January 25, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Study: Valley’s undocumented immigrants mostly long-term residents from Mexico — Among undocumented immigrants in the central San Joaquin Valley, most were born in Mexico, have lived in the United States for more than five years, don’t speak much English and live in poverty. For people who keep up with immigration in the Valley, those statistics might not be a surprise.  Fresno Bee article

State high court’s vote affecting Scout affiliating stirs debate anew – When the California Supreme Court voted last week to prohibit state judges from belonging to nonprofit youth organizations that practice discrimination, Julia Kelety was not surprised.  LA Times article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

In San Francisco’s close quarters, political giants are bred — The result is a kind of hyper-democracy and political forge that has fashioned some of California’s most powerful and enduring elected leaders, in numbers far out of proportion to the city’s relative pint size.  LA Times article

Other areas

Dan Morain: Once again, legislators threaten voters’ rights – Complicated though the legalities may be, the politics are clear. If the high court limits the ability of voters to approve independent redistricting commissions, legislators will reassert themselves. It’s in their nature.  Morain column in Sacramento Bee

Marcus Breton: Family circumstances cloud right-to-die debate – Some memories never leave you, even though you wish they would. You wish they wouldn’t visit in that vulnerable state between slumber and waking where the mind re-creates harrowing images in vivid detail. My nightmare is always the same. There is my father in September 2008, in the hospice care that was supposed to relieve him of his pain before he died a natural death.  Breton column in Sacramento Bee

BART may drop protest charges — When 14 protesters against police violence shut down most of BART for three hours on Nov. 28 — the shopping day known as Black Friday — transit system managers estimated the fare revenue loss at nearly $70,000 and asked Alameda County prosecutors to seek reimbursement as part of their criminal charges.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Thousands join antiabortion march in San Francisco – Thousands of people calling for an end to abortion filled San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza on Saturday for the annual West Coast March for Life.  San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article

Willie Brown: Politics aside, Jeb Bush is one smart and funny guy — Put your money on Jeb Bush as Republican nominee for president. I am — I’m all in. I don’t agree with his politics, but I’ll be the first to say that Bush is one smart guy. We were on a panel together a few years back discussing the economy, and his command of the subject was impressive.  Brown column in San Francisco Chronicle

Michael Hiltzik: Five years after Citizens United ruling, big money reigns — The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the infamous campaign finance case marked its fifth anniversary last week. By taking the reins off big-money electoral donations by corporations and labor unions, Citizens United has unmistakably broadened the political influence of the wealthy and powerful.  Hiltzik in LA Times

Sacramento Bee: Time for ‘family values’ Congress to value families — Isn’t it time voters of both parties insisted on some genuine, meaningful, nationwide relief for families?  Sacramento Bee editorial

News Briefs

Top Stories

Fresno’s water future is full of regulators — There’s a key besides money in Fresno’s struggle to fix its water mess. We’re talking government regulators. Cost has been the hot issue so far. But regulation, much of it originating farther up the governmental food chain, is also driving events. If Fresno can’t handle its business, Sacramento could step in with a solution. City officials call this the “boot in the seat of the pants” option.  Fresno Bee article

Kern pot fine in limbo after court ruling – Kern County has leveled $2.2 million in fines against medical marijuana growers since supervisors crafted a 12-plant limit on the number of plants a person could grow. But violators, who faced a $1,000 penalty for every plant exceeding 12, have paid the county only $74,272.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

California considering plan to replace gas tax with charge per mile driven — As motorists buy less gasoline, state gas tax revenues that pay for roads have been falling for a decade, leading to more potholes and traffic jams. Now, in a move that could solve the problem — or cause a political pileup — state officials have begun to seriously study a plan to replace California’s gas tax with a fee for each mile motorists drive.  Contra Costa Times article

Fueled by oil, agriculture sector welcomes lower diesel prices – The recent plunge in fuel prices has been a welcome relief across the agricultural sector, helping ease the pain of low grain prices for growers and boosting profits for cattle ranchers.  AP article

Chukchansi members recognize tribal governing body – Chukchansi tribal members on Saturday voted to recognize a governing body of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians until a tribal council election can be held. The vote taken during a meeting at the Golden Palace banquet hall in Fresno is being viewed by many as a crucial step towards reopening Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold.  Fresno Bee article

