December 25, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

George Skelton: Asking Santa for politicians with guts —  We can all dream, so here’s my wish list for Christmas gifts. At the top of the list is a state Capitol with courage — the guts to confront head-on the state’s most difficult and pressing problems. Skelton column in LA Times

Jerry Brown pardons 105 for Christmas — Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned 105 people on Wednesday, continuing his tradition of granting judicial mercy for Christmas. As usual, years-old drug crimes like possessing and transporting controlled substances or cultivating marijuana accounted for most of the offenses being forgiven.Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; Governor’s Office news release; AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Gov. Brown

Governor pardons woman convicted in Merced County attempted murder-for-hire – A woman who was convicted in Merced County of attempting to solicit the murder of her ex-boyfriend received a pardon from Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday.  Merced Sun-Star article

Man’s pardon withdrawn after Times discloses financial regulators’ censure — Gov. Jerry Brown withdrew a Christmas Eve pardon Wednesday after learning from the Los Angeles Times that he was granting clemency to a man recently disciplined by financial regulators.  LA Times article

Valley politics

David Valadao: 113th Congress had its share of strife as well as successes – The Valley congressman (R-Hanford) writes, “While this Congress has been marked by extreme partisanship, the farm bill offers an example of the great accomplishments we can make when Republicans and Democrats work together. While this bill was not perfect, farmers and ranchers now have the certainty they need to make decisions regarding their farms, allowing them to grow and create jobs.”  Valadao op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

2016 Fresno mayoral hopeful Brand, businessman Cloud clash over Fresno General Plan vote — Last week, the Fresno City Council approved the controversial 2035 General Plan, a 20-year policy blueprint for the city’s future growth pushed by Mayor Ashley Swearengin and approved by a 5-2 vote. Now comes the politics. Fresno Bee article

Other areas

California players gathering, again, for Internet poker – Rival interests are rolling the dice to legalize California’s internet gaming market, the most lucrative in the nation. At stake in the Capitol negotiations is a prize worth hundreds of millions of dollars — and maybe more. It’s not the first time.  Capitol Weekly article

New FPPC chair takes low-profile approach – Jodi Remke was appointed California’s top political watchdog this spring as a series of scandals unfolded in the state Capitol – bribery charges against two legislators, a perjury conviction against a third and a six-figure fine against a local lobbyist who routinely hosted politicians at his house over fine wines and cigars.  Sacramento Bee article

AM Alert: A year in review – Capitol Alert takes a look at the year in review.  Capitol Alert

Joe Mathews: If only the Legislature worked as well as the Rose Parade — Sometimes I wish the state of California were run more like the Rose Parade. Mathews in Sacramento Bee

Oil’s swift fall raises fortunes of U.S. abroad — A plunge in oil prices has sent tremors through the global political and economic order, setting off an abrupt shift in fortunes that has bolstered the interests of the United States and pushed several big oil-exporting nations — particularly those hostile to the West, like RussiaIran and Venezuela — to the brink of financial crisis.  New York Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

California carbon funds are an uncertain benefit for high-speed rail — As rail officials began talking with potential investors about cap and trade in recent months, the funding source has proved not only to be alluring, but also problematic.  Sacramento Bee article

UC’s enrollment guarantee gives students an education to fall back on – When applicants are rejected by other campuses, UC Merced sends an offer — but only about 2% accept. To those students, it’s a blessing, but critics say it’s time to end the program. LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Applications for U.S. jobless aid fall to 7-year low – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has reached its lowest level in seven weeks, a sign that the U.S. economy and job market are steadily improving. The Labor Department said Wednesday that applications for unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 280,000.  AP article

Fresno inventory of homes for sale is growing – The existing supply of houses for sale in Fresno County is inching up and close to normal. In November, there was 5.7 months of inventory available based on the current pace of home sales compared to 4.9 months in October, according to the California Association of RealtorsFresno Bee article

Cheryl Scott:  Meeting the workforce needs falls on all of our shoulders – The vice president of the Kern Economic Development Corporation writes, “As new employers come to Kern County and as existing businesses are looking toward growth, it is more important than ever to identify effective ways to meet local employer needs. That means more than simply providing bodies to fill jobs; candidates must be skilled and talented, and must possess the soft skills that will help them succeed. With that in mind, conversation is increasingly turning to the need to mentor our future workforce and our communities’ future leaders.”  Scott op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Give a homeless man $100 and see what he does with it —  It started as a somewhat cynical social experiment in Orange County:  How would a homeless man spend the gift of $100? Josh Lin watched — and filmed — as the subject of his experiment entered a liquor store. Then he got a surprise. The man holding up the sign asking for money from the freeway offramp in Fullerton bought food, walked to a neighborhood park and gave it to others in need.  LA Times article

