February 6, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

See the 20 most expensive political campaigns in California – Senate races in the Central Valley and the south coast burned through almost $28 million during the 2013-14 election cycle, according to end-of-year spending reports that showed candidates and independent groups collectively spent more than $150 million on Assembly and Senate contests statewide over the two-year election cycle. The most expensive race came in its first year – a 2013 special election to replace former state Sen. Michael Rubio in the Central Valley’s then-16th Senate District. The campaigns of Republican Andy Vidak and Democrat Leticia Perez, as well as outside groups, spent more than $10.7 million, state records show.  Sacramento Bee article

All signs point to Villaraigosa Senate run, Nunez says – Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, who speaks often with the former mayor, said Villaraigosa’s enthusiasm for the Senate race has grown steadily in the four weeks since Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer announced she would not seek reelection.  LA Times article

State budget

Want budget stability? Property taxes may be the answer — Could making our state budget more dependent on property tax revenues be the key to eliminating the roller-coaster budgets of the last two decades?  Grizzly Bear Project article

Valley politics

Michael Fitzgerald: Stockton may be forced to change voting system — Since 1986, Stockton’s unusual two-part voting system has served the city tolerably well. “Tolerably” because you can’t give five stars to leaders who bankrupted the city. Now a city panel is considering reverting to the pre-1986 district voting system. Or creating a new system. That could deeply affect civic affairs. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

‘Tireless’ Steinberg endorses a ‘grateful’ Kamala Harris – She’s committed and grateful for his support. He’s tireless and proud to give it. And it’s been at least a few hours since Kamala Harris announced her last endorsement – so why not? Harris on Thursday said Darrell Steinberg has endorsed her U.S. Senate campaign.  Capitol Alert

Tony Quinn: An open Senate race and new rules — The 2016 US Senate race will be the first serious statewide contest under the new rules of the open primary-top two runoff.  If politicians have not figured out how much it has changed California politics, they will soon.  Quinn in Fox & Hounds

California violates Motor Voter Act, activists say; lawsuit threatened — Voting-rights advocates warned Thursday that they may sue California based on claims that the state is not complying with the so-called Motor Voter Act, a federal law mandating that states offer people an easy way to register to vote when they obtain their driver’s licenses.  LA Times article; KQED report


Immigration court cases delayed until 2019? No so, says federal agency – The federal Executive Office for Immigration Review says there is no reason for concern. The 2019 date is merely a default temporarily used for thousands of non-priority cases after a flood of unaccompanied minors and adults with children crossed the border last year. LA Times article

LA City, council officials cracking down on immigration scams — Rigo Reyes, chief of investigations at the Department of Consumer Affairs, said there may be as many as 2,500 people unlawfully providing immigration advice in California, often to the detriment of their clients’ cases. Some promise to help immigrants get work permits, file asylum claims or apply for other types of relief without actually doing any work, or doing it improperly, he said.  LA Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Judge confirms approval of Stockton’s bankruptcy plan — Propelled by the squiggly lines that form the unreadable signature of federal Judge Christopher Klein, Stockton cleared another bankruptcy hurdle Thursday and appears likely to exit Chapter 9 by the early days of March.  Stockton Record article; Sacramento Bee article

Judge: Sludge case should go to trial — The future of Los Angeles’ eight-year challenge to Kern County’s sludge ban came into focus Thursday when a judge ruled he wants a full trial on the merits of the case. Tulare County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Hicks declined to make a “summary judgment” on the case now, rejecting arguments from both the city of Los Angeles and the county of Kern that the facts are uncontested and he can rule immediately.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno’s water protest vote falls short, putting issue in council’s hands — Fresno’s historic Proposition 218 protest vote turned into an eye-opener, but failed in the end to kill Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s water infrastructure plan. All eyes now turn to the skies (send rain) and the City Council’s Feb. 26 debate on higher rates needed to pay for everything.  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

