December 6, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Some GOP House challengers were short on funds, reports show – The Republican challengers who nearly upset two veteran Democratic congressmen in California during the Nov. 4 elections ran short on money for their campaigns and got little or no help from their party, reports filed this week showed. Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) spent nearly $1 million to fend off a surprisingly strong challenge from dairy farmer Johnny Tacherra, who spent less than $321,000 on his campaign, reports filed with the Federal Election Commission showed. In another unexpectedly close Central Valley race, retired U.S. Marshal Tony Amador came within less than five percentage points of defeating Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton). Amador spent less than $56,000 to McNerney’s more than $1 million.  LA Times article

Dan Walters: California’s tax battle looms in ’16 — When Democrats lost their legislative supermajorities last month, it doomed even the very faint chance that legislators would enact the hefty tax increases liberal groups yearn to impose. That, however, doesn’t end the perpetual debate over whether Californians should pay more taxes; it merely shifts it to the ballot, most likely in 2016.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

Valley legislators introduce bills to reform ADA law, curb abuse — Two Central Valley state Assembly members teamed up this week to introduce legislation that would reform the state’s Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing businesses time to fix deficiencies and reducing damages for violations.  Merced Sun-Star article

Clovis City Council election will likely be cancelled for third consecutive cycle — For the third straight election cycle, Clovis voters appear unlikely to go to the polls to elect City Council members in March. The three incumbents, Harry Armstrong, Jose Flores and Bob Whalen, all took out nomination papers for the March election. But nobody else took out nomination papers at Clovis City Hall or the Fresno County Elections Office.  Fresno Bee article


Visa program for ‘best and brightest’ also used to fill low-wage jobs — In the 2013 fiscal year, the U.S. Department of Labor approved so-called “labor condition applications” – the first step in the H-1B visa application process – for medical scientists, financial analysts and civil engineers. But department records show it also approved the hiring of foreign workers to fill more quotidian jobs, such as preschool teachers, sports coaches and interns.  Center for Investigative Reporting article

U.S. to continue racial, ethnic profiling in border policy – The Obama administration will soon issue new rules curtailing the use of profiling, but federal agents will still be allowed to consider race and ethnicity when stopping people at airports, border crossings and immigration checkpoints, according to several government officials.  New York Times article

Jose Villareal: How I became an American – an immigrant’s story – The lawyer from Sanger writes, “Becoming an American has been a realization of an immigrant’s dream. I am truly an American who is proud of his Mexican heritage. As an American, I intend to continue to engage actively in the political arena where issues such as immigration, water, public safety, education, health and transportation will be considered. I urge you and all other Americans to do the same.”  Villareal op-ed in Fresno Bee
Other areas

Money flows in plastic bag ban – With California’s law banning plastic bags on hold, the plastic bag industry and its allies already are pouring money into California in hopes of overturning the law in a referendum two years down the road.  Capitol Weekly article

California Senate gets younger while Senate stays the senior house – If you thought the California Assembly looked a little younger as members took their oaths of office this week, you’re right. Pushed along by the arrival of a half-dozen 30-somethings, the Assembly’s average age to begin the 2015-16 session dipped to 48. That’s two years younger than it was Dec. 3, 2012, the swearing-in date for the 2013-14 session, when the house’s average age topped 50.  Capitol Alert

Moderate Democrats heading to Napa policy retreat — Fresh off their swearing in, a group of moderate California Democrats will be dgathering in Napa next week for a policy retreat sponsored by a nonprofit that has drawn substantial donations from politically engaged business groups.  Capitol Alert

Marc Boyd:  Lobbyists, legislators shouldn’t vacation together in Maui – After a year tainted by malfeasance among several lawmakers, the annual trek of lobbyists and legislators to Maui should be an embarrassment. While legislators are basking in the tropical sun, their constituents are being kept in the dark about their interactions with influence-seeking lobbyists and special interests.  Boyd column in Modesto Bee

