February 28, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories 

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin declines U.S. Senate run — Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, considered a rising star of the Republican Party, has chosen not to run for the U.S. Senate. “She’s letting people know this weekend that she’s decided against a run,” Swearengin strategist Tim Clark told The Bee ahead of the state GOP’s convention this weekend in downtown Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

California Senators introduced fewer bills this year – The number of bills introduced by members of the California Senate by Friday’s deadline was the lowest number in the first year of a biennial session going back to 1989. Senators introduced 793 bills by Friday, compared with 813 filed in 2013. The Assembly had 1,504 bills filed, an increase from the 1,430 introduced in the lower house in 2013.  LA Times article


State budget 

Brown continues trailblazing judicial appointments — Gov. Jerry Brown, a trailblazer in his judicial appointments, set some new milestones last year. A report from Brown’s office Friday said 35 of his 76 judicial appointees in 2014, or 46 percent, were racial or ethnic minorities. San Francisco Chronicle article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Gavin Newsom raising money for 2018 – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom reported Friday that he has raised about $727,000 in the two weeks since announcing his candidacy for governor in 2018, touching off an unusually early fundraising effort in a wide open race.  Capitol Alert; San Francisco Chronicle article 

Tony Quinn: The impossibility of a Republican U.S. senator — Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is becoming more and more the inevitable successor to Sen. Barbara Boxer, but one thing will assure Harris’s election, and that is if a Republican ends up in the top two runoff against her.  It is impossible for any Republican to be elected United States Senator from California.  Quinn in Fox & Hounds

California Republicans kick off Sacramento convention – The bumper stickers are unpacked and the Reagan memorabilia is on display. The California Republican Party opened its biannual convention in Sacramento on Friday and will meet through the weekend.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article 

Rocky Chavez hints at Senate run; swipes at Harris — Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, an Oceanside Republican, gave a not-so-subtle hint Friday that he’ll run for the U.S. Senate, telling GOP activists in Sacramento that he’ll announce his decision Thursday. Capitol Alert

Dan Morain: GOP pines for Condi Rice, as it gains below the statewide radar — Registered Republicans hold 46.5 percent of the seats on California’s 480 city councils, to Democrats’ 42 percent, with no-party preference and third-party officials holding the rest, said Sacramento consultant Mike Madrid of the research and data firm, GrassrootsLab. Republicans hold more than 60 percent of the seats on county boards of supervisors. This isn’t the dawn of a new Republican day. Democrats dominate councils in California’s biggest cities. But in small and midsize cities, Republicans are making gains.  Morain in Sacramento Bee


Other areas 

California bill would reduce sales tax on green cars – The California Legislature is considering a bill that would cut the state sales tax on green cars by more than half in an effort to spur sales of clean vehicles.  LA Times article

A proposed ammunition ban boosts sales at local gun stores – A federal proposal to ban a certain type of ammunition popular among local target shooters has sparked another run on bullets at Kern County gun shops. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recently began gathering public comments on its bid to halt civilian sales of green-tip, 5.56-millimeter rounds used in AR-15 rifles.  Bakersfield California article

Political analyst Brazile talks voting, stumps for Renteria at Fresno State lecture – Donna Brazile said it’s been a “very difficult six months” as a television political analyst. The author and Democratic National Committee vice chairwoman has discussed the Ferguson protests and the Eric Garner case on CNN and ABC — topics that weigh heavily on her when she thinks about her 19 nieces and nephews. Fresno Bee article

Ex-leader of panel that cut pay, perks for California lawmakers steps down — Charles Murray, the controversial official who led the move to cut the salaries of the governor and Legislature by 18% in 2009 and to take away lawmakers’ district cars two years later, resigned Friday from the state Citizens Compensation Commission.  LA Times article

Congress passes one-week Homeland Security funding bill, Obama signs it — Congress approved a stopgap measure late Friday to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded for another week — averting a crisis just before money was set to run out at midnight, but setting up a new standoff as conservatives press their fight over President Obama’s immigration plan.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article


