February 18, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

California legislation would create single-payer health care system – A push for a single-payer health care system in California is making a comeback. State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County) plans to introduce legislation Friday to create a single system that would provide health insurance to every California resident. San Francisco Chronicle articleSan Jose Mercury News articleLA Times article

Nunes asks FBI to investigate Trump leaks — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Friday sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation asking it to investigate the leaks of classified information that have produced a series of damaging media reports on President Donald Trump’s administration, according to three sources familiar with the letter. Politico article

Valley politics

Fresno Bee: Nunes’ intelligence obligations Trumped by loyalty to president — We know now that the Tulare congressman’s bold pursuit of truth comes with an asterisk. He will always shine a bright light into dark corners on behalf of San Joaquin Valley farmers. But when there is the potential to embarrass an ally such as President Donald Trump, his flashlight suddenly is out of batteries. Fresno Bee editorial

A new Brandau billboard campaign spreads pro-dam, pro-water message — Again with the billboards?! Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau is at it again, bringing a populist pro-water message to Valley roadsides with a handful of new billboards paid for by the Taxpayers Association of Central California.  Fresno Bee article

Dear Kevin – More letters from Bakersfield Californian readers to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).  Bakersfield Californian letters

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California Politics Podcast: From crisis to politicking — This week: Lawmakers respond to the emergency at the state’s most important waterway dam. We also discuss a new push for a California single-payer health plan, and a look at other big bills introduced in the Legislature. With John Myers and Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times and Anthony York of the Grizzly Bear Project.  California Politics Podcast


After clamoring for answers from immigration officials, Democrats say they were told arrests will be broad – Democrats in Congress say Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told them Thursday the agency plans to employ a broader brush in making immigration arrests, armed with a new executive order from President Trump. LA Times article

Constraints threaten Trump’s promise of a immigration crackdown – President Trump’s efforts to secure the nation’s borders and get tough on illegal immigrants, announced just days after he took office, now face serious logistical problems along with the legal challenges that threaten his ability to make good on a central campaign promise.  New York Times article

Trump Today: Report that Guard could be used to round up immigrants is ‘false’ – The White House on Friday labeled as “false” a memo reportedly drafted by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that indicated the Trump administration was considering using up to 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants. San Francisco Chronicle article

AP Exclusive: DHS weighed National Guard for immigration roundups – The White House distanced itself Friday from a Department of Homeland Security draft proposal to use the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants, but lawmakers said the document offers insight into the Trump administration’s internal efforts to enact its promised crackdown on illegal immigration. AP article

That draft order targeting 11 states would miss more than half of undocumented immigrants – There are any number of hard-to-understand components to the draft memo that reportedly circulated in the White House, mobilizing 100,000 National Guard members to act as a deportation force for immigrants in the country illegally in 11 southwestern states. But one issue is that the proposal — which the White House says isn’t on the table — targets states that are home to less than half of the estimated undocumented immigrant population. Washington Post article

Small group pushes leaders to declare Merced a ‘sanctuary city’ – Speakers at a Merced town hall-style meeting this week asked city leaders to declare the town a “sanctuary city.” At least two residents asked the city leaders to consider the symbolic self-designation during the downtown meeting at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. Merced Sun-Star article

Foon Rhee: If there are deportation sweeps, here’s where the impact and protests will be – In fact, most undocumented immigrants live in just 20 major metro areas, according to a study that gives a clearer picture of the potential impact if Trump follows through on sweeping deportations. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that five of those metro areas are in California: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. Rhee in Sacramento Bee

Some immigrants, fearful of political climate, shy away from Medi-Cal – Some foreign-born Californians are canceling their Medi-Cal coverage or declining to enroll in the first place, citing fears of a Trump administration crackdown on immigrants. Sacramento Bee article

Mexican consulates flooded with fearful immigrants – These are demanding times for the 50 Mexican consulates scattered throughout the United States. With Mr. Trump’s promise to crack down on immigrants living in the United States illegally and an executive order that vastly expands who is considered a priority for deportation, Mexicans living here illegally are increasingly on edge. New York Times article

Nicole Garza: Why me? Why was I so fortunate to be born in America? – The Central High student writes, “I ask that before we decide to label these individuals according to their stereotypes, we first take the time to listen to their stories, understand their struggles, because I can assure you that the majority of them are not here to bring crime, drugs, disease, violence or terrorism. They are here to escape all of that.” Garza op-ed in Fresno Bee

