January 31, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

John Myers: On budget, Californians confused … but convinced they need a role — In short: Californians want a say in how tax dollars are spent, but remain largely unaware of how those dollars actually are spent. Before you conclude that it’s just a single poll — a snapshot in time — and thus somewhat of an unfair conclusion, know this: PPIC has been asking these same questions … and getting the same answers … now for 10 straight yearsMyers in KQED

Neel Kashkari outspent Jerry Brown in 2014 – Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari spent $7.1 million during last year’s campaign for governor, about $1.4 million more than did Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown on his way to defeating Kashkari by nearly 20 percentage points, new campaign filings show.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article;John Myers in KQED

Valley politics

Valdez will seek second term as Central Valley regional GOP vice chair — Fresh off a strong performance by the region’s Republicans in last November’s election, Fresno insurance agent Marcelino Valdez said he plans to seek a second term as the state GOP’s Central Valley Region vice chairman.  Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Swearengin’s state controller campaign finishes 2014 in the red – Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin last year raised more than $1.35 million in her unsuccessful state controller campaign. But she spent $65,656 more than she raised, according to recently filed campaign finance reports that cover all of 2014.  Fresno Bee article

Democratic Party official: ‘Conspiracy’ talk about Kamala Harris sexist — To the matter of Kamala Harris, Antonio Villaraigosa and political slights – whether real or perceived – on Friday came Shawnda Westly, executive director of the California Democratic Party.  Sacramento Bee article


LA officials pledge to raise funds for immigration relief efforts — Los Angeles leaders said Friday they hope to raise $10 million to help immigrants in the country illegally apply for President Obama’s deferred action programs, which would offer some protection from deportation.  LA Times article

Other areas

Lawmaker seeks to repeal 10-cent fee on paper bags in plastic-bag ban — With California’s ban on plastic grocery bags likely to be put on hold by a referendum, one Southern California  lawmaker is offering his colleagues an opportunity to repeal one of the most controversial aspects of the law — a provision requiring supermarkets to charge at least 10 cents for a paper bag.  LA Times article

Labor unions spar at Richard Pan’s press conference — An otherwise routine Capitol press conference turned contentious Friday when two representatives from a nurses union began lobbing questions at Sen. Richard Pan, who was presenting a bill to penalize hospitals that call 911 instead of treating drunk patients.  Capitol Alert

News Briefs

Top Stories

State’s toxic releases post 50 percent gain, EPA says – The amount of toxic chemicals released in California jumped 50% in 2013 over the year before because of a surge in disposal by the state’s largest polluter, a hazardous-waste landfill in Kern County, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  LA Times article

Fresno, state officials discuss ways to reduce water project’s burden on taxpayers — City and state officials Friday held what they called a productive meeting on funding options for the proposed upgrade of Fresno’s water system. The goal is to reduce the project’s financial burden on ratepayers.  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Economic recovery to continue for state, San Joaquin County – Slow economic growth should continue in California and San Joaquin County this year, although a still sputtering housing industry, global economic woes and ongoing drought could slow or reverse the gains, University of the Pacific economists said Friday.  Stockton Record article

Forecast: Construction will lead Fresno job growth through 2018 – The recovery of the housing market in the Fresno area is expected to continue to drive employment growth in the construction industry through 2016, according to an economic forecast released Friday for Northern California and its large metro areas by Stockton’s University of the PacificFresno Bee article

Paying less at the pump while paying more – Not to be a killjoy, but what you didn’t realize the last time you drove away from a gas station with a smile on your face is that prices could have been even lower. A state policy to combat climate change went into effect on Jan. 1. One month later, local fuel providers say the new policy has, in fact, added to the cost of each gallon of gas California motorists buy. No one noticed, because other factors caused the overall price of gas to plummet.  Stockton Record article

GDP growth cools to 2.6 percent annual rate in fourth quarter – Economic growth unexpectedly slowed sharply in the fourth quarter of last year to a modest 2.6% annual rate after a strong six-month stretch raised hopes the U.S. recovery finally was accelerating toward normal.  LA Times article

Central San Joaquin Valley boutique wineries growing – There are at least two dozen boutique wineries in Fresno and Madera counties. Two wineries opened in the last several months, Kings River Winery and Toca Madera Winery. Others are in the works.  Fresno Bee article

Sanger man uncorks passion with new winery – Five years ago, Bob Bagdasarian decided to follow his “passion” and do what he loves best — make wine. So the Sanger native closed his health-care business and uncorked a plan to create a boutique winery on the farm where he grew up.  The Business Journal article

POM Wonderful loses labeling challenge – POM Wonderful, the company that makes juice from San Joaquin Valley pomegranates, lost a labeling challenge Friday in a high-profile case over the limits of commercial free speech.  McClatchy Newspapers article; LA Times article

