January 26, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Fight over taxes looms between Democrats, Jerry Brown — Gov. Jerry Brown orchestrated the successful push for temporary sales and income taxes on Californians three years ago to help ease the state out of recession and close a multibillion-dollar budget gap. The financial crisis has passed and the economy is rebounding, but the fight over taxes is about to resume.  AP article

Brown, employee unions set to tangle over health insurance — After years of making concessions to Gov. Jerry Brown, California labor leaders had hoped that the fourth-and-final-term Democrat finally would be in a giving mood. But after the governor’s budget proposal two weeks ago, several unions are bracing for tough talks in the coming months about Brown’s determination to cut the state’s costs of insuring employees and retirees.  Sacramento Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

George Skelton: Villaraigosa’s experience could play well in the Senate — Antonio Villaraigosa’s resume definitely qualifies him to be a U.S. senator and suggests the potential of a pretty effective one. Big city mayor. State legislative leader. Player in the national political arena. Plus: iron will, charm and street smarts (usually).  Skelton column in LA Times

Dan Walters Daily:  Waiting on Antonio Villaraigosa — Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa may be the only person left who can make California’s Senate race a real contest, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

Citing public health, Leno seeks more limits on e-cigarettes – A bill to regulate electronic cigarettes by defining them as tobacco products and barring their use at work, schools, on public transportation and in restaurants and bars — just as cigarettes are — is expected to be introduced Monday in the state Legislature.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Republicans find it’s not easy being in charge — Three weeks into their historic House majority and after taking control of the Senate for the first time in eight years, Republicans find themselves in a meltdown over rape and charges that they quashed debate on a Keystone pipeline bill so their presidential hopefuls could make pitches to the billionaire Koch brothers in Palm Springs.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Analysis:  Republicans’ biggest challenge in 2016: A rosier economy — For years, President Obama had a singular problem: convincing Americans who were not feeling the economic recovery that it was real and a cause for optimism, not to mention for electing fellow Democrats. Now Republicans seeking to capture the White House find themselves on the brink of the reverse dilemma: how to dismiss the economic revival that many Americans seem finally to be embracing.  LA Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Northern San Joaquin Valley real estate winners and losers for 2014 — Home prices rose dramatically during 2014 in many Northern San Joaquin Valley communities, but the lousy real estate market lingered on in some towns.  Modesto Bee article; ‘Graphic: A look at city-by-city home sale prices’ in Modesto Bee

Shooting of Fresno girl frustrates police chief after drop in gang violence — Despite the publicity that accompanies horrendous incidents such as Janessa’s slaying, Fresno has become safer, with lower murder rates, even as the city’s population has grown. But gang-on-gang violence fueled a 20% increase in murders in Fresno in 2014 and more murders were committed with firearms compared to 2013, the Fresno Police Department reported in a 2014 year-end analysis.  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Stanislaus County expects to see garbage fee proposals from cities — Stanislaus County officials are awaiting proposals from cities for new agreements on garbage disposal fees. The county has offered to make its fee structure more attractive to cities such as Turlock, which is sending garbage to a lower-cost landfill in Merced. If other cities were to send most of their rubbish to out-of-county facilities, it could cause a countywide solid waste partnership to unravel.  Modesto Bee article

Gas prices in Sacramento region, state  — and nationwide – expected to rise after long retreat — The sustained drop in the cost of gasoline likely has ended, with prices locally, in California and across the U.S. expected to start rising again. GasBuddy.com, which surveys more than 700 local gasoline outlets daily, said the average retail price of gasoline in the Sacramento area on Sunday was $2.36 a gallon, up a penny from Saturday but down from $2.41 the week before.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

The plight of blight: Downtown businessman wonders how long revitalization takes — Attorney Jacob Loyal Benguerel became a pioneer of sorts late in 2013 when he purchased for his practice a century-old building on a forsaken downtown stretch where boarded-up storefronts and a vacant lot dominate the landscape. Benguerel, 35, opened the doors to his family law practice last March after he slapped a coat of paint on the outside of the old Stockton Morris Plan Company building and uncovered brick walls and replaced carpeting inside. But 10 months later, his frustration is mounting.  Stockton Record article

How paid sick leave can be healthy for pensions – President Obama said during his State of the Union address last week that 43 million workers have no paid sick leave, forcing “too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.” The president wasn’t talking about government employees. Calpensions article

Middle class shrinks further as more fall out instead of climbing up – Since 2000, the middle-class share of households has continued to narrow, the main reason being that more people have fallen to the bottom. At the same time, fewer of those in this group fit the traditional image of a married couple with children at home, a gap increasingly filled by the elderly.  New York Times article

