February 7, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Ambassador nominee’s ill-fated path is a Senate cautionary tale – Maria Echaveste made it all the way from the San Joaquin Valley to the edge of political glory, as the nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Mexico. But now, instead of highlighting her life’s inspiring arc, Echaveste’s recently withdrawn nomination sheds light on the increasingly dicey politics of Senate confirmation. Democrats must rethink their choices, as they calculate who can survive scrutiny from the Republican-controlled Senate. Fresno Bee article

Party committees move millions in California elections — Eureka, on California’s North Coast, is at least a seven-hour drive from Fresno, the northern tip of the Central Valley’s sprawling 14th Senate District. It’s even farther from Santa Ana, the Orange County city at the heart of Southern California’s 34th Senate District. In political terms, though, the Eureka-based Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee was right in the thick of both campaign battlegrounds last fall.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

Mike Dunbar: Refusing to sing along with Jeff Denham – Perhaps Rep. Jeff Denham doesn’t like the sound of news paper columnists and editorial writers (and TV stations, and magazines and blogs) refusing to join the safety choir.  As I said, I can’t carry a tune.  At least not that one.  Dunbar column in Modesto Bee

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Joel Fox: How about a Latino for Senate? (A Republican!) — If a prominent Democratic Latino doesn’t enter the race, a Republican Latino may see an opportunity to rally Latinos. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez is said to be considering the possibility. Former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin might try again, making an earlier unsuccessful bid for the senate. The political dynamics might be better for her now than a decade ago. Former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado is a possibility. As is Ruben Barrales, head of Grow Elect, an organization geared to recruit Republican candidates. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Joe Mathews: The moment to take on Prop 13 is over — Some tax reformers hold onto the hope of changing Prop 13 via ballot measure next year. But a new PPIC poll suggests that the moment for big reform is over.  Mathews in Fox & Hounds

Other areas

California lawmakers push bill to require vaccinations for Head Start preschool toddlers — All children attending Head Start preschools across the country would have to be vaccinated under a bill two California members of Congress plan to introduce next week.  Capitol Alert

John Myers:  LA-area lawmaker pushes for driver’s licenses via smartphone – Lose your license? Leave it at home? One California legislator, supported by the state’s lieutenant governor, thinks you should be able to access that license on your smartphone.  Myers in KQED

Obama to visit Bay Area for cybersecurity summit, DNC fundraiser — President Obama returns to the Bay Area Friday for a White House-sponsored cybersecurity conference at Stanford University and some political fundraising. During his 24-hour stopover, the president will address the Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford, which the White House says will “help shape public and private sector efforts to protect American consumers and companies from growing threats to consumers and commercial networks.”  San Francisco Chronicle article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Jerry Brown ‘not ready’ for mandatory water restrictions in drought — Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday that he remains reluctant to impose mandatory water restrictions on Californians, saying the state is doing “pretty well” conserving water voluntarily as it enters a fourth year of drought.  Capitol Alert

Proposed Kern County cuts would hit public safety hard – The Kern County Sheriff’s Office stands to lose the most under a pair of financial plans that go before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. Sheriff Donny Youngblood could be forced to close the Ridgecrest Jail and reduce staffing in his rural crime-fighting unit to absorb the mid-year budget cuts proposed by the County Administrative Office.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

Fresno one of the 5 U.S. cities bouncing back strongest from recession – The Brookings Institution report finds that Austin, Houston and Raleigh, N.C., have outpaced other U.S. cities in terms of GDP growth per capita and rising employment since 2007, with Fresno, Calif., and Dallas rounding out the top five. Time magazine article

Budget talks to begin in Merced – Two budget priority sessions are planned this month by the Merced City Council, which is looking for input from residents on where to focus its resources in the coming fiscal year.  Merced Sun-Star article

Bakersfield home prices fell in January but rose from year before on size index – Bakersfield home prices slipped overall in January but managed a significant year-over-year increase when size differences are taken into account, according to a new report.  Bakersfield Californian article

Best wage growth in six years boosts another strong jobs report – The economy had another robust month of job growth in January, adding 257,000 net new positions and producing the best wage gains in more than six years, the Labor Department reported Friday.  LA Times article; McClatchy Newspapers article

California’s top 1 percent sees huge income boost – The 150,000 California taxpayers in the top 1 percent of California earners made more money in 2012 than the roughly 10 million taxpayers at the bottom, according to a Bee analysis of new figures from the state Franchise Tax Board.  Sacramento Bee article

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants federal mediation of port dispute – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday that the federal government should intervene in the drawn-out labor negotiations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  KPCC report

