December 7, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Dianne Feinstein leaving intelligence job amid clash on tactics report – As she prepares to turn over the committee’s gavel next month to Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.), Feinstein’s tenure as chairwoman is closing amid an acrimonious fight over a project that pits her against the CIA. Her staff has completed a 6,000-page report evaluating and criticizing the agency’s use during the George W. Bush years of harsh interrogation tactics, which President Obama and others have labeled as torture.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris:  War or peace in future races? – Both Newsom, 47, and Harris, 50, are A-list candidates for high office. No other Democrats are as well known in California, and Republicans, who lag 13 points behind on voter registration, are all but out of the picture for statewide office for the foreseeable future. But Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor, and Harris, the former San Francisco district attorney, share many of the same supporters and donors — one reason Democrats worry about a demolition derby on their next political lap.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Valley politics

Darius Assemi: Why do I care about politics? To build a better Fresno – The Fresno developer, farmer and philanthropist writes, “My pledge to Fresno is this: We will invest the time and resources, do the research, seek out partners who wish to work toward solutions, find the best candidates for leadership, and unapologetically, fundamentally and comprehensively support them in their quest — in our quest — to make a better Fresno. Why do I care? Because I do.”  Assemi op-ed in Fresno Bee
Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California’s elections check? It’s in the mail — When Alex Padilla takes over the job from Debra Bowen, which can’t come soon enough, he must make it a top priority to both increase the voter rolls (he promised at least 1 million more voters as part of his election campaign) and revamp the state’s voting systems.  Sacramento Bee editorial
Other areas

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee may have no challengers in re-election bid — It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Mayor Ed Lee? State Sen. Mark Leno has decided not to challenge Lee in the mayor’s race next year — and so far, it’s looking like nobody else wants to enter the fray. All the most likely suspects, from City Attorney Dennis Herrera to Public Defender Jeff Adachi to former Mayor Art Agnos and former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, are saying, “No, thanks.”  San Francisco Chronicle article

Accusations fly as State Bar of California leader Jay Dunn fights ouster — The agency that regulates California’s lawyers is once again beset with conflict, riddled by accusations involving expense accounts and ethics. The turmoil became public last month when the board of the State Bar of California fired its executive director, Joe Dunn, a former state senator from Orange County. Dunn did not go quietly.  LA Times article

Could land deal end Soledad cross case? – The long-simmering legal dispute over the Mount Soledad cross in La Jolla is facing another major twist, with Congress expected this week to approve a measure that would transfer ownership of the scenic property to private hands.  U-T San Diego article

Obama: Will take time to tackle racism, bias in U.S. — President Barack Obama says it’s going to take time and vigilance to tackle problems as “deeply rooted” as racism and bias.  AP article; LA Times article

Donald W. Blount:  Perspective elusive for those who won’t ask – Have you ever noticed how it is often someone white who is calling someone else a race baiter? Have you ever noticed how it is often someone white who is telling someone else to stop making race an issue, to “just get over it?” And why is it that when police kill unarmed young African-American men in Missouri or New York and are absolved by a grand jury, people are told “justice has been served, let’s move on?”  Blount column in Stockton Record

Police use tear gas on Berkeley protestors — Police used tear gas late Saturday night to break up an evening-long protest by demonstrators again marching against recent incidents of police violence against blacks.  San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article; LA Times article

Dan Morain: B. Wayne Hughes, Jr., spends millions and finds God in felons — B. Wayne Hughes Jr. lives in a Malibu mansion, counts himself as conservative and an obedient servant of Christ, and figures that if he is not a billionaire, he’s pretty darned close. He helped Republicans take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 by giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and others’ political action committees.  Morain in Sacramento Bee

News Briefs

Top Stories

Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables – A Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.  LA Times article

In Valley, Affordable Care Act called a blessing or a nightmare — The Affordable Care Act gets mixed reviews after its first year in the central San Joaquin Valley. Many consumers say it’s a blessing to have insurance for the first time. Others say it’s been a nightmare to find doctors willing to accept the new insurance plans.  Fresno Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

Tracking miles as gas tax alternative raises fairness, privacy concerns – Faced with growing shortfalls in highway funding as drivers give up their gas-guzzling cars, California officials are trying to determine if a mileage fee would be more effective at raising revenue for road projects than the state tax of 36 cents per gallon.  LA Times article

Fresno-based almond butter maker sees rapid growth — Barney Butter, a local company that was launched in a mother’s Fresno kitchen, is enjoying a surge in growth as the popularity of its almond butter spreads across the country. Founded in 2006, the company’s rise has been fueled by consumers’ growing appetite for healthy and nutritious foods.  Fresno Bee article

