January 11, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

San Joaquin Valley farmers reach secret deal in water dispute — A staggering economic and environmental problem festering for three decades in the southern San Joaquin Valley would be addressed by a secret deal reached between the Obama administration and farmers — one that is sounding alarms for Bay Area lawmakers.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Dan Walters: California’s poor are now on government agenda — Poverty is now on the political agenda and Brown is at odds with most fellow Democrats in the Legislature, who want to boost spending on health and welfare services. Doing more, he said, would upset a budget that is “tightly balanced,” adding, “So there it is; we do the best we can.”  Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Gov. Brown

Why Jerry Brown will probably never make a fourth try at White House – Alas, from Brown’s perspective, the four-term governor who delivered a combined inaugural and State of the State address last week in Sacramento is no longer considered presidential material, notwithstanding November’s landslide reelection and his stewardship of the nation’s most populous and important state. The main reason is his age: 76.  LA Times article

Dan Morain: A look back at Jerry Brown’s path forward — For a few minutes, stroll across the decades with Jerry Brown. Start with the first inaugural speech he attended, the one given by his father in 1959, drop by a speech he gave 20 years later in the Assembly chambers, listen to the inaugural speech he gave the other day and conclude with the release of his 13th budget on Friday.  Morain in Sacramento Bee
Valley politics 

Donald W. Blount: Local political winds of 2016 blowing early — Select your cliché. The dance card is filling up. The field is becoming crowded. The candidates are lining up. The political maneuvering is underway. In early 2015, it appears the moves are being made in the Stockton mayoral race. Starting with the last thing first, on Wednesday Mayor Anthony Silva announced he would run for re-election in 2016.  Blount column in Stockton Record


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Villaraigosa ‘seriously considering’ Senate run; Steyer to decide soon — Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Saturday he is looking closely at running for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.  Sacramento Bee article

Billionaire Tom Steyer mulls run for Sen. Boxer’s seat — Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer is aggressively exploring a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer and is expected to make a decision within days, according to multiple sources close to Steyer.  LA Times article 

Bay Area will be pivotal in fray for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat — No matter who winds up running to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Bay Area will be at the center of the fight to break out of the pack.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Fewer Mexicans caught at U.S. border than non-Mexicans in historic shift — For more than six decades, more Mexican nationals than non-Mexicans have been apprehended at U.S. borders. That changed for the first time on record last year when thousands more from countries other than Mexico were caught, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of border patrol data dating back to 1954.  LA Daily Times article


Other areas

Uber, Lyft, Airbnb harness users to lobby lawmakers for them — As Uber, Lyft and Airbnb battle regulators worldwide, they can summon a powerful weapon: battalions of loyal users — drivers, passengers, hosts and guests — who swarm lawmakers with e-mails, petitions, rallies, testimony and tweets supporting the companies.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Obama to announce cybersecurity plans in State of the Union preview — President Obama will announce new initiatives next week designed to bolster online security and improve access to cyberspace, White House officials said Saturday.  New York Times article

Victor Davis Hanson: Why liberals are losing the middle class — The new bifurcated Democratic Party of rich and poor shows a sort of contempt for those who do not share the privileged tastes of the elites and can’t earn their easy sympathy by being dependent on liberal government largesse. Democrats’ problem is that the working classes are large and know that they no longer fit into what liberalism has become. Hanson column in Fresno Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories 

Drought threatens to push small Valley cities to the brink — It’s a nervous January in Huron, Coalinga and Avenal on the San Joaquin Valley’s west side. All three buy river water from the federal Central Valley Project. On the east side, the project’s small municipal customers include Lindsay, Strathmore, Orange Cove and Terra Bella.  Fresno Bee article

Political uproar over oil permitting resurfaces — Kern County politicians are preparing for “war” with federal and state oil regulators over a permitting slowdown whose roots reach to a 2011 backlog that led Gov. Jerry Brown to oust two top Sacramento officials. At issue then and now is increased scrutiny of oil producers’ applications to dispose of wastewater by injecting it deep underground, an activity considered integral to Kern’s petroleum industry.  Bakersfield Californian article
Jobs and the Economy 

California farmer see potential in trade with Cuba – As the push to lift the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba gains renewed attention, many San Joaquin Valley farm industries stand to benefit from easing trade restrictions with the communist country.  Fresno Bee article

Short on inspectors, Bakersfield may add staff – It’s 10 days before the Bakersfield City Council will get a mid-year update on the city’s $620.7 million budget, but city officials have been weighing one request for weeks: hiring more building and public works staff.  Bakersfield Californian article

