January 4, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

California legislators: Just like you? — There are more white men named Jim in the California Legislature than black and Asian-American women—combined. And that’s not even including another white “James”. Or a Latino Jimmy. California’s new legislative session begins in earnest this week, and a fresh class of legislators will influence everything from how bad your commute is to the quality of the air you breathe. But while California prides itself on diversity, is that diversity reflected in the Capitol? CALmatters article

Dan Walters: Legislature will be drinking old whines in new bottles — It’s not difficult to figure out what issues will dominate the new biennial session of the Legislature. They’ll be issues that have kicked around for years, even decades, without being resolved – plus some sturm-und-drang over whatever Donald Trump has in mind. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

California hires Eric Holder as legal bulwark against Donald Trump — Girding for four years of potential battles with President-elect Donald J. Trump, Democratic leaders of the California Legislature announced Wednesday that they had hired Eric H. Holder Jr., who was attorney general under President Obama, to represent them in any legal fights against the new Republican White House. New York Times article

Gov. Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown departs for Hawaii, beginning a busy month — Days after President Barack Obama and the first family departed from the islands for their final winter vacation, Gov. Jerry Brown and First Lady Anne Gust Brown left California for their Hawaiian vacation on Tuesday. The governor and his wife will be staying with friends and are scheduled to return on Sunday. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will serve as acting governor. Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

With a simple, ‘I do,’ Brand becomes Fresno’s new mayor — Crafting an interior inspection program for rental housing, establishing a citizens advisory board for public safety, and continuing efforts to make Fresno more business friendly are just a few of the items that Lee Brand wants to start working on as Fresno’s new mayor. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal articleKQED report

Karen Goh installed as Bakersfield mayor — It’s been 16 years since a new Bakersfield mayor has taken the gavel — but it happened Tuesday evening when newly elected Karen Goh was sworn in as the 26th mayor of the ninth largest city in California. Bakersfield Californian article

New Merced County supervisors take oath, will have first meeting next week – Three new supervisors took the oath of office on Tuesday to begin their terms on the Merced County Board of Supervisors, marking the first time in 30 years the board has seen such a major change. Merced Sun-Star article

New Stockton council members prepare for challenging roles – Jesus Andrade and Susan Lenz have been subjecting themselves to sensory overload since winning their respective elections nearly two months ago. They’ve met multiple times with Stockton City Manager Kurt Wilson. Stockton Record article

Kumar recall moves forward — The group seeking to recall Tulare Regional Medical Center board member Dr. Parmod Kumar turned in signatures Tuesday to the county elections office. Visalia Times-Delta article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

The money race is well underway for California’s 2018 campaign for governor — California’s 2018 race for governor may still be in its infancy, but the competition for campaign donations is well underway. Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who launched his bid in January 2015, on Tuesday announced he raised $2.7 million during the second half of 2016. Newsom also reported having $11.5 million cash on hand, which includes money socked away in his old campaign account for lieutenant governor. LA Times article

Ryan Seacrest, others help Villaraigosa boost 2018 governor’s race campaign cash – Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor who waited until late last year to launch his 2018 gubernatorial run, credited a late surge of financial support with helping him raise more than 2.7 million in his first 51 days, a sum he said far surpassed his internal goal. Sacramento Bee article

Kamala Harris sworn in as first Indian American senator and California’s first black senator — Before friends and family in a packed chamber, Kamala Harris was sworn in as California’s newest U.S. senator Tuesday morning. She became the first black woman the Golden State has sent to the Senate and the first Indian American to ever serve in the body. LA Times article

Xavier Becerra formally nominated as California attorney general — Gov. Jerry Brown formally entered his nomination of Rep. Xavier Becerra for California attorney general on Tuesday, setting the 90-day clock for the Legislature to act. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Other areas

Kevin McCarthy knew gutting the ethics office wouldn’t look good for Republicans — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., knew from the start that it was going to be a public relations disaster. McCarthy argued in a closed door meeting on Monday night that it was a bad idea for the Republicans to make gutting the independent congressional ethics office their first move since taking control of both houses of Congress and the White House following the November election. McClatchy Newspapers articleJack Ohman editorial cartoon in Sacramento Bee

