January 16, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

George Skelton: California’s bail system punishes the poor, and it’s time for the government to do something about it — It’s a recurring nightmare: You get busted, perhaps for drunk driving and causing an injury accident, or maybe on a bum rap. You’re jailed and can’t make bail. You’re shoved behind bars with a scummy cellmate. You can’t go to work. Bills go unpaid. And you don’t have any mobility to plan your defense. You’re locked up solely because you don’t have enough money to arrange bail. But some wealthy guy — booked on a more serious charge than you — waltzes out onto the street the next day after writing a check and posting bail. Skelton column in LA Times

Dan Walters: California union dues case dies, but another rises up — The outcome of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association was so certain that public employee unions were openly strategizing on how to maintain their political power after losing. Then Scalia died and the CTA won by default on a 4-4 tie among the remaining justices, dealing a big setback to the conservative “right-to-work” organizations that had backed the suit. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

Debbie Poochigian’s career might not be over – Whereas retired two-term Fresno County Supervisor Debbie Poochigian is considering extending her political career, retired Clovis City Council Member Harry Armstrong signaled that his political days are at an end when he donated remaining money from his campaign to Clovis nonprofits. Poochigian has moved her money into an account to campaign for Fresno County Assessor-Recorder in 2022. But that money could be used for other campaigns – once she decides which seat to run for.  Fresno Bee article


Border tunnels left unfilled on Mexican side pose security risk, officials say — At least six previously discovered border tunnels have been reactivated by Mexican trafficking groups in recent years, exposing a recurring large-scale smuggling threat, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials. The breaches of border defenses, most recently in December, occur because Mexican authorities, unlike those on the American side, do not fill the tunnels with concrete once they have been discovered. Mexican authorities say they lack the funds. LA Times article

When Obama dropped the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy, he also snuffed out another program few Americans knew about — When President Obama killed the 22-year-old policy giving preferential, fast-track citizenship to Cubans who could make it to the U.S., his administration nixed another program, too. Not well known to most Americans, it sought to undermine the Cuban government through a form of brain drain. LA Times article

Other areas

Why Russia loves the idea of California seceding — The strategic advantage of making an argument for the secession of an American state to an audience in central Moscow is hard to gauge; after all, it’s voters in the States who would decide this matter. But the value to Russian interests seems more obvious, at least in the estimation of the leader of a separate and competing California secession movement, who actually lives in the state. Politico article

Few Asian-Americans hold top legal jobs, new study says — When Goodwin Liu joined the seven-member California Supreme Court in 2011, he became its fourth sitting member of Asian descent. The number is remarkable. The other state supreme courts in the U.S. combined have a handful of Asian-American justices. And Asian-American representation on other state courts, the federal bench and among the country’s top prosecutors is similarly scant. AP article

Presidential Politics

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says Russian involvement changed the outcome of the election — Russian interference in the presidential election
“altered the outcome,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday, adding that classified briefings had laid out a “very sophisticated effort” by Moscow to impede Hillary Clinton’s campaign. LA Times articleMcClatchy Newspapers article

Trump vows ‘insurance for everybody’ in Obamacare replacement plan – President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of “insurance for everybody,” while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid. Washington Post article

13.5 million Californians are covered by Medi-Cal.  Here’s how Trump’s plan could cost the state — Some of those Californians could lose portions of their benefits or possibly be dropped from coverage altogether if Trump carries out his plan, which would likely cost the state billions. Even residents who relied on the program long before the current expansion could be affected. LA Times article

Thousands rally in California against health law repeal – Thousands of nurses, doctors, and patients who have benefited from President Barack Obama’s health care law rallied Sunday in California to denounce the Republican effort to overturn it. AP article

Fresno crowd protests effort to repeal ‘Obamacare’ — Protesters held signs and shouted objections to plans by congressional Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during a protest Sunday at Blackstone and Nees avenues in north Fresno. Fresno Bee article

6 surprising things that could disappear with Obamacare – The outcome of the repeal-and-replace debate could affect more than you might think, depending on exactly how the GOP congressional majority pursues its goal to do away with Obamacare. No one knows how far the effort will reach, but here’s a sampling of sleeper provisions that could land on the cutting-room floor. LA Daily News article

A departing Obama acknowledges some failures and warns Trump about the perils of Washington’s partisanship – In a farewell interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” President Obama warned successor Donald Trump on Sunday about the downsides of a presidency as improvisational as his campaign, and suggested that Trump’s vow to implement change may fall to the same forces of partisanship that hampered his presidency. LA Times article

Outgoing CIA chief rips into Trump on Russia threat — The outgoing CIA director charged on Sunday that Donald Trump lacks a full understanding of the threat Moscow poses to the United States, delivering a public lecture to the president-elect that further highlighted the bitter state of Trump’s relations with American intelligence agencies. AP article

Cathleen Decker: Donald Trump blames dissolution of European Union of refugees – ‘all of these illegals’ — President-elect Donald Trump blamed Europe’s acceptance of Mideast refugees — as he put it, “all of these illegals” — for the decision by Britain to leave the European Union, and predicted the organization would disintegrate barring a reversal of immigration policies promoted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  Decker in LA Times

Ballico students win online contest to attend inauguration — Five sixth-grade students and their teachers from Ballico Elementary School will attend the presidential inauguration this week after winning an online competition thanks to support from their school and community. Merced Sun-Star article

 News Stories – Top Stories

Fresno Unified students are sicker than most but district lacks school health centers — While Fresno Unified students generally are unhealthier than their peers across the state, the district is falling behind when it comes to school-based health centers, according to a new report. Fresno Unified, the state’s fourth-largest school district with nearly 75,000 students, needs eight more health centers to meet the state’s average ratio of students-to-clinics, according to research by The Parthenon Group – a consulting firm hired by the district. Fresno Bee article