Stockton Record: Bottom of the Chapter 9 – Bankruptcy ruling gives Stockton the green light.  Stockton Record editorial

Walmart’s arrival in central Fresno spurs battle for customers on Blackstone – What does a 107,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter moving into the neighborhood mean for nearby businesses? Lots of business owners have been trying to answer that question ever since Walmart first announced it would open a store at the corner of Ashlan and Blackstone avenues.  Fresno Bee article

Lewis Griswold: Landowner seeks to build shopping center near Visalia – A battle could erupt between Visalia and Tulare County over a proposal by landowner Bill Travis to build a “super regional” shopping center at the southeast corner of Highway 99 and Caldwell Avenue.  Griswold in Fresno Bee

Modesto eyes Centre Plaza rate increases – It soon could cost a lot more to hold seminars, trade shows and other events at Modesto Centre Plaza, the city’s downtown convention center.  Modesto Bee article

Lather, lace and a new downtown start – Kalish Morrow and Katye Fredieu may not have built the new Vendome building in downtown Hanford, but they are making their contribution to its renaissance. Morrow and Fredieu are the co-owners of Lather to Lace, one of at least three business already signed up to fill the new Vendome building that replaced the old one destroyed by a fire in 2012.  Hanford Sentinel article

LA panel was split over which minimum-wage analyst offered best bid – A panel tasked with choosing outside analysts to conduct a key review of two proposals to raise Los Angeles’ minimum wage split over which firm had the best bid, according to newly released city documents.  LA Times article; Steve Lopez column in LA Times

Mayor Garcetti seeks to cut civilian injury-leave pay about 25 percent – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is seeking roughly a 25% cut in the pay that city civilian workers receive while on injury leave, an unusually generous benefit that critics say has contributed to increasing taxpayer costs.  LA Times article

Chargers deny LA stadium deal — The Chargers have refuted a report from a St. Louis radio station that team owner Dean Spanos has a deal in place for a new stadium in Los Angeles.  U-T San Diego article

Sheriff’s departments have highest-paid local government workers in Sacramento region – Keyes’ law enforcement sector has more people than any other category on the region’s list of 1,000 highest-paid local government employees, The Bee found in an analysis of the State Controller’s Office 2013 data. In Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo counties, 237 sworn employees from sheriff’s departments and 57 sworn officers from police departments were on the list.  Sacramento Bee article

Teamsters approve new commercials contract — Members of Teamsters Local 399 have approved a new contract, avoiding a strike that would have shut down commercial production in Los Angeles.  LA Times article


Rules revisited for preserving Stanislaus farmland – Questions about valuing farmland when it’s swallowed by sprawl will resurface Wednesday in the latest dispute between development and agriculture.  Modesto Bee article

Modesto Bee: We must challenge the state’s water grab – We all know Mark Twain’s three kinds of untruths: Lies, damned lies and statistics. The State Water Resources Control Board is telling some statistical whoppers as it tries to justify its impending water grab.  Modesto Bee editorial

David Mas Masumoto:  Creativity’s food revolution — Food is hot. From the fields and farms of our Valley to the tables in some of the nation’s best restaurants, from home cook kitchens to trendy food trucks, from cooking contests to elaborate parties and social gatherings with food as a centerpiece, a revolution in food is unfolding before us.  Masumoto column in Fresno Bee

Avian flu found in Stanislaus County turkey flock — A strain of avian flu harmless to humans has been found at a Foster Farms turkey facility in Stanislaus County. The company’s website says the firm’s early-detection program caught the outbreak in a single, rural turkey ranch, which has been quarantined and the birds to be humanely killed.  Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Gang killings intertwined: Robert Luecke, Janessa Ramirez and Brian Winston — In the early evening of Jan. 3, Brian Winston was shot and killed in central Fresno. Winston was a family man who worked in construction, took his kids to the fair and out to eat, and bought gifts for them on their birthdays, said his longtime girlfriend, Chantelle Montgomery. His violent death, deemed gang-related by police even though there’s no hint that Winston was active in gangs, barely raised a ripple in a city that’s seen its share of gang violence.  Fresno Bee article; ‘Hundreds mourn Fresno shooting victim Janessa’ in Fresno Bee