Joel Fox: So many new laws with more to come — As the new year begins, 900 statutes were added to California law books. If history is our guide—807 new laws last year, 950 the year before that–there will be hundreds of more laws added at the end of this year. Certainly, citizens can’t keep up with all these new laws, not to mention that lawmakers themselves often aren’t aware of all the details in the laws. Here’s a modest suggestion for the newly installed legislature: Concentrate on dealing with major issues like infrastructure improvements rather than adding so many new laws. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Presidential Politics

Residents view Trump with optimism, fear — It’s the best of times or the worst of times heading into 2017, depending on how local voters view the looming presidency of Donald J. Trump. Hanford Sentinel article

Trump gets the facts wrong, but homicides are up in some cities after a long decline — Though mostly far below their record levels in the 1980s and 1990s, homicides have jumped dramatically in some U.S. cities over the last two years, breaking from America’s decades-long decline in violent crime as Trump prepares to take control of federal law enforcement agencies. And as often is the case with crime statistics, experts can’t pinpoint what causes numbers to rise or fall. LA Times article

 California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Stories – Top Stories

Despite recent storms, California snowpack still below average — In spite of recent storms, the snowpack at a key point in the Sierra remains at just 53 percent of average, but state water officials, nonetheless, called it a good start as California enters its sixth year of drought. Sacramento Bee articleKQED reportSan Jose Mercury News articleAP articleLA Times article

Grant will expand unique Fresno job-training program to other counties – An $850,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation will expand and replicate a Fresno job-training program across several counties. Reading and Beyond – an education program for children and families – announced it received the grant on Tuesday, and will use it to grow the Fresno Bridge Academy, which provides free job training while also considering needs of the recipients’ family members. Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

San Joaquin County receives large tax payment – San Joaquin County received the eighth-highest payout among California’s county in property taxes from Pacific Gas and Electric Company to cover the first half of the 2016-17 fiscal year. The energy giant on Dec. 12 paid its first installment of property taxes to 50 counties where it owns property, and San Joaquin County received nearly $10.2 million. Stockton Record article

Fast food CEO says higher minimum wage boosts business — When California began raising its minimum wage two years ago, Bill Phelps wasn’t happy. Phelps is CEO of a fast food company called Wetzel’s Pretzels, which has almost 100 outlets in California. KQED report

Pentagon says it will waive bonus repayments for vast majority of California National Guard soldiers — The Pentagon said Tuesday it would waive repayment for more than 15,000 California National Guard soldiers and veterans who received enlistment bonuses over the last decade but that 1,000 or so other service members would not have their debts waived. LA Times article

California’s housing authority problems ‘as bad as they’ve ever been in the state’s history,’ housing director says – California’s housing affordability challenges remain daunting and continue to increase, according to a draft report from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development released Tuesday. LA Times article

Valley home prices perked up in November – Home prices in the Central Valley continued to improve in November, according to new data from real estate tracking firm CoreLogic. The Business Journal article

Plot twists, suspense mark George Lucas’ plans for museum – George Lucas is no stranger to epic struggles on the big screen, but he didn’t expect one off-camera when it came to his art collection. For nearly a decade, the filmmaker has tried to build a museum to house an extensive personal collection that includes 40,000 paintings, illustrations and film-related items. But legal entanglements and other complications have thwarted his efforts. Modesto Bee article

Advocates call on San Diego mayor to take action on homelessness — A petition containing more than 1,100 signatures calling for the city of San Diego to stop penalizing the homeless was submitted Tuesday to Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The petition requests “emergency action” to suspend the citing, arresting and issuance of stay-away orders to unsheltered residents, said Steph Johnson, a musician who helped organize the signature drive. KPBS report

It’s a fact: Bay Area rental costs have hit a plateau — After years of painful increases, the cost of renting an apartment in most Bay Area cities has hit a plateau.In San Francisco, the median cost of a two-bedroom apartment was $4,550 in mid-December — still an inconceivable sum for most wage earners, yet down 2.5 percent from a year earlier. Likewise, the San Jose median of $2,550 was down 0.7 percent and the Oakland median of $2,500 was up a modest 0.8 percent. San Jose Mercury News article

Crab boats tied up as strike extends up and down West Coast — Dungeness crab could be harder to come by if hundreds of fishing boats remain tied up at docks from California to Washington state over a dispute between crabbers and seafood processors over the price of the sought-after crustaceans. AP article


