January 2, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

The most important new California laws in 2015 — New year, new rules. More than 900 new laws are hitting the books in 2015. Here’s our annual list of the most important and/or interesting, as picked by KQED news, science, health, and politics and government editors. KQED report

Bill Whalen: New Year’s resolutions for California politicos — At a time of resolutions and promises of enlightenment, here are some vows our political class and citizenry should consider.  Whalen column in Sacramento Bee


Other areas

4 ex-judges from California in group appealing to Obama on Cuba – When President Obama was secretly considering restoring U.S. relations with Cuba, among those urging him to release three Cubans convicted of spying in Florida — a key element in the eventual agreement — were nine former high-ranking state judges, four of them from California.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Mario Cuomo, New York governor and liberal beacon, dies – Mario M. Cuomo, the three-term governor of New York who commanded the attention of the country with a compelling public presence, a forceful defense of liberalism and his exhaustive ruminations about whether to run for president, died at home in Manhattan on Thursday, according to a family friend. He was 82.  New York Times article


News Briefs

Top Stories

Symbolic groundbreaking Tuesday in Fresno for high-speed rail project — Tuesday’s ceremonial groundbreaking in Fresno for the controversial rail project — considered one of the largest public works efforts in California history — will be an invitation-only affair for about 1,200 dignitaries and guests. The festivities are set for noon at the northeast corner of Tulare and G streets, the site of a planned high-speed train station in downtown Fresno. Among those scoring an invite is Gov. Jerry Brown, who will attend the event just a day after he is sworn in for a fourth term as part of a busy inauguration week.  Fresno Bee article 

Median sales price of California homes and condos up 9 percent over November 2013 – The median sales price of California residential properties – including sales of distressed properties –was $375,000 in November, down 1 percent from October but a 9 percent spike over November 2013, according to Irvine-based RealtyTrac. Four California metro areas were among the top 10 nationwide in percentage of short sales/distressed residential property sales in November: Stockton (No. 2 with 27.6 percent), Modesto (No. 5, 25.1 percent), Bakersfield (No. 6, 24.3 percent) and Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario (No. 9, 22.7 percent).  Sacramento Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

Names of Yosemite’s sacred sites threatened by trademark spat – Just the mention of the Ahwahnee Hotel can conjure up the grandeur of Yosemite Valley. And talk of Curry Village hints at the sweet scents and sights of the high country. But the names of these spots and others are at the center of an intellectual property dispute that threatens to retire some of the most evocative monikers at Yosemite National Park.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Government spending, edging up, is a stimulus – For a long stretch, government spending cutbacks at all levels were a substantial drag on economic growth. Now, finally, relief is in sight. For the first time since 2011, local, state and federal governments are providing a small but significant increase to prosperity.  New York Times article

2014 box office hits $10.3 billion, down 5.2 percent from previous year — After a shaky summer and a fickle fall, the box office reached an estimated $10.3 billion in 2014, down about 5.2% from 2013’s record of $10.9 billion. Industry experts expect attendance at theaters to be down a similar amount.  LA Times article

Merced Salvation Army’s Helping Hands raises $52,000 – The “A Helping Hand at Christmas” program has received $52,275 in donations this year, inching close to the $55,000 goal established last month.  Merced Sun-Star article

Firms turn to online ‘influencers’ to spread the word on social media – Tapping “influencers” to produce and distribute advertising is one part of a broadening convention — let the masses do the work — that advertising industry leaders say is capturing a growing share of advertising and marketing spending.  LA Times article

New Year’s dinner for homeless attracts hundreds – Local doctors Ravi and his wife Naina Patel started the new year’s meal 12 years ago to fill what Ravi Patel described as a gap in services after the Christmas holiday. Volunteers have holiday meals and fundraisers for the homeless, but nothing to bring in the new year, Patel said. So his nonprofit spends between $6,000 and $10,000 each year to host a meal for homeless men, women and children.  Bakersfield Californian article

Legal weed brings tax boost, but it’s modest — To see the tax implications of legalizing marijuana in Colorado, there’s no better place to start than an empty plot of land on a busy thoroughfare near downtown Denver.  AP article