West Coast port employers to cut shifts amid labor dispute – Companies that handle billions of dollars of cargo at West Coast seaports said Friday they will hire far fewer workers this weekend, the latest escalation in a contract dispute with dockworkers that threatens to shut down a vital link in U.S.-Asia trade.  AP article; LA Times article

Atwater woman suing businesses for ADA violations encouraged by lawyers, ex-boyfriend says – Randy Barnes peered into the living room of an Atwater home he shared with his girlfriend last summer and watched as a man handed her a piece of paper. The paper, according to Barnes, contained the names of businesses that his girlfriend, Aurora Cervantes, would sue in a rash of disability lawsuits. The businesses on the list were “next,” Barnes told the Merced Sun-Star in several telephone interviews, even though Cervantes hadn’t stepped foot in most of them.  Merced Sun-Star article

Nine Valley RadioShack locations slated for closure – At least nine Central Valley RadioShack locations are on the chopping block as the struggling electronics retailer seeks to unload stores as part of its bankruptcy plan. The Business Journal article; Fresno Bee article

80-room motel proposed at 12th, Glendale – A Bay Area-based hotelier is looking to build a brand new four-story motel near 12th Avenue and Highway 198 that, if completed, would be the largest lodging in Hanford.  Hanford Sentinel article

LA City Council has the highest pay of nation’s 5 largest cities — Compared with city council members in the nation’s five largest cities — Phoenix, Houston, San Diego, New York and Chicago — L.A.’s lawmakers are cleaning up. L.A. City Council members make three times as much as their counterparts in Phoenix. Their salaries easily top Houston and San Diego and top peers in New York by more than $72,000 annually.  LA Times article

Is the antitech movement obsolete? — Last year seemed a climax for tensions between tech and the industry’s adopted city — protests of tech shuttle buses, antieviction demonstrations and bars banning Google Glass all made headlines.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Federal government to boost drought funding by $50 million — The federal government is offering up to $50 million for drought relief in western states as California enters its fourth dry year, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday.  AP article; LA Times article; Capital Public Radio report; John Myers in KQED

Federal drought relief money to help state save salmon run – California will get a big chunk of federal drought relief money directed at Western states, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Friday, in part to pay for refrigerating water at a Shasta fish hatchery where water levels are so low, and what’s left is so warm, that federally protected salmon cannot survive.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Researchers fly into heart of California storm to gather key data – A small fleet of planes is doing the last thing you’d expect with a powerful storm moving in — flying right into its heart. The air campaign, begun near Sacramento, is not only one of the most daunting attempts to learn about real-time weather on the West Coast, but the biggest and most expensive, involving a $10 million joint mission between the federal government, the state and a handful of universities.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Getting ready for the World Ag Expo — The start of 48th annual World Ag Expo was a whole six days away, but employees of Lawrence Tractor Company spent part of Wednesday crawling over a group of John Deere tractors here at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.  Visalia Times-Delta article; Fresno Bee article

World Ag Expo in an era of limits — As has been the case for several years, there will be tens of thousands of visitors, roughly 1,500 exhibitors and 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space at the world’s largest agricultural trade show scheduled for Tuesday-Thursday next week at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll see the changing face of California agriculture.  Hanford Sentinel article

Groundwater woes wear on Merced County farmers – The record drought has turned water into a commodity that some will pay any price for. As the Merced County Board of Supervisors rushes to develop an ordinance regulating groundwater exports outside of county basins, some landowners continue pumping groundwater and transferring it elsewhere. Some are selling it for profit at the expense of other farmers whose crops are shriveling and drying up.  Merced Sun-Star article

Meeting to explore emergency dams on 3 Delta sloughs – A proposal to temporarily dam three sloughs in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a drought emergency measure will be presented at a public meeting Thursday in Clarksburg.  Sacramento Bee article

Bill extends research protections to farm animals – Farm animals used in federal experiments to help the meat industry would receive new protections against mistreatment and neglect under legislation introduced Thursday by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both houses of Congress.  New York Times article

Milk mutiny?  Dairy co-ops seek federal fate — The state’s three largest dairy cooperatives want the federal government to OK major changes to the way California dairymen are paid for their milk.  The Business Journal article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Exeter police officer found dead in Goshen home – An Exeter police officer was found dead Friday at a home in Goshen, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said. The officer was identified as Daniel Green, 31, a 10-year veteran of the department. Boudreaux said he could not discuss the cause of death.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

San Diego agrees to hike pay for police officers – The tentative agreement — announced by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and Brian Marvel, president of the police officers union — would boost police pay by approximately 6.6% over five years. The plan must be ratified by the union membership and the City Council.LA Times article

