January 4th, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Gov. Jerry Brown pressed to increase safety-net spending — Now, with the Democratic governor set to unveil his spending plan this week amid rosier revenue projections and a rebounding economy, advocates for the poor and working families are preparing to mount their largest push in years for more resources, saying the state’s approach has been insufficient.  Sacramento Bee article 

Election 2016:  For that campaign, 2015 is year of all-important stealth campaign — In the political world, 2015 is known as an off year. It’s a time when endless election-related ads are absent from television, mailboxes are blissfully free of candidate mail pieces, and door-knocking hopefuls are nowhere to be found. That reality, however, is only on the surface. Behind the political scenes, any serious candidate or imperiled incumbent will be busy using this year to lay the groundwork for 2016.  Fresno Bee article

State budget 

Dan Walters: California Democrats may clash on spending — Democrats can – if they can agree among themselves – enact just about anything they desire. A recovering economy is giving them the extra revenue to do what most like to do most, which is to spend money. That said, the year will not be free of political friction because, in fact, the Capitol’s Democrats are not of one mind.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Gov. Brown

Potential hurdles loom for Gov. Brown’s fourth-term goals — Four years after calling for “courage and sacrifice” to dig California out of the depths of recession, Jerry Brown begins an unprecedented fourth term as governor Monday amid an economic rebound that has delivered near-record job growth and a state budget surplus. Ironically, those good fortunes are among many forces that could undercut, or certainly test, the Democratic governor’s ability to accomplish a series of goals that have been years in the making.  LA Times article

Other areas 

Dan Morain: Legalize ferrets or fight climate change? Quite a dilemma — Thinking big and building consensus is difficult. Too few legislators attempt it. Too many of California’s 120 legislators spend too much of their term-limited time focused on bills that tweak code sections understood only by a select few lobbyists and their clients.  Morain in Sacramento Bee 

Sacramento Bee:  Seven big ideas for California in 2015 – Though the many bills passed each session are what usually produce headlines, the concepts underneath are the soil in which legislation tends to be rooted, and California has long been fertile ground for new approaches. As lawmakers reconvene and the state’s idea-man-in-chief, Gov. Jerry Brown, heads into a historic fourth term, here are a few that Californians can expect to hear about this year.  Sacramento Bee editorial

For Republicans in California, goals come with side of delusion — Still, delusion ranks as one of the best-honed political characteristics, as several recent developments have made clear. A mild one, residing on the border of public relations, came from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the Bakersfield congressman. LA Times article

Victor Davis Hanson: Obama and the ironies of oil — What Obama once ridiculed is now saving him from himself — after he had championed policies that nearly destroyed him. The Greeks had a word for it: irony.  Hanson op-ed in Fresno Bee

News Briefs

Top Stories

Valley crystal ball:  2015 brings more ag water woes, rebound for retail and real estate — When it comes to forecasting the major business issues facing the central San Joaquin Valley in 2015, the issue at top of the list will be both familiar and a no-brainer: water.  Fresno Bee article

California colleges see surge in efforts to unionize adjunct faculty – A wave of union organizing at college campuses across California and the nation in recent months is being fueled by part-time faculty who are increasingly discontented over working conditions and a lack of job security.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

 Area leaders focus on safety, water in 2015 – Public safety and water are on the minds of several government leaders heading into the new year. Asked to reflect on challenges anticipated for 2015, Modesto and Stanislaus County officials reflected on the difficulty attracting and training law enforcement officers. Authorities also face added pressure from California’s shifting incarceration landscape.  Modesto Bee article

To understand Fresno’s growth, look at Fire Station 18 – Fresno City Hall is chasing its own real estate profits at the same time it struggles to fix the mess that decades of equity addiction spurred throughout the city. The tale of a lonely fire station explains all.  Fresno Bee article

Gas prices rise for first time in weeks, cap-and-trade effect cited – As New Year’s revelers slept, gas prices across California reversed their downward slide and crept higher, marking the Jan. 1, 2015, opening of the state’s cap-and-trade market.  Modesto Bee article

Modesto council meets over budget – The Modesto City Council will hold its second economic and financial sustainability workshop Tuesday after its regular council meeting. Council members are expected to discuss at the workshop, among other items, how to spend a roughly $5 million carryover from the city’s 2013-14 budget year, which ended June 30.  Modesto Bee article

California tax board on lookout for illegal sales suppression — Still pondering New Year’s resolutions? Here’s a suggestion: Always ask for a receipt whenever you purchase food, beverages or other merchandise in 2015. You might help prevent a crime.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento-area millennials are putting off homeownership – An urban rental loft has replaced a mortgaged suburban bungalow as the home of choice for thousands of the Sacramento region’s most successful millennials. These millennials – born after 1980 and earning above $40,000 a year – have reached the age and income level where they could afford to buy a home. But most aren’t doing it.  Sacramento Bee article