Mike Klocke: Police dialogue an important step – News: Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones and his department have an open dialogue with community members. Views: It’s important that this dialogue is taking place and it’s essential that it continues.  Klocke column in Stockton Record

Sacramento police cameras have got your number — Since September, Sacramento police have installed boxes at five major intersections around the city, offering officers real-time data on cars that have helped lead to a handful of arrests. They’re called Police Observation Devices, or PODs, and local police are trumpeting them as a key part of the “next-generation” technology they say is making Sacramento safer.  Sacramento Bee article

New Kings DA talks changes – Kings County’s newly appointed District Attorney has already made some adjustments since his first day in office and more changes may be in store.  Hanford Sentinel article

LAPD closed homicide cases without bringing killers to justice, analysis shows — Officials in the Los Angeles Police Department’s San Fernando Valley Bureau reported they solved 63 percent of homicide cases over 11 years — a significantly better track record than the rest of the LAPD and many other law enforcement agencies reported. But many of those cases were solved without a single arrest being made. In others, suspects were arrested but never faced a jury. Officials failed to bring the killers to justice.  LA Daily News article


Inside the Common Core classroom – Emblems of Common Core have already started trickling into local classrooms: requiring greater use of evidence from literary texts to support conclusions; a heftier requirement in math and English to explain answers; and more work with non-fiction as opposed to fiction. A Californian reporter visited Bakersfield classrooms in December and January to observe the changes.  Bakersfield Californian article

Dan Walters: Schools get big bucks, still behind — We know that California’s school spending has been on the rise, up roughly $1,000 per kid in the last two years alone and at least $3,000 each since Brown became governor again in 2011. However, we also know that by all state-by-state comparisons, California ranks somewhere below the national average, and perhaps near the bottom if the state’s high cost of living is included, as the National Education Association does.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Middle-schoolers reinvent the farm for Future City life – The future looks bright for urban farming, full of skyscrapers laden with veggies and smog-free renewable energy. Cows graze in a giant greenhouse, fertilizing at will, every whiff of methane captured to produce electricity. Hunger is history. Recycling is second nature, and stadiums get top billing.  Modesto Bee article

Hughson Unified appoints parent to fill board vacancy – District parent Daniel Sexton will join the Hughson Unified School District board of trustees, filling the vacancy created by the resignation of Mark Harman in November.  Modesto Bee article

Fake schools in California draw scrutiny of federal legislators — Government watchdogs say the recent visa fraud cases have exposed gaps in ICE’s oversight of schools that admit foreign students — a problem the agency says is being corrected. And experts say the scams hurt the reputation of the U.S. higher education system, which currently enrolls about 900,000 foreign students.  AP article


No state or federal aid for handling bird-killing goo emergency — The deaths of birds from a sticky goo on San Francisco Bay this past week signaled an environmental emergency, but the network of skilled government agencies trained to swiftly respond to bay disasters was nowhere to be found.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Michael Fitzgerald: A digital look into John Muir’s mind — John Muir’s journals, the diaries of the remarkable man who preserved Yosemite, founded the Sierra Club and fathered modern American conservation, are archived at University of the Pacific. Amazingly, many of Muir’s 78 journals have never been transcribed. University of the Pacific recently scanned them, posted them online and invited the public to transcribe them.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Peter Asmus: How to meet Brown’s aggressive climate change agenda – Asmus, who has been covering energy issues for more than 25 years, writes, “If California wants to succeed on the two ambitious goals, here are five things that need to happen.”  Asmus op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Health/Human Services

Marin vaccination exemptions dropping thanks to new law – A new law may be reversing a rise in the percent of kindergarteners exempt from vaccinations in Marin County, county officials said.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Medical students provide dose of inspiration — “I will be … a doctor.” “Louder!” Darin Latimore scolded. “I will be …” one side of the auditorium repeated, louder; “… a doctor!” the other side yelled, even louder. With that, Latimore — who earned the title “Dr.” before his name many years ago — fired up the crowd of young high school and community college students mostly from Stockton eager to continue their studies in medical school and become physicians.  Stockton Record article

Land Use/Housing

Senior residential unit plans moving forward in Stockton – Possible development of a 118-unit residential assisted-living and memory-care facility that would serve up to 136 clients and create about 120 jobs progressed last week when it received affirmation from Stockton’s Planning Commission.  Stockton Record article


