January 3, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories 

Top 10 political stories to watch in 2016 – 2016 is shaping up to be a perfect political storm in California, the kind of year historians look back on with wonder. Not only will there likely be a tsunami of ballot measures in November, but also many will come with national implications, media attention and special interest cash for and against them. KQED report

Dan Morain: Jerry Brown gets ready to swim upstream — If 2016 is to be counted as a success, Brown once again must focus on water, specifically the massive California WaterFix project that includes the twin tunnels and restoration of Delta habitat. Morain in Sacramento Bee


Families are taken into custody as push to deport immigrants denied refuge begins — The detentions of at least 11 families across the country marked the first day of an effort by the government to find and deport Central American migrants who sought refuge in the U.S. and stayed illegally, immigrant advocates said Saturday. LA Times article

San Bernardino Shootings 

Inland Regional Center reopening with heightened security, one month after San Bernardino attack — The Inland Regional Center complex in San Bernardino will reopen Monday with heightened security for the first time since a mass shooting there last month that left 14 people dead. LA Times article 

News Stories

Top Stories

Wages rising in central San Joaquin Valley, but still lagging state, U.S. income averages – The central San Joaquin Valley’s employment and economic picture has a bright outlook as 2016 dawns, as the number of jobs is expected to continue rebounding from the depths of the recession. Fresno Bee article 

New storms could make wettest week in 5 years in Central California — The kind of rainy weather pattern shaping up for Central California this week has not occurred since 2010, the National Weather Service said Saturday. A series of storms is expected to roll into Central California and will make for the most days with rain since before the drought began. Fresno Bee article 

Dan Walters: Students deprived of sleep – There’s a simple step we could – and should – take that would cost nothing, but would make children healthier and increase their school attendance and academic achievement. It sounds too good to be true, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says starting classes later would better match kids’ natural circadian rhythms. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Jobs and the Economy

Port of Stockton sees record in ship traffic – Port of Stockton officials expected 2015 to be a record year for shipping traffic, with a total of 247 ship arrivals through New Year’s Eve, compared to 230 ship arrivals in 2014, the previous all-time record. Stockton Record article

Unused sick time, vacation boosts retirement pay for Sacramento government workers – Thirteen local government employees in the capital region received lump-sum payments of more than $100,000 in 2014, The Sacramento Bee found in an analysis of data from the State Controller’s Office. The analysis included city and county governments in Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo counties and did not include special districts. Sacramento Bee article 

Eliminating tips brings unintended consequences in Bay Area – Spurred by voter-driven minimum wage increases and the difficulty of finding qualified staff, growing numbers of local restaurants are opting for all-inclusive prices or fixed service charges. In the process, these early adopters have encountered a host of unintended consequences. Some restaurants have adjusted with small tweaks. Others — including two of the original five — have given up the tipless experiment. San Francisco Chronicle article

Tech mavericks see green in burgeoning marijuana industry – Marijuana has become the next new new thing for “angels” in Silicon Valley and titans of the tech world. People who made fortunes in technology are making major investments in social networks, applications, business services and other ancillary products for marijuana consumers, dispensaries and cultivators. Sacramento Bee article‘Emerging players in the new pot economy’ in Sacramento Bee

Women rarely reach top in tech, despite signs that diversity pays – Female engineers represent a tiny minority at many companies, with even fewer women in the upper echelons of leadership. A Chronicle analysis of the Bay Area’s top 15 publicly traded tech firms by workforce shows that only a handful have a significant number of female managers reporting directly to the CEO. San Francisco Chronicle article

Hanford council to consider properties for Costco project – The Hanford City Council is poised Tuesday to acquire property on East Lacey Boulevard required for the proposed Costco shopping center to move forward. Hanford Sentinel article

Business bubbling up at Modesto’s Century Center – There’s something new brewing in Modesto, and it’s happening at one of the older shopping centers. Modesto Bee article

As Bay Area poverty shifts from cities to suburbia, services lag — What’s happening in Bay Area suburbs is playing out across the country, as inner cities revitalize and suburban outposts become poorer. San Francisco Chronicle article

