January 1, 2015


Receive the Maddy Daily in your inbox every morning! To subscribe or unsubscribe, please send an email to Ana Melendez at ajovelmelendez@csufresno.

Political Briefs

Top stories

John Myers: A toast to 2014’s top California political stories — It was, well, an odd even-numbered year.  Statewide elections usually spark some big stories and important debates, but 2014 was  rather tepid compared with previous electoral cycles.  Even so, there were a few big moments that won’t be soon forgotten. So without further ado… Myers in KQED

For many immigrants, driver’s licenses will be ‘an incredible relief’ – License applicants will have to provide documents to verify their identities and prove they reside in California. They will each also have to submit a thumbprint, pass vision and written exams and schedule a behind-the-wheel driving test. The special licenses will feature text explaining that they are “not acceptable for official federal purposes,” such as boarding an airplane.  LA Times article; KQED report; Hanford Sentinel article; Stockton Record article

California’s new laws for 2015: How are you affected? — Hundreds of California laws take effect with the new year, including several drafted in response to corruption scandals in the Legislature, the mass shooting in Isla Vista last spring and racially inflammatory comments by the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Others address drug crimes, the use of aerial drones by paparazzi and rights for immigrants who are in the country illegally.  LA Times article

State budget

2015 opens with drama on budget — The unions hope post-election Brown is more generous than pre-election Brown and sends more cash their way. Their agreements will likely set the template for other union talks in 2016. Hint: Watch Brown’s soon-to-be issued 2015-16 budget proposal, since it will lay down a marker for what the famously frugal Democrat wants to spend on employee compensation.  Sacramento Bee article


Undocumented residents in Fresno ready to apply for driver’s licenses — Becerril is one of an estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants expected to apply for driver’s licenses in the next three years under a law that goes into effect Friday. That morning, she will be among the first to apply in Fresno. Local immigrant rights leaders think the Valley impact could be somewhere around 200,000 new licenses.  Fresno Bee article

Other areas

Water regs, plastic bag ban among 2015’s new laws – California’s historic drought prompted the Legislature into action in 2014, leading lawmakers to regulate groundwater for the first time and override homeowner associations that fine members for replacing lawns with more drought-tolerant landscaping. The most populous state also will became the first to set a “yes means yes” standard for sex between college students and the first to ban single-use plastic bags, a law the plastic bag industry is seeking to overturn through a voter referendum.  AP article; Sacramento Bee article

Californians to Watch in 2015 – Here are seven Californians to watch in the new year as chosen by The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Bureau. Capitol Alert

Tom Holyoke:  Let’s shine a light on ‘dark money’ – The Fresno State political science professor writes, “If the Supreme Court refuses to prohibit unlimited contributions, then we must insist that Congress and the FEC require original disclosure on all political attack ads, a complete listing of everyone who originally contributed money before it passed through dark money organizations. At least this would shine a little light dispelling the darkness around the money’s origins.” Holyoke op-ed in Fresno Bee

Tech-wary Supreme Court to finally join digital age — Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday that the Supreme Court is working on a modest initiative to provide greater transparency by making all documents filed with the court available online.  Washington Post article

News Briefs

Top Stories

California’s high housing costs drive out poor, middle-income workers — California’s high cost of living has pushed hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income workers to other states, federal data show. The trend points to a challenge for the state’s economy: how to attract workers of moderate means to some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets.  LA Times article

Rain eases California drought anxiety, if not the actual drought – It’s still a crisis. But recent rain has eased the situation, and after some delicate negotiations, a bipartisan group of California lawmakers managed to approve an emergency order releasing extra water into a federal canal system for towns like Orange Cove.  NPR report

Jobs and the Economy

Livingston police unions agree to 5 percent pay cut – Livingston police officers and their supervisors will start the new year with a 5 percent pay cut, according to a recent six-month agreement reached by city leaders.  Merced Sun-Star article

San Francisco’s booming job market drives up salaries, home prices –  In a state whose overall economic growth is outpacing the nation’s, San Francisco’s job market is especially impressive.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Political standoffs in D.C. could impede economic growth in 2015 – The economy boomed through most of last year, a time when the nation’s capital was devoid of major budget fights and threats of government shutdown. Economists worry, though, that the accelerating recovery could soon slow down with new standoffs in Washington as Republicans take control of Congress and President Obama shows no signs of backing down.  LA Times article

California gas prices likely to stay low in 2015 – California gasoline prices closed 2014 at the lowest level in more than five years, mirroring a free fall in crude oil prices that shows few signs of stopping soon. LA Times article

