January 20, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters: ‘Oversight’ needed, but rare today – Legislative leaders occasionally proclaim that they want to do more “oversight” – looking into how well state government agencies are serving the public interest. At best, however, it has been spotty.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Court eases path to legal status for some undocumented minors — Ruling in an Alameda County case, a state appeals court says an undocumented minor who has a parent in the United States can be put on a path to legal status if he or she has been abandoned, abused or neglected by a parent in the youth’s homeland.  San Francisco Chronicle article

State budget

Margaret Bengs: More money for poverty won’t solve California’s problem – The former Sacramento Bee contributing columnist writes, “Anti-poverty activists are out again, calling for social service programs to get a portion of the extra $2.2 billion or more expected in state revenue over the next several months. But if spending money were the answer to poverty, California, which provides among the most generous welfare benefits in the nation, would be nearly poverty-free.”  Bengs op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

McNerney talks about tough times — In advance of President Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, released a speech outlining the state of the district he represents. McNerney launches his speech mentioning good economic news, but he goes on to say that there are still many who aren’t feeling the effects of the rebound.  Stockton Record article


Amid outcry, News-Press is adamant on provocative term for immigrants — News-Press officials have stuck by their choice of language, saying that describing someone living in the country illegally as an “illegal” is accurate, and compared the vandalism on their offices to the deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.  LA Times article

Other areas

Michael Hiltzik: Here’s how Obama’s capital gains tax hits the 1 percent where they live – Aiming his fire at the capital gains tax by proposing that the top rate be raised to 28% from 20%, Obama essentially has exposed what the 1% really value. They really love the capital gains preference, which applies to profits from the sale of stocks, bonds and other capital assets. LA Times article

Father of Isla Vista shooting victim is on a gun-control mission – In the months since his son was shot to death during a massacre near UC Santa Barbara, Richard Martinez has canvassed the country advocating for stricter regulations on firearms.  LA Times article

Cal Fire probes Sacramento governor’s mansion fire – Cal Fire officials are investigating a suspicious fire at Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park in downtown Sacramento. A California State Park ranger discovered a small, extinguished fire just outside the carriage house around 1 p.m. Sunday, according to a Cal Fire news release. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

Odds of gas-tax hike grow with quiet support of GOP senators — With Washington’s most famous climate skeptic expressing interest in raising the federal gasoline tax, Bay Area Rep. Jared Huffman sees an opening to grab the brass ring of the environmental movement: a tax on carbon.  San Francisco Chronicle article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Pressure’s on to help Delta fish suffering amid drought — With populations of numerous endangered Delta fish species at alarming lows, officials in California are planning a number of steps to help them survive if 2015 proves to be a fourth drought year.  Sacramento Bee article

Manufacturing slower to grow in California than elsewhere in U.S. – The United States has seen a remarkable turnaround in manufacturing employment since the economy bottomed out five years ago — but California hasn’t. The state has been among the slowest to recover jobs in an industry long viewed as a bastion of middle-class opportunity.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Valley home prices and sales up in December as market slows, nears normal — Home prices and sales increased in the Central Valley and parts of southern California in December while housing activity in the rest of the state slowed down at the end of 2014, according to the California Association of RealtorsFresno Bee article

Castle Commerce Center land purchase in Atwater passes its first hurdle – Merced County supervisors took the first steps this month in selling land at Castle Commerce Center to a company that has called the former Air Force base home since 2006.  Merced Sun-Star article

From car lots to city budgets, cheap oil means change — Cheap oil doesn’t only mean cheaper gas in the tank. It means that a car dealer in Illinois is shuffling the inventory of models he’ll be selling, that more students in Wisconsin may get school-provided iPads, that some planned projects in a Southern California city will get delayed, and that some expected oilfield hiring in North Dakota and Texas may not happen.  AP article