Sierra Vista Mall’s new management to focus on leasing – Sierra Vista Mall’s new management company is focusing on bringing new tenants to the Clovis shopping center sold for $39 million in a foreclosure sale last week.  The Business Journal article

Merced Main Street group extends invitation to all – The Merced Main Street Association has kicked off a new weekly meeting, one in which the group hopes to be able to answer questions and toss around ideas in a casual setting.  Merced Sun-Star article

Merced businesses gear up for Super Bowl Sunday – No matter who you’re rooting for this Super Bowl Sunday, Merced County businesses are gearing up for a swarm of football fans this weekend.  Merced Sun-Star article

Sac Republic says interest of 49ers, Kings will boost MLS chances — The owners of Sacramento Republic FC said Friday the addition of the Sacramento Kings and San Francisco 49ers will boost the team’s credibility in pursuing a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.  Sacramento Bee article

California bill would classify NFL cheerleaders as employees – Drawing on her background as a collegiate cheerleader at Stanford, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, has authored a bill offering more workers’ protections to women who rally professional sports teams from the sidelines. Assembly Bill 202 follows allegations of labor violations by cheerleaders associated with National Football League teams.  Capitol Alert

Downtown Bakersfield gets a market at last – Downtown residents who fondly remember the convenience of running to Fike’s Finer Foods for a quart of milk or a couple of lamb chops will welcome the news that a new market is opening Monday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Workplace conditions lawsuit filed against Leprino, company says litigation ‘without merit’ – A labor law firm is alleging multiple workplace and wage violations at Leprino Foods facilities in Lemoore.  Hanford Sentinel article

Josh Tehee: Chukchansi Park is a little-used concert venue because it’s a tough sell – It’s just coincidence that the city announced its intention to sell Chukchansi Park’s seldom-used concert stage on the same week that the Save Mart Center was once again named among the top 100 arenas for worldwide ticket sales. But it seems telling.  Tehee in Fresno Bee

To build or not to build – Some time in the coming years, drivers could be able to pull of Highway 99 west of Visalia to go shopping at a Target or an Office Deport or some other big box stores there, along with other shops and restaurants. At least that’s the plan proposed by a group that wants to develop 126 acres of farmland southeast of Hwy. 99 at Caldwell Avenue into a regional retail and commercial center that would include hotels, gas stations, office space and shopping — including big box stores.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Roger Goodell: No lead horse in NFL-to-LA derby – In his annual Super Bowl news conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that the league is not at the point to handicap which team or teams might wind up in the nation’s second-largest market. The Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are all on year-to-year leases, unhappy with their current venues, and mulling a possible relocation to L.A.  LA Times article

San Diego pumps up efforts to keep Chargers from moving to LA – San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Friday named nine business and civic leaders to a committee tasked with devising a plan to build a football stadium that would keep the Chargers from moving to Los Angeles.  LA Times article; U-T San Diego article

California government includes state pianist classification — Page 77 of the state civil-service pay scale shows state pianists earn $13.67 to $26.53 per hour. CalHR spokeswoman Pat McConahay pointed us to the department’s job-description website, which says the position was established in 1931 and revised in 1972.  Sacramento Bee article

Daniel Borenstein: Contra Costa board to again consider expanding pension spiking opportunities — The Contra Costa retirement board has reopened a politically charged debate over expanding pension spiking opportunities for new public employees. At issue is whether the income used in pension calculations should be solely base pay or, as union leaders want, also should include salary add-ons for items such as shift differentials, holiday pay and training certificates.  Borenstein in Contra Costa Times

Former Merced County Sheriff Tom Cavallero’s pension tops $180,000 — Former Merced County Sheriff Tom Cavallero is collecting a bigger paycheck in retirement than while employed full time, just like his predecessor Mark Pazin. Cavallero’s annual pension is $183,211.20, according to information obtained through a public records request. Merced Sun-Star article


Amid California’s water drought, water chief preaches conservation – and balance – Felicia Marcus gets in the shower when it’s still cold. As full-time chair of California’s State Water Resources Control Board, Marcus has a key role in how California stewards its finite resources during a devastating drought. So Marcus can hardly let precious water wash down the drain while she waits for the shower to heat up.  Sacramento Bee article

Tomato industry thrives in face of drought – Drought has not kept tomato growers from meeting the demand from fans of salsa, ketchup and pasta sauce. The state’s harvest of processing tomatoes – the kind that goes to canneries rather than produce aisles – hit a record 14 million tons last year. A survey this month found that growers expect to produce 15 million tons in 2015.  Modesto Bee article

Almonds: Good or bad? — Almonds cover 20,000 acres of Kings County land, but when you drive by the orchards, do you think much about what inputs are required to grow almonds? A surprising number of consumers do, and it’s driving a debate about almonds that has critics levying accusations and the industry — growers included — fighting back.  Hanford Sentinel article

