December 28, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Proposition 2: Rainy-day fund or ticking time bomb? — Characterized as a backup “rainy day fund” when it went before voters in November, Proposition 2 is a ticking time bomb that takes away local control of school spending and puts districts at risk of insolvency, education administrators say. Local districts are joining in support of a broad-based effort to repeal the law spearheaded by the California School Boards Association, whose president, Josephine Lucey, called it “an affront not only to local control but to sensibility.”  Stockton Record article

Feeling left out in the Golden State as the presidential campaign heats up — With the dawning of 2015, the race for the White House moves into full swing, meaning a steady parade of candidates trooping through Iowa and New Hampshire, with only the occasional side trip to the Bay Area and Los Angeles to raise money to fly back to resume campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire.  LA Times article

State budget

Jerry Brown plans to take on state’s retiree health debt – Gov. Jerry Brown plans to tackle the state’s unfunded retiree health costs in his budget proposal next month in hopes of reducing a fast-growing obligation that ballooned by $7 billion in just the past year, a spokesman for his finance department said.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Gov. Brown

Dan Morain: Brown looks to history as he builds a new high court — Brown could get another appointee or two in his final four years as governor. But courts are conservative by nature, he said. Precedent doesn’t change quickly. Judges rarely reverse themselves. Brown also knows that the justices he has appointed will want to make their mark. The rulings they render will far outlast him. That appeals to his sense of history.  Morain in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

Californians to Watch in 2015: Antonio Villaraigosa eases back from ‘timeout’ — Since leaving office in 2013, the former mayor of Los Angeles had been dividing time between Los Angeles and the East Coast, where he was on a self-imposed “timeout, a time to reflect.” But Villaraigosa recently gave up his apartment in New York, which he described as “a good place to be invisible,” and is now back in California full time. He is widely expected to run for governor in 2018.  Sacramento Bee article

Gay marriage dynamic in U.S. shifted dramatically in 2014 – For the first time, a majority of Americans are living in a state that allows gay marriage. After a year of cascading court opinions tossing out many remaining restrictions, the dynamic in 2014 changed from how many states allow same-sex marriage to how many states don’t.  LA Times article

Victor Davis Hanson:  Obama’s one-man Napoleonic revolution — Barack Obama has introduced a quite different, third sort of revolution. He seeks to enact change that both the majority of Americans and their representatives oppose. And he tries to do it by bypassing Congress through executive orders and presidential memoranda of dubious legality.  Hanson column in Bakersfield Californian

News Briefs

Top Stories

In California’s high-speed train efforts, worldwide manufacturers jockey for position – Next spring, when the California High-Speed Rail Authority hopes to start the long process of buying rolling stock for its statewide rail system, it might just touch off a bidding frenzy as firms jockey for a contract to build dozens of the sleek, all-electric vehicles. An initial order could be 15 to 20 trains, and the contract could potentially call for as many as 95 trains over the next decade.  Fresno Bee article

As more inmates are released from prison, more parolees return — With the dramatic rise in parole, The Times also found a disturbing increase in revocations. Since 2011, at least 50 inmates with life sentences, including 33 paroled under Brown, returned to prison or jail, accused of drug use, domestic violence, theft, even attempted murder. A Stanford University study found that among 860 inmates with life sentences who were paroled from 1995 to 2010, five returned to prison with new felony charges.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Dan Walters: California’s population slows, ages – California’s population has always grown, but its pattern has been that of an adolescent – shooting up dramatically some times, slowing to a crawl in others. We’re now in another slow-growth period – perhaps permanently.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Sick leave, labor contractors dominate 2015 business planning – As California businesses ring in the new year, they will also have to pay attention to several new state laws. On the horizon this week is increased liability for hiring contracted labor and more protection against workplace harassment.  Fresno Bee article

Business year in review: Local issues, trends came to a head in 2014 — Economic improvement was the catalyst in some cases, such as the spate of new retail and the lowest jobless rate in years. In other instances, like sharply lower oil prices and new independence for a local petroleum producer, diverse factors seemed to coalesce to make big news.  Bakersfield Californian article