San Jose and county look for nonprofit to run legal encampment — San Jose leaders have declared a shelter crisis, removed red tape to allow churches to temporarily house the homeless and started turning motels into transitional housing. But city leaders acknowledge that won’t be enough. And with a predicted stormy winter bearing down, city leaders are considering setting up a new encampment — this time run by a nonprofit with the city’s blessing. San Jose Mercury News article

Sacramento police arrest homeless supporters camping at City Hall — Authorities moved to disperse a weekslong protest outside Sacramento City Hall late Friday and into the morning Saturday, making four arrests and citing three others who refused to leave, a police spokeswoman said. Sacramento Bee article

Are SeaWorld’s whales better off staying in their glass-and-concrete enclosures? — Although animal rights groups have pushed the idea of moving SeaWorld’s whales to sea pens, the discussion may be merely academic because SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., the parent company of the San Diego theme park, has rejected the idea of giving up its whales, saying they are safer living in the parks’ concrete and glass enclosures. LA Times article


David Boule: Navel orange produced a big bang in Golden State – The author the “The Orange and the Dream of California” writes, “This winter growing season marks the 140th anniversary since the Washington navel orange was first picked and enjoyed in California. Its success and heritage – by way of Goa, Portugal and Brazil – is one of the Golden State’s great stories. The introduction of this especially large and flavorful orange transformed just about everything in California – from the state’s economy to its image – and started the second gold rush.” Boule op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Avocado beetle could spread uncontrollably — For years now, researchers have known that a particular type of beetle has made its way from Southeast Asia to Southern California and damaged various trees, including grove after grove of avocados. San Diego Union-Tribune article 

Stephen Green: Building Sites reservoir will never pencil out or produce much water – The president of Save the American River Association writes, “Proposals to build Sites have been put forth since the 1940s, and none have gotten past a drawing board. No study has ever shown that the project makes economic sense. Even Don Hodel, President Ronald Reagan’s interior secretary, said the Sites project would never pencil out.” Green op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Advocates see hope for California criminal sentencing reform in 2016 — Advocates pushing those types of reforms are hoping that recent comments by Gov. Jerry Brown have opened the door to even more sweeping changes. They’re optimistic that state leaders may be willing to rethink California’s entire criminal sentencing structure, which last underwent an overhaul when Brown was in the statehouse three decades ago. KQED report 

Deputies’ union suing Kern County over personal patrol vehicle punishment — The union that represents Kern County sheriff’s deputies is suing the county to compel it to accept an arbitrator’s decision awarding damages to 12 deputies the union alleges were wrongly deprived of their personal patrol vehicles for driving too fast. Bakersfield Californian article

Chris Hoene: Prop 47 savings should be part of broader investment in communities – The executive director of the California Budget & Policy Center writes, “Reallocating dollars from prisons to local programs is critical to creating and maintaining strong, safe and healthy communities. Local prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs – the keys to stopping cycles of crime without relying on costly state prisons – have been underfunded for decades. So, California has much ground to make up.” Hoene op-ed in Sacramento Bee


To stem teacher shortages, school districts and cities thinking about becoming landlords — Inspired by the success in the heart of the Silicon Valley of a 70-unit teachers-only apartment complex, school districts in high cost-of-living areas and rural communities that have long struggled to staff classrooms are considering buying or building rent-subsidized apartments as a way to attract and retain teachers amid concerns of a looming shortage. AP article 

Campus safety assistants help protect Fresno schools — Amid recent calls from Fresno Unified teachers for stricter discipline policies and more reports of student-teacher altercations, campus safety assistants have been serving as an extra layer of security for the district since the 1990s, when the position first was created in response to the city’s gang activity trickling into schools. Fresno Bee article