River flow critics question fish data – The final hearing on the state’s river flow plan Tuesday dealt in part with how long salmon stay in the streams each year. The State Water Resources Control Board proposes to roughly double, from February through June, the volume of the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. Opponents said almost all of the young salmon have headed out to sea by May. Modesto Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald: A drought complete with flooding – Welcome to Drought Denier Corner, a home for crackpots like me who think the “drought,” at least as defined by the powers that be, is a bunch of baloney. Here. Put on this tin foil hat and hear me out. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Black Lives Matter, Brown Berets demand Fresno police adopt ‘don’t shoot’ policy — Several organizations, including Fresno Black Lives Matter, the Brown Berets and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, gathered Tuesday outside Fresno Police Department headquarters on the Mariposa Mall to demand that the agency change policing policies to emphasize de-escalation of violent confrontations and avoid officer-involved shootings. Fresno Bee article

Oakland to hire first female police chief — After about seven months with no police chief, Mayor Libby Schaaf is expected Wednesday to announce a new top cop for Oakland, the department’s first-ever female chief. The mayor has named Anne Kirkpatrick, a former police chief of Spokane, Washington, as the chief for Oakland, according to sources. East Bay Times article

Report: Mass murder Charles Manson hospitalized in Bakersfield — Mass murderer Charles Manson, 82, was taken from Corcoran State Prison to a Bakersfield hospital for treatment of an illness, according to several media reports on Tuesday afternoon. AP articleBakersfield Californian articleLA Times article


Number of college courses taught in high schools increasing statewide — The growth in dual enrollment statewide has been spurred by a law that went into effect in 2016, the College and Career Pathways Act, which promotes partnerships between community colleges and K-12 school districts. Under the new law, created by the passage of Assembly Bill 288, college courses can be offered on high school campuses exclusively to high school students. EdSource article

Nan Austin: What’s next in education news? Repairs, push for civil rights, and bus drivers — Polishing up my crystal ball, some things are crystal clear for 2017: budgets, graduations, state test scores that come unpardonably late. But other things are hazy, even with my reading glasses on, and these take some educated guessing. Here are my predictions for the next year. Austin in Modesto Bee

At Harvey Mudd College, female students take the lead in computer science — Programming is so popular now in this science and engineering corner of the Claremont Colleges that its professors are campus celebrities and incoming freshmen are excited for classes before ever setting foot on campus. The school’s breakthrough came when the department’s professors realized that in order to change computer science’s reputation, they had to change how it was taught. LA Times article

Health/Human Services

The flu is in Fresno: Emergency rooms full of coughing patients — The flu is getting a lot of the blame for packed hospital emergency departments in Fresno. “We’re in the middle of a flu outbreak,” said Dr. Dee Lacy, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente-Fresno. Fresno Bee article

Kern teen birth rates down, but still lead state — Teen pregnancy rates in Kern County have dropped by more than 60 percent over two decades but still trend roughly twice the state average, according to data released Tuesday by the Kern County Department of Public Health. Bakersfield Californian article

Other areas

Los Banos City Council set to vote on marijuana regulations – The Los Banos City Council is expected to vote Wednesday on an ordinance regulating recreational and medical marijuana, including banning cultivation outside of private residences. Los Banos Enterprise article

Lois Henry: Suicide was a tragedy for our community, and, yes, it was also news — Should The Californian and the rest of Bakersfield’s media have covered the death of Jai Bornstein? Yes. I was asked recently what the “rules” are on covering suicides. Well, there aren’t any rules, per se. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Study puts Modesto in bottom third of cities for keeping resolutions — Santa’s not the only one who knows if we’ve been naughty or nice. Researchers with the personal-finance website WalletHub also have looked at whether we’ve been good or bad – about sticking to New Year’s goals. In a comparison among the 150 most populated U.S. cities, Modesto ranks 105th on the list of the “Best & Worst Cities for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions.” (Salt Lake city was first; Detroit was last.) Modesto Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – This year is off to a promising start for “we the people.” Led by President-elect Donald Trump, a loud message has been sent to the Republican-controlled Congress that business as usual – meaning sneaky and self-serving – won’t be tolerated; Fentanyl is the deadly drug du jour.

Sacramento Bee –- When even Donald Trump – who seems willfully blind to his own ethical shortcomings – has a problem with your plan to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, you know you’ve messed up.