Labor dispute at West Coast ports doesn’t take a holiday – On Monday, the operators of terminals at ports where dockworkers typically load and unload massive ocean-going ships ordered slimmed-down work crews.  KPCC report

U.S. solar industry sees growth, but also some uncertainty – The solar energy business is growing fast, thanks in part to a steep drop in panel prices. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that prices dropped by more than half since 2010. But the industry’s future looks a little hazy. Generous government subsidies expire soon and the price for natural gas — a competitor that’s also used to generate electricity — keeps dropping.  NPR report

Brik McDill: As gap between rich and poor grows, what’s our next move? – What we do now about things unequal will be very telling about us as a nation 50 years from now. And if for those next 50 years things only get worse, we will be known for what we really are. And it will not be a noble, favorable, kind, or pretty knowing.  McDill column in Bakersfield Californian

Sacramento Kings to ask city council to sign over two downtown land parcels – The City of Sacramento still owns eight land parcels downtown that have been promised to the Sacramento Kings. The team is asking for two parcels to be signed over.  Capital Public Radio report

With no snow, Badger Pass closes while China Peak keep going – The lack of snow this winter has forced one nearby ski resort to close temporarily. On Monday, Badger Pass Ski Area at Yosemite National Park announced it will be temporarily closed until it receives more snow. China Peak will limit operations during midweek days until it snows, running just one lift along with its beginner area.  Fresno Bee article

U.S. research lab lets livestock suffer in quest for profit —  In the past 50 years, meat has gotten less fatty and easier to chew — thanks in part to the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. But the achievement has come at a steep cost to the lab’s animals.  New York Times article

Google may invest in SpaceX to back Elon Musk’s satellite project – Google Inc. is considering making a big investment in Elon Musk’s SpaceX to support his ambitious plans to upset the satellite market.  LA Times article

Bruce Maiman: Environment, logic taken for a ride by surging SUV sales – Where is the logic in buying a gas-guzzling SUV just because gas prices are so low?  Maiman column in Sacramento Bee

DreamWorks Animation plans substantial layoffs — Stung by a series of box office misfires and failed sale attempts, DreamWorks Animation plans a substantial number of layoffs, two people familiar with the matter said.  LA Times article

Teletypewriter operator? California government still has that — Like cobwebs and clutter in an attic, California’s state bureaucracy is stuffed with hundreds of outdated or needless job classifications that complicate hiring and make government more expensive.  Sacramento Bee article

Airbnb hosts must appear in person to comply with new San Francisco law — San Francisco’s new law regulating Airbnb will require hosts who use the vacation rental service to register with the Planning Department in the least tech-enabled way — in person.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Earth Log: So far, Fresno’s rainless January feels pretty familiar — The last time Fresno had measurable rainfall was Dec. 17. There has been no rain yet this month, so it has been almost a five-week run of dry weather here. Flash back to last winter. Fresno went from Dec. 7 to Jan. 29 without measurable rainfall – a run that lasted more than seven weeks.  Fresno Bee article

Merced to consider grant applications for water meters – The city is considering a $2,613,468 water-energy grant that would fund water meters for the city’s water customers paying a flat rate. About half of the 20,900 water accounts do not have water meters and their water use is higher on a per capita basis than those with meters, according to a city of Merced press release.  Merced Sun-Star article

LA River restoration may have new funding source — City leaders may have found a way to finance their share of ambitious plans to revitalize the Los Angeles River. Confined to concrete culverts for most of its 51 miles, parts of the river would be brought much closer to their natural state under a $1 billion restoration plan.  AP article; LA Times article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

George Hostetter: Fresno’s police auditor reviews body cameras, towing policy — Fresno’s police auditor has a none-too-subtle suggestion on how the city can help avoid a Ferguson, Mo.-type tragedy. Put body cameras on all officers, said Rick Rasmussen.  Hostetter in Fresno Bee; ‘Chief Dyer responds to police auditor’s report’ in Fresno Bee