Jim Costa, Janice Hahn and Zoe Lofgren: Debate about high-speed rail should be based on facts – The co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on California High-Speed Rail write, “Challenges and criticism are important elements of ensuring oversight of any program. To that end, the debate about high-speed rail in California must be based on facts and merits. Unfortunately, for some, it appears the discussion has already deteriorated into baseless claims and partisan politics.” Costa/Hahn/Lofgren op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Bid to extend ACE trains to Modesto, Turlock, Merced faces hurdles – Whether the dream of Bay Area-bound passenger trains from the Modesto area comes true in the next few years may depend on a series of important steps.  Modesto Bee article

Lois Henry: GET may have trouble justifying proposed facilities — You’re probably wondering how the $68 billion high-speed rail project — some say boondoggle — is a tax saver. Well, it apparently put the brakes on a planned $40 million new compound for Golden Empire Transit (GET).  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Bay Bridge supplier failed to reveal rods’ failure in Washington — The supplier of steel rods that cracked on the Bay Bridge in 2013, a construction failure that cost toll payers $45 million, never told Caltrans that nearly identical rods it made for a Washington state bridge had suffered a similar fate in 2009, The Chronicle has learned.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva: Future very bright – Stockton’s mayor writes, “The fact is that ‘yes’ Stockton, hopefully, has learned from past mistakes and overspending. At this time, we are better poised for a comeback, but I do not feel that we should be overly confident to leap into the pool of new hope and prosperity. There are significant indicators that our national and local economies are improving. It is essential that our local leaders do everything in our power to position Stockton for the future.”  Silva op-ed in Stockton Record

Downtown Modesto courthouse land deal details revealed – The deal to buy up one block of downtown Modesto for a new courthouse ended up with the city’s taxpayers subsidizing California’s court system and two private landowners receiving significantly more than their land was worth, just-released property records show.  Modesto Bee article

Jonathan Mayer and Edward Felton: California must lead on cybersecurity – Mayer, a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, and Felton, professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University, write, “Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously observed that the states are “laboratories of democracy.” They can experiment, and lead, when the federal government has failed to act. California is already the nation’s laboratory for information technology. It’s time for the state to become a laboratory for cybersecurity policy.”  Mayer/Felton op-ed in Sacramento Bee

More homeless camps are appearing beyond downtown LA’s skid row — Some residents believe the city is exporting its downtown homeless problem to their neighborhoods. But social service agencies and volunteers say it isn’t that simple. They say that although downtown development and skid row cleanups are squeezing out some homeless people, many camps are filled with locals.  LA Times article

San Francisco takes new direction on homeless camps with 1-stop aid center — The plan being spearheaded by the San Francisco mayor’s point man on homelessness is to create a one-stop homeless aid center in the heart of the Mission District that’s unlike any seen in America. It will be an airy complex where entire existing encampments of hard-core homeless can be moved in — tents, carts, dogs, girlfriends, boyfriends, you name it — and housed for up to 10 days while an army of aid workers finds them permanent housing.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Jeff Jardine: Young Modesto writers making healing personal – Somerset Middle School teacher Susan Romero discovered that 15 of her students in 2012 had lost loved ones and were dealing with the emotions of those losses. So she persuaded 13 of them to write about their experience and assembled it into a book intended to help other teens face the same dilemmas. Modesto Bee article

Not even Sasquatch would believe this about Bakersfield — In Skamania County, Wash., it’s illegal to kill Sasquatch. In South Berwick, Maine, it’s illegal to park in front of Dunkin’ Donuts. And in Bakersfield, it’s illegal to have sex with Satan without using a condom. Two of those laws are real. The alleged law about having unprotected sex with the devil has been posted on numerous websites during the past five years, seen by millions of Internet users and accepted as fact despite being completely false.  Bakersfield Californian article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Isn’t it time voters of both parties insisted on some genuine, meaningful, nationwide relief for families?

Modesto Bee – We all know Mark Twain’s three kinds of untruths: Lies, damned lies and statistics. The State Water Resources Control Board is telling some statistical whoppers as it tries to justify its impending water grab.

Sacramento Bee – Isn’t it time voters of both parties insisted on some genuine, meaningful, nationwide relief for families?; A powerful history lesson about civic responsibility.

Stockton Record – Bankruptcy ruling gives Stockton the green light.