Other areas

Joe Mathews: California’s job: make America great again — Put simply, California must delegitimize Trump before he delegitimizes us. There are two ways California must go on offense. First comes the fist: Californians should aggressively question Trump’s legitimacy as president. Second comes the outstretched hand: We must bolster our state’s own legitimacy by reaching out to the rest of America and reaffirming how proud we are to be a part of this country. Mathews in San Francisco Chronicle

Should teachers and state workers get Election Day off? – Presidential and midterm statewide elections would become California holidays under a pair of recently introduced bills, potentially adding California to the ranks of several states that have some version of election holidays. Sacramento Bee article

Padilla denounced voter fraud claims: ‘Now I know how Elizabeth Warren felt’ — After President Donald Trump recently alleged widespread voter fraud in the November election, the National Association of Secretaries of State, run by a majority of Republicans, issued a statement saying it was unaware of any evidence supporting his claims. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Vet bills adding up? California bill would let you write off thousands – If you own a pet, you’ve likely cringed after reading the bottom line of a vet bill. A state assemblyman wants to ease the financial burden of pet ownership with an income tax credit that allows Californians to write off half the money they spend on vet costs up to $2,000 per year. Sacramento Bee article

Andrew Fiala: Current violence in political discourse leads to futility, rather than real solutions – The professor of philosophy and director of The Ethics Center at Fresno State writes, “The political world is chaotic. People are angry and anxious. These negative emotions are dangerous. Hatred creates unhappiness. Fear prevents progress. And incivility undermines democracy. This is a bipartisan truth, a universal teaching of moral and political philosophy. We need to understand the futility of violence – and the power of nonviolence.” Fiala column in Fresno Bee

Gerald Cantu: Rant ignored the facts behind gun vote – The Civic Engagement Director at the Dolores Huerta Foundation and lecturer in the Philosophy Department at CSU Bakersfield writes, “Inga Barks’ Feb. 9 column, “Huerta Foundation isn’t shooting straight with us,” reads more like a social media rant rather than a documented, researched newspaper essay. In falsely accusing the Dolores Huerta Foundation, her ‘source’ turns out to be none other than Mike Williams and his Facebook posts.” Cantu op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

‘I wasn’t Mexican enough, I wasn’t white enough,’ says racism panelist — As Jose Arrellano, a self-described “big dude, all tatted up,” spoke Friday at the World Meeting of Popular Movements’ panel session on racism, he took the audience back to his childhood.  Modesto Bee article

Presidential Politics

Popular domestic programs face ax under first Trump budget – The White House budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that President Trump could eliminate to trim domestic spending, including longstanding conservative targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities. New York Times article

Republican leaders tire of Trump drama, but GOP activists close ranks – The chaos of President Donald Trump’s White House has Republican leaders scrambling to defend what they hope will soon be a functional administration. But cracks in that resolve are starting to show amid a seemingly endless series of self-inflicted setbacks. McClatchy Newspapers article

Donald Trump ignited a massive protest movement.  Will it work? – Can the flurry of activity help protesters, whom the Trump administration has largely dismissed as paid operatives or sore losers, accomplish their aims? Sacramento Bee article

Trump said he would isolate his family businesses, but they have already seeped into White House – The ethics firewall built by Trump’s attorneys already has failed to prevent complications from his family’s businesses from seeping into the presidency. LA Times article

Trump’s storm keeps Democrats busy on many fronts – Nearly a month into the Trump presidency, a whirlwind of presidential tweets, executive orders and White House controversies have all but swamped House Democrats and their leader, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, in their ability to respond effectively.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Trump calls the news media ‘the enemy of the American people’ – President Trump, in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s press organizations, wrote on Twitter on Friday that the nation’s news media “is the enemy of the American people.” New York Times article

Trump may allow states some leeway with marijuana – Here’s one thing Californians might not have to worry about from the Trump administration: interference in the state’s annual $7 billion cannabis industry. San Francisco Chronicle article

Feinstein: Trump trademark in China may violate Constitution — A decision by the Chinese government to grant President Donald Trump a trademark for his brand could be a breach of the U.S. Constitution, a senior Democratic senator warned Friday. Politico article

News Stories – Top Stories

Lack of oversight kept at least $1 million of taxpayer losses hidden — Nobody was watching where the money went. That’s why three Kern County government agencies couldn’t stop the systematic pillaging of at least $1 million in taxpayer money from “clearing accounts” in the county treasury over the past two years. Bakersfield Californian article

