Valley farmers, others come out against rail-water initiative — A group of central San Joaquin Valley agriculture, government and Latino leaders is raising an alarm about a proposed ballot initiative to take money away from high-speed rail and use it instead for water-storage projects in California. Fresno Bee article
Fact check: Gavin Newsom stretches impact of bond initiative — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor in 2018, came out recently against a ballot measure that, if adopted, would force large public works projects to go before voters for approval. Sacramento Bee article
AD 31: Candidates to participate in forums — Dr. Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat from Kingsburg and Fresno City Councilmember Clint Olivier, a Republican — both running for the State Assembly District 31 seat vacated by Henry T. Perea — will take part in a series of candidate forums to be held over the next five weeks. A special election will be held on April 5 to fill the vacant District 31 seat. The Business Journal article
Former Kern supervisor mulling run for Bakersfield mayor — One day after Bakersfield Mayor Harvey L. Hall announced he would not seek a fifth term in the largely ceremonial position, the field of possible replacements swelled from two to six. Facebook users tipped a new potential candidate for the job early Wednesday, in former Kern County Supervisor Karen Goh. Bakersfield Californian article
Silva files disclosure papers — Mayor Anthony Silva has filed his required campaign finance disclosure form, more than two weeks after the deadline. Stockton Record article
Pope Francis decries ‘human tragedy’ that forces migration in landmark Mass at U.S-Mexico border — Pope Francis concluded an emotional, provocative journey through Mexico Wednesday, symbolically tracing the path of migrants headed for the United States and ending up at the border that divides and unites two societies. LA Times article
Feinstein, GOP urge Apple to help feds access San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone – Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., joined several Republican presidential hopefuls Wednesday in blasting Apple for refusing to help federal agents access encrypted data on the cell phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. San Jose Mercury News article
Court order in San Bernardino case could force Apple to jeopardize phone security — Cybersecurity experts warned Wednesday that the battle over a court order requiring Apple to help the FBI access encrypted data on a cellphone belonging to the couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino will have far-reaching consequences for the tech industry. LA Times article; AP: ‘Q&A: Details about the Apple vs. Justice Dept. court fight’; New York Times article; Contra Costa Times article
George Skelton: Choose carefully – the next president could shape the Supeme Court for decades – Now on the bench are four liberals, three conservatives and one right-leaning swing vote: Anthony Kennedy of Sacramento. That’s the formula for a lot of 4-4 ties. Not only is Scalia’s seat vacant, but three justices are age 77 or more. Two others are at least 65. The next president could shape the court for decades. Skelton column in LA Times
Labor group endorses Republican Scott Jones over Ami Bera – Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, fighting for union supporters he upset by voting to advance a controversial trade agreement, has lost the backing of one labor group in his re-election battle this year. Sacramento Bee article
California lawmaker wants to ban tobacco at youth sports events – State Sen. Richard Pan is taking another swing at tobacco. The Sacramento Democrat has introduced a bill that would prohibit cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products within 250 feet of any game, practice or activity organized by a youth sports team in California where athletes under the age of 18 are present. Violators would be punished with a $100 fine. Sacramento Bee article
Prosecutors to seek 8-year prison term for ex-Sen. Leland Yee – Federal prosecutors, portraying former state Sen. Leland Yee as a cynical and corrupt lawmaker, recommended an eight-year prison sentence Wednesday for the San Francisco Democrat, who admitted accepting bribes from undercover agents posing as campaign contributors. San Francisco Chronicle article; Sacramento Bee article
Brutal campaign behind, Glazer maxes out to state Dems – There’s nothing like $70,400 in contributions to help ease hard feelings after a bitter election campaign. Tuesday, the California Democratic Party reported receiving $35,200 from state Sen. Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat who defeated party-backed rival, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, in last spring’s bitter $12.1 million special election in the East Bay’s 7th Senate District. Sacramento Bee article
