February 1, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Poverty disparity emerges as major issue in California – Poverty in California, and what else the state should do about it, has emerged as a major issue early in the months-long process of negotiating a state budget.  Sacramento Bee article

Train rides and Twitter: Five takeaways from the Brown/Kashkari campaign – Gov. Jerry Brown won re-election so effortlessly last year that dissecting the contest would hardly seem necessary. But the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies gave the race two hours of analysis at a conference on Saturday. From a train ride that didn’t happen to the social media lives of dogs, here are five things we learned about the campaign.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

State budget

Dan Walters: California’s budget saga sparks book — Jeff Cummins viewed the annual process of writing a state budget from the inside as a staffer in the legislative budget analyst’s office and the state auditor’s office. And when he was creating a course in public budgeting at Fresno State University, he found a dearth of material dealing with the state budget. Cummins has filled the vacuum himself with a newly published book, “Boom and Bust: The Politics of the California Budget.”  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

Kamala Harris, a front-runner for U.S. Senate, is a blank slate — As she begins her run to replace fellow Democrat Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate, there is one thing Harris has not done that could become a blessing – or burden – in a contested election: cast a vote on legislation. For all her credentials and accomplishments, she never has served in a legislative body.  Sacramento Bee article

Harris has been laying the tracks for a Senate run for a long time –  In the real world, Kamala Harris’ campaign for the U.S. Senate began just two weeks ago, days after Barbara Boxer’s Jan. 8 announcement that she would retire in 2016. In the political world, her preparations for the race have been apparent for a long time. Last fall, for example. The Democratic attorney general spent close to $1.5 million in the first 18 days of October — the last calculations available — and most of it went to the airwaves. LA Times article

John Myers: Behind the scenes in California’s race for governor — Political campaigns aren’t often summed up in a single sentence, but 2014’s race for governor may have been the rare exception. “You name it, nothing stuck to the governor.”  Myers in KQED

Dan Morain:  Family, future mingle as Beccera eyes run for Senate — Rep. Xavier Becerra was in Philadelphia with other House Democrats last week, trying to find a path back to relevancy after their November drubbing, when he took time to call his mother and father.  Morain in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

Consultant: ‘Big Soda … has Sacramento locked up’ – Larry Tramutola, a political strategist who worked on passage of Berkeley’s first-in-the-nation soda tax last year, said Saturday that soda-tax advocates will continue to advance local tax measures because they have no hope of success in the state Legislature, where he said “big soda … has Sacramento locked up.”  Capitol Alert; KQED report

Mariel Garza: A political giant awakens in Sacramento? Maybe. Hopefully – A few dozen people, mostly Latino politicos and community activists, gathered around tables at La Familia Counseling Center in south Sacramento on a recent foggy Saturday. They were there to talk about how to expand Latino representation in local politics. Nothing unusual about that, especially in light of upcoming elections for Sacramento City Council and Twin Rivers Unified School District. What was unusual was that this was the first time in years such a gathering had taken place.  Garza column in Sacramento Bee

Ann Freeman: California bill has no safeguards against elder abuse or for those who change their mind – The retired licensed clinical social worker writes, “It is important to look at the significant dangers of legalizing assisted suicide as public policy for all Californians, particularly those who might not have a strong support system; access to health care, palliative care and hospice; or the benefit of a loving, caring family. Assisted suicide legislation has many unintended consequences that can impact the vast majority of us.”  Freeman op-ed in Modesto Bee

Vance Kennedy: A right to die? – The Modesto resident writes, “Anyone who deliberately allows anyone to suffer should be held responsible for their actions. In my view, anyone objecting to the proposed law deserves to suffer prior to their own death. Then their own families will regret opposing the law.” Kennedy op-ed in Modesto Bee

Angelique Ashby: Judge women candidates on their qualifications – The mayor pro tem of the city of Sacramento writes, “I applaud The Sacramento Bee for encouraging more candidates to run for office in order to ensure more robust debate focused on the issues of the day. But then, why does The Bee not heed its own advice by covering candidates in a more substantive way?”  Ashby op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Orange County supervisor’s victory heralds rise of Asian American politicians — Do’s election gives Orange County — and most likely Southern California — its first Asian American majority Board of Supervisors. Michelle Park Steel, a Korean American, and Lisa Bartlett, a Japanese American, won seats on the five-member Orange County board in November.  LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