Audit outlines lies, theft and mismanagement by California state workers — To secure permission to telecommute, a state worker said he needed to care for an ailing parent. Instead, he secretly took a second full-time job for 10 months, according to a new report on government employee misdeeds. The case of the moonlighting telecommuter is one of 10 cases detailed in state Auditor Elaine Howle’s “Investigations of Improper Activities by State Agencies and Employees,” the latest collection of whistleblower inspired probes released this week.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

Court orders Patterson hotel owner to pay city tax – City officials claimed victory in a lawsuit to force a hotel owner to pay the city’s transient occupancy tax. Modesto Bee article

Gemperle Farms donating more than 20,000 eggs to help groups – To support those in need throughout Stanislaus County, Gemperle Family Farms and its affiliates are donating more than 100,000 eggs this holiday season. The donations will support 20 organizations across the Central Valley, including the United Samaritans Foundation and Turlock Together.  Modesto Bee article

City bows out of ‘prevailing wage’ suit — Oceanside is dropping out of a lawsuit seeking to overturn a state law that forces cities to pay higher “prevailing” wages on public works projects.  U-T San Diego article


Year in Review: California’s drought – Looking back at the stories and issues that dominated the Valley in 2014, the one at the top can be summed up in one word — drought. It was an issue that affected jobs, farming, commerce, schools, communities and was the impetus for the biggest political fight in California for the year. Visalia Times-Delta article

Leprino adopts new animal standards for dairies — In the wake of an undercover video operation that caused a New Mexico dairy to shut down over allegations of animal abuse, Leprino Foods has announced new animal care standards for all the dairy co-ops that supply its cheese plants with milk.  Hanford Sentinel article

California egg standards change Jan. 1 – Proposition 2 requires farm animals have enough space to turn around, stand up, lie down and stretch their limbs. California lawmakers expanded the provisions to apply to all hens laying eggs sold in the state.  Capital Public Radio report

Pistachio group partners with Anheuser-Busch — Fresno-based American Pistachio Growers has partnered with beer giant Anheuser-Busch to save consumers money when they buy their products together.  The Business Journal article

Tulare public works director calls for new fund — Tulare Public Works Director Joe Carlini said he would like to see a storm water fund established. With the new fund, public works personnel can look into updating the city’s infrastructure designed to handle storm water.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Changing the charges after Prop 47 passes — The Tulare County Distinct Attorney’s Office reports that it has received nearly 1,000 petitions to review cases that may qualify under the new law — which took effect the day after the Nov. 4 election — and a lot more are expected in the coming months, Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Dan Underwood said.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Veterans get a court of their own in San Francisco — In her role as a San Francisco Superior Court judge at the Hall of Justice,Cynthia Ming-mei Lee often encounters military veterans in criminal cases.  San Francisco Chronicle article

At home and at work, black officers are on the defensive – Many black police officers feel the tug of conflicting loyalties: to people who feel unfairly targeted by the police, and to fellow officers who must make split-second life-or-death decisions. New York Times article

Ceremony held for outgoing Merced County Sheriff Cavallero — Sheriff Tom Cavallero on Wednesday formally passed command of the Merced County Sheriff’s Department to incoming Sheriff-elect Vern Warnke during a brief Honor Guard ceremony in front of the office he commanded for one year.  Merced Sun-Star article


December a critical time for University donations – Late December has a special meaning for colleges and universities, beyond the relief of winter vacation and the deadlines for final grades. This is the most important time of year for fundraising in higher education.  LA Times article

Kings County makes least-educated cities report — People with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the Kings County area make up less than a quarter of the population, according to a new report. Delaware-based financial news company 24/7 Wall Street ranked the Hanford-Corcoran area number five in its list of the top 10 least-educated cities in America. Hanford Sentinel article