Law center finds surge in extremist groups in U.S. last year — Extremist groups thrived in the United States last year as the divisive rhetoric of national political leaders fueled America’s anxieties over the country’s shifting demographics, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. New York Times article
California Government Today:
Oil conference speakers predict long, slow recovery — A slow but steady recovery in oil prices is probably ahead as the world economy works through stubborn conditions underlying the collapse in petroleum, industry professionals predicted at a conference Wednesday. Bakersfield Californian article
California bullet train headed first to San Jose – a big Bay Area win – In a huge win for the Bay Area, the state will build the first 250 miles of bullet train track between San Jose and the Bakersfield area and now aims to offer service on the line in less than a decade, according to a report set to be released Friday. San Jose Mercury News article
California school to change policy after banning gay T-shirt — A central California school district settled a free speech lawsuit brought by a high school junior who was sent home for refusing to change out of a T-shirt that read, “Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian.” The deal approved Tuesday night requires the Manteca Unified School District, which serves the cities of Stockton, Lathrop and Manteca, to adopt a policy clarifying that students may wear clothing with statements celebrating their or their classmates’ cultural identities, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. AP article; LA Times article; Stockton Record article; San Francisco Chronicle article
Jobs and the Economy
California poised to grow in 2016 and 2017, report says – Employers in Los Angeles and the rest of California will keep hiring in the next two years but at a slightly slower pace than in 2015, a new report said. The state is poised to add more than 650,000 jobs this year and next, pushing down the current 7% unemployment rate to about 5.9% by 2017, according to an annual forecast released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. LA Times article
Modesto puts $5.4 million plan to lease fire engines, trucks on hold – The Fire Department has put its nearly $5.4 million proposal to lease five new fire engines and two new ladder trucks on hold after Modesto’s new City Council members raised questions about the deal. Modesto Bee article
Online project looks to show that Merced Works – A few downtown regulars have started a project that aims to change the negative narrative they say they hear all too often about Merced. Merced Works, or www.merced.works, is an online “pet project” of three men who work in Merced. Dan Alcorn, one of the people behind the website, said he’s not afraid to put it bluntly. Merced Sun-Star article
Jeff Jardine: Little guys, too, get feelers from economic developers here, there, everywhere – Local business owner Clive Riddle forwarded to me an email he received this week from a northern Nevada business developer trying to get companies to relocate to the Silver State. Jardine column in Modesto Bee
Yahoo employees face new round of cuts, this time in magazines — Some employees in Yahoo’s media division were notified Wednesday that they are losing their jobs, as the beleaguered tech giant continues to trim its operating expenses in order to survive. San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article
Modesto’s PMZ hit with class-action lawsuit – A Southern California law firm has launched a class-action fraud lawsuit against Modesto’s PMZ Real Estate, the leading property firm in Stanislaus County and the surrounding area. Modesto Bee article
Honda leads California new-car sales for 2015 — California new-car sales leaped over the 2-million mark in 2015, up 11% over 2014 — and Honda led the charge. Total sales of 2.05 million cars and light trucks represent the best retail figures since 2005, when the state saw 2.15 million vehicles sold. LA Times article
Many small TV stations may soon be forced off the air — The Federal Communications Commission plans to use a complex auction to shift a huge swath of public airwaves from carrying TV signals to delivering wireless services to smartphones and other data-hungry mobile devices. LA Times article
California’s commercial Dungeness crab season to stay closed — Crab lovers — keep waiting. State officials decided Wednesday to keep the commercial Dungeness season shuttered until more of the coast is clear of a deadly neurotoxin that stubbornly continues to be found in some of the spindly sea creatures. San Francisco Chronicle article; San Jose Mercury News article
Andy Furillo: Golden 1 Center? If you pay to park, you own the joint — Janis Hawkins dug around in her car for quarters to feed the meter Wednesday, and Sean Eichelkraut waited for an app to download on his cellphone so he could pay to park. Two different people from two different worlds, the Oakland woman and the Sacramento man shared one thing in common – their stake in the Kings. Like it or not, if you pay to park a car in the city of Sacramento, you have a stake, too. Furillo in Sacramento Bee
