December 8, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

George Skelton: Many want more money; UC should get in line — First of all, Californians think that raising university tuition again is a really bad idea. A non-starter. Second, although the University of California is crying for more state money, it needs to get in line. Join the crowd of folks with their hands out.  Skelton column in LA Times

In a bipartisan holiday mood, legislators get down to (some) business — With children in tow, state lawmakers gathered for a moment of bipartisan good cheer last week. Democrats and Republicans alike hugged and backslapped, got themselves sworn in and offered a few clues about the issues ahead.  LA Times article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

When California and LA County don’t vote, the nation feels it — The nation tumbled to a new low for voting in November, the lowest since 1942, when many had a rather compelling excuse for not showing up at the polls: World War II. And it’s on us. On California, that is. Or more precisely, on Los Angeles County.  LA Times article


Anti-illegal immigration activists look beyond California for action — Polls consistently show that Californians don’t see illegal immigration as the same type of threat they did in the 1990s, and a September USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed 73% of voters support some type of path to citizenship for those here illegally. But the last few months have shown that the anti-illegal immigration forces remain small but potent — and a movement that backers hope will get stronger with Obama’s action.  LA Times article

Sacramento Bee: ‘Right way’ is wrong way to do immigration reform — Republicans had a chance to take the high road on this and – finally – stake out a real position on immigration reform rather just standing in opposition. Instead, they chose to take the low road, yelling and kicking all the way down.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Other areas

Dan Walters Daily: California lawmakers should explore the state, not the world — It would benefit their constituents if California lawmakers took more opportunities to learn about the state and fewer special interest-funded trips abroad, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories

Economists forecast fast growth in 2015 – The U.S. economy, helped by a stronger job market and falling oil prices, should enjoy the fastest economic growth in a decade next year, according to a panel of top business economists.  AP article

Dan Walters: Early class times hurt California children – If one watches California’s educational politics – those practiced in the Legislature, in local school boards and in bureaucracies – long enough, an inescapable conclusion is that students’ welfare is often a secondary consideration.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Jobs and the Economy

Time running out for Cigna employees – While many in Visalia are hoping for happy holidays, more than 700 workers here are wondering whether members of the U.S. Senate will be able to save their jobs in the next few days.  Visalia Times-Delta article

For first time in years, San Francisco departments don’t face budget cuts – It had become a somber annual ritual in San Francisco. The heads of city departments would troop into City Hall, where, regardless of who was mayor, they would be told to cut their budgets to help close next year’s deficit. This time it was different. For the first time in at least 15 years, department heads were told they didn’t need to make trims for the fiscal year starting July 1.  San Francisco Chronicle article

California copied as states seek retirement plans – A California plan to give private-sector workers a state-run retirement savings plan is nearing $1 million in contributions, the goal set to pay for a market analysis to help design the program.  Calpensions article

Survey: U.S. gas prices fall 12 cents a gallon – A national survey reveals the average price of regular gasoline has plunged another 12 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, to $2.72.  AP article

San Jose set to legalize, tax Airbnb stays like hotel rooms — Striking one of the first deals in the country with Airbnb, San Jose is ready to start taxing residents who offer their homes for strangers, often as a way to help pay off their own sky-high housing costs.  San Jose Mercury News article

Beyond profits: Millennials embrace investing for social good — For 29-year-old Madeira and others in her generation — the millennials — the goal of a high-priced business degree isn’t a job in traditional Wall Street finance anymore. Many are embracing “socially responsible” investing, which steers money to businesses and organizations that pledge to have a positive effect on society and the planet.  LA Times article

Sacramento pro soccer boosters make noise at MLS championship — Their pursuit of a Major League Soccer franchise brought Sacramento leaders to the suburbs of Los Angeles over the weekend, and the setting couldn’t have been more spectacular.  Sacramento Bee article


Seminar will discuss climate change and California water supplies — The public has a unique opportunity Tuesday to learn about how climate change may alter the availability of water in California and to offer ideas on adapting to those changes.  Sacramento Bee article

