February 27, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Californians sharply divided over hiking state gas tax – California voters think the government should spend more money to help maintain crumbling roads, but they offer mixed views on how to fund the upkeep, according to a new statewide Field Poll.  Sacramento Bee article

Renteria may take Clinton campaign job, ending her state Assembly plans — Before today, Amanda Renteria’s next political step looked pretty clear, and it wasn’t a second congressional run against Hanford Republican David Valadao. After losing to Valadao last year, the Sanger Democrat had been recruited and looked poised to run for Henry T. Perea’s state Assembly seat in 2016, when he reaches his term limit. In fact, several sources said she was definitely going to do it. Now comes a story from the Washington D.C. publication Roll Call that says Renteria is in line to be national political director for Hillary Clinton’s likely presidential campaignFresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Senate candidate Kamala Harris unknown to more than 50 percent of voters – California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, the only major candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer, is unknown by more than half the state’s registered voters, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. Even more — six in 10 — have no impression of her, favorable or dim.  LA Times article

John Myers: California’s Politics Podcast: The Senate show, equal pay percolates — A politician who steps aside, and some legislators who step into the arena on an issue everyone’s talking about. This week’s analysis of California politics examines the decision by Antonio Villaraigosa to skip the race for the U.S. Senate; an effort launched at the state Capitol to boost the state’s equal pay law; and a big step for the brewing battle over banning plastic bags in the Golden State.  Myers in KQED

Dan Walters Daily: What are California Republicans celebrating? – The California Republican Party is celebrating its successes – what successes? – at its biannual convention this weekend, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Bill Whalen: California GOP can find lessons in Illinois, Wisconsin — Like California, they’re “blue” states (Illinois’ voter registration is 50 percent Democratic and 34 percent Republican – about the same as the 15-point partisan gap in California). They’re also examples of states where Republicans are learning to lead the charge in midterm elections and play defense in less advantageous, larger-turnout presidential years.  Whalen column in Sacramento Bee


California issues 110,000 licenses to immigrants in seven weeks — California has issued 110,000 drivers licenses to immigrants in the country without permission since a new law went into effect last month, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.  LA Times article

Some Mexicans to be given another chance to stay in U.S. — Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Mexicans who were expelled from the country by immigration officials in Southern California will be allowed to return for a chance to make their case to stay in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday.  AP article

Other areas

GOP line up to take on California Reps. Peters, Ruiz — Three months after being elected to their second terms, a pair of California Democratic congressmen are already hearing footsteps. Reps. Scott Peters of San Diego and Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, both viewed as top targets for the national GOP, may face unusually early challenges.  Capitol Alert

California lawmaker wants to pare six-figure pay for state boards — California Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) announced Thursday the appointment of former Democratic Sen. Ellen Corbett to a $128,109 post on the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, but one lawmaker is trying to put an end to such soft landing pads for political insiders.  LA Times article

Former California Sen. Ellen Corbett gets another six-figure job — Just a few months after being termed out of the Legislature and taking a lucrative job with a Bay Area school district, former Sen. Ellen Corbett has been named to a six-figure position on a state government board. The Hayward Democrat’s new post on the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board pays $128,109 annually.  Capitol Alert

David Spady: Slam the brakes on gas tax hike – The California state director of Americans for Prosperity writes, “All praise to the State Board of Equalization, which voted Tuesday to cut California’s gas tax by 6 cents. This is a step in the right direction, but politicians in Sacramento may soon reverse these gains with an ill-timed and unnecessary gas-tax hike.”  Spady op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Lawmakers demand swastikas be removed from California house — State lawmakers on Thursday demanded that a California man take down poster-size swastikas displayed in front of his house, calling the signs racist and vulgar but acknowledging the person had a right to free speech.  AP article

Christie to address California; too late for White House bid? — Not so long ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the brash, rising star of the Republican Party who felt confident enough to pick a fight with the governor of another big state, Jerry Brown, dismissing him as “an old retread” who would deliver a “failed record” for California. Now, as Christie prepares to deliver the keynote address at this weekend’s state GOP convention in Sacramento, things are a bit different.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Move to ban bullet adds to its appeal — President Obama’s administration has proposed banning the manufacture and sale of one of the most popular bullets used in AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, a move that has enraged gun-rights advocates and caused a run on the ammunition at gun shops across the country.  New York Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Hyperloop’s 1st home may be Central Valley eco-utopia — Elon Musk’s “hyperloop” system for high-speed travel may debut in a long-planned, solar-powered city that a former book publisher wants to build from scratch in the Central Valley. The proposed hyperloop, whose passengers would ride in pods racing through sealed tubes, is slated for Quay Valley, a sustainable city straddling Interstate 5 in Kings County.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Fresno council votes 6-1 to approve $429 million water project – The Fresno City Council approved Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s historic water project Thursday night, assuring a secure supply of the liquid gold well into the 21st century. The 6-1 vote was actually for a five-year rate plan. But its effect is to set in motion a $429 million upgrade of a crumbling system that for too long has relied on a much-abused aquifer.  Fresno Bee article

