January 23, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Barbara Boxer, Kevin McCarthy trade blame over drought bill — Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy are publicly blaming each other over who derailed congressional efforts last year to pass a drought relief bill for California.  AP article

John Myers: A Democrats-only race for U.S. Senate in 2016? Don’t bet it – It’s the political punditry flavor of the month: the delectable notion that the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot might feature a United States Senate race in California pitting two Democrats against each other. Don’t bet on it.  Myers in KQED

State budget

Brown budget: Road repair deficit at $59 billion – Some things are clear in the budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year. One thing that isn’t: where the money is going to come from to address the state’s $59 billion backlog to fix crumbling roads, highways and bridges. That figure does not include funding for new projects coveted locally, such as widening Highway 41 to four lanes the entire distance between Lemoore and Fresno.  Hanford Sentinel article

Valley politics

Olivier, Vidak top Fresno chamber report card – The Greater Fresno Area Chamber has released its 2014 report card of local elected officials and their business-related votes. On the Fresno City Council, Clint Olivier of District 7 was the only member to garner a perfect score. Up in Sacramento, Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) received the sole perfect score based on 17 key votes including paid sick leave, the water bond and driver’s licenses for undocumented residents.  The Business Journal article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Tom Steyer will not run for Boxer Senate seat – Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said Thursday he will not be a candidate to succeed U.S. Senate Barbara Boxer and instead will continue his focus on helping fellow Democrats and working to reverse the effects of global climate change.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article; Dan Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Out of Senate race, Tom Steyer now player in 2018 – Democrat Tom Steyer once again is a potential player in the next gubernatorial election.  Sacramento Bee article

Tom Steyer’s exit shifts Senate race focus to Antonio Villaraigosa — With billionaire Tom Steyer opting out of California’s U.S. Senate race on Thursday, the most likely major rival for Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris appears to be former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  LA Times article

Villaraigosa leaves mayors group hungry on U.S. Senate plans – Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a roomful of mayors Thursday night thinking he might give them a taste of his possible plans for a U.S. Senate seat. But he skipped the main course.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

Rep. Adam Schiff mulls U.S. Senate run — Rep. Adam Schiff said Thursday he is seriously considering a candidacy to succeed the retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he’s been approached about running for the seat that Boxer will have occupied for two-dozen years by the time she leaves office in January 2017.  Capitol Alert

Distrust part of independent voters’ makeup – Skeptical, younger, grumpy and suspicious – that about sums up California’s independent voters. Distrustful of institutions, disenchanted with government and leery of the major political parties, the reach of the independent voter is widening, according to the head of a top research institution.  Capitol Weekly article

Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown on college letters of recommendation that helped them — Except for Gov. Jerry Brown, who provided a letter of recommendation for him, Newsom said, “there wasn’t much expectation that I’d get into any university.”  Capitol Alert

Other areas

Rich GOP leaders see poverty as key 2016 issue – Neel Kashkari, California’s 2014 Republican candidate for governor, saw his campaign go viral last year when he took to the streets of Fresno, posing as a homeless man in a YouTube video that showcased his unorthodox election theme — arguing that poverty should be at the top of the GOP agenda.  San Francisco Chronicle article

New study emphasizes difference among state’s Asian groups – In politics, we tend to use abbreviations. Since the Proposition 187 campaign in 1994, California political scientists and pundits have wrestled with the “Latino vote.” In recent years, more focus has been placed on Asian political behavior – particularly as a majority of our immigrants now come from the world’s most populous continent. But these terms often miss important gradations and distinctions. This is particularly true when looking at Asian populations. Grizzly Bear Project article

Calderon brothers ask to delay criminal trial — Former state Sen. Ron Calderon and his brother, former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, have asked for a three-month delay in their trial on charges of bribery and money laundering.  Sacramento Bee article

Bill to prevent vets’ suicides raises questions about funding — A bill to reduce suicides among veterans stalled in the Senate last month despite its heartrending cause and strong bipartisan support. Now it’s on the verge of final passage thanks to the departure of its main critic.  McClatchy Newspapers article; Sacramento Bee editorial

House abortion bill switch reveals emerging clout of moderate Republicans – After spending the last few years butting heads with his most conservative members, House Speaker John A. Boehner has a new headache: a revolt by moderates. Tired of staying quiet while tea-party-minded conservatives pull the Republican majority further to the right, more temperate voices are starting to rise in the new GOP-led Congress.  LA Times article; New York Times article

Obama vows to let states lead the way on marijuana – President Obama is not going to stand in the way of U.S. states that want to get high.  In an interview Thursday with YouTube blogger Hank Green, Obama was asked about the growing conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. Bloomberg article