Wade Eagleton: We must admit realities and have solutions about water – The Bakersfield resident writes, “To simply focus on prying more water from “upstream” is a short-term remedy which will just postpone addressing long-term solutions. It’s time to see our issues as over-subscribing limited resources with the good intent of supplying long-term high demand. The time has come for a game-changing innovation and approaches which will provide sufficient resources without resorting to continue to rob Peter to pay Paul.” Eagleton op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Redwoods damaged by South Bay experiments with recycled water irrigation — With a drought continuing to punish California, cities across Santa Clara County are expanding their use of recycled water to irrigate parks. But the water-saving step may put a local icon at risk: redwood trees.  KQED report


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Eric Holder to announce broader ban on racial, ethnic, other profiling — The Justice Department on Monday will unveil its new policy expanding a ban on federal law enforcement officers’ use of profiling in investigations.  LA Times article

Grand juries, with exceptions, favor police – The balance tips toward the police from the start: In most felony cases, an arrest is made and a grand jury indictment follows within a prescribed period of time. But in police fatality cases, prosecutors generally use special grand juries sitting for lengthy periods to investigate and gather evidence before determining if an arrest and indictment are warranted.  New York Times article

Hazy statistics deter firm analysis of officer-involved deaths — Ferguson, Mo. Cleveland. Staten Island, N.Y. Eutawville, S.C. In each place, individuals — all unarmed except for a child carrying a pellet gun — died at the hands of police officers. All of the dead were black. The officers involved, white. To many Americans, it feels like a national tidal wave. And yet, no firm statistics can say whether this spate of officer-involved deaths is a growing trend or simply a series of coincidences generating a deafening buzz in news reports and social media.  AP article

Valley native Mike Prado works his way up federal law enforcement ladder — Growing up in Tulare, he wanted to be a cop. During college, he worked as an investigator aide for the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, a job he continued to do after earning a degree in history from Sonoma State University in 1998. Those humble beginnings close to two decades ago have now led Prado to Washington, D.C., where he started work last week as a regional-level investigations chief for U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.  Fresno Bee article

Monday Q&A: Stanislaus advocates help victims live ‘the new normal’ — Negotiating the complexities of the judicial system can be very difficult, particularly for victims of crimes who might also be coping with the physical and emotional trauma associated with their experiences. They need to know what to expect in court, what their rights are, how to be reimbursed for medical expenses, counseling or lost wages, and sometimes they just need emotional support. For this, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office has a team of victim advocates.  Modesto Bee article

Merced Matters: Former officer shapes young lives — Bob Luna, a retired Merced police officer, has donated more than 15 years of his life to helping shape the lives of young people in Merced. Luna, 59, is one of several people involved in running the Merced Police Department’s Explorer Scouts Program, a program associated with the Boy Scouts of America.  Merced Sun-Star article


Schools work to improve vision health – Effective Jan. 1, two new state laws will clarify and expand the protocol for mandatory vision screening of students, but they don’t address the crux of a major children’s health conundrum: ensuring that students who fail the vision test actually get eyeglasses.  EdSource article

Sylvan teachers’ 2014-15 pact has 5 percent raise – Teachers with the Sylvan Union School District will get a 5 percent raise under a contract the school board could vote to ratify on Tuesday.  Modesto Bee article

Modesto City Schools to weigh denying charter, get budget update – Modesto City Schools board members will get updates on budget and school performance indicators, both of which include reader-friendly versions for the public, at their meeting Monday. They will also give a thumbs-up or -down on sponsoring a Waldorf-inspired elementary charter school.  Modesto Bee article

Fewer law school graduates pass bar exam in California – For the first time in nearly a decade, most law school graduates who took the summer California bar exam failed, adding to the pressure on law schools already dealing with plummeting enrollments, complaints about student debt and declining job prospects.  LA Times article

More money needed to fix faulty student records system in LA Unified — Los Angeles needs to spend at least $11 million more to deal with problems caused by a new and faulty student records system, officials will tell the school board this week.  LA Times article