Hundreds of illicit oil wastewater pits found in Kern County — Water officials in Kern County discovered that oil producers have been dumping chemical-laden wastewater into hundreds of unlined pits that are operating without proper permits.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Michael Fitzgerald: Goodbye, bankruptcy; hello, possibilities – Stockton is better for its ordeal. Not that Chapter 9 can be recommended as a means to a better city. It’s costly and contentious and gets worse publicity than Bernie Madoff. But Stockton got out from under a mountain of debt. It clarified the bad government that allowed the bad practices that led to the bad outcome. Leaders enacted reforms.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Star-studded marketing push for fruits and vegetables targets Fresno – A new campaign enlisting celebrities to shill for fruits and vegetables has two U.S. markets — Fresno and Hampton Roads, Virginia — targeted for a spring push. The campaign was announced by the Partnership for a Healthier America, which works with private companies and was created in conjunction with first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to get families to eat better and exercise.  Fresno Bee article; AP article

U.S. 4th-quarter growth rate revised downward – The American economy expanded at a slower pace than initially thought in the fourth quarter of 2014, as a weaker trade balance and less stockpiling by businesses weighed on growth.  New York Times article

Survey: Two-thirds of Fresno biz owners want out – A recent survey by Union Bank found that more than two-thirds of Fresno County business owners are planning out-of-state moves. The bank reported that 67 percent of Fresno County business owners who participated in its annual Small Business Economic Survey are planning to relocate outside of California. While the figure is triple the state average, most Fresno County owners cite being closer to family as the primary reason for planning a move, while most owners statewide cite tax burdens. The Business Journal article

Andrew Feil: How the poor are big business in Fresno – The pastor at The Well Community Church writes, “Much has been made in the past few years about retail businesses losing ground to Internet competition. But drive through any low-income, working-class neighborhood in Fresno and you will see a strange sort of storefront business that is thriving: The buying and selling of the financial future of the working poor.”  Feil op-ed in Fresno Bee

Merced County retirement board discusses new funding policy – Merced County’s retirement board on Thursday discussed a new funding policy in an effort to increase financial stability and pay off the county retirement system’s debt. One possibility is setting a minimum contribution rate – the percent the county pays into employee pensions – for a set period of time.  Merced Sun-Star article

Aramark building commercial laundry in South Stockton – Aramark Corp., the $14.8 billion global provider of food services, facilities management and uniform services, is working to establish a new commercial laundry in south Stockton, opening this summer.  Stockton Record article

Mayor, former NBA chief could get dragged into Sacramento Kings ownership dispute — Mayor Kevin Johnson and retired NBA Commissioner David Stern can expect to get called as witnesses in the lawsuit filed against Sacramento Kings co-owners Vivek Ranadive and Mark Mastrov by a disgruntled businessman who wanted to invest in the team.  Sacramento Bee article

U.S. wine exports down from record 2013 total — U.S. wine exports, 90 percent of them from California, accounted for $1.49 billion in winery revenues in 2014, according to the San Francisco-based Wine Institute. That was down about 3.8 percent from a record $1.55 billion in 2013.  Sacramento Bee article

Pew study: Americans still stressed despite improved economy – Nearly six years after the Great Recession, a clear majority of American families say they feel unprepared for a financial emergency. The Pew Charitable Trusts‘ poll of 7,000 U.S. households finds that 57 percent don’t consider themselves ready for a sudden financial setback, 55 percent say they break even or spend more than they make each month, and a third have no savings.  AP article

Patelco Credit Union confirms plans to leave Castle Commerce Center in Atwater – Patelco Credit Union will close its branch at Castle Commerce Center after more than 10 years at the former Air Force base, company officials said this week.  Merced Sun-Star article