State relaxes water cutback orders on local districts – Bakersfield-area water districts that have been complaining they just can’t meet the state’s water conservation rules because it’s so hot and dry here are going to get some relief. Four local water companies that have been required to cut their water use by 36 percent compared to the corresponding month in 2013 will instead have to reduce use by 33 percent starting March 1. Bakersfield Californian article
Groundwater running on a deficit in San Joaquin County – Our water “savings account” hasn’t exactly gone broke, but it’s sure getting harder to make a withdrawal. To the surprise of no one, groundwater levels in the fall of 2015 plummeted to new historic lows in portions of San Joaquin County, worse even than the previous “low-water” year of 1992. Stockton Record article
How other districts see 2016 supply – Here’s how things stand for major water suppliers other than the Turlock Irrigation District, which announced a tentative boost in deliveries Tuesday. Modesto Bee article
New radar better predicts just where and how much rain to expect — As a wet and windy storm blows in off the Pacific, a new San Jose-based radar system is watching it with the greatest precision ever, estimating rainfall in individual communities rather than providing a more general Bay Area forecast. San Jose Mercury News article
Progress in stopping high-tech nuts thieves – Local law enforcement is focusing efforts to derail sophisticated thieves who have stolen millions of dollars worth of pistachios and almonds — often by the truckload — in central and northern California. Visalia Times-Delta article
Merced applies to redo community rose garden, save water – Merced will apply for a grant to make its community rose garden more water-efficient after a vote this week. The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to apply for $20,000 from the state Department of Water Resources to cover the materials and labor to replace about 10,700 square feet of turf that surrounds the Laura Fountain in Applegate Park. Merced Sun-Star article
Artists walk for bees in almond orchards in Stanislaus, elsewhere — Three Oregon artists dressed as Melissae, ancient priestesses of the bee, embarked Wednesday on a 100-mile walk along California almond orchards to draw attention to the honeybee die-off crisis. Modesto Bee article
Motorists can help reduce water pollution — Continued vehicle maintenance, securing transportation loads and observing proper trash disposal habits will go towards reducing pollutants filtering into the waterways, Caltrans stated. When possible, using public transportation will also reduce pollution. Visalia Times-Delta article
Fresno County sheriff’s sergeant describes Salinas shooting as ‘non-lethal situation’ — The lone law enforcement officer who didn’t shoot Charles Salinas in June 2012 testified Wednesday in a federal civil rights, excessive force trial that the suicidal Marine Corps veteran never posed a “lethal threat” when three Sanger police officers fatally shot Salinas with assault rifles. Fresno Bee article
Lawyer for arson suspect in Pete Dern blaze will put Fresno Fire Department ‘on trial’ — A deal to put the woman suspected of starting the fire that severely injured Fresno Fire Capt. Pete Dern behind bars for seven years was derailed in Fresno County Superior Court on Wednesday, and the case now appears to be headed for trial. Fresno Bee article
Modesto City Schools teachers get 6 percent deal – The deal Modesto City Schools offered its teachers after a marathon 14-hour bargaining session Friday includes a 4 percent raise retroactive to July 1, a 1.7 percent hike effective Jan. 1 and a 0.3 percent increase in health benefits. Modesto Bee article
Turlock lays out wish list for next university president – The state search committee came to hear what the campus community hopes to see in the next California State University, Stanislaus, president. Dozens of speakers gave them a long list. Modesto Bee article
Discussion: Clovis Unified’s controversial dress code – To tell us more about the controversy we are joined by Fresno Bee Education Reporter Mackenzie Mays who has covered the issue extensively. She told Joe Moore on Valley Edition that the proposal for change was sparked by Buchanan High student William Pleasant’s complaints against the district saying that he wasn’t allowed to enroll his senior year because his hair was too long. Later, the ACLU got involved. Lois Henry with The Bakersfield Californian also joined Moore on Valley Edition. KVPR report
National foundation aimed at improving grad rates launches in Fresno – A national organization aimed at improving graduation rates launched its campaign Wednesday in Fresno, partnering with Fresno State and Fresno Unified School District among other educational agencies. Fresno Bee article
State Sen. Jean Fuller: Programs that build our students’ minds and bodies – The California State Senate Republican Leader writes, “As an educator for more than three decades of my life, I can personally attest to the correlation between a strong body on the track or sports field and a strong mind in the classroom. That’s why in my role as your elected representative in Sacramento, I continue to fight for programs that build our students’ minds and bodies.” Fuller op-ed in Bakersfield Californian