Boom year was big bust for some — The year 2014 in San Francisco may be remembered as one long and dramatic Rorschach test.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Officials preparing to re-open Lodi courthouse – San Joaquin County Superior Court has a fairer share of the state’s court funding compared to past years, and because of that shift in money distribution, court branches that had been shuttered in the tough economic years can be reopened.  Stockton Record article

Rising costs force The Garden Spot to close its doors after 26 years — The 200 or so patrons who normally fill The Garden Spot on any given day will now have to find a new healthy dining option. The 26-year-old restaurant, which usually is especially busy at the start of the new year, will close its doors Sunday.  Bakersfield Californian article


Top stories of 2014, No. 4: Drought exacts a toll – Lawns are dying, people are installing water-saving devices, and talk continues on a conveyance to take water around (or, more precisely, under) the Delta as California enters its fourth year of drought.  Stockton Record article

Water source for almond in California may run dry – California’s almond orchards have been thriving over the past decade and now provide an $11 billion annual boost to the state economy. Covering 860,000 acres, they account for 80 percent of world production. But the growth coincides with another record development here — drought — and the extensive water needs of nut trees are posing a sharp challenge to state water policy.  New York Times article

Richard Rodriguez: Helping hand for future farmers – The president of the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Foundation for Agricultural Education writes, “The San Joaquin Farm Bureau Foundation for Agricultural Education in a nonprofit, charitable organization founded in 1989 by the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation in an effort to preserve the success of agriculture in San Joaquin County through education.” Rodriguez in Stockton Record

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Michael Fitzgerald: Crime in 2014: The cavalry is coming — In 2014 one desperate, deadly crime staggered the city of Stockton. There is no getting around it, though my goal is to look at broader trends to see if Stockton government is at long last truly on track to reduce the city’s historic public safety problems. So here goes the Year in Crime 2014.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Victim’s family grateful for arrest — Grieving relatives conveyed gratitude and sadness Saturday after investigators arrested a suspect in a hit-and-run collision that killed a longtime member of the Stockton Police Department.  Stockton Record article

Death-penalty states unmoved by botched execution — The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April and other troubling ones this year in Ohio and Arizona gave capital punishment opponents a flicker of hope that areas of the country that most enthusiastically support the death penalty might have a change of heart. They didn’t.  AP article


Lois Henry: Creating a new generation of scholars starts here – Yes, I’m beating the drum, again, for the Community Reading program, run by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools. Training sessions are coming up next week (see side box) so you don’t have to think about it too much. Just do it.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Lewis Griswold: Marymount California University seeks campus in Visalia – Marymount California University in Los Angeles County wants to establish a campus in Visalia, according to local boosters and the university. A traditional four-year college in Visalia has been a goal of local officials for 20 years.  Griswold in Fresno Bee

Enochs biotech teens get a peek at origami microscopes – Foldable paper microscopes – a quantum leap from the traditional, udderlike devices we all recognize – will size up cells at Enochs High School when teens return in January.  Modesto Bee article

Crowdfunding websites help donors find teachers – Scott Morris at Katherine L. Albiani Middle School in Elk Grove needs laptops for his robotics class. Heidi Umemoto is asking for books and hospital scrubs for her students at Mary Deterding Elementary in Carmichael. Heather Brandt asked for Kindle electronic readers and textbooks for her eighth-graders at Kingswood K-8 in Citrus Heights.  Sacramento Bee article

San Jose State, Cisco high-tech deal ran into problem at outset — San Jose State got a steep discount on Cisco products for a $28 million technology upgrade it launched in 2012, but there was a catch: The deal was good for only six months.  Contra Costa Times article


Mary Nichols has ‘rock star’ influence as top air quality regulator — As chair of the Air Resources Board, Nichols plays a central role in deciding where Californians get their energy, what fuel goes in their cars and how their homes are built. She also oversees the state’s ambitious program for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, one that analysts say could be a model when world leaders hold their environmental summit next year in Paris.  LA Times article

After a year off, winter is back in the Sierra – just not all the way – California’s rooftop finally is a brilliant white against an azure December sky. But don’t get your hopes too high yet. It’s warm at 7,500 feet, and the southern Sierra snowpack is about half the size it should be for December.  Fresno Bee article

Lost California rangeland is said to pose greenhouse gas risk – The disappearance of rangelands – the large and open lands synonymous with the West – will make it harder for the state to reach its greenhouse gas emissions goals and may imperil endangered species, scientists say.  Sacramento Bee article

