland used modern cellphone tracking technology to follow his journey to New York City in real time. But when it came to giving the New York Police Department specifics about Brinsley, the means were markedly low-tech: a phone call and a wanted flier sent by fax.  AP article

Black cops balance job duties with understanding of racism — As protesters in the Bay Area and across the country accuse police officers of brutalizing people of color with few consequences, many African American officers are working to reconcile their intimate understanding of racism with their strong belief in the job of law enforcement.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Judge cites highway named for victim in order moving Atwater prison murder trial – The upcoming trial of an inmate charged with killing a federal correctional officer at the U.S. penitentiary in Atwater has been moved to Southern California, in part because of a highway’s name.  Fresno Bee article

Gov. Brown appoints Sherman to warden – Gov. Jerry Brown’s office announced Tuesday that Stuart Sherman, 52, of Visalia, has been appointed warden at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran. Sherman has been serving as acting warden at the prison since 2013.  Visalia Times-Delta article

LAPD investigates Michael Brown parody at retired cop’s party — The Los Angeles Police Department has launched a preliminary investigation into a video that has emerged of a song that plays on the shooting death of Michael Brown. It was sung at a party thrown by a retired LAPD officer.  LA Times article


Valley Edition: Fresno State President Joseph Castro – On this week’s show, we talk to Fresno State President Joseph Castro. He just returned from a White House event with President Obama that aims to boost college opportunity for low income and minority students. We’ll find out how the university aims to boost its graduation rate over the next decade, and plan a new future after years of drastically reduced budgets.  KVPR report

Fred Ruiz: Applications to UC tell true story – The owner of Ruiz Foods and vice chair of the UC Board of Regents writes, “Our tuition plan will preserve academic quality, protect financial aid and enroll 5,000 more California students over the next five years. We can minimize the tuition increase — or eliminate it entirely — with additional state support. We urge the state to renew its investment in the University of California to keep tuition low and predictable while preserving access, affordability and academic excellence.” Ruiz op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Modesto, state teachers unions drop lawsuits – The Modesto Teachers Association has settled its dispute with its state organization, putting to rest eight months of legal wrangling that failed to save the local staffing arrangement that started the fight.  Modesto Bee article

Delta plans to help disadvantaged students – For the first time in eight years, San Joaquin Delta College has a formal plan to help everyone succeed at higher education — and the state is chipping in a million bucks to make it happen.  Stockton Record article

UC Merced Connect:  Google award will help UC Merced professor’s research in machine learning – Every day, your brain completes millions of complicated functions without you even being aware of them, and it learns as it goes. Teaching a machine to do the same thing is extremely complicated, but it has gotten easier thanks to the work of UC Merced professor Miguel Carreira-Perpiñan.  UC Merced Connect in Merced Sun-Star

Health center coming to Livingston High – By next summer, a school-based health center will be located on the Livingston High School campus, a move heralded by educators and medical officials as the wave of the future. This will be the first such center in Merced County.  Merced Sun-Star article

Down on the farm: Pierce College ag program slowly changes direction – The college has cut back on its trademark field of study, selling land once used for farming and letting the agriculture staff dwindle. Shapiro, 61, is the last full-time department member who still teaches students how to grow crops; the rest are either veterinary or landscaping professors. Throughout the country, agricultural colleges have undergone similar changes as fewer students are studying farming, which increasingly is dominated by multinational companies. Instead, undergraduates are concentrating on related fields.  LA Times article

Irvine grapples with how to launch language immersion program — Most days find Heather King describing the latest hot property in English and Spanish. The Irvine real estate agent said a second language is essential in today’s global economy. King is among a growing share of Irvine parents now pushing the Irvine Unified School District to launch an immersion program to instruct schoolchildren in English and Spanish.  LA Times article


OHV riders tearing up protected land — Illegal off-highway vehicle use is returning to the Kern River Bluffs, with riders trespassing into a section of the Bakersfield Cactus Ecological Reserve and threatening the endangered succulent that thrive there.  Bakersfield Californian article

Health/Human Services

Enrollment for Obamacare jumps to 2 million with new sign-ups – Enrollment in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act is increasing rapidly, with more than 2 million people so far signing up for coverage for the first time, figures released Tuesday show.  LA Times article

Majority of Covered California enrollees needed help to sign up – Covered California officials say only 31 percent of new enrollees in the health insurance exchange this year have gone through the process on their own. The rest have received help.  KPBS report