Schwarzenegger’s splotchy portrait retouched, hung at Capitol — Three months after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled his official Capitol portrait – and its badly scrubbed-out image of his estranged wife – a less splotchy, retouched version of the painting was hung Friday with little fanfare.  Capitol Alert

Kerry to Feinstein: Consider timing of CIA report — Secretary of State John Kerry asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday to “consider” the timing of the expected release of a long-awaited report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques.  AP article

Foon Rhee: A cheaper special election in Sacramento? — Sacramento taxpayers are staring at a $200,000 bill to hold a special election April 7 to fill the City Council vacancy in District 6. But City Hall may have found a way to lighten the load. On Tuesday, council members are to discuss whether to hold that election entirely through mail balloting – or whether to hold a regular election with polling places.  Rhee column in Sacramento Bee

News Briefs

Top Stories

More condemnations ahead for Valley’s high-speed rail route – California may be picking up the pace on getting land it needs to build the state’s first stretch of high-speed rail in the Valley. The state’s Public Works Board, meeting next week in Sacramento, will consider resolutions declaring a public need to use eminent domain, better known as condemnation, to acquire nearly 40 pieces of property in Fresno and Madera counties.  Fresno Bee article

California’s holiday gift:  forecasts of a wet winter – Meteorologists say periodic showers are likely through the middle of December, while new federal climate models, including a bumped-up forecast for El Niño, hint at definitively soggier months ahead. While much of California still needs at least 50 percent more rain and snow than average this winter to make up for three dry years, climate experts are optimistic that the state won’t fall deeper into drought — and could very well close some of its rainfall deficit by summer.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Jobs and the Economy

Promising jobs report suggests Americans’ earnings are rising again – Providing a surprising and much-needed bit of momentum to a shaky global economy, government figures released Friday show the U.S. economy is on track this year to create the most jobs since 1999.  LA Times article

Politics, service collide for San Joaquin County supervisors – County officials decided to take a deeper look at a proposal intended to better link the public to community services through an online database of charities and agencies where those in need in San Joaquin County can find assistance, but not before a politically charged discussion about how the proposal came before the Board of Supervisors in the first place.  Stockton Record article

California exporters gain ground despite some adverse conditions – Despite headwinds on multiple fronts, California’s export trade sector rang up a record-high total for the month of October. In-state businesses shipped merchandise valued at $15.53 billion that month, topping the year-ago total of $15.35 billion, which was the all-time record for October.  Sacramento Bee article

U.S. consumer debt rises $13.2 billion in October — U.S. consumers increased their borrowing in October but at a slightly slower pace than in the previous month as credit card use slowed.  AP article

Demand for court and stenography reporters rising in California, nation – Typing quietly while catching every spoken word, court reporters are often overlooked but critical components of the judicial system. And the demand for them is growing while the number available capable of typing the required 200-word-per-minute threshold for courtroom work is dwindling.  Bakersfield Californian article

Brubaker ready for Tulare chamber CEO position – Ben Brubaker said he’s ready to talk to and about local business. Brubaker, 31, is the new Tulare Chamber of Commerce CEO, having accepted the position earlier this month and passing on the opportunity to join the City Council.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Aerojet equipment performs well on Orion launch — The Rancho Cordova arm of Aerojet Rocketdyne played a critical role in Friday’s successful launch and reentry of NASA’s Orion spaceship.  Sacramento Bee article

Hmong farmers losing battle against drought – Groups of California farmers have been struggling to survive the state’s epic drought, and this year one group has started to lose the fight. Fresno County’s Hmong refugee producers are some of the state’s newest and most disadvantaged farmers — and they cannot afford the water necessary to keep their businesses going.  KQED report

El Niño may be getting too much credit for California rainfall – With California in a severe drought, El Niño is often mentioned longingly as a savior. But it’s not that simple.  LA Times article

