February 21, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories 

Field Poll: Californians continue to take dim view of Congress — Less than a fifth of California voters approve of Congress’ job performance. California Democrats and no-party preference residents think little of congressional Republicans’ job performance. Even among the state’s Republicans, only 40 percent approve of their party’s performance in Congress, compared to 47 percent who disapprove.  Sacramento Bee article 

In Obama administration’s legal fight on immigration, time is an adversary – In his fight to help millions of immigrants living in the country illegally, President Obama’s most implacable enemy may not be House Republicans or conservative governors, but the ticking clock.  LA Times article; New York Times article

Fresno Republican Estrada says he’ll seek Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat — John Estrada is no stranger to politics, or the two major political parties for that matter. In 1994 he ran for Congress as a Republican. In 1998, he ran as a Democrat. He lost both times. Since then, he’s explored various congressional runs as a Democrat, and even considered running for president in 2004. Now, Estrada says he’ll run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Barbara Boxer. And this time, he’ll run as a Republican.  Fresno Bee article


Gov. Brown

Jerry Brown’s parole reversal rate holds steady – Gov. Jerry Brown let stand about 80 percent of convicted killers’ parole releases in 2014, as in previous years using his power to reverse decisions of the state parole board relatively infrequently.  Sacramento Bee article

California governor blocks parole for ex-Mexican Mafia chief — Gov. Jerry Brown blocked parole for a former leader of the notorious Mexican Mafia prison gang who has turned on his former comrades and now aids law enforcement. Brown announced Friday that he was blocking the release of 52-year-old Rene “Boxer” Enriquez.  AP article; LA Times article



For immigrants, fear returns after a federal judge’s ruling – Mr. Péndola and Ms. Benítez now stand on two sides of a sharp divide created by disagreements over how far a president can change immigration policy by executive action. Those like Ms. Benítez, whose hopes were raised by the prospect of the expanded program, must continue to live with fears of being fired or detained. At the same time, they are watching others make progress they hoped to achieve.  New York Times article

Asian immigrants less likely to seek deportation protection, data show — While Latinos have signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in large numbers, Asian immigrants have not. According to federal data analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute, just 24% of eligible Koreans, 26% of eligible Filipinos and 28% of eligible Indians applied in the program’s first two years.  LA Times article

Michael Hiltzik: A loophole in immigration law is costing thousands of American jobs — Since last summer, Edison, which serves nearly 14 million customers, has been firing its domestic IT workers and replacing them with outsourced employees from India. In doing so, the utility is exploiting a gaping loophole in immigration law, which Congress has failed to close despite years of warnings that it’s costing thousands of American jobs.  Hiltzik column in LA Times

Undocumented but undeterred — After millions of undocumented immigrants across the country began planning their lives based on President Barack Obama’s signed executive order promising protection against deportation, it all came to a standstill Monday when a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked Obama’s order. Dreams of those seeking to take part in the programs are being shattered. But many hope the decision will be successfully appealed, immigration advocates across the Central Valley said.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Other areas

Officials seek ways to boost LA County voter turnout — After abysmal voter participation in California’s last election and in Los Angeles County in particular, some state officials want to follow in the footsteps of Oregon and look into creating an automatic voter registration system.  LA Times article 

FEC hopes the tech world can get money out of politics — “Horrible.” That’s how Ann Ravel, the Los Gatos resident who chairs the Federal Election Commission, describes her level of frustration at her panel’s ability to regulate the power of money in politics.  San Francisco Chronicle article


News Briefs

Top Stories 

Shipping lines and dockworkers reach deal; port shutdown averted — Shipping companies and dockworkers reached a tentative deal late Friday on a new labor contract, avoiding a shutdown of 29 ports that would have choked off trade through the West Coast.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Valley growers learn hard lessons in port slowdown — The tentative settlement announced late Friday in the talks between port workers and shipping companies at California seaports may mean that Valley produce can once again get moving to customers in Europe and Asia. Even with that hopeful development, one outcome is clear as a result of the long stalemate: Valley growers started looking for other ways to move their fruit and nuts. Among them were using smaller ships and other ports to get products overseas.  Fresno Bee article
Jobs and the Economy