MLS still has questions about Sacramento, other possible expansion teams — Major League Soccer owners spent hours discussing the possibility of awarding an expansion team to Sacramento or some other city Saturday, but concluded that they still have unanswered questions about each candidate.  Sacramento Bee article

Marcus Breton: How Sacramento fought to save a neighborhood – and changed its image — Before a great idea can be realized in the fullness of time, it can be branded a terrible idea in the moment. That’s the story of R Street – a vibrant and transforming stretch of Sacramento’s urban core that was once viewed as a bust.  Breton column in Sacramento Bee

Wine cork makers seek to put a stop to declining sales — In a bid to win back customers, the natural cork industry has launched a new advertising campaign directed at Northern California winemakers. Winning their favor is crucial — the U.S. is now the frontline of the global wine industry, having surpassed France as the top consumer by volume this year.  LA Times article



Fresno Bee: Facts support passage of drought relief legislation – Congressman David Valadao’s bill is reasonable and much needed. It deserves the support of Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer and the California delegation in the House of Representatives.  Fresno Bee editorial

Mike Dunbar: Drought can’t extinguish hot talk about water – It used to be that when it rained, concerns about drought began to dry up. But this drought is so severe that those who want part of the state’s limited water supply are still working furiously to get it. The battle was waged on two fronts last week.  Dunbar column in Modesto Bee

Drought dries rural wells, residents carry water in buckets — As California struggles through the drought, the first to suffer are rural residents with shallow private wells and limited incomes. They live in cabins in Modoc County, among the golden rolling hills of Paso Robles, in the farmworker towns of the San Joaquin Valley and a chaparral-covered valley in northern Los Angeles County.  San Jose Mercury News article

Jeff Jardine: Yeah, it’s rained in the Valley, but no future guarantees — So we got some rain. It’s welcome and needed. The early storms soaked San Francisco and sent mud sliding through towns and across roadways in Los Angeles this past week. But while it’s a wet start to the true rainy season, I haven’t heard one climatologist ready to proclaim El Niño is among us and that the end to our three-year drought is near.  Jardine column in  Modesto Bee

California Foodways: Native American tribe bets on olive oil – It’s because of the casino’s success, however, that the Yocha Dehe can fund its newest production across the highway, the tribe’s own brand of olive oil bottled in a state-of-the-art facility. It’s only in its fourth year of production, but over 200 restaurants — including Berkeley’s Chez Panisse — use it. The premium oil, called Seka Hills, sells in specialty shops and upscale farmers markets.  KQED report

San Juan Water District under fire for rate hikes, high pay — An agency that provides water to Granite Bay residents and sells it to districts serving Sacramento suburbs has repeatedly increased employee pay while also raising water rates, upsetting some of its biggest customers.  Sacramento Bee article
Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno police anti-gang operation makes 44 arrests, seizes seven weapons — The third day of Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer’s citywide gang operation was a busy one, with officers making 44 felony arrests on Friday, seizing seven guns and investigating one gang-related shooting in the increased crackdown on violence.  Fresno Bee article

Cold cuts, chips for Oakland officers working overtime on Thanksgiving — Oakland’s recent round of protests didn’t just cost police officers Thanksgiving with their families — it also meant a night of cold cuts for the cops after the turkey dinners the police brass promised never arrived.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Lenny Mendonca and Jim Wunderman: Planning for mastery again in California higher education – Mendonca, co-chair of California Forward, and Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, write, “Fifty years ago, Gov. Pat Brown signed the Master Plan, putting in place a public higher education system that led the nation for decades. It is time to plan for mastery again.”  Mendonca/Wunderman op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Bay Area public school districts spying on kids in border control battle — School districts around the Bay Area are spying on their own students — often with private investigators — just to make sure the kids really live where they say they do.  Contra Costa Times article

Lewis Griswold: Visalia school trustee accused of Brown Act violation — Charles Ulmschneider is once again at odds with his fellow members on the Visalia Unified School District Board of Trustees. The school board is slated Tuesday to vote on a resolution to publicly censure Ulmschneider for allegedly violating the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law.  Griswold in Fresno Bee

Steve Lopez:  FBI at the door is just the latest bad news for LA school district — With three weeks left in December, I’m hesitant to jump the gun and suggest that we’ve seen the last of this year’s troubles for the Los Angeles Unified School District. As you might have heard, there was a knock at the door of district headquarters last Monday. It was the FBI.  Lopez column in LA Times