Body-worn cameras for Visalia police on council agenda – Visalia Police officers do not now wear cameras on their bodies to record their daily activities, but they soon might. The topic of when and how to implement a body-worn camera program will be among the topics presented during a work session that begins at 4 p.m. today prior to the regular City Council meeting. Visalia Times-Delta article

Fresno girl, 9, dies as innocent victim of drive-by gunfire; investigation will ‘spare no resources’ — A 9-year-old girl who died after being hit by gunfire appears to be the latest victim of Fresno gang violence, police Chief Jerry Dyer said Monday. Janessa Ramirez, a student at Steinbeck Elementary School, was an innocent victim of an exchange of gunfire between at least two people about 8:40 p.m. Sunday near Marks and Clinton avenues. Fresno Bee article

‘Didn’t know it was loaded’ is a legal defense, court rules — “I Didn’t Know the Gun Was Loaded” was a 1949 hit by the Andrews Sisters about a pistol-packing mama who roamed the West, knocking off hombres who crossed her while successfully claiming ammunitional ignorance until she ran afoul of a sheriff and his vengeful wife. It also turns out to be a fruitful defense in California court.  San Francisco Chronicle article


California creates system for rating early childhood centers – For the first time in California, thousands of early-learning centers in most of the state, from preschools to licensed child-care centers and homes, are in the process of implementing a common system to rate the quality of their programs.  EdSource article

Sorority anti-rape idea: Drink on own turf – For decades, national sorority organizations have banned alcohol in their houses. But as debate intensifies over how to address sexual assaults on college campuses, many of them occurring at fraternity house parties, some female students are questioning that rule, asserting that allowing alcohol would give women — not just sorority members — the option to attend Greek house parties that women control, from setting off-limits areas to deciding the content of the punch. New York Times article

California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors – California ranks worst in the nation when it comes to providing students with guidance counselors, according to the U.S. Department of Education, and authorities say the scarcity disproportionately affects the state’s most vulnerable students because there simply are not enough counselors to track transient students and make sure they are taking the right credits to graduate.  The Hechinger Report article in Sacramento Bee

Ag grants awarded in San Joaquin, Calaveras counties – Teaching teachers about farming in San Joaquin County and revitalizing a high school farm and sustaining elementary school gardens in Calaveras County both drew cash grants from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalAgPlate program.  Stockton Record article

Why Cal State Long Beach officials are lobbying support for Cambodian students — Ly is joining CSULB President Jane Close Conoley and other campus officials Tuesday in Sacramento to tell state lawmakers the story of Cambodian-Americans on campus, with hopes to dispel myths about Asian students generally and garner more support for Cambodian students specifically.  Long Beach Press-Telegram article

Atwater students’ courageous raindrop, mighty grape win ‘Imagine This’ essay contest — One story details the thoughts of a reticent raindrop about to fall on drought-stricken California, and the other is the biography of Great Grandpa Grape, once a magnificent grape but now a raisin destined for a woman’s kitchen cabinet. Two students at St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Atwater won the “Imagine This” essay contest conducted by the Sacramento-based California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.  Merced Sun-Star article


Feds finalize document guiding use of public lands in western Kern, other areas — The federal Bureau of Land Management has finalized a plan balancing energy production, outdoor recreation, livestock grazing and other uses for 1.6 million acres of public land and mineral estate in an eight-county area including western Kern. Bakersfield Californian article

Denser California forests raise firefighting questions, study says — Drought, fire suppression techniques and changes in land use have made California forests denser and more susceptible to fast-moving wildfires, a study to be released Tuesday has found.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Audit reveals inconsistencies in parental fees — The state agency that charges fees to parents with disabled children receiving out-of-home care is “riddled” with problems that have created a process that allows families to be charged unfair fees while, at the same time, the state could be losing more than $1 million a year in un-billed fees.  Stockton Record article