Steve Westly: California must guarantee an affordable college degree – The former California state controller writes, “The equation is simple: California cannot lead the 21st-century economy if our young people cannot afford a college degree. This is an economic imperative, as well as a moral one. And it’s a challenge we can meet without saddling taxpayers with an enormous bill. It is time for Democrats and Republicans to come together to guarantee that every young person in California can afford a college degree.” Westly op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Lois Henry: Valley air doesn’t look so bad when viewed with common sense – My wish for 2016 is that we all apply a little more critical thinking to the many claims thrown at us on a regular basis. Here’s your first exercise. When you hear, or read, that our air quality is “unhealthy” per the Air Quality Index on any given day, do you stop and wonder what that actually means? Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Health/Human Services 

Grants to assist health care, referral services — Health care giant Kaiser Permanente Central Valley recently awarded $878,132 in community benefit grants to 20 nonprofit organizations in San Joaquin County. Stockton Record article

Land Use/Housing

Sacramento looks to enliven park, public spaces near downtown arena — Sacramento Kings officials are brainstorming their own ideas for the public plaza at Downtown Commons. Anchored by restaurants, a hotel and an $8 million statue by renowned artist Jeff Koons, the plaza could host farmers markets, concerts and yoga sessions. Sacramento Bee article


Modesto flights remain in holding pattern — The city’s efforts to bring commercial flights back to Modesto Airport remain in a holding pattern. Airport Manager Mark Germanowski said it could take a year or two for a commercial carrier to start service. The airport has been without commercial flights since June 2014, when SkyWest Airlines stopped its daily flights between Modesto and San Francisco, citing “poor performance in the market.” Modesto Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald: The long I-5 fix spills into 2016 — One thing to look forward to in 2016 — also to gripe about — is completion of the Interstate 5 widening project. “Gripe” because the four-year fix was supposed to be done by mid-December. But now officials say the interminable project, which sometimes involves bewildering “lane shifting” atop Interstate 5, will not be done until April — and then only if El Niño doesn’t bring rains. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record 

Sacramento activists urge transit agency to cut ties to security firm — A group of activists is calling on Sacramento Regional Transit to sever ties with an international security firm that has been hit with allegations of human rights violations. Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Glitch in new marijuana law has some California cities scrambling — California’s new medical marijuana laws were supposed to provide more structure and clarity for the state’s loosely regulated, billion-dollar industry, but in the past few weeks, dozens of municipalities have ignored that intention by moving quickly to ban delivery and other activities codified by the legislation. San Francisco Chronicle article

Lemoore council to weigh marijuana ban – Following suit with other area cities, the Lemoore City Council will consider an ordinance Tuesday to ban marijuana dispensaries in the city. Hanford Sentinel article

Couple fights $23,000 power debt run up by marijuana-growing tenant – A lawsuit involving 50 goats, 100 chickens, an elderly couple, a power utility and marijuana appears headed toward trial this month. Felipe and Maria Ruelas, ages 75 and 70, were surprised last year to learn, after a raid by authorities, that a new tenant had been growing marijuana in a south Modesto house they own. Modesto Bee article

San Diego may explore legalizing pot growing — New state medical marijuana laws may prompt San Diego to regulate and expressly allow cultivation of the drug within city limits for the first time. San Diego Union-Tribune article 

Kings County in 2015: The year in review – Outside the cities, what were some of the Kings County stories that grabbed headlines in 2015? Drought, obviously, but a number of other developments promise to continue affecting local residents into 2016. Hanford Sentinel article 

Hanford sees growth, conflict in 2015 – As the economic slump of the past few years began to fade away, Hanford had a busy year in 2015. The city saw plenty of new construction and new businesses, including the addition of The Habit Burger Grill and Chipotle Mexican Grill. City leaders also worked to attract more businesses by opening new possibilities for where movie theaters and hotels can be located. Hanford Sentinel article 

Another step taken for Modesto courthouse project – Another step was taken on the project to build a $267 million Modesto courthouse, but at the cost of a downtown institution. Modesto Bee article