State clashes with railroads over handling of oil train information – On the day before Thanksgiving, officials at Kern County’s Taft fire station got a phone call advising them that a mile-long oil train would be arriving at a nearby pipeline terminal the next day. As important as that notification may seem — the delivery was a first for the $130 million facility — the phone call was a courtesy, not a requirement.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno, Madera and Hanford set heat records on Saturday – Several cities in the Central Valley broke temperature records Saturday as warm air sweeping through the region brought unusually high readings. Fresno reached a high of 70 degrees, making it the hottest Dec. 6 on record, the National Weather Service office in Hanford reported. The old record was 68 degrees, set in 1995.  Fresno Bee article

Modesto Irrigation District not eager to play role in neighboring hostile takeover – A looming battle over the idea of kicking PG&E’s electricity service out of Ripon, Escalon and Manteca could have implications for the neighboring Modesto Irrigation District.  Modesto Bee article; Stockton Record article

Feather River train derailment raises new concerns — To accomplish its task, the river first runs a gantlet – snaking through a steep canyon in the shadows of a busy freight rail line with a history of derailments. The river’s precarious position was highlighted again last month when nearly a dozen cars from a derailed corn train tumbled down the mountain, splitting open and spilling kernels and husks into the river.  Sacramento Bee article

Residents want reassurance another gas leak will not occur in Arvin — Arvin residents questioned state officials Saturday on the potential of another toxic gas leak occurring in Kern County, such as the one that caused the evacuation of about three dozen people.  Bakersfield Californian article

Oakdale Irrigation District luncheons may violate state law — The Oakdale Irrigation District board of directors’ private luncheons with key staff members at a members-only club may violate California’s open-meeting laws, legal and ethics experts say.  Modesto Bee article

Peru climate change talks slowed by clashes of rich and poor nations — International climate talks in Lima, Peru, are entering their final week, with few hints of whether a newfound optimism that marked the start of negotiations will ultimately translate into an agreement that would rein in climate change.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Map: See how Obamacare transformed health insurance coverage in California — In the map, click on a county to see the pre-ACA uninsured rate — and the number of people who signed up for Covered California or Medi-Cal. The Census Bureau will have data on 2014 total insurance coverage in September 2015.  CHCF Center for Health Reporting in KQED

With Affordable Care Act, fewer uninsured in California emergency rooms – but ERs still packed — Fewer uninsured Californians are seeking treatment in the state’s emergency rooms, a decline that experts say is a direct result of the federal Affordable Care Act.  Sacramento Bee article
Land Use/Housing

Fresno’s new blueprint for growth nears decisive vote — Get ready for what Fresno historians may come to call “Eleven Days In December.” Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s 2035 general plan update is ready to meet its fate. Over the next 11 days, the proposed blueprint for growth is headed for the City Hall wringer.  Fresno Bee article

Apartments planned next to Fresno State fraternities typify challenge for infill projects — Two ideas are at the heart of Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s 2035 general plan update. Infill development and higher-density residential living will combine to transform Fresno, she believes. Here’s an example of the challenges this might cause. A proposed apartment complex made its way to City Hall this fall. The developer, a company in Newport Beach, wanted to build a four-story complex for Fresno State students. Fresno Bee article

Other Areas

Lois Henry: And what were you doing when you were 24? – When I was 14 years old, my biggest concerns were pimples and whether I could con my mother into buying me a pair of the latest Chemin de Fer jeans. (It was the ’80s, don’t judge.) Homeless kids ranked as low as you could get on my priority list. In fact, I don’t think I even knew there was such a thing as homeless kids. If I did, I probably would have felt bad, but figured the problem was way beyond my reach. All of which makes Emily Aldritt so extraordinary to me.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Michael Fitzgerald: Bold adventurer, respected judge turns 100 — Bill Dozier, a mountaineer, round-the-world wayfarer, judge, movie subject, and one of the most adventurous Stocktonians who ever lived, turned 100 years old on Friday.  Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Congressman David Valadao’s drought relief bill is reasonable and much needed. It deserves the support of Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer and the California delegation in the House of Representatives; As we remember Pearl Harbor, think about younger veterans, too.

Modesto Bee – We’re still grateful to those who survived day of “infamy.”

Sacramento Bee – When Alex Padilla takes over the job from Debra Bowen, which can’t come soon enough, he must make it a top priority to both increase the voter rolls (he promised at least 1 million more voters as part of his election campaign) and revamp the state’s voting systems; Pearl Harbor reminds us how little we’re sacrificing.