California needs more rain, any way you count it —  So how many more storms like the ones California experienced this week would it take to end the drought? The easy answer is: a lot. But the more complex answer involves looking at historic rain patterns and reservoir levels in different parts of the state, and making a series of calculations. LA Times article

Sacramento Bee: Emergency drought bill deserves to die — Trying to remedy the problem for some Californians while excluding others from the discussion will reignite water wars.  Sacramento Bee editorial
Criminal Justice/Prisons

San Jose police will try to sell public on drones — The San Jose Police Department will try to make a case Saturday at a public outreach meeting about its desire to use the drone it purchased in January — without City Council approval or public discussion. The agency has been trying ever since to respond to charges that it needs to be more open about why it wants to use drones.  KQED report; San Jose Mercury News article

Condom machines for inmates in San Francisco jails could serve as model for state — In the corner of a gym in a San Francisco jail, there’s something you wouldn’t usually find behind bars: a condom machine. Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law that makes condoms available for free in all of California’s prisons.  KQED report

Psychologist:  Bryan Oliver dropped clues, planned shooting at Taft Union High — The actions and statements of Bryan Oliver both on the day of and days prior to his opening fire in a Taft Union High School classroom indicate he’d thought through and planned the attack, according to a psychologist who testified in Oliver’s trial Friday. Bakersfield Californian article

Sandy Banks: Police expectations damage black men’s realities — New York City’s Eric Garner is the new Michael Brown. Both died at the hands of police, because they committed minor crimes, because they ran or resisted arrest, but mostly because they were both big, black men. Their deaths — and the refusal by grand juries to indict the officers involved — reflect a pervasive, deep-seated reliance on dehumanizing stereotypes: Black men are dangerous, violent and criminally inclined. Banks column in LA Times

LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell envisions unpaid civilian oversight panel – Four days into his job, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell offered new details about the type of civilian oversight he would like to see for the department and the need to restore public trust in the embattled agency.  LA Times article

Debilyn Molineaux: Living Room Conversations can lead to more effective crime control – The managing partner of Living Room Conversations writes, “Living Room Conversations revealed a deep need in Fresno and San Joaquin counties to have new conversations for action in criminal justice reform and the roles of the community, the offender and a network of support. These conversations revealed the challenges of feeling safe from children, teens and adults. This is an opportunity to create a safe environment for everyone.” Molineaux op-ed in Fresno Bee

John Myers: Should UC’s independent status be revoked? — The University of California has enormous independence from the government that funds it, an autonomy rare by comparison to other schools and one that’s enshrined in the state constitution. But should it?  Myers in KQED

Brigitte Bowers: College applications and rising UC tuition — My eldest son, Casey, submitted his application to the University of California only two days before the deadline. I thought this was cutting things pretty close, but I was wrong.  Bowers column in Merced Sun-Star

Security beefed up at Gustine school after stabbing attack – New security measures and several crisis counselors greeted students Friday at Gustine Elementary School, a day after the principal was slashed in the face with a box cutter by two men who remain at large.  Merced Sun-Star article

Results of new school discipline approaches ‘unbelievably good’ – The Standard School District implemented new disciplinary approaches known as Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) and restorative practices (also called restorative justice) this school year. The changes in tactics are already yielding positive results. Bakersfield Californian article

Ted Lempert: State’s public school reform at a pivotal moment – The president of Children Now writes, “California has arrived at a moment of great promise in public education. Never before have we seen so much change in such a short time.”  Lempert op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Alan Bonsteel: Promise of charter schools is coming true in California – The president of California Parents for Educational Choice writes, “Last week, for the first time in my life, I met a true saint. Her name is Maria. She is 44 years old, was born in Michoacán, Mexico, and is only semi-literate, even in her native Spanish. What convinced me of her sainthood was her profound love for her six children and the extraordinary devotion she showered on them.”  Bonsteel op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Fresno State student wins prestigious Marshall Scholarship — A Fresno State student has earned the highly competitive Marshall Scholarship, an award that will pay his tuition, living and travel expenses while he works on his master’s degree at a university in the United Kingdom next year. It’s the first time a student from Fresno State has won the award. Gavin Baird, an Edison High School graduate studying political science and economics, is one of just a handful of California State University system graduates to ever earn the scholarship.  Fresno Bee article