Warm, dry weather threatens way of life at Lake Tahoe – It would not be an odd sight in the spring. But there is something depressing about a closed ski slope in the middle of winter. The trails are bare and grassy. The chairlifts just hang there, waving a little with the breeze. It’s like walking into an empty restaurant on a Friday night. That is the mood at Lake Tahoe these days.  KQED report

FCC approves tough net neutrality rules amid sharp partisan debate —  In a landmark decision for the future of the Internet, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved tough net neutrality regulations to oversee online traffic. The new rules prohibit Internet service providers from discriminating against legal content flowing through their wired or wireless networks, such as by charging websites for faster delivery of video and other data to consumers.  LA Times article; ‘AP article: 5 things to know about net neutrality’; San Francisco Chronicle article

First-time home buyers get added help in Tulare – Becoming a first-time home buyer just became easier. Tulare’s city council adopted a friendly, home-buying policy similar to those used by Self-Help Enterprises, the countywide agency that Tulare tapped as a housing consultant. Visalia Times-Delta article

Daniel Zingale: CEO-worker pay disparity matters – The senior vice president of the California Endowment writes, “Raising the state minimum wage would help more people afford healthy food and life-saving medications. A study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that low wages are a risk factor for hypertension among working people.”  Zingale op-ed in Sacramento Bee

At LA oil refinery, striking workers vent about long hours and stress – Worker fatigue and safety are key sticking points in the weeks-long strike, according to Zalamea and other members of the United Steelworkers union. They cite low staffing levels, long hours and hiring policies that allow too many contractors unfamiliar with the plant.  LA Times article

Board at eBay to block proposal to report gender pay disparity — EBay’s board will oppose a proposal filed by activist investors calling on the company to disclose the disparity in pay between male and female employees.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Beer samples could be on tap at California farmers markets — California’s farmers markets are places to sample the lush cornucopia of the state’s produce – and, perhaps soon, to taste the fruits of California’s many craft breweries.  Sacramento Bee article

Some fire victims will get help via debit cards — Fire victims who suffer substantial property losses soon will be eligible to receive prepaid debit cards that will allow them to replace essential items in several Central Valley fire districts, including Stockton and Lodi.  Stockton Record article


Farmer fear legal status for workers would lead them off the farm — The political battle over immigration, now provoking a confrontation between Congress and the White House, touches all of us in one very direct way: our food. That salad mix, and those apples, may well have been harvested by workers who arrived here in the U.S. illegally. NPR report

San Juan Capistrano case challenges legality of tiered water rates –  In drought-ridden California, many water bills are calculated using a basic principle: The more water a customer uses, the higher the rate. It’s a strategy water districts employ to boost conservation. But this long-standing practice is now under attack in the courts. A group of San Juan Capistrano taxpayers sued their local water provider, arguing the tiered rate structure violates state law that prohibits agencies from charging more than water actually costs — no matter how much customers use. LA Times article

LA City Council president blasts ‘smear’ mailers by Fresno grower – Months after the Los Angeles City Council took a stand in a labor dispute involving a Fresno fruit grower, the company is spending more than$12,000 on election mailers claiming that Council President Herb Wesson “works hard to keep Mexicans from voting.”  LA Times article

Fruit growers may get improved crop insurance — Growers of peaches, plums, apricots and other fragile Kings County fruit products may have access to better options for insuring their crops against disaster, according to proposed rule changes announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Hanford Sentinel article

Robin Abcarian: Amid drought, a turf war between residents and homeowners associations — Brian and Frances Holloway, retired custom home builders who live in a palatial 9,000-square-foot Mediterranean, installed artificial turf in their backyard five years ago. After Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last year and urged Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20%, the couple decided to get rid of their water-sucking front lawn as well. Not so fast, said their homeowners association.  Abcarian column in LA Times

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Oliver’s attorney: ‘This was the hardest case of my 30 years’ practicing — Criminal proceedings in one of the most high-profile cases of the last decade in Kern County came to an end Thursday as school shooter Bryan Oliver was sentenced to 27 years and four months in prison.  Bakersfield Californian article

Lawsuit: Fresno police allegedly stole $100,000 during gambling investigation – Two Fresno business owners are accusing 10 Fresno police officers of illegally seizing $100,000 in September 2013 during an investigation into an alleged illegal gambling ring.  Fresno Bee article

Excessive force suit settled for $10,000 — A lawsuit filed against the Hanford Police Department alleging wrongful arrest and excessive force has reached a settlement. The suit, filed by area businessman Michael Hamburger and his wife, Kristene Hamburger, part owners of the Artesia Building in downtown Hanford, was recently settled out of court for $10,000.  Hanford Sentinel article