Class clears the air about rules for operating drones — The novice operators jotted notes and asked questions, eager to learn the regulations before buying their first drone. The session was part of the free “Know Before You Fly” program, a national educational campaign that offers classes to help users fly drones legally and safely.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Orange Cove volunteer group takes over animal care at city shelter — The volunteers group Friends of Orange Cove Animal Shelter took over the care of the animals on New Year’s Day – pledging not to kill dogs or cats on the basis of space at the facility or how long a pet had been there. Fresno Bee article 

Gail Marshall: He said, she said, we said – top 5 letters, commentaries, editorials in 2015 — The new year is a natural time to assess what grabbed our interest online 2015. We have experts now to measure such things, so let’s take a look at the top five letters, Valley Voices and editorials for 2015. Marshall in Fresno Bee 

Retired judge Etcheverry dies; he was known for being ‘tough but fair’ — Retired Judge Louis Etcheverry died Friday morning. He was 75. “It was a shock to the whole family,” said his cousin, John Etcheverry. “We were together the day before it happened, and you wouldn’t have thought anything was wrong.” Bakersfield Californian article 

Mike Klocke: Movies, the Constitution, ‘Homie Claus’ and more — Random thoughts for a Sunday morning. Klocke column in Stockton Record

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – People of good will struck a historic pact to end the decades-long Klamath River basin water war. Then partisan politicians intervened.

Sacramento Bee – People of good will struck a historic pact to end the decades-long Klamath River basin water war. Then partisan politicians intervened.

Maddy Events 

Sunday, Jan. 3, at 10 a.m. on Fresno ABC30 – Maddy Report: “Political Influence in California Politics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Guest: Former KQED and current Los Angeles Times Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers and Marisa Lagos, editor for California politics and government for KQED Radio. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler. 

Sunday, Jan. 3, at 10 a.m. on KMJ (580AM and 105.9FM Radio/podcast) – Maddy Report – Valley Views Edition: “Is the Valley’s Political Influence Growing?” – Guests: Bill McEwen, opinion page editor of the Fresno Bee, and Fresno State political science professor Tom Holyoke. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler. 

The Maddy Report airs throughout California on The Cal Channel.  Check http://www.calchannel.com to find the Cal Channel and schedule in your area.  You also can view previous Maddy Report programs in their entirety at http://www.maddyinstitute.org/policy-analysis/the-maddy-report-tv.


Next 10: UPDATED California budget challenge – For the first time in a decade, California’s budget is largely in balance.  However, the state has outstanding debts of $28 million, not counting long-term pension and retiree health care costs.  Budget choices affect us all.  Take the Challenge and decide how much should be spent on programs and where the money should come from.  Next 10 California Budget Challenge

Next 10: Federal budget challenge — The Federal Budget Challenge is based on The Concord Coalition’s Principles and Priorities budget exercise, which has been used in numerous town hall meetings across the country by members of Congress from both parties, as well as in hundreds of high school and college classrooms.  Next 10 Federal Budget challenge at www.federalbudgetchallenge.org.

Next 10: California Water Challenge – As our state faces some of the most severe drought conditions in its history, Next 10 wants to issue a new challenge to Californians: can you create a plan to make sure there’s enough water for everyone?  Next 10 California Water Challenge

LEGISLATORS’ VOTING RECORDS: How often has a California legislator broken party ranks, abstained or switched sides? The Sacramento Bee has a database of the voting records of every member of the state Senate and Assembly. Enter a lawmaker’s last and first names to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. Check it out at this link.  http://www.sacbee.com/votingrecord/

More Information

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Maddy Institute Updates List of San Joaquin Valley Elected Officials – The Maddy Institute has updated its list of San Joaquin Valley elected officials.  The list is available here.

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The Kenneth L. Maddy Institute at California State University, Fresno was established to honor the legacy of one of California’s most principled and effective legislative leaders of the last half of the 20th Century by engaging, preparing and inspiring a new generation of governmental leaders for the 21st Century. Its mission is to inspire citizen participation, elevate government performance, provide non-partisan analysis and assist in providing solutions for public policy issues important to the region, state and nation.

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