State let oil companies taint drinkable water in Central Valley — Oil companies in drought-ravaged California have, for years, pumped wastewater from their operations into aquifers that had been clean enough for people to drink. They did it with explicit permission from state regulators, who were supposed to protect the increasingly strained groundwater supplies from contamination.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Scientists say ozone from Asia contributes to the West’s pollution — Soaring emissions from China and other fast-growing Asian countries are blowing across the Pacific Ocean, they say, increasing baseline levels of ozone in the western U.S. In about a week, winds carry ozone formed by emissions from cars, factories and power plants in Asia to the U.S. West Coast, where it can add to locally generated pollution, worsening smog in cities such as Bakersfield, Fresno and Los Angeles.  LA Times article

CSU using more part-time faculty than full-time professors – Like private-sector employers who turned to temporary workers during the recession, California State University relied on more part-time faculty than full-time professors last academic year as the 23-campus system looked to cut costs.  Sacramento Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Modesto City Council considers raises for police – Modesto’s 163 police officers and detectives are poised to receive pay raises that would cost the city $1.37 million annually, as well as about $580,000 in retention pay they would receive until June 2016.  Modesto Bee article

Group appeals mandatory union fees to Supreme Court – Seeing an opening to weaken public-sector unions, a conservative group is asking the Supreme Court to strike down laws in California, Illinois and about 20 other states that require teachers and other government employees to pay union fees, even if they are personally opposed.  LA Times article

Pilot program to graduate first students Monday – The first group of students will graduate Monday from a new pilot program aimed not only at equipping job seekers with essential training and skills but at placing them into full-time employment as well.  Stockton Record article

Marcos Breton: A young man revives Sacramento’s old downtown – The promise of downtown Sacramento is that it will be repopulated with young people who choose to live in the urban core and breathe life into the old town. One young man is helping to make that promise reality. With stucco, wood and brick, he is building the places where these new city dwellers will live.  Sacramento Bee article

Mike Durant: Concerns about public pensions prey on fears – The president of the Police Officers Research Association of California writes, “Retirement security will be an increasingly important issue as we prepare for the largest-ever population of retired Californians. Instead of pitting groups of low- and middle-class Californians against each other, we should all be engaged in a thoughtful discussion about how to ensure retirement security continues to be part of the California dream.” Durant op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Underwater during the recession, boating/marine industry is riding a wave of sales gains – Sales of boats and marine products plunged deep underwater during the recession, but the industry has roared back in the past couple of years in the Sacramento area, throughout California and nationwide.  Sacramento Bee article

Vivek Ranadive: Trip expands Sacramento’s economic, cultural reach into India –

 The chairman and principal owner of the Sacramento Kings writes, “I believe there is great opportunity to expand Sacramento’s economic and cultural reach into India and South Asia. The Sacramento community is on the verge of going through an economic renaissance, greatly expanding our region’s business footprint and revitalizing neighborhoods.” Ranadive op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Just whose Internet is it? New federal rules may answer that? — Whose Internet is it anyway? Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, says he’s keeping that question in mind as he pitches the biggest regulatory shake-up to the telecommunications industry since 1996, when people still used noisy modems and referred to the “information superhighway” as a fun way to buy books or check the weather.  AP article


Winter skips January: ‘This just keeps getting worse’ — One look at the numbers says it all about California’s latest drought nightmare: The snowpack must grow seven times its current size in the next two months just to be average.  Fresno Bee article

First-ever rainless January in San Francisco history — The month ended with a sun-drenched bang Saturday, an apropos ending for what was the driest January on record in San Francisco. Not one drop of measurable rain fell on city streets in January, the first time that’s happened in recorded weather history, which dates back to the Gold Rush.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno Bee: Drive-by murder of Fresno youth must stop — The drive-by murder and maiming of Fresno youth by gang members must stop. But it’s not going to end or even be significantly reduced until many more of us commit to doing something about this pox in our community.  Fresno Bee editorial