Flu cases starting to be recorded in central San Joaquin Valley – It’s flu season, so you better watch out: The virus knows when you are not inoculated, and it knows when you have not washed your hands. Doctors are definitely seeing cases of the flu in Fresno, said Dr. Randy Bergen, clinical lead for Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Flu Vaccine Program.  Fresno Bee article

FDA to allow some gay blood donors; activists call it a ‘first step’ — The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that the agency will change its policy on allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood. Men who have sex with men will be able to become blood donors one year after their last “sexual conduct,” Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the FDA commissioner, said in a statement.  LA Times article; KQED report; AP article

Christopher Meyers: Tough issues when faith conflicts with medical advice – The philosophy professor and executive director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics at CSU Bakersfield writes, “The world of health care can present all sorts of important ethical dilemmas, but perhaps none are so difficult as those involving patients and religion. In this edition of FM89’s commentary series The Moral Is, CSU Bakersfield philosophy professor Christopher Meyers says that patients, courts and clergy all need to do a better job at sorting out what to do when medical advice conflicts with a patient’s faith.” Meyers commentary in KVPR

Land Use/Housing


Fresno’s Peach Avenue gets long-sought widening — The long effort to widen part of Peach Avenue in Fresno has turned into an award winner. But city officials, in particular Council Member Sal Quintero, never despaired. The $16.4 million project of widening Peach to four lanes from Kings Canyon Road to Belmont Avenue is done. Many are taking well-deserved bows.  Fresno Bee article

Full flights make cancellations harder to rebook; new rules sought — For travelers like the Sullivans, getting rebooked has become harder because airlines are packing planes nearly to capacity, leaving fewer empty seats for stranded fliers. The solution, say passenger rights groups, is to require airlines to transfer passengers to the next available flight, even if it means putting them on a competitor airline.  LA Times article

Other Areas

Site purchase completed for new Stanislaus County Courthouse – Escrow has closed on the purchase of the downtown Modesto site for the new Stanislaus County Courthouse, the city, the Superior Court of Stanislaus County and the Judicial Council of California announced Tuesday.  Modesto Bee article

How to build a library in London … California – Rob Isquierdo is a man with an ambitious goal: to transform London. But he isn’t hoping to remake Trafalgar Square or give Big Ben a makeover. Instead, this high school English teacher is working to bring a library to London, CA a small unincorporated community in rural Tulare County. KVPR report

Huge drop in Sacramento children living in ‘traditional’ families – Almost one-third of Sacramento’s children don’t live with two married parents, double the rate from 1970, new census figures show. Back in 1950, about one in 13 of the region’s children didn’t live with married parents. By 1970, it was one in six. Last year, it was about one in three – 175,000 children.  Sacramento Bee article

San Diego continues pot shop crackdown – Five more illegal medical marijuana dispensaries have been shut down by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, including two in Mission Valley and one each in North Park, Kearny Mesa and City Heights.  U-T San Diego article

Nestdrop cannot deliver pot in LA; firm to take app to other cities – A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge said Tuesday that Nestdrop, a medical marijuana delivery smartphone app, must stop delivering pot. Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer filed a court complaint earlier this month saying that Nestdrop — which offers alcohol and medical marijuana delivery — violates a law that restricts pot shops in Los Angeles from taking their product to customers.  LA Times article

Lois Henry: She’s a Christmas gift to our entire community – I’m not taking a swing at anyone today. Hey, it’s Christmas Eve. Even I have a heart … sometimes.Instead, I wanted to update you on one of my newest favorite charities, Em’s Treat ‘Em Sweet. Mostly, it’s my newest favorite because of founder Emily Aldritt. She’s only 14, yet has a highly focused, and organized, desire to help others. It’s impressive — and even more so when you realize she started her charitable “business” when she was 11.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Michael Fitzgerald: Suicide, crowdfunding and Christmas – Today: suicide, crowdfunding and Christmas.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

San Francisco Giants’ trophy tour coming to Valley in February – The Giants are coming to Stanislaus and Merced counties this winter as part of their world championship victory tour. Featuring all three of San Francisco’s championship trophies, the tour leads up to the 2015 season. Besides stops in Modesto, Merced and Los Banos, the tour will also visit other Valley cities, including Stockton, Tracy and Fresno.  Merced Sun-Star article

LA cracks down on tow truck bandits — Residents of Los Angeles and some other major cities have another headache to add to their commuting woes — tow truck “bandits” who arrive unsolicited at an accident scene, tow away cars and hold them for ransom for big bucks.  AP article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Merced Sun-Star – A visit from St. Nicholas.

Modesto Bee – A visit from St. Nicholas.

Sacramento Bee – A holiday gift to all the scholars of Placer County.