LA celebrity attorney Mark Geragos takes on second Bakersfield case – Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos is now representing the families of two men killed by Bakersfield police in separate incidents.The Los Angeles-based attorney announced Friday he has filed a claim against the Bakersfield Police Department for what he called the “unjustified and senseless” killing of Ramiro James Villegas on Nov. 13. Police said Thursday its Critical Incident Review Board determined the shooting was within department policy and state and federal guidelines.  LA Times article

Meeks sentenced on federal gun charges — Jeremy Meeks, whose mug shot launched more than 100,000 likes on the Stockton Police Department Facebook page upon his arrest last June, has been sentenced on gun charges, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.  Stockton Record article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Sandy Banks: LAPD’s Chief Beck has bigger problems than Waze Beck is tilting at windmills when he makes Waze a villain. The chief has bigger problems he ought to be worrying about: rising crime, discontent among the rank-and-file and a brewing battle over how public to make the video recordings once officers are outfitted with body cameras.  Banks in LA Times


UC will require measles vaccinations for incoming students — As the Disneyland measles outbreak continues to spread, the University of California announced Friday that it would require incoming students to be vaccinated for the measles as well as other diseases.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

State schools chief urges parents to vaccinate children – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Friday issued a statement that parents should vaccinate children.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Modesto forum to focus on campus violence – A women’s group will hold a March 19 forum in Modesto on school violence, with a goal of preventing incidents such as the slayings near the University of California at Santa Barbara last year.  Modesto Bee article

Taboo of bringing a phone to school may end — The Kern High School District will launch a pilot program this spring allowing students at up to seven local campuses to use their own smart phones, laptops or tablets in class. It’s called the Bring Your Own Device program. And it’s part of a plan to, within a year, make sure every student in KHSD has access to such technologies in the classroom.  Bakersfield Californian article

Visalia Unified teachers discontent with working conditions — Among the audience at the school board meeting on Jan. 27 for Visalia Unified were roughly 200 teachers donning black shirts. The dark garb was not worn to mourn a colleague who’d passed, but was to show discontent for teacher conditions. Visalia Times-Delta article


Thousands to march in Northern California against fracking — Thousands of environmentalists are expected to take to the streets Saturday in the San Francisco Bay Area to demand California’s governor ban fracking.  AP article

Health/Human Services

New bill would train doctors, boost planned UC Merced med school – Assembly Bill 174 would put $1.85 million into a partnership between UC Merced, UC Davis and UCSF- Fresno. Assembly Member Adam Gray, D-Merced, recently proposed the bill, which was co-authored by Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres. Gray says if the bill becomes law, it would expand enrollment in UC Merced’s medical school partnership bringing future doctors to the Central Valley.  KVPR report

Debate over vaccine requirements forges strange alliance – The debate over whether parents should be required to get their children vaccinated against measles has created strange alliances, putting some liberal parents on the same side as Republican conservatives.  AP article

Health officials discourage ‘measles parties’ — Measles parties and chicken pox parties are practices that developed in eras before vaccines for those diseases were available. Both viruses are known to cause greater, more dangerous complications in adults. So some parents would intentionally infect their kids when they were young to work through the illness in its milder form, then retain immunity. KQED report

Vaccinations become off-limits in many online forums – As the national debate on childhood vaccines grows more intense, Internet forums such as Mommy2Mommy — gathering places for parents to discuss child-raising — are pushing back by restricting or banning the topic, sometimes banishing offenders.  LA Times article

Robin Abcarian: From young cancer patient’s parents, a special plea to vaccinate – Quite unexpectedly, Rhett has become the angelic public face of the pro-vaccination movement in California. Almost four years ago, Rhett was diagnosed with leukemia. He spent 156 nights total in the hospital, his father told me.  Abcarian column in LA Times

Diligence brought about VA financing for French Camp clinic – With news that President Obama’s proposed budget includes money to start construction on a new medical clinic for veterans in French Camp, local advocates and officials are elated, saying it shows the result of a sustained effort over years to demonstrate to federal officials that the clinic would fill a great need and improve the access to health care for tens of thousands of veterans in the region.  Stockton Record article

Dan Morain: Smoke gets in your eyes in nicotine-stained Central Valley — The smoking rate among California adults hovers at 12.5 percent, far below the national average of 19 percent. But this is a big state with many regions. Smokers evidently are not the social outcasts in, say, Bakersfield, Redding or Sacramento County that they are in San Mateo and Atherton.  Morain in Sacramento Bee