Julie Flapan: California is failing to produce enough computer scientists – The executive director of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools writes, “California, home to Silicon Valley, is not adequately preparing its own students for the projected increase in jobs that will require computer science degrees. More than half of expected jobs in STEM fields will be in computing occupations. And it’s not just about preparing students to work in the tech industry; nearly every occupation will require some background in computer science, whether it be health care or entertainment, auto mechanics or agriculture.”  Flapan op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Visalia Unified trustees to vote on censuring of board member — Board members of Visalia Unified School District will vote at Tuesday’s board meeting on whether they will publicly censure fellow Trustee Charles Ulmschneider. The vote comes after Ulmschneider provided literature to board members outside of public board meetings. The literature was related to an issue the school board is currently addressing.  Visalia Times-Delta article



Mayor Kevin Johnson to propose plastic bag ban in Sacramento – Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will announce Monday a proposal to prohibit single-use plastic bags at stores in the city in the event that opponents of a newly adopted statewide ban are able to force a public vote on that legislation.  Sacramento Bee article

Helping hand for greener homes: San Francisco moving to finance upgrades – Four years ago, San Francisco was ready to become one of the first counties in California to adopt an innovative program giving homeowners an easy, affordable way to finance energy efficiency upgrades and solar installations. But objections from bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., stalled its implementation, and now the city will be the last Bay Area county to approve the financing program, known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE.  San Francisco Chronicle article

LA Mayor Garcetti set to unveil earthquake safety plan — Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday is scheduled to unveil his long-awaited proposal to better protect buildings and other infrastructure in Los Angeles against a major earthquake.  LA Times article


Health/Human Services

Mobile health faces a bumpy road in rural California – Steering along washed-out roads in California’s southern Sierra, Earl Ferguson gets excited when he sees white plastic stakes sticking up from the ground along the way. They’re markers of a new high-speed Internet line running from Barstow to Reno, which Ferguson helped to get built. LA Times article

Sacramento Bee: Jerry Brown seeks to add a point to dull Prop 65 warnings — California finally is retooling the ubiquitous Proposition 65 warning notices in a way that would provide people with information they actually might find useful. Good.  Sacramento Bee editorial


Land Use/Housing

Once-troubled Winton apartments see revamp — Today, the 42-unit apartment complex has changed its name to Sunrise Apartments and begun its complete transformation. Eight units have been rehabilitated with new tile floors, granite countertops and new appliances. The remaining units will be remodeled within the next few months.  Merced Sun-Star article


Other Areas

More protests: Highway 24 blocked; vandalism, looting in Berkeley — Hundreds of protesters returned to East Bay streets on Sunday for a second night of raucous demonstrations against police killings of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York. San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article; AP article

Willie Brown: A few words of advice for a conversation on race – The recent tragedies in New York and Ferguson, Mo., have renewed the decades-old call for a national “conversation” on race. Chances are we will never really have an honest conversation on race, but in the meantime, we should share a few words of advice.  San Francisco Chronicle article

With harvest season, ‘Trimmigants’ flock to California’s pot capital — Northern California’s Humboldt County is known for its towering redwoods. But the region, about 200 miles north of San Francisco, has another claim to fame. Humboldt is to weed what Napa is to fine wine — it’s the heart of marijuana production in the United States. KQED report

New Atwater mayor, council members to be sworn in — A new mayor and two council members will be sworn in during an Atwater City Council meeting Monday, opening a new chapter for the city’s government. Jim Price, 63, will take his seat on the dais as mayor, along with City Council members-elect Brian Raymond, 33, and James Vineyard, 57.  Merced Sun-Star article

Korea thanks U.S. veterans’ service with Ambassador for Peace Medals — More than 60 years after an unheralded wave of young American men and women went to war on the Korean Peninsula, a representative of the Republic of Korea came to Stockton on Sunday to recognize their service on behalf of a grateful nation.  Stockton Record article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Valley lawmakers rightfully target ADA lawsuit abuse.

Sacramento Bee – Republicans had a chance to take the high road on this and – finally – stake out a real position on immigration reform rather just standing in opposition. Instead, they chose to take the low road, yelling and kicking all the way down; California finally is retooling the ubiquitous Proposition 65 warning notices in a way that would provide people with information they actually might find useful. Good.