Downtown Sacramento parking in Kings arena era: Smart meters, premium prices — It just got easier to pay for parking in downtown Sacramento. Soon it will likely get more expensive, too. City crews will install the last of 4,000 “smart” parking meters around the central core in the next few weeks. The new meters represent the first of several parking technology improvements the city plans to put in place before the fall 2016 opening of the new Kings arena, which will draw nightly swarms of drivers to games and concerts, testing the city’s ability to move them in and out efficiently.  Sacramento Bee article

Hormel workers get help preparing for plant’s closure – Pattie Lewis hasn’t applied for a job in nearly two decades. For the past 18 years, Lewis has been employed by Hormel Food Corp., where she works as a tamale cook. Lewis, 52, said she was stunned when she learned that Hormel would close its Stockton processing plant by the end of February.  Stockton Record article

Sacramento firefighters’ contract will contribute to looming deficit – The city of Sacramento has seen its finances improve over the past year. And for the first time in six years, city firefighters are about to see a significant increase in their paychecks. However, city budget documents show that a new four-year contract between the city and the firefighter union could eventually contribute to a citywide deficit of more than $10 million by 2016. The City Council is expected to approve the new contract on Tuesday.  Sacramento Bee article

LA police union hires PR firm in bid to win pay raises — The union representing rank-and-file Los Angeles police officers has hired a high-profile communications firm to spearhead a campaign aimed at persuading residents — and by extension elected officials — that officers deserve pay raises.  LA Times article

Shawn Hubler: Taken by tenants: Perils of the new sharing economy – Illegal or otherwise bogus sublets, of course, are just one among many sharing-economy perils that have surfaced as the sector gathers momentum. Last year, state lawmakers stiffened insurance requirements for ridesharing companies. Horror stories abound: The Airbnb guest from hell who squatted for two months in a Palm Springs condo. The Uber driver who struck and killed a 6-year-old girl in a San Francisco crosswalk.  Hubler in Sacramento Bee

Biz Beat: A new look at an old spot in Turlock — John Gardner remembers when he was a little boy going to the Golden Corral in Turlock with his grandfather. The restaurant was across from the home where his grandfather lived; they also frequented the movie theater and the McDonald’s in the area. Modesto Bee article

Impact of ‘Sideways’ on wine industry still felt 10 years later — Williams says his research shows the number of jobs in wineries in Santa Barbara County has grown from about 950 in 2005 to nearly 1,400 today. That’s huge growth compared with other industry sectors in the county, says Williams, who adds that winery jobs are good jobs.  KPCC report



Modesto Irrigation District proposal ignores subsidy – A proposal to change water rates for farmers would have some paying more money and some less, but would not bring more revenue to the Modesto Irrigation District or affect the massive subsidy borne by its electricity customers.  Modesto Bee article

Water rates could rise sharply for Turlock Irrigation District farmers – A vote Tuesday could more than double water rates in the Turlock Irrigation District, but farmers appear to be taking it in stride.  Modesto Bee article

Programmers sought to help solve state’s water woes – Looking to cultivate technical innovation and address vital water-supply issues facing drought-stricken California, the newly formed Innovation Hub San Joaquin board announced Thursday its H2O Hackathon to be held March 27-28 in Stockton.  Stockton Record article

Sacramento beats LA in water conservation Sacramento residents recently achieved something significant in dealing with the drought gripping California: In November, they used less water per person than residents of Los Angeles.  LA Times article

Harvesting solutions: How to address the plight of farmworkers in Mexico – Last month, the Los Angeles Times published “Product of Mexico,” a four-part series on the abuse of workers on Mexican megafarms that export fruits and vegetables to the United States.  Since the articles ran, two trade groups — the Confederation of Agribusiness Assns. in the state of Sinaloa and the Fresh Produce Assn. of the Americas in Arizona — have launched a joint social-responsiblity initiative. The Opinion page solicited additional ideas on what needs to be done, and by whom, to remedy the harsh conditions.  LA Times article

Chickens stretch their legs as Prop 2 finally takes effect — Free at last, 20 hens and one rooster crossed the bay to San Francisco Saturday to celebrate enactment of Proposition 2, a law passed in 2008 that gave California egg farmers six years notice before they’d have to give chickens room to spread their wings and stretch their legs.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Lois Henry: It’s good to be a water lawyer, especially now — I thought it’d be interesting to study up on groundwater rights. Yes, I know how weird that sounds. But I had a reason.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian


Criminal Justice/Prisons

California spends $5 million to screen inmates for Valley fever – California is spending more than $5 million to screen tens of thousands of prison inmates for a potentially deadly illness to see which ones can safely be housed at two prisons in the Central Valley. AP article