California has big gaps in distribution of high-skill industries – California has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of “advanced industry” workers, but a new study points out that the state still faces big challenges in Stockton, Fresno, the Inland Empire and elsewhere.  LA Times article

U.S. economy adds a robust 257,000 jobs in January, with 257,000 new jobs – U.S. employers hired at a stellar pace last month, wages rose by the most in six years, and Americans responded by streaming into the job market to find work.  AP article

Weatherford discloses plans for 8,000 oil field layoffs – Another oil field services company with substantial operations in Kern County has announced plans for major layoffs. Ireland-based Weatherford International Plc announced Thursday during an earnings conference that it would let go of 8,000 workers, or about 15 percent of its global workforce, in the first half of this year.  Bakersfield Californian article

Can we have economic growth without growing inequality? – Could our growing inequality be connected to the very type of economic activity that is driving innovation and the new economy? That’s the suggestion of a provocative piece by CityLab’s Richard Florida.  Grizzly Bear Project article

Southern California investor buys three retail centers in Fresno and Clovis – A Southern California investor bought three struggling shopping centers in Fresno and Clovis and is renovating them to attract new business. Highpoint Capital Group purchased the Gallery Plaza, near Fashion Fair Mall, and Manchester Center North, a small retail center just north of Manchester Center, in Fresno. The company also acquired Rodeo Plaza, at Shaw and Minnewawa avenues, in Clovis.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Clinton Olivier: Check out new, improved Blackstone Avenue’s makeover – The Fresno City Council member writes, “Blackstone is in the middle of a renaissance of epic proportion, one that is delivering jobs, a more attractive landscape and better prices on goods and services for all of us.”  Olivier op-ed in Fresno Bee

State exports set record, but ports are in trouble – California set an all-time record for exports in 2014, but West Sacramento trucking company president Richard Coyle was in no mood to celebrate that announcement on Thursday.  Sacramento Bee article

Labor dispute could affect Port of Stockton – Port of Stockton officials expect to see some outcome soon in the long-running and fractious labor negotiations between West Coast dockworkers and their maritime logistics company employers.  Stockton Record article

Leaders announce new numbers, plans to reduce poverty in Sacramento – According to data released by a national nonprofit group, 12 percent of households in the Sacramento region live below the poverty line and about 40 percent are one job interruption or medical crisis away from it because they lack a financial cushion to sustain them for three months.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento’s legal bill for Kings arena lawsuits: $1.45 million – The city of Sacramento is spending $1.45 million on three lawsuits related to the downtown arena construction project, according to a city staff report.  Sacramento Bee article

IHHS workers hold vigil for overtime – It may be more crowded in the hall outside of California Governor Jerry Brown’s office. In-Home Supportive Services workers today began holding a vigil they plan to maintain through the end of the month. Capital Public Radio report

Americans are still stressed out, mainly over money, annual report finds — Stress is plentiful in the United States, and stress over money, which is anything but plentiful for many American families, is in overflowing supply, says a new survey. More than 1 in 4 Americans report they feel stressed over money most or all of the time, and most say their stress over money has either remained about the same as last year (59%) or gotten worse (29%).  LA Times article


State undertakes more scrutiny on water users – Farmers and other water users across the Central Valley soon will be required to share more details about their water rights and how much they are diverting, as state officials sort through allegations of illegal water use in this time of scarcity.  Stockton Record article

162 drought maps reveal how thirsty California has become – Nearly 80% of California is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the state’s condition isn’t expected to improve in the near future.  LA Times article

Patch of California emerges from drought, experts say — After years of historically low rain totals and record-setting temperatures, California’s drought situation is looking … less awful. The latest evidence of this is a patch of southeastern California near Lake Havasu and the Colorado River. But if you want to see it on a map, you’d better take out a magnifying glass.  LA Times article

Stanislaus city, county, water officials tackle new groundwater law – Local officials agreed Thursday that carrying out California’s new groundwater law will be a challenge, but it’s better than the alternative – letting the state impose the rules.  Modesto Bee article