Debra Saunders: UC’s new motto: Take the money and run – When Gov. Jerry Brown was pushing Proposition 30 in 2012, he sold his measure with the promise that the income and sales tax increases in his measure would put off sharp tuition increases in the UC and CSU systems.  Two years into the deal, UC solons say there never was a deal to freeze tuition for four years.   Saunders column in San Francisco Chronicle

College prices rise along with discontent – Despite Tulare County being roughly 100 miles from the nearest UC campus, locals aren’t too happy with skyrocketing tuition prices which have more than doubled since 2004.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Jesse Franz: It’s about the players, not the profits – The journalism and political science student at Fresno State writes, “Jim Bartko will begin in January as Fresno State’s new athletic director, creating an opportunity for some to discuss the future of what they see as the defining characteristic of the university — athletics. However, in these discussions, the reason we have athletics at our university in the first place is almost always forgotten — to benefit students. Just as academics must aim to be gender equitable, so must athletics.” Franz op-ed in Fresno Bee

Sac City schools poised to leave state’s fiscal-watch list – Sacramento City Unified is poised to escape a state watch list after being the area’s last major school district on shaky financial ground.  Sacramento Bee article

Modesto High School student – a doctor’s daughter – helps protect peers from HPV – The ugly truth about the most preventable deadly cancers opened eyes at Davis High School. An event organized by a high school student gave information, a survivor’s story and free vaccinations.  Modesto Bee article

McKinley Elementary choir: An underdog story Disney would love — In Disney movies, anything is possible with a little wishful thinking. Real life is a different story, but a Bakersfield school choir is hoping a modern-day fairy godmother, or a giving community, will help it achieve its dream of performing at Disneyland.  Bakersfield Californian article



State officials: Arvin homes toxic gas free – During a Friday meeting, state officials repeatedly told the evacuees of eight Arvin houses that the homes they have been banned from for more than eight months are now free of toxic gas.  Bakersfield Californian article

State starts to remove hyacinth in the Delta – The California State parks Division of Boating and Waterways is finally starting to perform mechanical harvesting of the water hyacinth in the Delta, and they’re beginning with a section of the Stockton Deep Water Channel from Weber Point to Buckley Cove, according to a news release. Stockton Record article

Mendota getting Valley’s first modular substation — A new concept in energy distribution is reaching the Central Valley with the modular substation being installed for the North Star solar project near Mendota. The 60-megawatt solar project, owned by First Solar, is sited at California and San Bernardino avenues west of Mendota.  The Business Journal article

Farm Beat: Forest seeks ideas on Rim fire replanting — The national forest is hosting a Dec. 16 open house in Sonora to hear ideas from the public. So why is this a topic for Farm Beat? Well, national forests are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reflecting the view that they should provide timber and other resources along with wildlife habitat, recreation and scenery.  Modesto Bee article
Health/Human Services

Diana Dooley: How the Affordable Care Act is faring in California – Diana Dooley, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, oversees 13 departments and supervises the state’s rollout of the federal Affordable Care Act, including Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace, and the Medi-Cal program for the poor. Governor Jerry Brown appointed her in late 2010. A native of Hanford, she earlier served as president and CEO of the California Children’s Hospital Association. She worked for Brown during his first administration. She sat down for an interview with the CHCF Center for Health Reporting as part of a first-year assessment of the program. CHCF Center for Health Reporting article; CHCF Center for Health Reporting ‘Health care reform in California: A state of accelerating change’ article in Visalia Times-Delta