Feds delay grant approval for Bay Area rail electrification — Federal Transit Administration has put the brakes on a $647 million grant to help pay for electrification of a commuter train system on the San Francisco Peninsula that was considered a key part of extending California’s planned high-speed rail line to the Bay Area. Fresno Bee articleSan Francisco Chronicle articleLA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Homeless numbers in Merced have gone down, advocates say – Fewer people are living on the street in Merced County, according to numbers released Friday from homeless advocates. The number of homeless people in Merced County living in a shelter or on the street was 454, down 12.5 percent, members of the Merced County Continuum of Care said Friday. A tally from the group conducted in January found more than a third, or 156, were living in shelters or transitional housing programs. Merced Sun-Star article

Legal pot: What effect on local business, workers? – Now that recreational pot is legal in California, what will be the effect on local businesses? For businesses that might be interested in selling products containing marijuana, that’s currently a no-go in Hanford. Hanford Sentinel article

Survey: Fresno business owners an optimistic bunch – Researchers who polled 693 small businesses across California, Oregon and Washington report that 56 percent of the people polled at Fresno County businesses believe that the national economy was headed in the right direction, a higher rate than the 53 percent of the people polled in all three states who offered the same opinion. The Business Journal article

CalPERS calls for a reroute of Dakota Access Pipeline — CalPERS and more than 100 other investment groups are calling on banks financing the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to pressure the company building it to reroute it away from the American Indian tribe that has protested its construction. Sacramento Bee article

Biz Beat: A new tire shop in Riverbank, U-Haul in Westley, and a new future for longtime Modesto vacancy — Crossroads at Riverbank, the bustling shopping center at Claribel and Oakdale roads, seems to be about full with its latest tenant. Modesto Bee article

Former mayors split over how to LA — Richard Riordan grumbled to two other former Los Angeles mayors on Thursday about the traffic clogging his Brentwood neighborhood. “How long does it take to get to downtown L.A. to go to the theater at night?” he asked. LA Times article


Storm rakes Valley with surging rain totals and blustery winds – A windy and sodden Pacific storm raked the San Joaquin Valley on Friday, pushing rain totals toward records, triggering mudslides and road closures and threatening to rupture a levee near Tranquillity. Fresno Bee articleModesto Bee article

Valley’s rain totals take aim at fourth-wettest year so far – Fresno’s rainfall total so far this season is climbing the records list, moving to fifth by Friday morning. Fresno also has exceeded its average rainfall total for the rain season, which ends Sept. 30, climbing past 11.50 inches. Fresno Bee article

Locals benefit from World Ag Expo – It’s no surprise people from all over agriculture industry come to the World Ag Expo. It’s a time to showcase the best technology and learn how to be more efficient within a specific trade. What worldwide visitors don’t realize is they are playing a large role in the small community of Tulare County. The economic impact, aside from the hotels, meals, gas and other travel expenses, lasts long after the show ends. Visalia Times-Delta article‘Ag show economics’ in Visalia Times-Delta

AP Exclusive: If California dam failed, people likely stuck – Communities immediately downstream of California’s Lake Oroville dam would not receive adequate warning or time for evacuations if the 770-foot-tall dam itself — rather than its spillways — were to abruptly fail, the state water agency that operates the nation’s tallest dam repeatedly advised federal regulators a half-decade ago. AP article

Oroville Dam update: Spillway releases dialed back further as state works to clear debris, restart power plant — Saying the reservoir has fallen low enough to handle inflows from approaching storms, operators at Oroville Dam will continue to dial back releases from its cracked main spillway Friday afternoon and into Saturday. Sacramento Bee article

Oroville emergency spawns bill to require spillway inspections – Responding to the emergency at Oroville Dam, a Northern California lawmaker said Friday that he’s carrying legislation requiring state officials to perform annual inspections of auxiliary spillways at Department of Water Resources-managed dams. Sacramento Bee article

Officials feel Oroville will avoid crisis, but residents fret as mega-storm moves in: ‘It’s a bad dream’ — At Oroville Dam on Friday, it was all about maintaining a delicate balance. For days, officials have been rapidly reducing the water level of the massive reservoir after both dam spillways sustained major damage. Now they are expressing confidence that the situation was stable even as rain fell. LA Times article