Modesto police focus on drones instead of high-tech plane — Modesto police Chief Galen Carroll said in an email that his department has concentrated its efforts on developing what it calls an unmanned aerial vehicle program, also known as drones. The department has two of them in use. Carroll said the department is working to obtain Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly the drones at night, which he said will help officers search for suspects who may use the darkness to avoid capture. Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

State pension costs doubled after rate increases — State payments to CalPERS next fiscal year are expected to total $6 billion, nearly double the $3.2 billion paid six years ago before a wave of employer rate increases. Calpensions article

Riverbank, fire district clash over who should pay assessment on former ammunition plant property — The property, still on the tax roll, again is collecting debt. There is nearly $100,000 in unpaid assessments from 2015 and 2016, and while the officials with Stanislaus Consolidated hope to be paid, the reason for nonpayment persists. The city and the fire district disagree over who is responsible for paying the assessment, and there are still unanswered questions over how the district came to the decision of removing the liens in the first place. Modesto Bee article

Visit by HUD might bring hope – Last week, three representatives from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development visited Stockton officials at City Hall. Later that morning, the HUD officials walked the streets of south Stockton with 14 leaders of the community, including Mayor Michael Tubbs and Councilman Jesus Andrade. Another effort to heal the south side continues. Only time will tell if this one is successful. Stockton Record article

Who are the 8 richest people? All men, mostly Americans — The eight individuals who own as much as half of the rest of the planet are all men, and have largely made their fortunes in technology. Most are American, with one European and one Mexican in the mix. Several have pledged to give it all to charity. AP article


Alan Peterson: This water grab will hurt every single one of us – The superintendent of the Merced Union High School District writes, “I watched the State Water Resources Control Board members during their hearing in Merced on Dec. 19. Board members were just going through the motions, unwilling to genuinely listen to our community’s very real concerns. Economic losses could reach $234 million a year, according to a Merced Irrigation District economic impact study, and up to $1.6 billion when Stanislaus and south San Joaquin counties are included. These are enormous losses for a region in which 50 percent of the population receives Medi-Cal services.” Peterson op-ed in Merced Sun-Star


Modesto Bee: Innovate, Educate, Celebrate – Time to recognize our region’s educational excellence – Hundreds of dedicated and utterly inspiring educators work in our midst. Every day, they are reaching and teaching students – not just their ABCs or math or how to code an application that helps carry us into the future, but teaching them to love learning. Modesto Bee editorial

Selma wrestling team improvises after $10,000 in equipment is stolen during fundraising event — Selma wrestlers, coaches and parents are in shock after thousands of dollars worth of equipment was stolen during their biggest fundraiser of the year at Selma High School on Sunday. Fresno Bee article


Levee break in White Slough area — A rural Delta levee failed over the weekend in the White Slough area northwest of Stockton, potentially flooding agricultural fields but apparently not threatening any buildings, officials said. Stockton Record article

Health/Human Services 

PrEP Awareness Programs aims to reduce disparities in new HIV infections – Although one of the most powerful biomedical drugs in the fight against HIV/AIDS has been available for the past four years, California health officials say the disease continues to disproportionately affect populations including Black and Latino gay and bisexual men, black women and transgender women. California Health Report article

Danielle Shapazian: Nurses are neither doctors not handmaidens – The nurse and writer who lives in Fresno writes, “I know you know this, but it bears repeating: nurses are not doctors. We are not physician wannabes. We are not handmaidens. (And please don’t think this of the great nurses who happen to be men.) We are healthcare professionals with a distinct theory base and scope of practice.” Shapazian op-ed in Fresno Bee

Merced 1-year-old lives ‘hour to hour’ waiting kidney transplant — When Dezi Padilla was 33 weeks pregnant, she had an emergency cesarean section, the umbilical cord was wrapped around her baby’s neck, and soon after he was pronounced dead. Doctors resuscitated baby Jayce Valencia and, about 30 minutes later, his mother says, his heart started beating on its own again. But his kidneys failed and he’s been on the list for a kidney transplant since his birth. Merced Sun-Star article

Land Use/Housing

Modesto may allow digital billboards along Highway 99 — Modesto has banned billboards for decades, but that could change. The city is considering allowing digital billboards along Highway 99. Planning Manager Patrick Kelly said the Planning Commission last week unanimously approved amending Modesto’s municipal code to allow these billboards. Modesto Bee article

Other areas

‘I have a dream’ — The complete text of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 speech. King speech in Stockton Record

Nia Jackson: Children can make a big difference in fight for equality – The seventh grader at Clark Intermediate School in the Clovis Unified School District writes, “Martin Luther King Jr. has done a great deal of work for the American society, and for that we should honor him. To honor King, we must not only push for African -American equality, but equality for every American.” Jackson op-ed in Fresno Bee

Kevin Starr, California’s premier historian, dead at 76 — Former California State Librarian Kevin Starr, the premier historian of the Golden State saga, who chronicled its potential and pitfalls in a widely read series of books, has died. He was 76.  Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Beale was a voice for civil rights during social upheaval in Merced – At just over 5 feet tall, Julia Beale stood tall at a time in Merced with widespread racial injustice and social upheaval, community leaders say. Because she was the voice for Merced’s minority communities, she was named the grand marshal for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day March. Merced Sun-Star article

Haggard, Owens among 5 in local hall of fame’s Jan. 27 inductions — The Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame, celebrating its one-year anniversary, has announced its first batch of Hall of Fame inductions and, no surprise, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard are among them. Bakersfield Californian article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Modesto Bee – Hundreds of dedicated and utterly inspiring educators work in our midst. Every day, they are reaching and teaching students – not just their ABCs or math or how to code an application that helps carry us into the future, but teaching them to love learning.