News Briefs

Top Stories 

No irrigation water for Valley again this year – Farmers again will get no federal river water for more than 2 million acres of cropland in the San Joaquin Valley, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday. Though the announcement was no surprise, it sent ripples of anxiety through the farming industry on both the east and west sides of the Valley, which rely on water from the federal Central Valley Project.  Fresno Bee article; Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article; KQED report; Stockton Record article; LA Times article

Voters strongly oppose UC tuition hike, poll finds — California voters overwhelmingly oppose a tuition increase at University of California campuses, even if that forces the colleges to cut spending or accept more out-of-state students who pay higher fees, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. In addition, they say that California has done a poor job of making a college education affordable.  LA Times article


Jobs and the Economy

Gas prices soar in California as supply shrinks – Gas prices are soaring in California in a classic example of supply and demand after an explosion stopped gasoline production at an Exxon Mobil refinery while another remains offline due to labor unrest. AP article 

Nonfarm industries expected to grow in Merced County through 2022 – All of the dozen nonfarm-labor industries tracked in Merced County are projected to add jobs, according to a 10-year projection this month from the state Employment Development Department.  Merced Sun-Star article

Merced County food truck funds scrutinized – Taxpayer dollars meant to support children in Merced County welfare programs were awarded to a nonprofit that sells produce from a food truck, just a few years after county officials got rid of an oversight committee formed to keep an eye on the money.  Merced Sun-Star article

Stockton’s Village West Marina for sale – The landmark Village West Marina, which includes Garlic Brothers and Bob’s at the Marina restaurants, and Marina West Yacht Club, is up for sale for just under $9 million. A marina in the San Joaquin Delta may come on the market every year or two, but it is unusual to see a property of this size and value on the market, experts said.  Stockton Record article

Employer announces final layoffs and timing for closing AMR office in Salida – Employees at the American Medical Response billing center in Salida will continue working on borrowed time, but their employer is firm about closing the office in mid-August, according to recent letters to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.  Modesto Bee article

Chukchansi group meets federal ruling for naming council – The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians seated a tribal council Thursday that mirrors the 2010 elected council. In so doing, the tribe followed a directive by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. With recognition from the BIA, the tribe can receive federal money.  Fresno Bee article

Mobile software/web builder QuiqLabs settles into Bitwise hub – Two best buddies who cut their technology teeth as high school and college students in Ohio have emerged as entrepreneurial pioneers in Fresno’s African-American community, working to bring mobile marketing and web software to Valley businesses.  Fresno Bee article

AEG report warns rival Inglewood NFL stadium presents terrorism threat —  In a bold move to undercut an NFL stadium at Hollywood Park, the sports and entertainment firm AEG commissioned a study by former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge that found the Inglewood project would be a tempting target for terrorists and should not be built.  LA Times article

Michael Hiltzik: How NFL stadium promoters are snowing the city of Inglewood — The Inglewood City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to build a $1.86-billion National Football League stadium in their municipality. The vote proves nothing, except that money causes blindness.   Hiltzik column in LA Times

The NFL in LA: Get ready for near zero economic impact – There are a lot of things economists disagree about, but the economic impact of sports stadiums is not one of them. “If you ever had a consensus in economics, this would be it,” said Michael Leeds, a sports economist at Temple University. “There is no impact.”  KQED report

Kathy Barberich: How the mall lost its swagger – The Fresno resident writes, “As we walked to the parking lot, I paused and looked back wistfully. I had so wanted my grandchildren to see the (Fulton) mall that I loved, but they just couldn’t see it. And now, neither could I.”  Barberich op-ed in Fresno Bee

Fresno teens gets jump start with coding bootcamp — Deija Orozco, a candid 17-year-old with two lip rings, is casual about her hacking abilities. “I’m pretty good at phones,” she says. So good, in fact, she learned how to “jailbreak” cell phones after watching a YouTube instructional video. Now she tinkers on her friends’ phones, freeing them from software constraints so they can customize their gadgets. So when the Fresno high school junior was offered one of just a few spots in a professional-level computer coding class, she welcomed the chance to learn more about computers.  Fresno Bee article