Prized sea snail not as risk of extinction, federal officials say — The National Marine Fisheries Services has decided not to grant federal protection to the pinto abalone, a prized six-inch sea snail whose population has severely declined in Northern California.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Stanislaus County food inspections turn up an array of eye-opening violations – Inspectors pop unannounced into more than 2,300 food service providers throughout Stanislaus County at least twice a year. In the past two years, they’ve suspended licenses 43 times for violations ranging from lack of hot water and warm refrigerators to roach and rat infestations and sewage on the floor.  Modesto Bee article; ‘Stanislaus County food inspectors close restaurants 43 times over two-year span’ in Modesto Bee

Stanislaus County food complaints range from gross to frivolous – Some of the area’s best creative writing might belong to people lodging complaints against food service, and it’s not always easy to separate fact from fiction.  Modesto Bee article

As Medicaid rolls swell, cuts in payments to doctors threaten access to care – Just as millions of people are gaining insurance through Medicaid, the program is poised to make deep cuts in payments to many doctors, prompting some physicians and consumer advocates to warn that the reductions could make it more difficult for Medicaid patients to obtain care.  New York Times article

Akhilesh Pathipati: Retail clinics an important piece of health care system – The Stanford medical student and Harvard graduate writes, “Retail health is still in its infancy as a means of delivering health care, yet it has already proven to be an effective supplement to traditional models. Moving forward, it should become a critical piece of the health care system.”  Pathipati op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Mom in semi-wakeful state rejoins family in Fresno — Melissa Carleton returned home Saturday to Fresno and saw her baby for the first time in more than two months. In March, Carleton, a Fresno family therapist, had a brain seizure the night before surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. The seizure and removal of the tumor left Carleton, who was then pregnant, in a semi-conscious state. Doctors at the University of San Francisco Medical Center worked to keep mother and baby alive.  Fresno Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Stanislaus County planner’s appointment scrutinized — Katherine Borges has definite views on growth politics as they pertain to Salida and Wood Colony. The outspoken Salida resident will broaden her scope with a recent appointment to serve on Stanislaus County’s Planning Commission. Supervisor Terry Withrow recommended her appointment, which was confirmed by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 16.  Modesto Bee article


Life, interrupted in path of highway projects — Selling a house is never easy, but three Bakersfield homeowners in the path of two major highway projects face the not-unformidable challenge of agreeing on a price with city representatives, and bidding farewell to years of family history.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other Areas

David Mas Masumoto: Our resolutions, good and broken – Every new year, I like to think about making resolutions. Some will be quickly broken. Others linger. A few will last — perhaps not in original form but they will impact or change my life.  Masumoto column in Fresno Bee

Man arrested in Islamic center vandalism was targeting a bully, Fresno police say — The man who vandalized the Islamic Cultural Center on Christmas Day also vandalized and burglarized a business about two miles away because he thought he was getting back at the family of a girl who he believed had disrespected and bullied him, police said Saturday.  Fresno Bee article

Mike Klocke: 2014 brings about plethora of emotions – What to make of 2014? The year is almost over and there have been plenty of good, bad and curious things happen. In many ways, this has been an emotional year. Let’s look at some of those community emotions.  Klocke column in Stockton Record

The year in review: The people we lost in 2014 — Teachers and coaches. Athletes and pilots. A restaurateur and a police chief. A farmworker and a philanthropist. People of faith and a couple united in life and death. Bakersfield has no lack of personalities, those who are movers and shakers in all facets of city life. The loss of longtime leaders and familiar faces is never easy.  Bakersfield Californian article

Santa Clara County’s homeless hope for hotel rooms after shelter closes — Patrick and Sandra Scott spent their 41st anniversary on Dec. 14 in a place they can finally call home — even temporarily. After being homeless for a year, the couple moved into a motel room paid for by the county. KQED report

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Appointees to the California Public Utilities Commission have a big, tough job ahead.

Modesto Bee – California Public Utilities Commission appointees need to fight to change agency.

Sacramento Bee – Like every 365-day span, 2014 was filled with the usual news headlines of death, disease and destruction. But this year had more than its share ofgroundbreaking and precedent-setting events that will have ramifications long past Dec. 31.