Oroville Dam: What made the spillway collapse? — How did a giant, gaping hole tear through the massive Oroville Dam’s main concrete spillway last week, setting in motion the chain of events that could have led to one of America’s deadliest dam failures? Dam experts around the country are focusing on a leading suspect: Tiny bubbles. San Jose Mercury News article

Oroville shows importance of flood insurance – The near-disaster at Lake Oroville last week shows once again why homeowners and renters might consider buying flood insurance, even if their lender does not require it. San Francisco Chronicle article

‘Mass chaos’ of Oroville evacuation strategy prompts worry over exit strategy – Thousands of north Sacramento Valley residents will never forget last Sunday night. It was the night they got stuck in the scariest traffic jam they will ever know. Sacramento Bee article

Flood threat: Don Pedro spillway to open if storm delivers forecasted rain – The Turlock Irrigation District said the spillway on Don Pedro Dam will be opened early next week if the forecasted rain from a large storm occurs. Modesto Bee articleKQED report

It took 10 months, but Valley raisin growers, packers finally agree on price for 2016 crop – After 10 months of negotiations, central San Joaquin Valley raisin farmers and packers finally have agreed to a price of $1,100 a ton for the 2016 crop, a drop of 31 percent from the previous year. Although raisin farmers are taking a hit, they realize the industry is going through several challenges, including a rise in foreign competition. Fresno Bee article

Sacramento on pace for wettest year in a century – It hasn’t rained this much this fast in Sacramento during any year in more than a century, according to a Sacramento Bee review of the latest federal data. About 23.5 inches of rain had fallen in Sacramento between Oct. 1 and Feb. 10, according to the National Climatic Data Center. That’s double the average for this point in the water year. Sacramento Bee article

At least 4 dead amid major flooding, mudslides as biggest storm in years barrels into LA area – A storm that forecasters billed as the most powerful in years barreled into Southern California on Friday, flooding multiple freeways, triggering dramatic mudslides and downing hundreds of trees and power lines. LA Times article

Merging farming and art, Nikiko Masumoto keeps her family’s roots alive — Every summer, Nikiko Masumoto anxiously handpicks the first organic peach of the season on her family’s farm, hoping the care and love the Masumotos have put into the fruit’s cultivation will bring a smile to whoever eats it. NBC News report

Grower brings farming app to the masses — Brad Gleason isn’t a software developer, but the Fresno man is top notch at running the business side of farming operations, as he and a partner own and operate a business that manages about 12,000 acres of pistachio orchards. The Business Journal article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Officer, suspect in fatal Newman shooting identified — The man fatally shot by a Newman police officer has been identified as 55-year-old Mauro Garnica of Newman, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department reported Friday afternoon. Modesto Bee article


Starving college students? Fresno City College works to combat very real hunger issues – The term “starving college student” is sometimes thrown around in a lighthearted way to describe 20-year-olds cooking noodles in a microwave – the one true culinary vessel in every dorm room. But for Sean Henderson, Fresno City’s interim dean for student services, the phrase has lost some of its humor. Fresno Bee article

Stanford says ‘no’ to sanctuary campus label – Stanford University leaders have decided not to take on the “sanctuary campus” label, a student group said Thursday after meeting with top school officials to ask for greater protections for undocumented immigrants. San Jose Mercury News article

With program in limbo, Merced parents face child care shortage – An extended-day program for students in the Merced City School District faces possible elimination for a second time as officials say they need to raise rates to cover expenses. Elimination of the fee-based Youth Enrichment Program would mean middle-class Merced parents would be left with even fewer options in an already tight child care market. Merced Sun-Star article

Ruben Casas: Fresno State: Why not restore an old Fresno theater? – The assistant professor of English at Fresno State writes, “Fresno is full of historic and beautiful theaters that, despite having fallen into disrepair, are the ideal intimate spaces the university seeks for its arts and humanities programs. Rather than build something shiny and new, couldn’t the university partner with the city and with developers to rehabilitate these?” Casas op-ed in Fresno Bee

Ramon Chacon, known as leader in Latino studies, saw West Fresno as motivation — Ramón Chacón, a Santa Clara University professor and leader in Latin studies who grew up in Fresno, has died. Fresno Bee article


Kings County starts climate impact study – The state was offering a grant to counties to study and prepare for local effects of climate change, and Kings County went for it. This week, county supervisors accepted $9,900 in federal money funneled through the state to have employees at the Kings County Department of Public Health conduct the study, which should finish up in May. Hanford Sentinel article