New California water legislation could be on tap – California water legislation is starting to trickle across Capitol Hill. One newly introduced bill would speed approval of Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley. Another would help restore San Francisco Bay habitat. More targeted bills are coming. But a broader bill, promised weeks ago, hasn’t gained visible attraction.  Fresno Bee article 

Bees complete almond pollination, growers hope for big yields — Millions of winged workers have nearly completed their pollination of more than 800,000 acres of California almonds — one of the state’s largest and most valuable crops.  Fresno Bee article

Don Perrachi: Sen. Boxer, again there’s no water and lives are at stake – The president of the Westlands Board of Directors writes, “The federal government’s Central Valley Project is broken. Its failure threatens the continued coordination of local, state and federal water agencies in operating the modern water system on which all of California depends. As a result, some of the most vital elements of the state’s economy are being allowed to wither and die.”  Perrachi op-ed in Fresno Bee

Judgment reached in Madera County water dispute — A seven-year dispute over a water system in Madera Ranchos culminated with a court judgment earlier this month requiring Madera County to make repairs and finish planned improvements to the system at the Continental Estates Subdivision by April 24.  Fresno Bee article

Sacramento wants to become a ‘bee haven’ – Sacramento is going to the bees. The City Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution to make the city a “Honey Bee Haven,” a place where bees are protected from pesticides, are provided year-round clean food and water and given shelter. It also means the city will appear on honeybeehaven.org.  Sacramento Bee article

Livestock beheadings baffle Sacramento officials — The mystery began several months ago with the discovery of a 120-pound cow’s head at Sacramento’s Reichmuth Park in the South Land Park area. Around the same time, another decapitated cow’s head was found 3 1/2 miles away at Garcia Bend Park in the Pocket. Then, in December, officials found the chickens.  Sacramento Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

More than 200 felons applying for shorter sentences in Merced — Merced court officials are reviewing more than 200 petitions from people seeking to reduce their felony convictions in the wake of the recent passage of Proposition 47.  Merced Sun-Star article

Listening Tour is open for reservations — From meeting halls to business offices to living rooms all over Stockton, Police Chief Eric Jones and City Manager Kurt Wilson want to meet with community members to discuss the relationship between police officers and the community they serve. The “Use-of-Force Listening Tour” is taking reservations.  Stockton Record article



California, GOP on same page in bid to curb U.S. role in schools reform – California may be a blue state, but a Republican-led effort to scale back federal intervention in educational reform is drawing support here.  LA Times article

Sacramento State to house private college program for $1 million annually — Sacramento State nursing and physical therapy students will soon share space with students from a private university. CSUS has agreed to lease out the third floor of Folsom Hall, located just south of the campus, to California Northstate University College of Health Sciences. The private school, which has a pharmacy college and will soon open a medical school in Elk Grove, plans to offer a health sciences undergraduate program in the building.  Sacramento Bee article



Who’s behind the chemical-laden water pits in Kern County? — One thing is clear for officials who discovered hundreds of illicit oil wastewater pits in Kern County: They have years of work ahead of them to determine who put the chemical-laden water there and how to remediate any potential environmental damage.  LA Times article 

Emails show PG&E helped PUC official write safety directive –  In the months after the deadly 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, California regulators scrambled to order Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to improve the safety of its aging infrastructure. Now, new documents show the utility was deeply involved in the process, helping PUC’s executive director write and rewrite the same safety directive it was about to receive.  LA Times article 

Winter wood-burning season ends as cleaner burning encouraged – The valley air district’s annual wintertime “Check Before You Burn” program ends Saturday — and if there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s this: People with registered low-emission devices are allowed to burn much more often than those with old-fashioned wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. At the same time, those with old technology are being squeezed down to fewer days they can lawfully burn.  Bakersfield Californian article