Town hall to focus on downtown Hanford – The Hanford City Council will hold a special town hall meeting on Tuesday to hear from local business owners and citizens regarding possible changes to zoning policies that have been part of downtown Hanford for more than 20 years.  Hanford Sentinel article

Start a business? At age 8, Fresno girl can check that off with her charity – Though just 8 years old, Danay Ferguson was eager to run her own business. The Fresno girl wanted to open a bookstore — that was, until she realized some people wouldn’t be able to afford the books. Her goal shifted: She would donate books to those less fortunate in hospitals.  Fresno Bee article 

Malls face changing tastes – When it opened in the mid-1990s, the Hanford Mall was seen as pivotal moment in Hanford shopping history. It was the first local indoor mall, complete with anchor store tenants. For many, it put Hanford on the map, validating the town, demonstrating the city’s up-and-coming growth potential. But the heyday of indoors malls seems to have passed. A variety of factors are creating hurdles for the Hanford Mall and others like it.  Hanford Sentinel article 

Atwater-Merced Expressway project moves ahead; opens door for Ferrari Ranch development – The Ferrari Ranch Project, a 3 million-acre development that includes retail stores, restaurants, a movie theater, hotel and medical center, could be a game changer for Merced County – and especially for Atwater.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno’s new parking vendor shifts into high gear – SP+ is now in the driver’s seat at 14 downtown Fresno parking facilities. The Chicago-based company, operator of parking and shuttle concessions at a number of major airports and cities across the U.S., won a multi-year contract in late 2014 from the City of Fresno.  The Business Journal article

See what California cities pay police, firefighters – Average pay for California police and firefighters grew about 3 percent in 2013 as cities began hiring new recruits and relying less on overtime. California police officers made, on average, $99,600, including overtime, incentive pay and payouts upon retirement during 2013, according to a Bee analysis of new data from the state controller’s office. Firefighters and engineers earned, on average, $125,100. Average pay for police captains across the state was $166,500; for fire captains, it was $153,600.  Sacramento Bee database

State says Carson site ready for NFL stadium construction – As the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders unveil tentative plans to jointly build a stadium on the site, state regulators say about $50 million in cleanup measures over the years has made the property nearly shovel-ready for construction.  LA Times article

Garcetti: LA ‘not dependent on football’ for ongoing downtown revival – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday remained upbeat about the city’s efforts to woo a professional football team, even as newly announced plans for a potential NFL stadium in Carson seemed to diminish prospects of L.A. landing a franchise.  LA Times article 

NFL in LA: Coliseum is ready when NFL is ready, USC says — Two decades after the NFL abandoned L.A. and Orange counties, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum could once again come into play as an interim home for an NFL team.  LA Times article

Money the issue with keeping Raiders in Oakland – One day after the Raiders and San Diego Chargers announced a plan to build a shared stadium 17 miles south of Los Angeles, local leaders were adamant Friday about not spending large amounts of taxpayer money to build the Raiders a new home here — a condition that imperils efforts to keep the team.  Contra Costa Times article

San Diego mayor to Chargers: Deal/no deal? – San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Friday he wants to know if the Chargers are truly interested in a new stadium in their hometown of 54 years — or have they already decided to relocate to Los Angeles.  U-T San Diego article; ‘San Diego mayor says Chargers deceived city, fans’ in U-T San Diego

BevMo! grand opening in Bakersfield more like a three-day bender – Starting Friday morning, the Concord-based alcohol and gourmet foods retailer will mark its local debut with a three-day tastings lineup that’s enough to give Lindsay Lohan a headache.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Wall Street employment falls for fourth straight year — The number of investment bankers, traders, researchers, sales people and other frontline producers fell for the fourth straight year as tighter regulations and sluggish markets continued to pinch the world’s 10 largest investment banks, a new study found.  LA Times article

Incubating a new wave of immigrants in Silicon Valley — The newest immigrants in Silicon Valley are coming from countries where technology is just getting started — countries in the Middle East and Latin America. They’re young and hungry for success, and they’ve left their home countries to be entrepreneurs, with no guarantees they’ll make it.  KQED report