New Stockton police unit to take on quality-of-life issues – The Stockton Police Department rolled out a new unit Monday tasked with tackling quality-of-life issues such as crime, code enforcement and urban blight, officials said. The Neighborhood Blitz Team is described as an innovative, proactive approach to cleaning up designated areas that are struggling with blight and high crime, the Police Department said. Stockton Record article

LA Sheriff’s Department high-ups appear to be targets in jails inquiry — Sheriff’s officials convicted of obstructing a federal investigation into the Los Angeles County jails have been testifying before a grand jury as prosecutors set their sights on the highest echelons of the department, according to sources familiar with the probe.  LA Times article



Sacramento Bee: The chancellor’s challenge: Finding balance for CSUs – While Naplitano’s take-no-prisoners approach rankled state leaders, CSU Chancellor Tim White could stand to be bolder as he makes the funding case for the sake of his campuses.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Fresno State honored for commitment to community service — Fresno State was one of the nation’s 240 colleges and universities recently honored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its commitment to community service.  Fresno Bee article

Modesto schools weigh security team to replace lost PD officers – It is the best of times; it is the worst of times. But this is not a tale of two cities, just one. Modesto’s schools, paid with state revenue, have raises in pocket and millions more to spend. Modesto’s police, meanwhile, have hunkered down to cope with staffing cuts and flat funding.  Modesto Bee article; Modesto Bee editorial: ‘Forming a school security force is a bad idea’

Pacific asks the public to help decipher Muir’s journals – It may be that Muir never intended his journals for an audience. But fresh off the 100th anniversary of his death on Dec. 24, the University of the Pacific hopes that you will become that audience. The university, which holds the largest collection of Muir’s writings, is stepping up efforts to transcribe dozens of journals, the contents of which are not well known. And Pacific is asking for the public’s help.  Stockton Record article

In LA, policy shift leads to decline in school suspensions – At Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, the shift has been tectonic. Five years ago, students were scolded with 74,765 days of suspension; last year, they received 8,351, an 89 percent decrease.  AP article

Competition all about the bots — The buzz of moving metal robots equipped with levers, hooks, lights, gears and wheels were heard Saturday as students competed at the Streets of Bakersfield Robotics Extravaganza. About 50 teams, made up of more than 300 students, attended the VEX Robotics Competition at the Kern County Fairgrounds. Bakersfield Californian article

On Campus: Looking forward to college graduations of 2019 — With New Year’s past, college-bound high school seniors can start filling out the FAFSA, a universal (and free) financial information packet required by virtually all scholarships and student loan programs.  On Campus in Modesto Bee

Karen Skelton: Five ideas for California’s energy future – The founder of Skelton Strategies in Sacramento writes, “California has an opportunity to expand its renowned climate policies, and be the first in the nation to envision and promote a truly 21st-century energy infrastructure that responds to the realities of how people live and work today.”  Skelton op-ed in Sacramento Bee
Health/Human Services

Two more Disneyland-related measles cases in Orange County — Orange County authorities Friday reported two more cases of measles and repeated warnings that the outbreak that began at Disneyland is expected to continue to spread.  LA Times article



Lewis Griswold: Visalia seeks grant to launch shuttle service to Fresno — Visalia officials hope to launch shuttle bus service from Visalia to Fresno this fall. The city has applied for a $583,053 grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, arguing in its application that a shuttle would spare the air.  Griswold in Fresno Bee
Other Areas

Winn says he’s ready to represent all of San Joaquin County – Chuck Winn, 69, said in a recent interview he had little interest in bringing a parochial view to the office, either by favoring his end of the district — which includes the cities of Lodi and Escalon and a host of unincorporated communities in between — or not paying attention to countywide issues that encompass all five county districts. Stockton Record article

Former Fresno council member Les Kimber has died — Former Fresno City Council member Lesly H. “Les” Kimber, who co-founded the California Advocate Newspaper and was a strong activist for racial equality, died Saturday.  Fresno Bee article

2nd Yosemite climber completes grueling segment — Hands torn and bleeding, the second of two men attempting a grueling climb up a half-mile of sheer granite in California’s Yosemite National Park cleared one of the ascent’s most difficult stretches after days of failed attempts and waiting.  AP article; Jeff Jardine column in Modesto Bee


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – California’s budget battle will be over the last $2 billion.

Modesto Bee – Forming a school security force is a bad idea.

Sacramento Bee – While Naplitano’s take-no-prisoners approach rankled state leaders, CSU Chancellor Tim White could stand to be bolder as he makes the funding case for the sake of his campuses; A staggering civilian death toll worsens in Iraq and Syria.