Psychology studies suggest rising wealth means more jerks in San Francisco — If it seems that San Franciscans are getting more entitled and self-absorbed, a series of psychology studies performed at UC Berkeley indicates there could be a scientific reason: the city’s increasing wealth.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Avian flu detected at Central Valley farm — Avian flu has been detected among a flock of turkeys at a Central Valley ranch operated by Foster Farms, authorities said.  LA Times article


UC: Butting heads in a committee of two – Today in the Capitol, an unusual hearing will examine the issue. UC is penciled in to receive a boost of just under $120 million from the General Fund — if student tuition remains flat. But the UC regents have approved raising tuition, and President Janet Napolitano is playing hardball: She says UC needs $100 million more than what the governor is offering.  Capitol Weekly article

Newsom, Brown team up to take down UC policy on coaches’ pay – After years of behind-the-scenes slights and stare-downs, Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are tag-teaming to knock the wind out of the University of California establishment.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Stockton Unified knocks down expulsion rates – Mirroring a statewide trend that saw a dramatic drop in school expulsion rates, Stockton Unified cut the number of students expelled in 2013-14 by nearly 50 percent from the year before and is on track so far this year to see that number fall by nearly half again.  Stockton Record article

Building a school:  Gaston Middle, ethnic studies teacher press to overcome early obstacles — It’s been more than five months since Peter Beck started at Gaston, the west Fresno middle school that opened in August. As the school made headlines in the run-up to its grand opening, a historic moment for many who’d waited decades for a neighborhood school, Beck came into a different, darker spotlight as the African American and Latino studies teacher there.  Fresno Bee article

Ron Taylor:  Merced College enrollment trending up – The superintendent and president of Merced College writes, “The headline of your recent article, ‘Merced College projected to miss growth goal,’ is a bit premature and deserves further comment. Our current enrollment numbers are actually trending upward (we are slightly ahead of last year’s enrollment at this time), and we expect to take full advantage of the growth funding the state has provided for the 2014-15 school year.” Taylor op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Parents try their hand at Common Core math – Brandy Frakes, an elementary school teacher at the Aspire University Charter School in Modesto, is tackling one of the greatest challenges facing educators: building support among bewildered parents for the Common Core standards being implemented in thousands of California classrooms. EdSource article

Determined high school student helping others in Modesto make college dream come true – Damaris Esquivel has a lot of obstacles in her path to college, but she’s determined. Her family came from Mexico to the United States when she was 6 months old. They entered the country illegally in their search for a better life.  Modesto Bee article

Gloria Romero and Rishawn Biddle: California can end school-to-prison pipeline with more choice – Romero, a former majority leader in the California Senate, and Biddle, editor of DropOut Nation, write, “The United States spends $228 billion on criminal justice because we badly spend $595 billion on our abysmal schools. In California, 70 percent of prison inmates do not have a high school diploma. We need to alter the discourse and directly address how both our public education and criminal justice systems affect poor and minority youths.  Romero/Biddle op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Schools to get help with broadband infrastructure – Four area schools will benefit from part of $27 million awarded to 227 California campuses to help enhance their broadband infrastructure, according to the state Department of Education.  Merced Sun-Star article

Officials describe Merced’s big-dollar schools modernization program – “Modernization” is the operative word now in the Merced City School District. The 17-school district is in the initial stages of a comprehensive upgrading program enhanced by voter passage last June of the $60 million Measure M general obligation bond.  Merced Sun-Star article

PTA to award prizes for parents who do their homework — Paying kids to do homework is a controversial issue among parents. Paying parents to do homework ­– about critical issues affecting their kids’ schools – is a good deal from the California State PTA. The PTA has announced a raffle in which it will pay nine parents a combined $6,000, as donations to their local PTAs, if they take Ed100, a short, self-directed online course on California’s education system and its big changes, including the Local Control Funding Formula and Common Core.  EdSource article

Health/Human Services

Parents who oppose measles hold firm to their beliefs – Gary Monahan remembers his son’s temperature spiking to 102 degrees when he was vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella. The child then landed in the hospital with what appeared to be whooping cough after his next round of vaccinations. By the time the child was 3 1/2 , he was diagnosed with autism, Monahan said. The experience reshaped Monahan’s approach to raising his children. LA Times article

Possible measles case investigated in Sacramento – Sacramento County officials said Sunday they are investigating a possible case of measles, the first potential case in the region since a significant outbreak linked to Disneyland was reported in December.  Sacramento Bee article

Dr. Peter Broderick: Golden Valley Health Centers had to prepare for the future – The family practice physician in Modesto writes, “The efforts by a small group to undermine needed progress demonstrate a level of unprofessionalism inconsistent with our ethical commitment to put patients’ needs ahead of our own. The Golden Valley board welcomes constructive dialogue about moving our organization toward a future that measures quality care, but let’s start with facts and respectful engagement to show patients they come first. Lives depend on this.”  Broderick op-ed in Modesto Bee