Folsom Cordova schools to ponder limits on outside emails to families – Trustees of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District on Thursday night will consider limiting what types of groups may send email fliers to district families, a move intended to avoid last October’s backlash when notices sent to parents promoted “Bring Your Bible to School Day” and the atheist “Freethought Day.” Sacramento Bee article
Gov. Brown proposes competition to create new high school math course – Tucked inside Gov. Jerry Brown’s projected 2016-17 budget is a proposal for an unusual state-funded competition to address a long-standing challenge facing high school seniors: getting them better prepared for college-level math. EdSource article
Chris Ungar: State’s schools are still underfunded – The president of the California School Boards Association writes, “By nearly every measure – funding, staffing or infrastructure – we’re lagging behind other states and countries. And expectations and challenges for California schools are only increasing.” Ungar op-ed in Sacramento Bee
Joe Mathews: California students can learn a lot from the movies – California teachers, you should be showing your students more movies – and not for baby-sitting purposes. As our state considers new frameworks for how history and social science are taught, now is the time to incorporate that signature California art form – film – into classes in every grade. Movies should be placed at the center of our efforts to teach history, especially California’s. Mathews in Sacramento Bee
Henry Petrino: Not so F-ast, Modesto City Schools – The Modesto resident writes, “On June 7, Measure F will appear on the ballot (again). Simply put, voters will be asked whether or not to amend the city charter and allow Modesto City Schools to change from electing board members at large, serving the entire district, or as trustees in a designated area.” Petrino op-ed in Modesto Bee
Another Cal State Long Beach fraternity shut down – this one for four years — The Cal State Long Beach chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which has been under investigation by several agencies since early October, when two female students reported being sexually assaulted at a party at the off-campus fraternity, will be closed for no less than four years, a spokesman with the group’s national headquarters said Wednesday. Long Beach Press Telegram article
Planned homes in Turlock to remain in Denair schools — A Stanislaus County panel denied the petition by developers to shift new homes going up on the eastern edge of Turlock into the Turlock Unified School District. Modesto Bee article
Former state senator appointed to air board – Former Kern County state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, has been appointed to a seat on the California Air Resources Board. The state agency is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality through regulations. Florez was appointed Wednesday by California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and the state Senate’s Rules Committee. Bakersfield Californian article; Sacramento Bee article
Dean Florez: I will fight for all Valley residents on state air board – The former state senator and recently appointed member of the California Air Resources Board writes, “Having represented one of the most polluted regions of our nation – California’s Central Valley – for more than a decade, I am honored by this opportunity to continue pushing groundbreaking work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the benefit of disproportionately impacted disadvantaged communities.” Florez op-ed in Fresno Bee
Sacramento County to consider banning plastic bags – Sacramento County plans to consider a ban on free plastic grocery checkout bags. At the request of Supervisor Phil Serna, county staff will hold a workshop on the proposal on March 8 and consider an ordinance as early as March 22. Sacramento Bee article
Many agree: Hyacinth’s a gas – Water hyacinth, the invasive water weed that carpets San Joaquin Delta channels in the warm season, choking out native species, degrading water quality, blocking recreational boaters and interfering with commercial ship traffic, holds promise as a biofuel. Stockton Record article
Gov. Jerry Brown wants state to put $176 million toward Exide cleanup – Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday announced a plan to spend $176.6 million to expedite the testing and cleanup of potentially thousands of lead-contaminated homes surrounding a shuttered battery recycling plant in Vernon, significantly boosting state resources for a cleanup that ultimately could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article