Officer hailed as hearing for saving 1-month-old boy’s life — A Stockton police officer is being hailed as a hero after he resuscitated a lifeless 1-month-old baby. Officer Pejman Zarrin was driving his patrol vehicle near East Hammer and North West lanes at 7:27 p.m. Wednesday when he heard someone honking their horn and saw a frantic young mother in a U-Haul truck waving for help. The 19-year-old woman told Zarrin her newborn son was not breathing.  Stockton Record article


Dan Walters: A new fight over judging K-12 schools – California’s long-running conflict over how its public schools should be held accountable for educational outcomes entered a new phase this week.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Fresno selected for program to boost postsecondary education – A national foundation dedicated to increasing the number of Americans with high-quality postsecondary credentials has named Fresno as one of its final partner communities.  The relationship will allow the Lumina Foundation to work closely with Fresno Compact and its cradle-to-career initiative, Fresno Area Strive. The Business Journal article

Fresno State AD Bartko’s plan:  Upgrade Bulldog Stadium, add wrestling, women’s water polo — Fresno State Athletic Director Jim Bartko unveiled a three-phase plan to upgrade Bulldog Stadium on Thursday and said women’s water polo will join men’s wrestling as new Bulldogs sports.  Fresno Bee article

State’s overpayment to San Joaquin Delta College may result in payback – San Joaquin Delta College could owe the state $2.3 million after mistakenly over-reporting attendance for almost three years, college officials said Thursday. That’s less than 3 percent of the college’s overall budget, and administrators said they think Delta can absorb the hit without making cuts. Stockton Record article

Sacramento Bee: How to solve the substitute teacher shortage – In addition to boosting pay, local school districts should look at innovative ways to attract and retain substitute teachers. They could, for example, loosen requirements for substitutes, or partner with local universities to provide qualified teachers.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Report alleges poor academics at for-profit virtual schools — The leading online charter school network in California has a troubling record of poor academic outcomes and a questionable financial relationship with its for-profit parent company, according to a report released Thursday from a watchdog organization.  EdSource article

YMCA losing after school, preschool programs — Roughly 200 children in Visalia and Farmersville may lose their afterschool or preschool programs if a child care center doesn’t sign on to take over six programs the local YMCA will no longer operate in April.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Google invests $300 million in fund for residential solar power — Google Inc. is making another large investment in renewable energy, but this time average homeowners could be the ones reaping the benefits. The Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet search giant said Thursday it would invest $300 million in a new SolarCity Corp. fund that would help finance the installation of residential solar power systems.  LA Times article

Alon delays work on oil-by-train rail terminal planned for Rosedale Highway refinery – The owner of the idled refinery on Rosedale Highway told an industry gathering this week the company will start operating a rail terminal at the plant in 2016, not 2015 as previously announced, a legal-news service has reported. Bakersfield Californian article

Kern may reverse new sludge rules – Kern County supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to rescind a controversial sludge ordinance that slipped quietly into existence last month. The new law requires any new agricultural operation that applies biosolids to farm land to complete a full environmental review and get county approval before opening its doors. But the way the law was approved has raised a stink in the city of Los Angeles.  Bakersfield Californian article

Report: Fresno has 4,314 homes at ‘high’ wildfire risk – According to a report released today by CoreLogic, nearly 900,000 single-family homes across 13 states in the western U.S. are currently designed at “high” or “very high” risk for wildfire damage, representing a combined total reconstruction value estimated at more than $237 billion. In Fresno, according to the CoreLogic report, 4,314 homes are categorized as either “high” or “very high” risk, with a combined reconstruction value estimated at $1.4 billion.  The Business Journal article

A cause for pause?  Scientists offer reasons for global warming ‘hiatus’ – In a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, climate researchers argue that this slowdown is the result of natural and decades-long variations in sea water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  LA Times article

Drone’s-eye view of massive Coast Range solar farm — In this video by MidAmerican Renewables, get an interesting view of the construction activity happening at one of the largest solar projects under construction in the world. The 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farms has more than 8 million modules and covers 4,700 acres in southeastern San Luis Obispo County. It provides enough electricity equivalent to powering more than 180,000 average California households.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno Bee: Finally, progress on Fresno trails – The idea of building trails on Fresno canal banks has been around for decades. But uncertainty about liability and maintenance funding have stopped this excellent suggestion from becoming reality. Finally, it appears that the questions have been answered and work can begin.  Fresno Bee editorial