Human trafficking fight shifts focus to ‘Johns’ – The District Attorney’s Office has made human trafficking one of its top three priorities, and its multi-pronged approach to cripple the illicit industry puts more focus, not just on the traffickers, but on those who drive the demand.  Stockton Record article

Donald Blount: Trying to find understanding – In Stockton, where we have a chronic crime problem, we ask for police that are trained and prepared to handle life-threatening situations, keep us safe and provide us with peace of mind. Gaining a better understanding of the officer-involved shootings in January would be a step toward all of those goals.  Blount column in Stockton Record

Tracy police dedicate training facility — Every time Tracy Police officers enter their new training facility, they’ll be reminded of the high ideal of public service. The new firearms training facility, dedicated on Saturday, will bear the name of the late Capt. John J. Serpa, whose service to country, state, county and city are part of his legacy. Not to mention his long career with the Tracy Police Department.  Stockton Record article


Burrowing into Common Core Part Two: High School — Common Core, phased in throughout local districts over the last two years, is being fully implemented statewide this school year. The new standards, in English-language arts and math, were adopted in 43 states (California included), four territories and the District of Columbia. Last weekend, The Californian reported on how elementary and middle schools were implementing the changes. Today, high schools are up. To tell the tale, a reporter recently visited several Delano Joint Union High School District classrooms.  Bakersfield Californian article

Latino teens get hard-won wisdom at Stan State conference – Johana Orellana knows firsthand how tough it is to talk to protective parents about going away to college. She started at a local community college, making friends in campus clubs but never able to attend activities after dark.  But she persevered, earning a master’s degree. Now she works as an admissions counselor at California State University, Stanislaus, where Saturday she offered her experience and expertise to teens at the Chicano Latino Youth Conference.  Modesto Bee article

Fresno State professor gets award for writing, activism – Randa Jarrar, a Fresno State assistant professor of English and published novelist, received the 2014 Lannan Residency Program fellowship award, which is given for excellence in poetry writing, essays and scholarly articles as well as social justice activism.  Fresno Bee article

Davis High offers Modesto Junior College classes during school day — The dual credit program begun this fall is unique in Modesto City Schools, though nationwide 82 percent of high schools offer similar programs, according to a 2013 report by the National Center for Education Statistics. Valley Charter High, a small school adjacent to the MJC campus, also gives students credit for passing college courses.  Modesto Bee article

Swastikas sprayed on Jewish fraternity building near UC Davis campus — Students at a UC Davis-affiliated Jewish fraternity house awoke Saturday morning to find two large swastikas spray painted onto their building.  Sacramento Bee article


Sacramento Bee: PG&E still fights community power — You might think PG&E executives would have more pressing worries than to fret over what is known as community choice aggregation.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Heather Albright: EPA should strengthen the standards for clean air – The member of the National Nurses United and California Nurses Association writes, “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to reduce harmful smog pollution nationwide. Nowhere else is this more needed than in California, where 77 percent of the population is breathing unhealthy air, which kills 25,000 people every year.”  Albright op-ed in Sacramento Bee

PG&E targeted critics after San Bruno blast, e-mails show — In the days after the 2010 San Bruno blast that killed eight people, top Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executives traded jokes and back-slapped with state regulators and tried to get them to denounce one of their most vocal critics, a Chronicle review of 65,000 e-mails shows. San Francisco Chronicle article

Health/Human Services

Fresno family medicine residency program won’t enroll a third class — A Fresno medical residency program is losing federal funds and won’t be enrolling a third class of students this spring. Friday was the deadline nationwide to sign up doctors in training programs, but on Thursday, a Fresno nonprofit organization pulled the plug on plans to enroll a freshman class of medical residents.  Fresno Bee article

Bruce Wintroub, Catherine Lucey, and Michael Peterson: UCSF is committed to pediatric patients and their families in Valley – The UCSF officials write, “The long-standing intention of the Legislature has been that the University of California play a pivotal role in addressing the health care needs of the Valley. UCSF is unequivocally committed to remaining true to that intention. Otherwise, communities lose. Patients lose. We all lose.”  Wintroub/Lucey/Peterson op-ed in Fresno Bee