Obamacare’s mixed bag – You might assume Frank and Debbie Moreno would be happy with their Covered California health insurance plan. Sure, the new insurance saves them a lot of money, but if the Morenos had their way they’d be back on their old insurance plan instead of their Covered California Anthem Blue Cross plan, and they they’d even be willing to pay the higher premiums.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Health clinics undergo shakeup under new top executive – What a difference six months have made for the Golden Valley Health Centers.  Modesto Bee article

UCLA-based m-health project aids at-risk women using fitness app — Sago and 39 other young African American women at Faithful Central Bible Church recently participated in a UCLA-backed clinical trial that used a smartphone app to track their eating and activity and teach them healthful diet and exercise habits.  LA Times article

To prevent or reverse obesity and its ills, timing may be everything —  If obesity is linked to Americans’ 24/7 lifestyles, would it help to reset the clock that dictates our eating? A new study of mice suggests it would, and in ways that go well beyond weight alone.  LA Times article



Joel Fox: High-speed rail strategy: START to build it and they will come! — The High Speed Rail project found its way into three of the five panels in the Public Policy Institute’s all-day State of Change conference Wednesday. At the end of the day, you understood the High Speed Rail authority’s strategy to gain support for the project – START to build it and they will come!  Fox in Fox & Hounds


Other Areas

Incomplete records hamper personnel audit of state’s civil-rights watchdog – California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing will need to improve its record keeping following an investigation into several years of department personnel actions, an inquiry triggered by the housing department’s unlawful promotion of an employee. Sacramento Bee article

Modesto looks at playground for seniors – Modesto plans to spend $150,000 to turn the tiny city park in front of the Ralston Tower senior complex into a senior playground, which could include such amenities as tai chi classes, a low-impact exercise course and tables for games and socializing.  Modesto Bee article

Bullhook ban could mean no more circus in Stockton – Ringling Bros. is an annual visitor to Stockton Arena. This week, its alleged mistreatment of its elephants reached City Hall at a meeting of the council’s legislation committee. The committee is considering forwarding to the full council a proposed ordinance banning Ringling Bros. and other entertainment acts from Stockton if they continue to use “bullhooks” — which closely resemble fireplace pokers — to jab and push their elephants to perform.  Stockton Record article

Fresno protestors demonstrate over recent police slayings of African-American men – About 20 Fresno residents took to Blackstone Avenue between Shaw and Gettysburg avenues Friday night to protest the recent police actions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York.  Fresno Bee article

Oakland protestors block Interstate 880 — Hundreds of protesters swarmed onto Interstate 880 in Oakland Friday, forced the closure of the West Oakland BART Station, broke windows and roughed up a store owner during a third straight night of demonstrations against the recent killings of unarmed black men by police.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Judge orders millionaire to open gate to Martins Beach — The billionaire owner of a Peninsula beach was ordered Friday by a San Mateo County judge to open the gates to the sandy haven, which he insists is his exclusive property.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Around Tulare: Macedo remains mayor, Jones vice mayor – Carlton Jones’ wish to become Tulare Mayor will have to wait at least one more year. Earlier this week, the newly elected and seated council picked David Macedo to continue as the city’s mayor, while Jones will remain as vice mayor. Macedo is the longest tenured council member. Visalia Times-Delta article

Onlookers gawk at, not help, women in chains on overpass — A woman was found chained to a section of the Golden State Highway overpass in central Bakersfield Thursday evening, sitting in the fetal position. And it gets worse.  Bakersfield Californian article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Let’s find a fairer way to investigate officer-involved shootings; Thumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – We are still grateful to those who survived the day of “infamy.”

Modesto Bee – Our Views: Time to brag on Modesto – at least a little, congratulations to state Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) for landing a spot on the Senate Rules Committee, and other issues.

Sacramento Bee – Trying to remedy the problem for some Californians while excluding others from the discussion will reignite water wars; Sacramento’s Santa Parade needs more corporate helpers.