States’ minimum wages rise, helping millions of workers – All told, 29 states will exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour at the beginning of January, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The initial changes will enhance minimum pay by as little as a few pennies to as much as $1.25 an hour, affecting about 3.1 million employees, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group.  New York Times article

CoreLogic:  Valley foreclosure rates down in October – Central Valley foreclosure and delinquency rates declined in October, according to new data from real estate research firm CoreLogic.  The Business Journal article

Pacific Ethanol to acquire Midwest producer — Pacific Ethanol Inc., the Sacramento-based marketer and producer of low-carbon renewable fuels, announced Wednesday that it has entered into a merger agreement with an Illinois-based ethanol producer.  Sacramento Bee article; AP article

Port of Stockton sets record for shipping in 2014 – It was a busy 2014 at the Port of Stockton. Port officials reported handling 230 ships for the full year, a surprising increase of more than 25 percent from the previous record 182 ships set in 2012. It is also up from the 181 ship visits tallied in 2013.  Stockton Record article

Modesto ambulance employees turn in gear as outsourcing arrives — Some billing employees of American Medical Response in Modesto returned their company-owned equipment and picked up their last paychecks Wednesday. Some said it was a sorry way to close out 2014.  Modesto Bee article

Judge voids verdict against San Francisco Fire Department in exam case — In a major victory for San Francisco officials, a judge has tossed out a jury’s $3.7 million verdict that found that 15 city firefighters had suffered age discrimination during a lieutenant’s promotional exam process.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Davis ‘innovation district’ could face voters — The city of Davis is well known for its long-standing slow-growth philosophy. But some city leaders say the town, at this point, really could use the economic boost that new business and housing development would bring, even if that means some judicious taking of agricultural land. Sacramento Bee article


Wettest December since ’55, but still not enough – We asked for a wet month, and we got one. Thanks in large part to that giant storm three weeks ago, December will go down as Stockton’s wettest single month since February 1998. It was our wettest December, in fact, since 1955, which also happens to be the last time that Stockton experienced a major urban flood.  Stockton Record article

New law may raise egg prices dramatically – The new year is expected to bring rising chicken egg prices across the U.S. as California starts requiring farmers to house hens in cages with enough space to move around and stretch their wings.  AP article

San Joaquin County supervisors step away from eight years on front lines of water fight – Larry Ruhstaller and fellow Supervisor Ken Vogel are different men from different backgrounds, but for eight years they have been the yin and yang of county water — complementing each other in efforts to represent a thirsty county in the middle of a thirsty state. Stockton Record article

Three adult Asian citrus psyllids found in trap near Kingsburg — Three adult Asian citrus psyllids were found in a trap Tuesday morning near Kingsburg, Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita said. The discovery triggered a quarantine of the area due to the insect’s propensity to carry a tree-killing disease known as huanglongbing, or citrus greening. This disease causes plants to produce bitter fruit and eventually die.  Fresno Bee article

No watering allowed in Visalia — Visalia homeowners are reminded that they aren’t allowed to water their lawns from this month through the end of February.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Criminal Justice/Prisons


Police: Gang-on-gang violence caused increase in Fresno homicides — Gang-on-gang violence fueled a 20% increase in murders in the city of Fresno in 2014 and more of those murders were committed with firearms compared to 2013, the Fresno Police Department reported in a year-end analysis of deadly violence in the city. Fresno Bee article

In 2014, racial tension over policing reached a breaking point – It was a year of grand juries and smashed windows, of tear gas and video evidence, and of boisterous demands for police reform in Los Angeles; New York; Oakland, Calif.; and Ferguson, Mo., as crowds cried, “Black lives matter.”  LA Times article

LA County online system makes filing police reports easier — Victims of thefts or property losses valued under $950 can now file a police report at the push of a button, thanks to a Web-based program launched last month by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  LA Times article

Suspect’s death results in $8-million jury award – A Long Beach civil jury Wednesday awarded $8 million to the family of a man whose lawyers argued that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies choked him during a violent struggle in Compton.  LA Times article



The Grade: Ins and outs of education in Kern County — Kevin Crosby, a local special education teacher, is hoping to bring an award-winning program to students at the Alternative Instructional Methods (AIM) Center at Vista West continuation high school.  Bakersfield Californian article

Nan Austin: On Campus:  Where we stand; what I see coming — For schools, New Year’s Day is more a midpoint than a fresh start. But the dawn of 2015 seems like a good time to look at big changes for 2014-15 – how the start went and some predictions on the months to come.  Austin in Modesto Bee