Water officials to demand information on more oil field disposal ponds – Regional water quality regulators plan to issue enforcement actions this year to operators of about 200 local oil field wastewater percolation ponds that, until recently, they didn’t know existed.  Bakersfield Californian article

California authorizes oilfield dumping into drinking water — Regulators in California, the country’s third-largest oil-producing state, have authorized oil companies to inject production fluids and waste into what are now federally protected aquifers more than 2,500 times, risking contamination of underground water supplies that could be used for drinking water or irrigation, state records show.  AP article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno County Sheriff Mims wants clear message: Pot is illegal – Meeting with hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers during a high-profile week for the president’s anti-drug agenda, Margaret Mims on Thursday sought a clear, unalloyed statement that marijuana is illegal at the federal level and will stay that way. Fresno Bee article

Eric Holder seeks straight talk on policing in Bay Area visit — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made the Bay Area the final stop on a tour seeking to build community trust of law enforcement after 2014 saw sustained outrage across the country over police killings of unarmed black men.  KQED report


Turnover in school superintendents has heads turning across Fresno, Madera counties – Turmoil flickering at districts across Fresno and Madera counties came to a head with the firing of two superintendents. A third superintendent who leads the tiny Raisin City Elementary school district is taking heat from community members for a past felony conviction. And a fourth, Central Unified Superintendent Mike Berg, announced his intention to retire at the end of 2015.  Fresno Bee article

Harvard bans professor-undergrad romances; California schools, not so much — Harvard University banned professors from having “sexual or romantic relationships” with undergraduates — a much more stringent policy than what some of California’s largest and most prominent universities have on the books.  LA Times article

Dan Walters Daily: California college transfers still tough – While progress has been made, transfer between California’s public higher education systems is still not working the way it’s supposed to, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Bill would cap large payouts to school superintendents – A California lawmaker wants to limit the generous — sometimes six-figure — payouts that school districts award school superintendents who leave their jobs.  San Francisco Chronicle article

West Hills, Lemoore Police Department partner for campus police — As West Hills College Lemoore continues to grow, the school is teaming up with the Lemoore Police Department to hire a designated campus police officer.  Hanford Sentinel article

Fewer top graduates want to join Teach for America – Teach for America, the education powerhouse that has sent thousands of handpicked college graduates to teach in some of the nation’s most troubled schools, is suddenly having recruitment problems.  New York Times article

UC Davis tensions on the rise following controversial vote — Tensions are rising at UC Davis after student senators passed a pro-Palestinian resolution seeking divestment from businesses with Israeli ties and the Jewish community suffered two hate crimes in recent days.  Sacramento Bee article


LA challenges legality of newest biosolids rule – The city of Los Angeles has a new biosolids beef with Kern County. On Wednesday Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation Director Enrique Zaldivar issued a letter demanding that Kern County “cure or correct” a violation of California’s Brown Act that he claims occurred when the Kern County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance on Jan. 6.  Bakersfield Californian article

Environmental study predicts minor impact from recycled water project – A project to build a system for conveying recycled wastewater from Modesto and Turlock to farmland in western Stanislaus County won’t have a significant impact on the environment, a study says.  Modesto Bee article

Group unveils new website for California parks — CaliParks.org, developed by San Francisco-based Stamen Design, gives users pictures and particulars about every park in California – 11,826 in all. Want to see what city parks are nearby? Find a public golf course? Reserve an oceanside campsite? Check the Governor’s Mansion is open? The new website helps with that and more.  Sacramento Bee article

Dave Quast: Judge fracking on science, not hype – The California director of Energy in Depth writes, “Bolstered by science, California’s policymakers have chosen to protect our environment and boost our economy. The more energy we produce in California, the more we will be able to provide affordable energy for consumers, create jobs, generate significant tax revenue and reduce our dependence on foreign fuels, all while lowering global carbon emissions.”  Quast op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Marc Boyd: Sierra Nevada forests need urgent action by Congress – The Arnold resident writes, “In the aftermath of the Rim and King fires, science-based policies designed to address the sharp increase in the severity of Sierra Nevada wildfires are urgently needed.”  Boyd op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Health/Human Services

