December 29, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories


State’s ballot initiative process remade, and both parties agree — After more than a century in California’s political spotlight, the state’s initiative process will be getting a major revise next year. Even more surprising, both Democrats and Republicans in the famously partisan Legislature are happy to see it happen.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Dan Walters: California’s ‘top-two’ primary has major impact — The top-two system is not a panacea for political dysfunction. But it’s dead wrong to say it isn’t working as truly intended.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Californians to Watch in 2015: Kristin Olsen hopes to lead Republican resurgence in Assembly — For now, voters have given Olsen an enlarged and more diverse caucus. She will need to show that Republicans can respond by playing a meaningful role in a Capitol still dominated by Democrats.  Sacramento Bee article

Gov. Brown

Governor pardons Modestan who drank stolen wine as teen — In pardoning a group of convicted felons last week, Gov. Jerry Brown went out of his way to explain how one of the burglars had taken “expensive wine out of a wine cellar and drank it.” It was an amusing detail offered to justify granting clemency for that crime. But Modesto’s Michael J. Moradian Jr. acknowledges that what he did back in 1986 was no laughing matter.  Modesto Bee article


Migrants can soon get driver’s licenses, but it’s been a long road — For decades, California has debated whether immigrants in the country illegally should be issued driver’s licenses. It began during the anti-illegal immigration movement of the mid-1990s and continued as Latinos have gained significant political clout in Sacramento. Beginning in January, many immigrants in the country illegally will finally be able to obtain licenses. Here’s how California got here.  LA Times article

Other areas

Majority of nation now live in states allowing same-sex marriage – For the first time, a majority of Americans are living in a state that allows same-sex 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.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Congress likely to make key decisions on commercial drones – The Obama administration is on the verge of proposing long-awaited rules for commercial drone operations in U.S. skies, but key decisions on how much access to grant drones probably will come from Congress next year.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Obama warns GOP he plans to use veto pen in 2015 — Warning from President Barack Obama to congressional Republicans: I have a veto pen and, come January, I won’t be afraid to use it.  AP article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Local businesses look for growth despite downturn in oil prices – Like a patient regaining strength after rehabilitation, 2014 may well be the year Kern County learns whether its economy can thrive without strong support from the oil industry.  Bakersfield Californian article

Protest election on water rates gets a lively start — The Fresno City Clerk’s Office by the end of last week had received 11 votes protesting possible hikes to water rates. A deluge is coming, though. City officials said they’ve been told about 5,500 protest votes are at the Post Office, soon to be delivered to City Hall. This doesn’t mean higher rates are doomed. It does suggest Fresno is headed toward a nail-biter of an election.  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

California fuel prices going up as its greenhouse gas controls hit gasoline, diesel sales – After months of seeing gas prices sink ever lower, Californians will ring in 2015 by paying more at the pump as a result of the state’s landmark greenhouse-gas emissions law. But how much more we’ll pay, and whether it’s worth it, remains bitterly debated among oil companies, some state lawmakers and environmentalists.  San Jose Mercury News article

Fresno Bee: Education, public safety are key to Fresno’s revitalization — The good news is, Fresno has a lot going for it. Employment is up. Fresno State President Joseph Castro is committed to making the university even more of a partner in helping transform the city for the better. And slowly but surely Fresno Unified is reducing the dropout rate and preparing more students to excel in college or the workplace. We can make the new general plan work, but only if everybody is paddling in the same direction.  Fresno Bee editorial

Bowl games puts Livingston’s Foster Farms in national spotlight — A certain poultry producer based in Livingston will get national TV exposure Tuesday night via the Foster Farms Bowl. The Stanford-Maryland matchup on ESPN will help spread the word about a company that has mostly served Western markets over its history. Modesto Bee article

Top stories of 2014, No. 3:  Goodbye to the Asparagus Festival — OK, so the “spear-it” cliche has worn thin. And the crowds didn’t materialize. But it’s still sad to think that the Stockton Asparagus Festival will cease to exist.  Stockton Record article

Ambassador for downtown Sacramento prepares to retire — Mike Munson has mastered the art of human interaction. And for 25 years, downtown Sacramento has been his classroom.  Sacramento Bee article



State’s drought having pronounced effect on wildlife – Baby squirrels are just one of many animals fleeing their homes and risking their lives to search for food sources that have been diminished by drought. California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said drought has forced more bears and deer to venture onto mountain highways, where many are struck and killed by vehicles.  LA Times article

Egg prices likely to rise amid laws mandating cage-free henhouses —  If your eggs seem a little pricier, consider the recent changes on Frank Hilliker’s ranch. In the last six months, the third-generation egg farmer in central San Diego County has reduced his flock by half and embarked on a $1-million overhaul of his henhouses to make them more spacious. Customers are now paying about 50% more for a dozen eggs from Hilliker’s family business at around $3 a carton.  LA Times article