Pro-Clinton group plans to raise money in downtown LA — The Super PAC “Ready for Hillary” will raise money at the City Club on Feb. 20, according to an invitation obtained by The Times. Among the event organizers are Reps. Grace Napolitano, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Loretta Sanchez, as well as former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez. Attendees will contribute as much as $5,000 to attend.  LA Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Kern leaders to call for immediate budget cuts – Kern County departments will be told Tuesday, to cut 1 percent of their general fund spending immediately and brace for years of additional cuts as the county struggles to handle a sharp spike in annual costs.  Bakersfield Californian article; KVPR report

Court orders state to give Medi-Cal benefits within 45 days — Western Center on Law and Poverty says an Alameda County Superior Court has ordered the state to give provisional Medi-Cal benefits to applicants within 45 days — the legal time limit for making most Medi-Cal eligibility decisions – if they appear to be eligible.  Fresno Bee article;San Francisco Chronicle article

Jobs and the Economy

Supreme Court declines to review Chevron tax case against Kern – In another favorable legal outcome for Kern County oil property tax collections, the state Supreme Court declined this week to review an October appellate court ruling against Chevron USA.  Bakersfield Californian article

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

Housing forecasts: Price increases will slow – Bakersfield single- and multifamily housing prices will continue to rise in 2015, albeit at a slower pace than in each of the last two years, according to a pair of market forecasts released Thursday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Monthly U.S. rents keep climbing, especially in San Francisco – U.S. home rental prices continued to climb at a modest pace in December, but rapidly escalating costs in cities such as San Francisco and Denver suggest that apartment dwellers are facing more financial pressure.  AP article

‘First Look’: New organization hopes to ‘revitalize downtown Bakersfield’ – Richard Abraham Rugnao believes downtown Bakersfield can be transformed and revitalized. “Lets make downtown less of a destination and (instead) a place where people actually want to live and work,” Rugnao said Thursday on “First Look with Scott Cox.”  Bakersfield Californian article

Kevin Valine: Second look at benefit district – I wrote a story this week about how the city and a group of downtown interests are trying to create what is called a community benefit district to generate money for downtown improvements.  Valine in Modesto Bee

Sierra Vista Mall sold in foreclosure proceeding – Multiple sources have confirmed that Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis has changed ownership in a foreclosure sale that occurred on Tuesday.  The Business Journal article

G3 Enterprises of Modesto expands cork production – G3 Enterprises of Modesto has upgraded its cork production to serve a business partner based in France.G3, founded by third-generation members of the Gallo winemaking family, is using the new equipment on corks for Diam Bouchage. The French company grinds up natural cork fiber and reshapes it; Gallo does printing and other finish work.  Modesto Bee article

Macy’s to open new distribution center in Sacramento — Macy’s has agreed to take over 400,000 square feet of the old Campbell’s Soup plant on Franklin Boulevard in Sacramento. Macy’s will use the space for a new distribution center and will hire 100 full-time employees. Capital Public Radio report; Sacramento Bee article

Dodgers said to be in talks to sell minority share to South Korean group — The Dodgers are in negotiations to sell a minority ownership share to a group of South Korean investors, a person with direct knowledge of the discussions said Thursday.  LA Times article

Tulare council approves purchase of 10 vehicles — The Tulare City Council is keeping it local when it comes to the city’s latest automotive needs.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Longtime costume shop to shut its doors — Joann Simnitt of Visalia remembers in past decades when a line of customers would stretch outside her costume shop as they waited in anticipation of finding the perfect outfit for Halloween.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Sacramento Bee: A subsidy for meat we can no longer stomach — The story of taxpayer-funded animal experiment have shocked even staunch meat eaters and raised important questions about the measures we are willing to take to keep meat prices artificially low.  Sacramento Bee article

DreamWorks to cut jobs in restructuring — DreamWorks Animation took a sweeping step Thursday to shore up its bottom line, unveiling plans to cut 500 jobs, shake up top management and scale back film production.  LA Times article


Asian citrus psyllid find extends quarantine area into Fresno County – The dreaded Asian citrus psyllid continues to bug central San Joaquin Valley citrus growers as a state-issued quarantine spreads into Fresno County.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Central Valley anti-union farm workers protest in Sacramento – About 20 anti-union farm workers showed up at the state capitol protesting against the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the United Farm Workers. The group says the union and the ALRB are denying employees of Fresno-based Gerawan Farming their rights by forcing them into a union contract.  KVPR report

Sacramento on track to have driest January since 1800s Sacramento is on pace to have the driest January since the first official weather observation was made on July 1, 1877. Only 0.01 inches of rain has fallen this month, specifically on Monday. That’s a smidgen, a drop, a scintilla, a trifle in the proverbial rain bucket.  Sacramento Bee article