Hackers may have breached Anthem in December – The hackers who stole millions of health insurance records from Anthem Inc. commandeered the credentials of five different employees while seeking to penetrate the company’s computer network – and they may have been inside the system since December.  AP article; LA Times article

Technology experts aim to help West Sacramento on food issues — Three technology experts have arrived in West Sacramento in an attempt to use computer programming skills to make food more accessible to people, improve dietary health and solve food supply chain issues.  Sacramento Bee article

Land Use/Housing

New San Joaquin County planning commissioners offer diverse backgrounds — Like San Joaquin County, itself, the two appointments to the county Planning Commission bring with them a mix of both the rural and the urban to the body that oversees the rules for development and growth in the unincorporated areas of the county. Stockton Record article


State Sen. Andy Vidak: High-speed rail not only breaking promises, but busting family budgets – The Valley state senator (R-Hanford) writes, “The governor drove a shovel through the heart of our Central Valley when he “broke ground” last month on the debacle known as High-Speed Rail. He also left a trail of broken promises made to California voters when, in 2008, they approved Proposition 1A to fund HSR. Here are just a few of those broken promises.” Vidak op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Fresno airline changes: SkyWest switching planes, Allegiant ends Hawaii flights, Frontier gone for good — Travelers on United Express flights fromFresno Yosemite International Airport to San Francisco and Los Angeles will see changes in aircraft — and likely in the frequency of flights to those cities — by May as small propeller-driven planes are replaced by regional jetliners.  Fresno Bee article

Sacramento airport’s new pitch: We’re easier to use than our rivals – Sacramento’s airport is a lot grander since its billion-dollar expansion three years ago, but one thing hasn’t changed, officials say: It’s still easier to navigate than competing facilities in the Bay Area.  Sacramento Bee article

Stunning pictures show Bay Bridge construction up close — Building major structures, like bridges, is not easy work. And photographer Joseph A. Blum wants people to appreciate that. Exhibit A: Blum’s collection of photographs documenting the construction of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which is set for a reception in Sausalito on Saturday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Merced leaders frustrated at no progress ending homelessness – A few Merced residents and members of the City Council this week publicly questioned the effectiveness of the Merced County group charged with ending homelessness, leading one of the group’s officials to attempt to clear up what he called “misinformation.” Merced Sun-Star article

Court upholds capital’s camping ban, but gives homeless hope – Sacramento’s homeless community found some – but not much – comfort Friday from a state appeals court on a constitutional challenge to the city’s camping ordinance.  Sacramento Bee article

A life not forgotten: Tracy mourns death of homeless man – Andrew Herd, a homeless man whose legs were amputated years ago, died in the bushes behind the Home Depot this week. If he was any other homeless man in any other town, you’d probably never have heard about it. But Herd was a remarkable man, his friends say, and it seems Tracy is a remarkable town.  Stockton Record article

LA County grapples with overhaul of animal shelters – Many Californians consider the conditions at most shelters deplorable and see the killing of hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats each year as being out of sync with current values.  LA Times article

Michael Vane: National security starts with good quality preschools – The Tollhouse resident and Lt. General, U.S. Army (Ret.) writes, “Today, we face a legitimate, undermining threat to the employment engine that drives the American economy. This is clearly defined by the Department of Defense estimate that over 70% of young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are unable to serve in the military primarily because they are too poorly educated, have a serious criminal record or are too overweight.”  Vane op-ed in Fresno Bee

West Fresno youth conference puts focus on teen health, opportunities – In a southwest Fresno workshop aimed at curbing physical and emotional abuse, a group of teenage girls started with something less intimidating: self esteem.  Fresno Bee article

App puts medical marijuana a few clicks away – A Sacramento Web developer is taking online orders for medical marijuana using a new mobile application that he hopes will make purchasing it more convenient.  Sacramento Bee article

Brigette Bowers: NAACP’s mission in Merced continues to evolve — The newly elected president of Merced’s NAACP, Darryl Davis, spoke about his mission for the year, which included improving awareness about human trafficking in the sex trade, an exploitation he likens to slavery. He is most concerned, however, with youth in Merced and works on various levels to improve relations between teens and law enforcement.  Bowers in Merced Sun-Star

Wevurski new editor for Visalia, Tulare — Veteran newsman Pete Wevurski has been named Executive Editor of the Times-Delta and Californian News Groups, announced Paula Goudeau, president and publisher of the combined Gannett Co. groups. Visalia Times-Delta article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – It’s time for competitors at Academic Decathalon to shine.

Modesto Bee – It’s time for AcaDec competitors to shine.