Recovery plans for Rough fire area to be discussed — Hume Lake Ranger District personnel have taken a three-fold approach to stabilizing the charred areas left behind by the Rough Fire in November, the U.S. Department of Forestry stated. Visalia Times-Delta article
Pipeline corrosion caused Santa Barbara oil spill, federal officials say — Federal regulators say corrosion on the outside of an oil pipeline was the cause of a major crude spill on the Santa Barbara coast last year. AP article
Potential TB exposure: Veterans Affairs medical center employee tests positive for tuberculosis – In October, an employee at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Palo Alto that serves veterans in San Joaquin and Calaveras counties tested positive for tuberculosis. The employee continued to work at the hospital until management was notified in January. In the interim, the VA has determined that as many as 177 veterans and 53 medical center employees were potentially exposed to the infectious respiratory disease that passes from one person to another through coughing and sneezing. Stockton Record article
Sacramento joins efforts to prevent black children’s deaths – The Sacramento City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to invest $750,000 in a $26 million county-led program designed to bring down the region’s alarming number of African American child deaths, marking a commitment to improving outcomes in one of Sacramento’s most disadvantaged communities. Sacramento Bee article
Tulare Regional Medical Center claims initial victory in legal battle — Officials with Tulare Regional Medical Center claimed a initial victory in court Wednesday in a legal dispute over who should oversee doctors at the hospital. Visalia Times-Delta article
California porn industry protest rules mandating condoms — Adult film executives are complaining that proposed state health and safety regulations threaten to drive the industry out of the state. California regulators with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) will vote on new rules Thursday that would require performers to use condoms, dental dams, and even eye gear on set. KQED report
Sacramento Bee: Sacramento region has transportation plan for climate-change era – A 20-year transportation plan expected to be approved Thursday is an eminently sensible blueprint to put the Sacramento region on the right track of improved air quality, more infill development and enhanced transit options. Sacramento Bee editorial
Gustine families move in to Self-Help homes they built as a team — After about one year of construction, 10 Gustine families on Wednesday celebrated the completion of their new homes that they built together. The new homeowners built the houses in the Borrelli Ranch subdivision through Self-Help Enterprises, a nonprofit that partners with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help families build sustainable homes. Merced Sun-Star article
Joel Fox: Bullet train runs off-rail –again — It has often been said that in life, timing is everything. Those supporting an initiative to divert money dedicated from high speed rail bonds to water storage projects likely will embrace that bit of wisdom with the revelation that the Central Valley segment of the bullet train is now facing a potential cost overrun of $260-million or a 5 percent increase over projected costs. Fox in Fox & Hounds
Funding in the lurch for half-done Pelandale overcrossing — Low gas prices may bring relief to motorists, but less tax money is bad news for road projects. The problem is so bad throughout California that Modesto conceivably could face a halt on its overhaul of the Pelandale Avenue crossing over Highway 99, a $55 million project expected to finish about the end of this year. Modesto Bee article
Final Hornet jet at Lemoore air station takes off for last time – Just before noon Wednesday, the last F/A-18C Hornet fighter jet stationed here flew off into the wild blue yonder, never to return as a Lemoore-based jet. Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article
Marriage: ‘No thanks’ or ‘not yet’ say nearly half of California adults — California is on the verge of becoming a state where most adults are single, a sea change that has accelerated in the last 15 years, the latest census figures show. About 51 percent of Californians over 18 are currently married, down from about 74 percent in 1960. Over the same period, the proportion of California adults who have never married has more than doubled, rising from 13 percent in 1960 to about 34 percent today. Sacramento Bee article
Grand Jury committee scrutinizes Buttonwillow parks district — A 2015-2016 Kern County Grand Jury committee visited the Buttonwillow Recreation and Parks District west of Bakersfield in December and found it appeared “well run” but its current budget included “an approximate $260,000 deficit.” Bakersfield Californian article
Valley Editorial Roundup
Fresno Bee – Even in the hyperdrive of an election year, President Barack Obama has a duty to nominate the most qualified person he can find to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
Merced Sun-Star – The FCC could deal a small blow to cable’s TV monopoly.