Paul Mattiuzzi: A new Sac State president should change the festering work culture – The publisher of the online journal CSU Independent Journal writes, “A generic, robe-wearing university president is probably not the solution. Now would be the time to choose a president who is trusted as a local leader, invested in the community and whose vision and experience comes from outside the ivory towers.”  Mattiuzzi op-ed in Sacramento Bee

On Campus: Google me this, Batman – the tech transformation – My last column dug into classrooms’ shift to using computers. This one tackles what technology changes about how students work and what they learn.  Modesto Bee article

The Grade: Giving computers and mittens — Litzy, her mom, dad and sister are among 25 families in east Bakersfield who got computers, desks and chairs from Children First this week. The giveaway, branded Tech the Halls, is a first for the nonprofit.  Bakersfield Californian article


Gas price plunge threatens fuel-cell and electric cars – High gas prices during the last decade drove interest in electric cars and fuel-cell vehicles, as did concern about global warming. But now gasoline prices have plunged to their lowest level since the Great Recession, averaging $2.50 nationwide for a gallon of regular. If gas prices stay low — granted, a very big “if” — one of the most powerful arguments for alternative fuel cars will be wiped out.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Judge called Edison about San Onofre — Opponents of the San Onofre nuclear power plant shutdown deal are pointing to a judge’s telephone call to a Southern California Edison executive as evidence of collusion.  U-T San Diego article

Tim Viall: John Muir’s Stockton trail — John Muir, one of California’s most famous conservationists and co-founder of the Sierra Club, spent his adult years in Martinez and more than occasionally traveled through Stockton. The largest collection of his papers, research and writings are archived in University of Pacific’s climate-controlled archive, open to everyone. His travels through Stockton almost make him a native son!  Viall in Stockton Record

Health/Human Services

California regulator assails Obamacare cancellations – California’s health exchange is violating the law by canceling private coverage for up to 95,000 people because they might qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance commissioner says.  LA Times article

Flu season mild now but could grow worse, doctors say – On the nation’s official color-coded map identifying hot spots where this season’s flu is flaring up, California is still green. That’s a good thing.  Sacramento Bee article

HCCA proves good financial manager for Tulare Regional Medical Center — HealthCare Conglomerate Associates proved an effective financial manager for money-troubled Tulare Regional Medical Center.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Picking up speed? – To understand why Hanford-based Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability, and other critics went into 2014 feeling upbeat about their fight against the $68 billion plan, you have to go back to lower court victories that went against the project in late 2013.  Hanford Sentinel article

New law requires train companies to report to emergency services — A new law that goes into effect January 31 in California requires railroads to give more information to emergency planners about crude oil shipments.  Capital Public Radio report

Other Areas

Livingston city manager to resign Jan. 31 – Livingston City Manager Jose Ramirez announced this week that he will resign at the end of January after more than three years as the city’s top administrative official. Though he will officially resign Jan. 31, he said, he plans to be available through February if the city needs help as it brings the next leader up to speed. He cited spending more time with his children, who attend Clovis schools, as his reason for leaving.  Merced Sun-Star article

Two appointed to Kern judgeships — A private attorney and a deputy district attorney were announced as Kern County’s newest judges Tuesday. Marcos R. Camacho, 55, and David R. Zulfa, 46, have been appointed judges by Gov. Jerry Brown.  Bakersfield Californian article

Villalobos, Cassidy to take seats on Stanislaus County Superior Court – Chief Deputy District Attorney Alan K. Cassidy and defense attorney and Modesto City Schools board member Rubén Villalobos will be entering court from the judge’s chambers, taking gavels in Stanislaus Superior Court. The announcement by Gov. Jerry Brown came at noon Wednesday. ​The compensation for each of these positions is $184,610.  Modesto Bee article

San Jose clears out more homeless camps — Following the closure of The Jungle, the nation’s largest homeless camp, city officials are aggressively cleaning out other encampments before they grow. More than 200 homeless sites have been counted in San Jose over the last 12 months.  AP article

12 Faces of Christmas: 2014 — The holiday season is a good time to stop and take notice of what’s right in our world. Thankfully, Bee reporters have never had to look far to find people committing acts of kindness. Flip through back copies and a theme quickly emerges: Folks doing nice things make heartwarming stories.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – “Hug shared around the world” offers hope for better days; Smallest gesture can be the greatest Christmas gift.

Sacramento Bee – Our Christmas wish: Offer a hand to someone in need.