New Year’s cold snap headed to Fresno but won’t affect Valley citrus growers — A cold snap is headed to Fresno and expected to bring freezing temperatures by Wednesday. Citrus growers say the short storm won’t affect their crops. In fact, the cold-but-not-too-cold weather is expected to firm up fruit and add vibrancy to its color.  Fresno Bee article

Don Curlee: Quest for ag water has wacky outcome – The search for water to irrigate thirsty crops has led to one of the most twisted, unexpected and bizarre results imaginable, and wouldn’t you know, it involves the Delta.  Curlee column in Visalia Times-Delta

LA City Council panel backs away from GMO ban it previously supported — Three days before Los Angeles lawmakers voted on a proposal to ban genetically modified crops, the world’s largest biotechnology trade group hired three top City Hall lobbyists to stop it.  LA Times article


Criminal Justice/Prisons


CHP struggles to recruit minority officers – While the CHP is trying to make inroads, it remains far less diverse than the state it patrols. Nearly 7 in 10 officers are white, compared to 4 in 10 Californians. Sacramento Bee article



Teacher retirement bailout may derail local school budgets – A state-mandated schedule for replenishing California’s cash-strapped teachers’ retirement fund means school districts will see their pension contributions triple by 2021 and remain high for decades, according to budget forecasts released this month by several local districts.  U-T San Diego article

Catholic schools hope to enroll more Latinos – An ambitious nationwide movement aimed at narrowing the Latino achievement gap and reversing enrollment declines is gaining momentum in the Diocese of Stockton, one of the newest partners in the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education.  Stockton Record article

What they said: Memorable quotes of 2014 — EdSource was there to cover these landmark developments – and the reactions to them from a range of education constituencies.  We asked our  staff to pick their Top 10 quotes from EdSource articles published in 2014.  The following are their choices.  EdSource article



10 years after Indian Ocean tsunami, California is better prepared — The day after Christmas marks the tenth anniversary of the deadliest tsunami on record. An underwater earthquake measuring 9.1 in magnitude formed waves up to 65 feet high that crashed into the Indian subcontinent. More than 230,000 lives were lost, with the greatest fatalities in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India. The tragedy was a worldwide wake-up call. It triggered a decade of improvements to tsunami warning and response technology.  KQED report

Health/Human Services

Older people urged to get high-dose vaccines against flu this season — Older people, believed to be at greater risk for developing severe flu symptoms this season, should seek a high-dose vaccine instead of the standard dose even if they are frail and in long-term care, researchers say.  Sacramento Bee article

Hospital workers volunteer to work on Christmas as a way to give back — Employees at Mercy Medical Center are not always guaranteed time off during the holidays. After all, a hospital must adhere to the mandated 2-to-1 patient-to-nurse ratio in a critical care unit at all times. While a number of staff members request Christmas Day off, a few will choose to work a shift on this day, allowing others to spend time with their loved ones.  Merced Sun-Star article


Land Use/Housing

Merced County given more housing vouchers for veterans — An additional $80,000 in Department of Housing and Urban Development money will help Merced County provide an extra 15 housing vouchers for veterans, according to Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.  Merced Sun-Star article

Other Areas

Fresno Bee readers select top stories of 2014 — The horse from the Valley with the metallic name who proved his mettle. A visit by the president that focused attention on the state’s devastating drought. Arsonists who sparked fires that ripped through Fresno — and who may have returned for a second round. Fresno Bee article

Year in Review: New Tulare County sheriff, DA take reins — For the first time in 20 years, voters in Tulare County elected a new sheriff and a new district attorney.  Visalia Times-Delta article

‘Fitz’s Stockton: One way to ‘rock’ metal thieves — Today: The stonecutter’s gift. As previously reported, exceptionally amoral metal thieves were working at loosening the bolts and stealing the large bronze plaque outside historic Temple Israel Cemetery. Mike Contreras to the rescue.  Fitz’s Stockton in Stockton Record

Charity defies Roseville, feeds homeless — For the homeless feeding organization called What Would Jesus Do, it is an act of benevolent defiance. After a 31/2-month absence, the group is again serving breakfast pastries, hot chocolate and coffee, canned goods and additional staples to homeless and other disadvantaged people at Roseville’s Saugstad Park on Sunday mornings.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup


Fresno Bee – The good news is, Fresno has a lot going for it. Employment is up. Fresno State President Joseph Castro is committed to making the university even more of a partner in helping transform the city for the better. And slowly but surely Fresno Unified is reducing the dropout rate and preparing more students to excel in college or the workplace. We can make the new general plan work, but only if everybody is paddling in the same direction.

Merced Sun-Star – We must find a way to increase voter turnout.

Sacramento Bee – Christmas Day hack is no fun and games.