Farm Beat: Downtown Modesto housing would slow sprawl – Boosters for downtown Modesto talked this week about bringing in new offices, shops and restaurants, topped in some places by a few stories of town houses. Has the Farm Beat wandered off course? Not at all. The issue of housing density, and the related matter of redeveloping city cores, is vital to the future of agriculture in our region.  Modesto Bee article

Local beer distributor donates canned water to parched Porterville residents – Anheuser-Busch donated 2,156 cases of emergency drinking water — 51,744 cans — on Friday to Porterville residents suffering through the drought, many without indoor plumbing after wells have dried up.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Mom’s forgiveness helps police find suspects in fatal shooting of 9-year-old Janessa Ramirez – Stacey Gonzales, whose daughter, Janessa Ramirez, was killed by a stray bullet fired in a gang shootout, said Friday she forgives the men responsible for the 9-year-old’s death and hopes “they can find peace in their hearts.”  Fresno Bee article;AP article

Sandy Banks: Prop 47 is achieving its main goal, but with unintended consequences — Proposition 47 is supposed to free up prison cells for “real” criminals by reducing drug possession to a misdemeanor offense. But what if those addicts also are the “real” criminals we fear?  Banks column in LA Times

Stockton police to get beanbag munitions – Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones on Friday announced plans to arm his officers with less lethal munitions in hopes of reducing the number of officer-involved shootings in his department.  Stockton Record article

Mariel Garza: The numbers crunch:  A hard number to build solid common ground on race and deadly force debate – In the months since a police officer killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a lot of time and energy has been spent pondering the uncomfortable question of whether police officers are too quick to kill people of color. The lack of data either way means much of the debate has relied on anecdotes, over-generalization and stereotypes. But in California at least, there are good, hard numbers from which to draw conclusions – and it doesn’t look good for those who doubt that race is a factor in the use of deadly force. Garza in Sacramento Bee

Details emerge in teacher, juvenile inmates case – New details emerged Friday regarding the timeline of events which ended earlier this week with a veteran Merced County teacher in jail for alleged “inappropriate touching” with two juvenile hall inmates.  Merced Sun-Star article

Gov. Jerry Brown weighs parole for killer in controversial LAPD lecture — Rene Enriquez boasts an impressive law enforcement resume. Author. Expert witness. Government consultant. College lecturer. But he achieved such respected standing because of his earlier life’s work: Killer, drug dealer and Mexican Mafia “shot caller.”  LA Times article


Fresno State gets $1 million for deaf program — Fresno State is getting $1 million to ramp up resources for families with deaf or hard-of-hearing children who have other special needs, like autism or blindness. The gift from an anonymous donor will bring national experts to Fresno State to provide free training and services to parents and professionals, Fresno State President Joseph Castro announced Friday morning.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Fresno Pacific gaining renovated building for education research center — The AIMS Center for Math and Science, a new education research nonprofit located on Fresno Pacific University’s campus, is breaking ground next week on a $1.1 million research facility.  Fresno Bee article


E-mails show back-channel talks between CPUC, PG&E – A top official with the California Public Utilities Commission offered to help Pacific Gas and Electric Co. subvert rules intended to prevent backroom deals in regulatory cases, e-mails that the company released Friday show.  San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article; ‘Read search warrant for Peevey residence’ in KQED

AG cites possible felony crime in raid on ex-utility boss – State agents seized bank statements, computers. miscellaneous files and a host of other materials from the Los Angeles area home of former California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey this week, indicating a public-corruption case is growing more serious.According to the search warrant and an inventory of materials seized by Attorney General’s office investigators, Peevey is suspected of committing at least one felony offense. U-T San Diego article

Yosemite park fee hikes coming in March – Visitors to Yosemite National Park will pay more to enter and camp overnight under fee hikes that start March 1. Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher says the park received more than 3,600 emails and Facebook comments and took those into consideration when revising the park fee hikes.  Fresno Bee article; Merced Sun-Star article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Poll finds broad support for action on climate change – An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by the New York TimesStanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future.  New York Times article

Sick sea lions wash ashore in California; rescuers brace for bad year — This year is shaping up to be a brutal one for the California sea lion — the third year in a row for record numbers of sea lion strandings in the state. Sick, abandoned pups have shown up in alarming numbers on beaches in January.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Measles outbreak grows to 107 cases, latest in Marin County – The California-centered measles outbreak has spread to Marin County, as the number of cases climbed to 107 in 10 California counties, seven other states and Mexico.  LA Times article; AP article

Vaccine critics turn defensive over measles – In California, anti-vaccine parents whose children have endured bouts of whooping cough and chickenpox largely defended their choice to raise their children on natural foods, essential oils and no vaccinationsNew York Times article