PG&E says it will not appeal its criminal convictions — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. says it will not appeal its felony convictions for violating safety laws and obstructing a federal investigation of the deadly San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, a step the utility calls part of its renewed commitment to public protection. San Francisco Chronicle article

PG&E uses safety, financial performance to reward executives — PG&E was accused during its criminal trial linked to a fatal explosion in San Bruno that it put profits ahead of safety, but a new regulatory filing on Friday that detailed plans for $22.7 million in compensation for top executives indicated safety is becoming a more important priority. East Bay Times article

The murky future of nuclear power in the U.S. – In what was supposed to be America’s nuclear century, a renaissance has fizzled as costs soar, green energy makes gains and regulatory pain rises. New York Times article

Explosion hits Torrance refinery; police, fire respond — Torrance police and fire units were responding to an explosion reported at the Torrance Refining Co. complex, but officials said there was no immediate threat to the public. LA Times article

Health/Human Services 

U.S. hospitals lawyer up on worries Trump might restrict foreign doctors— Hospital systems throughout the United States are lining up lawyers to fight President Donald Trump’s restrictions on legal immigration, fearful the White House could limit the number of foreign-born doctors who work in America and cripple their ability to provide necessary care. McClatchy Newspapers article

Sex-trafficking victims get specialized care at Mercy clinic; doctors watch for telltale signs – Family physician Ronald Chambers has spent hours searching the website Backpage to see if he might recognize former patients among the dozens of girls posing and smiling in sex ads. He wonders if their layers of makeup hide bruises or if he might have missed the telltale signs of sex trafficking in patients at his south Sacramento clinic. Sacramento Bee article

Kaweah Delta appoints interim CEO — Kaweah Delta Health Care District has named an interim chief executive officer. Tom Rayner, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the health care district, was appointed Thursday to become interim CEO at a special board meeting. Visalia Times-Delta article


Hillsides are ‘weeping,’ falling on California’s mountain highways — As the rain and snow have fallen this winter, so have California’s hillsides, forcing the closure of major roads through the Sierra Nevada and causing millions of dollars in damage. The California Department of Transportation estimates that the winter’s pounding storms have caused $400 million in damage to California highways. And the worst may still be coming. Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Lewis Griswold: Farmersville is finally getting a library.  Here’s how the city did it – Farmersville is about to open a public library after several years without one. Using money from a federal Community Development Block Grant, the city is contracting with the Tulare County Library for a librarian. Last week, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors agreed to the plan. Griswold in Fresno Bee

Officials fix tripping hazard at new Kings courthouse – State officials are shelling out thousands of dollars to rebuild the plaza outside the new Kings County Courthouse following ongoing issues with distracted visitors tripping on the stairs. Hanford Sentinel article

David ‘Mas’ Masumoto: Remembering the pain and shame of Japanese American internment — For Japanese Americans, Feb. 19, 1942 – 75 years ago – marks the day 110,000 Americans were falsely accused and were denied their rights as citizens with the signing of Executive Order 9066. Today commemorates a dark moment in our nation’s history when painful memories were hidden and secluded because a people were judged by the color of their skin. Today I also hear echoes from this past as the call to isolate, discriminate and segregate rises and people are again judged by their race and not by their character. Masumoto column in Fresno Bee

A prominent Merced bishop, civil rights leader dies at 71 — Dwight Amey Sr., a longtime bishop of a prominent south Merced church and a central leader of civil-rights causes in Merced, has died. Merced Sun-Star article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – We know now that (Devin Nunes’) bold pursuit of truth comes with an asterisk. He will always shine a bright light into dark corners on behalf of San Joaquin Valley farmers. But when there is the potential to embarrass an ally such as President Donald Trump, his flashlight suddenly is out of batteries; Some presidents, men in granite, immediately come to mind on holidays like this one. Then there are the all-too-human rest.

Modesto Bee – In a time of growing political anger even between neighbors, perhaps we should extend an open hand – be willing to help, but also willing to ask for it.

Sacramento Bee –- Some presidents, men in granite, immediately come to mind on holidays like this one. Then there are the all-too-human rest; Having dammed almost all major rivers in California and many tributaries and creeks, we construct entire cities in what a century or 150 years ago was swamp, and we can pile rocks on peat and think we’ve created islands. And then the bill comes due.