Scientists tackle a dual threat:  More acid, less oxygen in ocean — Every summer for the past decade, fishermen and beachgoers along the Oregon coast have noticed dead crabs scattered along the shore, sometimes washed up in bunches. No one knows for sure why it’s happening, but scientists think “dead zones” formed by low oxygen levels in coastal waters could be the culprit.  KQED report

John Buckley: When it comes to natural resource issues, give peace a chance – The executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center of Twain Harte writes, “As a longtime environmental leader dealing with a wide range of controversial issues across this vast region, it is my experience that respectful strategies and sensitivity to opposing views gain far more in the long run than denigrating opponents as evils to be overcome.”  Buckley op-ed in Modesto Bee

Oakdale egrets become big nuisance – Dozens upon dozens of cattle egrets were evicted from the Harvest Apartments in Oakdale on Thursday. The egrets for the past three years have taken up residence in a three-story pine tree at the apartment’s northwest corner at Oak Avenue and West F Street.  Modesto Bee article

Legality of recreating on private bluffs property tricky – Trespassing on private property on the bluffs above the Kern River south of Hart Park and the Kern County Soccer Park can trigger interesting discussions about legality. Simply put, a person is trespassing if they go onto private property and know they shouldn’t be there.  Bakersfield Californian article

A struggle to preserve:  Recreation destroying cactus habitat — The lush grasses and sweeps of wildflowers cloak much of the damage to the small canyon in a blanket of ephemeral green. But Ellen Cypher and Erin Tennant can see it as they walk along a sandy route that has been churned into the bottom of the wash by motorcyclists and quad riders.  Bakersfield Californian article

LAFD failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites, state says — The Los Angeles Fire Department has failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites scattered across the city, exposing the public to increased risks from potential spills and mishandling of toxic substances, according to a state report released Friday. LA Times article

William Tweed: Rare animal finds an exciting trend — Now and then this column likes to check in with some of the ongoing stories about Sierra Nevada wildlife. This week, I’ll share two encouraging stories and one that may not end so well. All involve creatures whose small numbers make them exceedingly rare.  Tweed column in Visalia Times-Delta


Health/Human Services

7 new cases of measles reported in California – Seven more cases of measles have been reported in California, bringing the total to 130 since an outbreak that began at Disneyland in December.  AP article

Dr. Brian Guthrie: Why I don’t want to die in a hospital – The pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente writes, “When I die, God willing, I would like to do so in my own home, where I lived my life. I prefer familiar sounds, food and family, and I want to feel like I’m at peace. The question I think we all need to ask ourselves is which path sounds more appealing?” Guthrie op-ed in Fresno Bee 

Bakersfield boy’s tumor could live on in medical research — Nathan Street’s parents were devastated when they were told early last year that the cause of their little boy’s mysterious new crossed eye was an inoperable, malignant brain tumor. It was Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. That’s a cancer of a part of the brainstem with a median survival rate of less than a year from diagnosis, according to the DIPG Registry, a collaborative of physicians and researchers.  Bakersfield Californian article


Land Use/Housing

Plan resurrected for new Kings County city — The planning process has once again been set in motion for Quay Valley, an eco-friendly city proposed to rise on undeveloped scrubland along Interstate 5 in southwestern Kings County.  Hanford Sentinel article



Judge’s ruling could benefit Sacramento RT, other transit agencies — A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Department of Labor is unlawfully withholding millions of dollars in aid to the Sacramento Regional Transit District and other local transit agencies in California. Sacramento Bee article


Other Areas 

Kern homeless numbers decline, with exceptions – The general population of homeless continued to decline in metro Bakersfield and Kern County, but certain groups of them including some adults rose, according to an annual census released Friday.  Bakersfield Californian article

California confronts $86 million IT bill for ‘nothing’ — Another state California state government technology project is in trouble, and this one needs $17.5 million right away or the state could be on the hook for five times that much and have nothing to show for it.  Sacramento Bee article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down: Show love.

Modesto Bee – Our View: There’s still not enough water to go around, a word or two about birds, and other issues.