Valley’s low temperatures not enough to harm citrus — Valley citrus growers’ worries about a crop-destroying freeze appear to be behind them after escaping cold temperatures Thursday morning without any measurable damage. And it’s going to be warmer Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Drought easily the top story of 2014 – For big news stories impacting Kings County in 2014, nothing held a candle to drought. With 90 percent of Kings County’s soil employed in some kind of agriculture, there was no way for Kings County to avoid absorbing drought-related damage to its economy, businesses and homeowners.  Hanford Sentinel article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Crime tally falls again in LA County sheriff’s territory — Crime decreased for a second consecutive year in areas of Los Angeles County patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department, continuing a long-term downward trend locally that experts are at a loss to fully explain.  LA Times article



California colleges set to perform well on federal ratings system — The University of California is positioned to do well in the ratings system, according to Bob Shireman, executive director of the higher education policy group California Competes. He said UC’s “very impressive enrollment of low-income students” and first-generation students, as well as its high graduation rates and good financial aid program all will contribute to higher scores.  Sacramento Bee article



Modesto-area readers weigh in on bag ban – Some folks swear by plastic grocery bags, which come in handy for lining trash cans and other uses. Some folks are more likely to swear at them. They hate how the bags litter the landscape and can harm wildlife.  Modesto Bee article

Dan Walters: Logic loses in California carbon war — Truth, it’s been said, is the first casualty of any war. Logic appears to be the first casualty of California’s somewhat lonely war on climate-changing emissions of carbon dioxide, as two current skirmishes indicate.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Health/Human Services

Since Obamacare, LA County ER visits show hospitals in ‘state of flux’ – A key measure of hospital emergency room use in Los Angeles County shows continued growth during the first six months of Obamacare, but also points to shifting patterns of where patients are choosing to receive urgent medical treatment.  LA Times article

Prime Healthcare’s bid to buy 6 Catholic hospitals scrutinized — Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is jumping into a heated battle over the purchase of six struggling nonprofit Catholic medical centers in California by the fast-growing Ontario hospital chain Prime Healthcare Services Inc.  LA Times article

Career reporter Swenson succumbs to cancer — Steve E. Swenson, who could charm serial killers and court clerks alike, gain the trust of tragic victims and bring humanity to all of them through his writing, died New Year’s Day after a long, and in some ways joyous, battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 65.  Bakersfield Californian article


Other Areas

 Ruhstaller: Tried to make a difference – About a month away from the end of 16 years in elected office, San Joaquin County Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller readied himself for one more trip to Washington, D.C., to try to shake loose some money to tackle the hyacinth problem choking Delta waters.  Stockton Record article

Forum seeks to draw community into meth fight — The Kern Stop Meth Now Coalition has been fighting to understand and combat the epidemic of crime, health and mental health problems created by methamphetamine use since 2008. Now the group hopes to take the fight against the illegal drug to a new level.  Bakersfield Californian article

Shyanne Schull: What does progress look like for Kern County Animal Services? – The recently departed director of Kern County Animal Services writes, “What transpired for Kern County Animal Services over the next year is nothing less than remarkable. Not only did the community, staff and volunteers come together to assist with the move and help save over a thousand lives leading up to the move, other county departments stepped in to help the new shelter site undergo massive construction and renovations to prepare to receive hundreds of animals in 21 days.”  Schull op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Celebrating freedom – While the sight of the ship is a reminder of the atrocities of centuries past, south Stockton’s annual Freedom Day Parade is really a celebration of what happened that day more than 150 years ago — the day when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  Stockton Record article

Tulare teen collects 8,000 books for needy children — When Caitlin Phelps realized there were children in Tulare who didn’t have books at home, she decided to lead a book drive at St. Aloysius where she goes to church.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Merced Sun-Star – Forget the movie, focus on human rights in North Korea.

Modesto Bee – Forget the movie, focus on human rights in North Korea.

Sacramento Bee – Forget the movie, focus on human rights in North Korea.