Your PG&E bill will rise in 2015:  Here’s how much – Starting Thursday, the rates that Pacific Gas and Electric Co. charges for electricity and natural gas service will rise, pushing up monthly bills by 5.9 percent for the average home. The money will pay for replacing old gas distribution lines, installing more “smart grid” equipment to minimize blackouts, and hiring more workers for the giant utility’s call centers, among other things.  San Francisco Chronicle article

State finalizes fracking rules — After extensive debate, California’s first rules specifically regulating fracking and other oil well-stimulation techniques were finalized this week and will take effect July 1. The regulations, required by 2013’s Senate Bill 4 and shepherded by the state Department of Conservation, cleared the Office of Administrative Law on Tuesday. They will replace interim measures put in place in early 2014.  Bakersfield Californian article

Health/Human Services

No plans for California to make up for expiring ‘Medicaid fee bump’ – California officials have no plans to make up for an expiring federal pay incentive designed to entice doctors to treat low-income patients. The end of the subsidy with the start of the new year could result in steep pay cuts for many doctors participating in the Medicaid system for needy Californians.  LA Times article

Flu season is officially at epidemic levels, CDC says – The nation’s top public health agency declared a flu epidemic Tuesday, warning residents to exercise caution in public spaces and use good, basic sanitary habits. And even though it may miss the dominant flu strain this year, experts continued to urge people to get the flu shot, saying that it certainly can’t hurt.  Sacramento Bee article

UC Davis developing way to make Ebola drug — The National Science Foundation has awarded UC Davis a $200,000 “fast response” grant to develop a wide-scale production method for the experimental Ebola treatment ZMapp.  Sacramento Bee article

California Department of State Hospitals director chosen — Filling a long-standing vacancy, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday appointed Pamela Ahlin to be director of the California Department of State Hospitals.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

Land Use/Housing

San Francisco housing on the way, but not soon enough for 2015 relief – The proliferation of cranes across the San Francisco skyline signals that more housing is on the way, but it’s not going to be enough to bring relief to those looking to buy or rent a place to live in 2015.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Other Areas

Drought, AT&T layoffs, race for sheriff among Merced County’s top stories of 2014 – There was certainly no shortage of news in Merced County in 2014. From a visit by President Barack Obama to the county’s West Side to Google launching test balloons at Castle Commerce Center, the past year will definitely be one to remember for a long time. Here is a short list of some of the biggest stories covered by Merced Sun-Star reporters in 2014.  Merced Sun-Star article

Year in Review: Government – Throwing in some controversial measures, plans and an election year, it was a busy 2014 for government in the Central Valley.  The Business Journal article

People to watch in 2015 – In big and little ways, conspicuous and not, people of all stripes are making a mark on Kern County. This coming year, they’ll be policing our streets, rebuilding a broken political party, trying to break more records on the football field, planning our city’s development and teaching us to dance. These are our People to Watch for 2015.  Bakersfield Californian article

Notable central San Joaquin Valley deaths in 2014 — The roll call of people with central San Joaquin Valley ties who died in 2014 includes names that loomed large in business, acting and sports.  Fresno Bee article

Two Hanford public safety chiefs bid farewell in 2014 – Former chief of police for the Hanford Police Department Carlos Mestas announced his retirement in September and just one month later then Hanford Fire Department Chief Tim Ieronimo said he would also be retiring. The two had spent decades safeguarding the city of Hanford and when they each said they would be leaving, many knew that those replacing them would have big shoes to fill.  Hanford Sentinel article

Fresno fire crews quench three blazes, adding to record year – Fresno firefighters were busy early Wednesday responding to three house fires within seven hours — including one that injured a firefighter when a ceiling collapsed on his head — to cap a record year.  Fresno Bee article

More than 40 China Peak skiers stranded after winds derail cable — More than 40 people were stranded on a ski lift at China Peak Mountain Resort on Wednesday afternoon when strong winds blew a cable off its line, resort owner Tim Cohee said.  Fresno Bee article

Public funeral set for former Modesto councilman Geer — The funeral for former Modesto City Councilman Dave Geer will be held Jan. 8 at Revival Center United Pentecostal Church at Seventh and I streets downtown.  Modesto Bee article

Joe Mathews: To be a California saint, best not be too saintly — Jack London, John Wooden and Cesar Chavez teach us that very human flaws can be closely connected to success.  Mathews in Sacramento Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup


Fresno Bee – On New Year’s Day, we assess the future – or watch football.

Merced Sun-Star Contemplating time on the first day of the new year.

Modesto Bee – Some resolutions we might, or might not, want to consider.


Sacramento Bee – On New Year’s, we contemplate time.

Stockton Record – A look at 10 issues that will help shape the new year for the Stockton area.