Measles outbreak raises fury over California’s vaccine exemptions – California’s permissive vaccine law is under fire as the state struggles to contain an expanding outbreak of measles, a once-controlled infectious disease that has sickened more than 90 people across the state and threatens many more.  Oakland Tribune article

California stumbles at shifting care for costly patients — California’s ambitious effort to save billions of dollars by changing how the state’s costliest patients get treated is on the ropes.  LA Times article

Families, agencies struggle as senior population grows — In Kern County, people who live and work with the elderly are concerned about the ability of the local infrastructure to meet an inevitable explosion in demand. Health and social service agencies are strained as it is, with 9.5 percent of Kern’s more than 864,000 residents age 65 and older. By 2030, the California Department of Aging projects the number of Kern seniors will climb 89 percent.  Bakersfield Californian article

Land Use/Housing

Lewis Griswold: Mooney Grove plan readies Tulare County park for 21st century – The crown jewel of Tulare County parks is probably Mooney Grove Park, the 104-acre remnant of the oak forest that once dominated the region. Located south of Visalia, the land for the park was sold by the Mooney family to the county in 1909, and Johannes Reimers designed it (as well as Roeding Park in Fresno.) Mooney Grove remains popular for picnics and family reunions, but the county said it’s time for fresh thinking about additional public uses of the park in the 21st century.  Griswold in Fresno Bee


Modesto Bee: Delays on safer rail cars are unacceptable – Highly volatile crude oil has begun moving by rail through our Valley, rolling down through Sacramento into Stockton, Modesto and Merced on its way to two refineries in Bakersfield. Unfortunately, the trains carrying that oil are no safer today than they were 18 months ago when a train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Canada, killing 47 people and wiping out half the town.  Modesto Bee editorial

Prospects for second BART tube gain momentum, but wait could be long — Public officials and riders have talked for years about building a second Transbay Tube — someday. Now, with BART’s ridership soaring, trains more crowded than ever and the economy booming, the idea is getting serious attention.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

A look at ways California courts made changes in tough times — California’s court system is still trying to recover from $1 billion in budget cuts during the recession that forced layoffs and courthouse closures across the state. During that time, as people were forced to wait longer for their day in court, several court administrators and judges established innovative measures to improve access or make courts more efficient.  AP article

U.S. judges see ‘epidemic’ of prosecutorial misconduct in state — A 2010 report by the Northern California Innocence Project cited 707 cases in which state courts found prosecutorial misconduct over 11 years. Only six of the prosecutors were disciplined, and the courts upheld 80% of the convictions in spite of the improprieties, the study found.  LA Times article

Lois Henry:  Explosive case of ‘distinction without a difference’ — It’s hard to overstate how stupid California can be sometimes. In this instance, I’m talking about how state hazardous waste laws have led to an increase in illegal fireworks.  Bakersfield Californian article

Michael Fitzgerald: An elephant they’ll never forget — The elephant boat sank. The fantasy houseboat, a delightful Delta oddity moored for decades on the Calaveras River, sprang a leak and lumbered off to Davy Jones’ Locker.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The drive-by murder and maiming of Fresno youth by gang members must stop. But it’s not going to end or even be significantly reduced until many more of us commit to doing something about this pox in our community; Roman numerals are a perfect fit for this Super Bowl.

Modesto Bee – Highly volatile crude oil has begun moving by rail through our Valley, rolling down through Sacramento into Stockton, Modesto and Merced on its way to two refineries in Bakersfield. Unfortunately, the trains carrying that oil are no safer today than they were 18 months ago when a train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Canada, killing 47 people and wiping out half the town.

Sacramento Bee – You might think PG&E executives would have more pressing worries than to fret over what is known as community choice aggregation; Verily, however, let us take time, on this holiest of NFL days, to reflect upon the Ten Commandments of Football, as passed down by Lord and High Commissioner Roger Goodell.