Bakersfield, water agency at odds over groundwater — California’s historic drought, now in its fourth year, has come between the city of Bakersfield and the Kern County Water Agency — both of which pump out groundwater in the west.  Bakersfield Californian article

Foothill lakes wither in drought — In a cruel twist of irony, the people most likely to suffer from drought this year live right next to lakes.Some foothills folk near Tulloch, Don Pedro and McClure reservoirs east of Modesto are nearing panic mode as their water supplies slow to a trickle, or threaten to. Many blame environmental rules requiring that dams continue releasing water to benefit fish in the Stanislaus and Merced rivers.  Modesto Bee article 

‘Workshop on Wheels’ gives Valley Hmong farmers insight into Bay Area market – Many small farmers have success selling their produce at farmers markets, but selling to larger food distributors can be difficult. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports on a new project that hopes to connect one group of Southeast Asian growers with Bay Area buyers.  KVPR report

Farm Beat: Lots of good, and good-for-you, Valley foods – Farmers in and near Stanislaus County stand ready to serve the kind of food that federal nutritionists say is good for people. The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week released a proposed update to its dietary guidelines, done every five years. It urges lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, along with meat, poultry and dairy products that are not too high in fat or sodium.  Modesto Bee article

John Michelena: State messing with divinely inspired irrigation — California’s farm economy averted a major collapse in 2014 because farmers aggressively used groundwater to keep crops alive. But we can’t keep dodging bullets, especially as our underground water supplies are limited and governments are doing their best to tax and regulate every drop of water.  Michelena column in Modesto Bee
Criminal Justice/Prisons

Despite jump in homicides, other crimes decline in Merced — Despite hitting an all-time high for homicides Merced, overall reports of crime fell in 2014 in the city, including significant declines in firearm assaults and car thefts, according to statistics released this week by the Police Department.  Merced Sun-Star article

Erasing the past: Tattoo removal helps offenders move forward — “Come on in,” the nurse tells Noe Molina Nuñez. The 40-year-old father of five knows exactly what he is in for but smiles anyway as he settles into his seat. He’s been smiling a lot lately; today marks one year since he was released from prison.  Stockton Record article



Heald College gets temporary reprieve in student aid dispute – A week after halting scholarship payments to Heald College because of concerns over its financial health, the California Student Aid Commission offered the troubled for-profit chain a temporary reprieve Friday.  Sacramento Bee article

Denair Unified tightens belt, plans for better financial days ahead – At their meeting Thursday night, Denair Unified trustees moved ahead with laying off the equivalent of two full-time teachers for 2015-16, trimming one class in each of 12 subjects.  Modesto Bee article 

Sunnyside High, Fresno City College grad selected for White House internship – Frances Wilson, a Sunnyside High School and Fresno City College graduate, is spending this semester in the nation’s Capitol as an intern at the White House.  Fresno Bee article

LA schools can’t afford computers for all, Cortines says — Los Angeles Unified School Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Friday the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student, signaling a major reversal for his predecessor’s ill-fated  $1.3-billion effort to distribute iPads to all students, teachers and school administrators.  LA Times article



Orson Aguilar and Tate Hill:  California climate change policy improves lives in Valley – Aguilar, executive director of The Greenlining Institute, and Hill, president and CEO of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, write, “DennySysaknoi had never met Leticia and Gerardo Ramirez until last November. Today, they not only know each other, they stand as real-world examples of how California’s climate change laws are changing lives for the better here in the Valley.”  Aguilar/Hill op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Hyacinth control to resume soon – It’s almost water hyacinth season again, not that last season ever really ended. The good news is that state officials will begin spraying herbicides in the Delta three weeks earlier than last year.  Stockton Record article

PUC hires outside lawyer to help with criminal probe — The Public Utilities Commission has hired a prominent, white-collar criminal defense lawyer to help it with an expanding investigation into possible improper communications, bribery and other wrongdoing at the powerful regulatory body.  LA Times article


Health/Human Services

Covered California extends enrollment to April 30 – The window for many Californians to sign up for health coverage widened Friday when the state exchange said it would extend this month’s deadline to enroll in a plan until the end of April.  Sacramento Bee article