Sacramento Bee: Despite industry claims, soda isn’t an entitlement Sugary soft drinks, like cigarettes, are harmful to our health in costly ways. And most of us, rich or poor, are fine with doing something about that. It’s not complicated. It’s not fancy. It’s just a fact.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Dave Jones: California’s insurance market is in good shape – The state’s Insurance Commissioner writes, “Just turn on your TV, radio, computer or smartphone. You see and hear ads at all hours of the day from all sorts of insurance companies. The one with the good hands, the one with the college professor, the one with the lizard, the one with the lady dressed all in white – the list of insurers competing for our business in California goes on and on.” Jones op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a tiny – but potent – foe in LA County — Only a handful of patients in Los Angeles County have drug-resistant TB. Their treatment is grueling and expensive — and necessary to prevent further spread of the disease, which spreads through the air, public health officials said.  LA Times article


Cheap gas may not lead to drop in transit ridership, experts say – The effect of cheap gas on transit hasn’t been studied as rigorously. Experts say that’s because gasoline prices crater so rarely that there aren’t many opportunities to dig into the data — and because economists know what to expect.  LA Times article

Dan Walters Daily: California’s crumbling highways need cash – Gov. Jerry Brown has finally acknowledged the state’s huge highway infrastructure backlog, but he has no plan to fix it, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Trespassers in yard of vacant house bought by city for 24th Street project — A trespassing incident appears to be the latest growing pain for the 24th Street widening project, as Bakersfield continues buying land and designing the expansion of one of Kern County’s busiest thoroughfares.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other Areas

Valley MLK marches draw thousands – Thousands of people throughout the Valley honored Martin Luther King Jr. at marches and events on Monday.  Fresno Bee article;Merced Sun-Star article; ‘UC Merced students beautify park to honor MLK’ in Merced Sun-Star; Modesto Bee article; Sacramento Bee article; Bakersfield Californian article; Visalia Times-Delta article; Stockton Record article

KKK propaganda blankets Orange County neighborhood— Some residents in Santa Ana awoke on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to find fliers disparaging King and advertising the Klu Klux Klan, authorities said.  LA Times article

Holt-Singh’s attorney: Family to file claim – The lawyer representing the family of Misty Holt-Singh said Monday her family, too, would be filing a claim against the city of Stockton. His statement comes after a claim was filed against the city and the Stockton Police Department by an attorney representing Kelly Huber, one of three hostages taken at a bank robbery on July 16.  Stockton Record article

Q&A: Three months in, new Fresno Armenian consul shares Berj Apkarian shares vision, progress — Berj Apkarian made history last October, becoming the country’s first Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia. Apkarian, executive director of physician relations at Community Medical Centers, immigrated to Fresno from Syria in 1979. The Bee caught up with Apkarian to see how things are going three months into his appointment. Answers have been edited slightly for clarity and brevity.  Fresno Bee article

Lemoore shelter celebrates new facility — Valley Animal Haven reached a new milestone in its development last week. The no-kill, nonprofit shelter, started last year by Lemoore resident Pam Brasil, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday for the opening of its first official facility at 900 E. D St.  Hanford Sentinel article

What’s the best way to shame LA council – publicly or privately? — At City Hall, where personal relationships and high-powered lobbying frequently carry the day, some groups work quietly and politely behind the scenes to achieve their goals. Others, however, favor loud protests and public shaming, saying it’s the only way to seriously move the needle.  LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – One way or another, we’ll pay more for roads.

Merced Sun-Star – One way or another, you’ll pay more for roads.

Modesto Bee – One way or another, you’ll pay more for roads.

Sacramento Bee – Sugary soft drinks, like cigarettes, are harmful to our health in costly ways. And most of us, rich or poor, are fine with doing something about that. It’s not complicated. It’s not fancy. It’s just a fact; The use of Sacramento fire trucks at pro-police rally is troubling.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers: Please be careful on fog-filled area roadways, sports director earns community kudos, and other issues.