In the fight against measles, science and detective work join forces — The battle to halt the spread of the measles outbreak that began at Disneyland has required both infectious disease expertise and a good amount of old-fashioned detective work.  LA Times article

2 suspected Ebola patients in Sacramento area test negative for virus – Two people being evaluated at Sacramento-area hospitals for the Ebola virus have both tested negative, public health officials said Friday.  Sacramento Bee article

Sutter Health, Blue Shield sign new contract — At least 280,000 Sutter Health patients can stop worrying they’ll have to find a new health care provider partway through this year. Sutter Health and Blue Shield said Friday they signed a new two-year contract, effective Feb. 1, that will allow those covered by Blue Shield insurance to remain with Sutter.  Sacramento Bee article; Modesto Bee article

Mike Dunbar: Lawmakers working together to bring more doctors – As we’ve said many, many times before, our legislators work best when they work together. This week, the state’s northern San Joaquin Valley contingent all got their names on legislation that would, in time, bring more doctors to the region.  Dunbar column in Modesto Bee

Ken Carlson: Red ink prompted state monitoring of Health Plan of San Joaquin – Dr. Pankaj Patel, administrator David Thompson and their Turlock attorney, Mike Warda, spoke Wednesday to the 11-member commission that governs Health Plan of San Joaquin. They advocated for dental surgery centers and the low-income children who receive badly needed treatment at the centers.  Carlson in Modesto Bee

Chelsea Harkness Rasmussen: An exceptionally sweet 16 for a young cancer survivor – The Fresno resident writes, “I’m 26 years old, but I am celebrating a very special ‘sweet 16’ this year. On Jan. 12, 1999, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia by an oncologist at Valley Children’s Hospital.”  Rasmussen op-ed in Fresno Bee


Fresno airfares averaged $433 in third quarter of 2014 — The average passenger paid about $433 to fly last summer from Fresno to wherever they were going and back again, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Fresno Bee article

Other Areas

Former San Joaquin supervisor alleges open-meeting violation – Former San Joaquin County Supervisor Leroy Ornellas called for an investigation into the current board’s selection of its leadership, saying in a letter to state and local law enforcement officials that it appeared there was a possible violation of the state’s open meeting laws.  Stockton Record article

Assignments list might explain odd vote – The line of succession to the chairmanship of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors turned the usually routine selection of leadership into a public game of political football. A few of those reasons had to do with a routine — yet very important — piece of business that also happens every year with very little fanfare. And that is the placement of each of the five members of the Board of Supervisors into dozens of slots on various committees, commissions or governing boards. Stockton Record article

Proposals for broad change to Stockton charter being discussed – Voter-approved changes to Stockton’s governing document became official this week, alterations produced during hours of discussion over many months of meetings, and alterations that, in the final analysis, are unlikely ever to be noticed by most citizens. Also this week, the citizens’ commission that is reviewing the city’s charter began the amendment process anew. Stockton Record article

Manmeet Grewal: Together, let’s get Modesto off those lists – The former Modesto Bee visiting editor writes, “We all want to be proud of our home, a place we can live safely among our family and friends. We want an affordable area with a good mix of jobs, an expanding commercial base, excellent schools, a strong faith community and pride in our agricultural heritage. The next time we make a national list, let it be for some of that.”  Grewal op-ed in Modesto Bee

Champion of arts, civil pride dies – During her lifelong campaign to uplift and support, Jan Fulton found a lot of creative ways to do both: championing the city and its neighborhoods, promoting the arts, filling bellies with her famous Cambrian salad at the Spotlight Cafe. And if that failed? She’d rely on her endless reserves of cheer. Hers was a life fully and optimistically lived, but it came to an end just after midnight Friday when Fulton succumbed to the pancreatic cancer she’d been fighting for nearly two years. She was 66.  Bakersfield Californian article

Doug Hoagland: A family turns grief into help for wounded warriors – The former Fresno Bee reporter writes, “Ten decorative angels — the kind that crown a Christmas tree — sit on a ledge in the Reedley home of Susan Lusk. There is one angel for every year since her son, Army Capt. Joe Fenton Lusk II, died in the crash of his military helicopter in Kuwait.  Hoagland op-ed in Fresno Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down: Poochigian flip-flop, Fantasy Foodbowl;

Merced Sun-Star – Perhaps comparing the Super Bowl to a laxative is fitting this year. Has anyone involved in the game given us a reason to enjoy (as opposed to merely watch) Sunday’s de facto national holiday and annual paroxysm of excess?

Modesto Bee – Perhaps comparing the Super Bowl to a laxative is fitting this year. Has anyone involved in the game given us a reason to enjoy (as opposed to merely watch) Sunday’s de facto national holiday and annual paroxysm of excess?