Dan Walters: Road tax diversions and reality — A recent column about a growing backlog of deferred maintenance in the state highway system and the difficulty of raising more revenue for roadwork generated an unusually high number of reader reactions.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Sacramento streetcar rolling fast, but financing questions unanswered — Sacramento’s streetcar plan has chugged along quietly for years. But in the past month, the ambitious proposal has taken off like a bullet train.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento transit leaders propose light-rail safety improvements – Sacramento Regional Transit General Manager Mike Wiley on Monday night will present the agency’s board of directors with 22 recommended steps the agency can take in the next six months, many of them focused on safety and cleanliness, as well as a series of longer-term changes for the transit system.  Sacramento Bee article

Other Areas

Census finds decrease in Kern homeless population, but demand for services remains steady — Leon, 53, of Bakersfield, has been sleeping on the street for three years after his release from Wasco State Prison following a drug possession conviction. He is one of nearly 1,000 homeless individuals interviewed by volunteers for the annual Homeless Census, a slight decrease according to a preliminary count from the 1,000 counted last year. The census launched in 2007 and covers both metropolitan and rural Kern County.  Bakersfield Californian article

San Joaquin County officials prepare for biennial homeless count – Once every two years, volunteers and service workers organize to try and count the homeless population of San Joaquin County, a necessary endeavor to preserve federal funding and better plan how to help the hundreds of men, women and children without a place to live. But it can be hard to find them, particularly those who sleep on the streets, make camp under bridges or otherwise remain outside shelters, which is why organizers are holding four events over three days this week. Stockton Record article

Merced supervisors to consider allowing dogs at Lake Yosemite, next steps on groundwater ordinance – The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider allowing residents to bring dogs into Lake Yosemite Park for another next six months, in addition to setting the first reading of the county’s groundwater ordinance.  Merced Sun-Star article

Livingston council names interim city manager, passes two laws – The Livingston City Council named an interim city manager this month, in addition to adopting two new ordinances – one allowing smoke shops to open in town and another prohibiting trash scavengers. Odi Ortiz, assistant city manager and finance director, was unanimously appointed by the council on Tuesday after several closed-door meetings.  Merced Sun-Star article

Jose Gaspar: New Kern judge did it just like Honest Abe – Fifty-five year-old Marcos Camacho never set foot in law school. He earned his law degree by taking advantage of an obscure four-year state program that allows people to become lawyers pretty much the same way Abraham Lincoln did it. Under the Law Office Study Program run by the State Bar of California, it allows students to “read law” under the apprenticeship of a practicing attorney. California is among only a few states in the nation with such a program. Those who prefer to go this route are pretty much on their own.  Bakersfield Californian article

Visalia City Council held its annual Strategic Planning Workshop – During the Visalia City Council Strategic Planning Workshop Friday, held at 210, Visalia City Council members and many city department leads discussed and reviewed the city’s future. A 2014 snapshot that highlighted many accomplishments within the city, included upgrades or add-ons to the city’s transportation, general services, fire safety, parks and other areas throughout the city.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Cleopathia Moore-Bell: Planning a better future for west Modesto’s children – The executive director of the West Fresno/King Kennedy Neighborhood Collaborative writes, “I have a dream. We want to partner with or purchase the nearby Vine House Ministries and garden property. In my dream, it’s a campus with additional buildings where we can expand the Boys & Girls Club and provide child care, senior housing, offices and training rooms to teach work and parenting skills.”  Moore-Bell op-ed in Modesto Bee

A foster child, Miss Merced has overcome many obstacles – Not only is Rose Beltran of Atwater the new Miss Merced County 2015, she’s also an accomplished high school wrestler who has grappled with many obstacles during her 17 years.  Merced Sun-Star article

California again tops ranking of most animal-friendly states — California has been very, very good to animals. So says the Humane Society of the United States, which bills itself as “the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization.” For the sixth straight year, the society has ranked the Golden State No. 1 on its list of 50 states for laws and policies relating to wildlife, farm livestock, pets and animal fighting. Oregon placed second and Illinois came in third.  LA Times article

Campaign ads shine spotlight on LA’s struggle to enforce sign laws — Outdoor advertising company Lamar went big last week in its bid to drum up publicity for Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, putting up 100 free billboards supporting his March 3 reelection campaign.  LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – “Selma” is a powerful lesson about voting.

Sacramento Bee – Two views of Curtis Park Village reflect scare tactics.

Visalia Times-DeltaOur Thumbs: Equal representation is a priority in Tulare, a North Visalia neighborhood group is saved, and other issues.