Modesto Bee –– The FCC could deal a small blow to cable’s TV monopoly.
Sacramento Bee – A 20-year transportation plan expected to be approved Thursday is an eminently sensible blueprint to put the Sacramento region on the right trackof improved air quality, more infill development and enhanced transit options; The public may never get the whole sordid story on the California Coastal Commission’s firing last week of its executive director, but it’s not too late to insist that the powerful land-use board – and the consultants who make millions lobbying its members – be subjected to future transparency.
Sunday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. on ABC 30 – Maddy Report: “Bad Apples: Blowing the Whistle on Improper Government Activities” – Guest: California State Auditor Elaine Howle. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler.
Sunday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. on Newstalk 580 (KMJ) – Maddy Report-Valley Views Edition: “Exposing Fraud, Waste and Abuse in State and Local Government” – Guests: Paul Hurley, former editorial page editor of the Visalia Times-Delta, and Bill McEwen, opinion page editor of the Fresno Bee. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler.
Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 a.m. on Fresno Univision 21 (KFTV)– El Informe Maddy Report: “IT Issues in State Government” – Guests: Margarita Fernandez, chief of Public Affairs, Office of the California State Auditor, and Lourdes Morales, an analyst with the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Deputy Director Ana Melendez.
The Maddy Report airs throughout California on The Cal Channel. Check http://www.calchannel.com to find the Cal Channel and schedule in your area. You also can view previous Maddy Report programs in their entirety at http://www.maddyinstitute.org/policy-analysis/the-maddy-report-tv.
- Fresno State President Joseph Castro and other university officials will hold a Community Conversation in the West Hills Community College conference facility, 555 College Ave., Lemoore on Tuesday, March 1, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.Seating for this free event is limited, so RSVPs should be made by February 26 at www.fresnostate.edu/presidentrsvp using the code “Lemooreforum.”
- The International Green Industry Hall of Fame will hold its sixth annual conference and induction ceremony at Buchanan High School in Clovis on March 9. Registration information is available here.
- The 2016 San Joaquin Valley Parks Summit will be held at Bitwise South Stadium in Fresno on Thursday, May 12, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration launches March 1. More information: Jenna Chilingerian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next 10: UPDATED California budget challenge – For the first time in a decade, California’s budget is largely in balance. However, the state has outstanding debts of $28 million, not counting long-term pension and retiree health care costs. Budget choices affect us all. Take the Challenge and decide how much should be spent on programs and where the money should come from. Next 10 California Budget Challenge
Next 10: Federal budget challenge — The Federal Budget Challenge is based on The Concord Coalition’s Principles and Priorities budget exercise, which has been used in numerous town hall meetings across the country by members of Congress from both parties, as well as in hundreds of high school and college classrooms. Next 10 Federal Budget challenge at www.federalbudgetchallenge.org.
Next 10: California Water Challenge – As our state faces some of the most severe drought conditions in its history, Next 10 wants to issue a new challenge to Californians: can you create a plan to make sure there’s enough water for everyone? Next 10 California Water Challenge
LEGISLATORS’ VOTING RECORDS: How often has a California legislator broken party ranks, abstained or switched sides? The Sacramento Bee has a database of the voting records of every member of the state Senate and Assembly. Enter a lawmaker’s last and first names to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. Check it out at this link. http://www.sacbee.com/votingrecord/
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Maddy Institute Updates List of San Joaquin Valley Elected Officials – The Maddy Institute has updated its list of San Joaquin Valley elected officials. The list is available here
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