Food show featuring Valley farm airs Saturday – Jeff and Julie Bortolussi’s Kingsburg farm will be the setting for an upcoming episode of the television show, a Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking.  Fresno Bee article

Top Fresno City Hall water official heads to new job — Thursday was Martin Querin’s last day as head of Fresno’s water division. Querin has taken a similar position with the northern California city of Vallejo. He begins his new job on Monday.  Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Police departments issuing body cameras discover drawbacks – Wearable video cameras are fast becoming standard-issue gear for American police. The cameras promise a technological answer to complaints about racial bias and excessive force. But in fact, the beneficial effects of body cameras are not well-established yet. And the police departments that rushed to buy them are now dealing with some unintended consequences.  NPR report

Stockton police chief seeks dialogue with community – More than 100 people filled the pews at a downtown Stockton church on Thursday evening as Police Chief Eric Jones and other civic leaders held a public forum to discuss the relationship between law enforcement officers and the citizens they are sworn to serve.  Stockton Record article

Police program reaches out after tragedy strikes – The Neighborhood Impact team, implemented by Chief Eric Jones in November, was created in order to reach out to residents in areas stricken by tragic events.  Stockton Record article

Surprise! Magnets used to plant drugs under cars from Mexico — Drug smugglers are turning “trusted travelers” into unwitting mules by placing containers with powerful magnets under their cars in Mexico and then recovering the illegal cargo far from the view of border authorities in the United States.  AP article


UC rejects policy linking coach pay, athletes’ grades – The University of California regents on Thursday abruptly set aside a policy approved by UC President Janet Napolitano to tie coaches’ pay to the classroom success of student athletes after a robust debate over whether the academic bar was set too low.  San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

Ex-Fresno State President John Welty’s new appointment riles concern on Fresno campus – Former Fresno State President John Welty’s new lucrative professor job in Palm Desert is creating buzz among his old colleagues — and riling suspicions of nepotism since his wife is employed as dean there.  Fresno Bee article

LAO backs repealing caps on districts’ reserves — The California School Boards Association’s campaign to persuade the Legislature to reverse a cap on school district reserves got a boost this week when the Legislative Analyst’s Office issued a report issued endorsing a repeal.  EdSource article

Dan Walters Daily: Gov. Brown drops other shoe on California schools – California schools are getting billions of dollars in new funding, but they may not be able to keep it long, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Ruth Quinto, Bill Swanson, and Tom Bjornson: Innovative health care partnership benefits Fresno Unified – Quinto, deputy superintendent and CFO of Fresno Unified; Swanson, a Fresno Unified teacher; and Bjornson, managing partner of Claremont Partners, write, “In 2005, the Fresno Unified School District was nearly broke, with no relief in sight. A major factor driving costs was the district’s employee health benefits program. To more actively scrutinize those costs, the Board of Education and the district’s labor groups took bold action: They created a Joint Health Management Board (JHMB) to manage the District’s health benefits programs. And manage it we have!” Quinto/Swanson/Bjornson op-ed in Fresno Bee

Donation gives Merced High hope for a football stadium — Merced High School’s hopes for an on-campus football stadium potentially got a big push by a large donation from Hostetler Ranches owner Greg Hostetler.  Merced Sun-Star article


California farmers turn sugar beets into energy — Struggling sugar beet farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are turning their crop into energy instead of sweetener. A cooperative of nine sugar beet farmers just opened a demonstration biorefinery south of Fresno.  Capital Public Radio report

Environmental group says oil and gas industry hurts air quality — The environmental group Earthworks has released a report that raises questions about possible adverse health effects from living near oil and gas production. The 56-page report, “Californians At Risk: An Analysis of Health Threats from Oil and Gas Pollution in Two Communities,” examined air quality around oil wells in Lost Hills in Kern County and Upper Ojai in Ventura County.  Bakersfield Californian article

Wine alliance wins award for environmental efforts — Gov. Jerry Brown has lauded a wine industry effort to make its products without stomping too hard on the environment. The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award this week, one of 12 presented in Sacramento.  Modesto Bee article

Health/Human Services

Fewer California parents refuse to vaccinate children – The number of California parents who cite personal beliefs in refusing to vaccinate their kindergartners dropped in 2014 for the first time in a dozen years, according to a Times data analysis.  LA Times article

Disneyland measles outbreak: Cases not limited to the unvaccinated —  As the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland grew to at least 70 cases Wednesday, much of the attention has focused on how the vast majority of patients were not vaccinated for the highly contagious disease. But some medical experts also have expressed concern about the five patients who contracted measles despite being fully vaccinated.  LA Times article