Gravel mine gets OK from Fresno County Planning Commission — A 619-acre gravel mining project on the Kings River, east of Sanger, was approved Thursday by the Fresno County Planning Commission. By a 5-1 vote, planning commissioners backed the Running Luck Ranch mining project near Riverbend and Goodfellow avenues. It includes 351 acres of farmland reclamation to replace an equal portion of land that will be taken out of agricultural production, said John Buada, who represents the group.  Fresno Bee article

Health/Human Services

A Peninsula BART rider with measles exposes others — A person sick with measles rode BART from Millbrae to San Francisco last Friday, exposing about 1,500 other riders to the virus and prompting the second campaign in a month to alert commuters that they may be at risk of infection.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Person with measles dined at Berkeley restaurant, health officials warn – A person infected with measles dined at La Mediterranee restaurant in Berkeley last week, exposing hundreds of fellow diners to the infectious virus, a city health spokeswoman said Thursday.  Contra Costa Times article

Many who got Obamacare subsidies now face big tax bill – As tax day approaches, hundreds of thousands of families who enrolled in plans through the insurance marketplaces could be stuck with unexpected tax bills, according to researchers. Those payments could be as high as $11,000, although most would be several hundred dollars, one study found.  KQED report

Bill pushes more nursing home oversight, transparency — Nursing home owners with poor track records would face tougher scrutiny in California, and consumers would get better information about operators under a bill introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article


Rail contractors test bridge piling near San Joaquin River – Engineers for California’s high-speed rail project spent part of Tuesday using explosives to batter a reinforced concrete piling near the San Joaquin River — part of ongoing testing in preparation of construction of the bullet-train line in the Fresno-Madera area.  Fresno Bee article

GET considers longer hours — Officials at Golden Empire Transit, the city’s bus agency, plan to hold a public hearing in April to get input on expanding service along six routes that serve Bakersfield’s junior college and university, as well as the Rosedale area and Valley Plaza. While 85 percent of GET’s buses are on time, the changes are aimed at further improving punctuality and meeting a perceived need for evening service.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other Areas

One group’s vision to tackle homelessness:  Creating eco-friendly shelters – Fresno’s homeless problem has been at the forefront of many debates. But there’s one group in town that’s created a new model for homeless housing. KVPR report

Brik McDill: We’re fighting a battle against hate that can’t be entirely won – We can work structurally for as just, inclusive, moral and ethical a society as we can. And as we do, our work will do slowly as much as can be done. But our efforts will render continually diminishing returns. The closer we get to where we want to be, the harder it will be pound for pound of effort to get there.  McDill column in Bakersfield Californian

Chowchilla bus driver remembered, honored as humble hero – A few hundred people gathered in Chowchilla Thursday to honor Edward Ray, a quiet and humble bus driver who rose to the occasion nearly 40 years ago to help free 26 kidnapped students. Dozens of his family members, local officials and one of the children he saved met in what is now called Edward Ray Park to remember the man on what would’ve been his 94th birthday.  Merced Sun-Star article

Leno: More info before cash for California flawed IT project – A leading state lawmaker has rejected an appeal for another $17.5 million for a troubled computer system that auditors blasted earlier this month as poorly planned, inadequately managed, underperforming and busting its budget.  Sacramento Bee article

Modesto vigil for Assyrian hostages to be held Friday — Hundreds are expected to gather Friday evening in a Modesto church to pray for the safe return of Assyrian Christians taken hostage this week by Islamic State militants in northeast Syria. The hostages include former Modesto resident Hanno Amo.  Modesto Bee article

LA County plans court to help child prostitutes — Los Angeles County authorities are planning a specialized court to handle the growing number of young people in foster care who street predators have lured or bullied into prostitution.  LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The idea of building trails on Fresno canal banks has been around for decades. But uncertainty about liability and maintenance funding have stopped this excellent suggestion from becoming reality. Finally, it appears that the questions have been answered and work can begin.

Merced Sun-Star – The Federal Communications Commission made the right call Thursday, ruling that access to the Internet will remain equal and unfettered. We’re happy about it.

Modesto Bee – The Federal Communications Commission made the right call Thursday, ruling that access to the Internet will remain equal and unfettered. We’re happy about it.

Sacramento Bee – Deal for public art at Sacramento arena is too good to pass up; How to solve the substitute teacher shortage.