Anthem hack raises fear about medical data — Insurance giant Anthem Inc. suffered a massive data breach exposing the personal information of up to 80 million Americans — and it could have been even worse for consumers.  LA Times article; ‘Anthem hack Q&A: What you need to know’ in LA Times; AP article

Thousands of Tulare County Anthem customers warned – In Tulare County, thousands of city, county and private employees were warned in an email that they may have been affected. Large employers, including the county of Tulare, city of Visalia, Officer of Education, and school distracts in Visalia and Tulare all contract with Anthem. Visalia Times-Delta article

Kingsburg group gets hospital board to postpone discussion of lease for mental health facility — An ad-hoc citizens group opposed to leasing Kingsburg District Hospital for a county locked mental health facility was successful Wednesday in getting the hospital district board to postpone a discussion on the proposal.  Fresno Bee article

Study alleges toxic products sold at Dollar Tree, similar stores — Valley groups joined with dozens of organizations this week to protest allegedly toxic products sold at Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General and 99 Cent Only stores.  Hanford Sentinel article


Dan Walters: California’s roads need costly repair — The good news is that after decades of ignoring the deterioration of California’s once-world-class highway system, our politicians have finally awakened to the crisis. The not-so-good news is that they may take a minimalist approach to get themselves off the hook without truly restoring the system.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Other Areas

No high-speed rail, more water, road funding top Kings Count wish list – In case you were wondering what Kings County leaders want to accomplish, the supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday laid out a list of lobbying goals in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.: Kill high-speed rail, find a way to get more water and/or funding for water projects and try to money to fix crumbling roads.  Hanford Sentinel article

Bakersfield council asked to save Centennial’s granite slabs – Ten engraved granite slabs at Centennial Plaza that have cracked since its 1998 opening could be added to the area’s restoration at next week’s Bakersfield City Council meeting.  Bakersfield Californian article

Controversial Atwater firetruck rolls into town – The controversy on wheels rolled into Atwater late Wednesday. It was painted red and black to resemble the colors of Atwater’s antique firetrucks. It sat outside the city’s fire station on West Avenue 2, waiting for its grand debut at next week’s Atwater City Council meeting.  Merced Sun-Star article

Sanger Fire Department unveils two ‘state-of-the-art’ ambulances — The Sanger Fire Department unveiled two new ambulances on Thursday that officials say will provide a better overall patient experience for residents.  Fresno Bee article

Fresno firefighters who saved children honored by mayor, council — Eight Fresno firefighters were honored Thursday by the Fresno City Council and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin for their role in the rescue of three children who were left home alone Jan. 25 as a fire erupted in their apartmentFresno Bee article

California Chrome hasn’t lost his luster — In the eyes of fans and racing experts, California Chrome proved he’s the top thoroughbred in North America. As an encore to his 2014 Horse of the Year campaign, the Cinderella colt is ready to take on the world.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Is there a cure for America’s growing immunity to facts?

Merced Sun-Star – If young people lack a sense of civic responsibility it’s because no one is teaching them how to have one. No wonder they don’t vote.

Modesto Bee – If young people lack a sense of civic responsibility it’s because no one is teaching them how to have one. No wonder they don’t vote.

Sacramento Bee – If young people lack a sense of civic responsibility it’s because no one is teaching them how to have one. No wonder they don’t vote; Reason took center stage this week in the Disneyland measles outbreak. Good for Sens. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, who introduce legislation to make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating schoolchildren in this state.

Stockton Record – It was expected but still is sad to see. A grieving family, unquestionably victims of a horrific tragedy, and a city at odds. Unfortunately, that is the case between the survivors of Misty Holt-Singh and the city of Stockton.