 Coffee consumption linked to lower melanoma risk — Sunblock you can drink? A new study suggests that drinking coffee could reduce the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by as much as 20%. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health and the Yale School of Public Health found that the more coffee people drank, the lower their melanoma risk. LA Times article

Tobacco control policies making little progress, report shows – Two new reports found that progress in combating the use of tobacco products has stalled in Merced County, as it has in most of California.  Merced Sun-Star article

Kern earns mixed grades for tobacco control — The American Lung Association gave Kern County its usual bashing in an annual report that graded the region’s tobacco control policies. Bakersfield and six other Kern cities were awarded grades of F. That resulted from low scores in three categories: smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing and reduction of tobacco product sales.  Bakersfield Californian article

Land Use/Housing

Studio apartments in downtown Fresno’s Pilibos Building — The Fresno Housing Authority is getting ready to open its CityView housing development in downtown Fresno. The big 45-unit apartment complex on the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Inyo Street is impressive if you remember what was there before. The corner was home to the Droge Building which was held up for years by iron-props that jutted into the street.  Fresno Bee article


Federal agency to recommend two new braking technologies on all cars — Looking to curb rear-end collisions, federal safety regulators announced plans Thursday to add two new features to a list of recommended safety technologies.  LA Times article

Other Areas

Homeless encampment in Merced to be destroyed Monday – The California Department of Transportation on Thursday posted notices at an encampment near Kelly Avenue and Highway 140 on the east side of Merced ordering the homeless illegally camping there to leave before crews clear the area Monday.  Merced Sun-Star article

Atwater sounds off to council – A room at the Atwater Community Center was filled – and overflowing – with people asking questions about Measure H, homelessness, blight, unsafe roadways and sidewalks – and even that controversial new firetruckMerced Sun-Star article

City Beat: Council turns away new development standards – An ordinance that would have added to city development standards failed to even get a first reading Wednesday after about a half hour of debate among Bakersfield City Council members.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno leaders attend Thursday night vigil for slain 9-year-old – Around 300 people joined Fresno City Council members, police Chief Jerry Dyer and Janessa Ramirez’s family and teachers at a large vigil Thursday night at Marks and Clinton avenues west of Highway 99, the location where Janessa was struck and killed by an errant bullet Sunday.  Fresno Bee article

‘Slacker’ Mulvihill takes judge’s oath – Judge Michael Mulvihill had risen in the ranks steadily since he joined the county prosecutor’s office as a young attorney in 1998. Stockton Record article

Fresno electrician arrested in theft of 650 pounds of copper wire – A licensed electrician was arrested Wednesday for allegedly stealing more than 650 pounds of copper wire after Fresno County sheriff’s deputies spotted him pushing a cart loaded with the metal at a southeast Fresno recycling center.  Fresno Bee article

Lemoore begins search for interim manager – With Lemoore City Manager Jeff Laws’ retirement less than two months away, the Lemoore City Council has begun its search for an immediate replacement.  Hanford Sentinel article

Fresno Art Museum show marks 100th anniversary of Armenian Genocide — An exhibit featuring artwork by Armenian artists to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will be on display in four galleries at Fresno Art Museum.  Fresno Bee article

Orange Cove volunteers take steps to save stray dogs — Del Bosque and a group of volunteers, called Friends of Orange Cove Animal Shelter, have been working at the city’s animal shelter with one goal in mind — build a no-kill shelter for man’s best friend. They face an uphill battle.  Fresno Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald: The underbelly visits my shed – I opened my door Sunday night and squinted into to the white glare of spotlights lancing my house from two deputy Sheriffs’ cruisers stopped at my curb. Two deputies stood on the porch.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Council votes to keep North Visalia Committee — The North Visalia Neighborhood Advisory Committee will continue to be an advocate for residents and business owners on the north side for the next two years after Visalia City Council voted to save it last month.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Small committee, big names, high stakes for UC; Despite industry claims, sugary soda isn’t an entitlement.

Merced Sun-Star – There’s a glimmer of bipartisanship in the new Republican-controlled Congress – a bill to step up efforts to prevent suicides among military veterans.

Modesto Bee – There’s a glimmer of bipartisanship in the new Republican-controlled Congress – a bill to step up efforts to prevent suicides among military veterans.

Sacramento Bee – The story of taxpayer-funded animal experiment have shocked even staunch meat eaters and raised important questions about the measures we are willing to take to keep meat prices artificially low; There’s a glimmer of bipartisanship in the new Republican-controlled Congress – a bill to step up efforts to prevent suicides among military veterans.