Hospitals grapple with safety of scopes after UCLA outbreak – Hospitals nationally are scrambling to figure out how to keep using a controversial medical device that benefits patients while avoiding another deadly bacterial outbreak like the one at UCLA Medical Center.  LA Times article

Jerry Brown names Napa doctor as new public health chief – A Napa physician with a background in infectious diseases and public health has been appointed to the top spot at the California Department of Public Health, the Governor’s Office announced Friday. Dr. Karen Smith, 58, is slated to take over a department that has been mired in controversy the past year, culminating in the recent resignations of its top two officials.  Sacramento Bee article

Ralph Kingsford, MD: Vaccines: A public health necessity – The pediatrician with Visalia Medical Center writes, “As a physician, it’s hard to understand why we continue to debate and politicize an issue that is arguably one of the most well-regarded developments in medical history — the advent of vaccines.” Kingsford op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Kamala Harris approves Daughters of Charity hospital sale — Blessing a proposed hospital sale that has divided powerful health care unions, California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Friday approved Prime Healthcare’s purchase of six nonprofit hospitals comprising the Daughters of Charity Health System.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article 

Kaiser reverses plan to sharply boost patient cost of HIV drugs — Kaiser Permanente has backed off of a move to increase the cost of certain HIV drugs — in some cases charging patients hundreds of dollars a month for medications to control their infection — after a major backlash from patient advocates and politicians.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Rust, cracks found on Bay Bridge tower rod — Tests on a steel anchor rod removed from the Bay Bridge eastern span’s tower after being inadvertently submerged in water for years revealed rust and tiny cracks, bridge officials said Friday — a potentially worrisome sign for the long-term viability of the span.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Other Areas 

Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s 13-acre expansion will offer up-close views of lions, elephants — Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s 13-acre African Adventure project is about two-thirds complete and is expected to open in October. The lack of rainfall has accelerated construction of the $55.7 million project. But zoo director Scott Barton is hesitant to move up the opening date because the project is not just about exhibit readiness.  Fresno Bee article

Stanislaus Regional 911 moving forward on reforms – Stanislaus County and Modesto are moving forward on deciding how to implement a consultant’s report that found several areas that need to be fixed at the Stanislaus Regional 911 Center.  Modesto Bee article 

Stockton mayor calls himself a target, denies wrongdoing in limousine incident – Mayor Anthony Silva apologized to Stockton residents Friday for an ill-fated December limousine ride long Highway 99 but also stated the limousine driver is “a guy who wants to be paid” and complained that he is being “targeted in the media.”  Stockton Record article

Jeannie Liao: Chris Herren sends powerful message to troubled you, ‘I am with you’ – The mother, writer and educator writes, “We all have our challenges, every single one of us; and we all deal with them in our own way. What impressed me most about observing Herren working with our students was that there was a palpable sense of community-family. We are all “in this life together.” We all struggle, and we are never alone.” Liao op-ed in Fresno Bee

Man claims $3.4 million prize for winning lottery ticket purchased in Coalinga — Lottery winner Bill Deluca learned he was an instant multimillionaire on Valentine’s Day in Fresno County after buying his wife flowers. Flowers in hand, he walked next door to buy more lottery tickets, then scanned his old ticket, purchased for $1 at Ice Bucket Chevron in Coalinga.  Fresno Bee article

Sex photos on state cellphones surface in Cal Fire discipline cases One Cal Fire captain supposedly received an Internet link from a colleague for a private sex club on his state cellphone. An assistant chief allegedly thought nothing of a supervisor slapping the rear end of a female cadet. Investigators said another captain put hundreds of sexually explicit pictures of his wife on his state cellphone. And, according to Cal Fire employee discipline records released Friday, there was drinking on the job. Sometimes a lot of it.  Sacramento Bee article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down: Masumoto, McFarland on right track; Fresno Unified not so much.

Modesto Bee – Our Views: Can mayor rid Turlock of all its ‘alligators,’ a degree deficit in Stanislaus County, and not too long to wait for baseball.

Sacramento Bee – Waiting for George Karl to work his magic.