Last days of old ways on Golden Gate Bridge – This is the last weekend for one of the most visible and least-known jobs in the Bay Area — placing and removing the yellow plastic tubes that separate the traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Report: Made in America festival boosted city coffers, economic activity – A two-day music festival held in downtown L.A.’s Grand Park last year netted an estimated $31,000 for city coffers, according to an economic analysis of the event released this week.  LA Times article


Fresno Bee: Californians need a new mindset about water — Measures that once seemed extraordinary will have to become a new mindset for Californians. Even though winter storms have brought rain and snow, the drought is far from over. We should not ease up on efforts to conserve.  Fresno Bee editorial
Criminal Justice/Prisons 

Holiday anti-DUI campaign nets 145 arrests in Fresno, Madera counties — A task force made up of 21 local law enforcement agencies announced Friday that it made 145 DUI arrests in Fresno and Madera counties from Dec. 12 through New Year’s Day.  Fresno Bee article

Schools now required stock, train staff on livesaving EpiPens — A new state law that kicked in Jan. 1 requires schools to stock them and instruct school nurses or staff who volunteer to participate in the training how to use them.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Heavyweight response to local fracking bans – These days, Longmont has become a cautionary tale of what can happen when cities decide to confront the oil and gas industry. In an aggressive response to a wave of citizen-led drilling bans, state officials, energy companies and industry groups are taking Longmont and other municipalities to court, forcing local governments into what critics say are expensive, long-shot efforts to defend the measures.  New York Times article 

New growth for Modesto’s urban forest — New growth is taking root in Modesto’s community forestry division after years of budget and staffing reductions cut into its ability to care for the city’s tens of thousands of trees.  Modesto Bee article

Tom Hoffman and Mike Cole: Cal Fire needs to come clean on Moonlight fire investigation – The retired Cal Fire officials write, “Our complaints and other efforts to salvage justice from the Moonlight fire ruins are important. Public trust in our justice system can only be restored when Cal Fire, the California attorney general and the U.S. attorney general address Judge Nichols’ findings with actions commensurate with the damage they have created.”  Hoffman/Cole op-ed in Sacramento Bee
Health/Human Services

John Chiang: Numbers reveal unfunded health care crisis – California’s incoming state treasurer writes, “A few numbers to remember: 1.9, 72, 24, 92, 25, 67 and 121. No, they are not related to last week’s lotto, nor are they the residual carnage of a Sudoku factory meltdown. But they are important numbers to remember as Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers prepare to tackle a fiscal liability that rivals or surpasses the size of its more high-profile cousins – the state’s unfunded pension liabilities. If left unaddressed, it will sow the seeds of a future budgetary crisis.”  Chiang op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Health law mandate’s impact to be uneven – Starting Jan. 1, one of the most-feared aspects of the Affordable Care Act took effect after some delay, and requires large businesses to provide health coverage to their employees or face financial penalties. Despite the concerns surrounding the mandate, it won’t hit all businesses hard, nor will it provide coverage to all uninsured workers. Instead, just like the rest of Obamacare, its impacts will be felt unevenly, among some industries and employees more than others.  CHCF Center for Health Reporting article

Michael Hiltzik: Ten years in, California’s stem cell program is getting a reboot — Turning 10 years old may not quite mark adolescence for a human child, but for a major government research effort such as California’s stem cell program, it’s well past middle age. So it’s a little strange to hear C. Randal Mills, the new president and chief executive of the program known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, say it’s time to instill in CIRM “a clear sense of mission.”  Hiltzik in LA Times


California bullet train getting on track — After a decade of controversy and skepticism that threatened to derail California’s bullet train, the state is finally ready to break ground on the San Francisco-to-Los Angeles rail line.  San Jose Mercury News article

Other Areas

Time of change for San Joaquin County board – With two new members taking seats on the county Board of Supervisors, the swearing in will mark the official beginning to the largest shakeup on the five-member panel in six years. The chairmanship of the board is also expected to change hands Monday, and three other elected officials will be sworn into countywide office.  Stockton Record article

Stockton council members look ahead – When the clock struck midnight on 2014 and the calendar turned to 2015, Christina Fugazi and Susan Lofthus officially became members of the Stockton City Council and Elbert Holman moved from his first term to his second. The trio will be ceremonially sworn into office Tuesday night at City Hall, though in fact all three took the oath of office after winning their elections in November.  Stockton Record article

Michael Fitzgerald: A park that’s being pilfered – Named for a longtime director of Pixie Woods, Pitts Park is partly landscaped with boulders and native grasses. There are disc (Frisbee) golf holes, parkour obstacles, retro streetlamps, and the usual picnic tables, benches and play sets. The problem — not a big problem, but one that got a rise out of park-user Jeff Garrison — is vandalism. A pretty new park is being stripped, vandalized and trashed.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Lois Henry: I actually have something nice to say about Facebook — The first Facebook post went up on Friday Sept. 13, 2013, but I didn’t see it right away. Someone called me about it, and when I checked Facebook the following Monday, sure enough, it was true: Steve Swenson had pancreatic cancer.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Jeff Jardine: Oh, say, can you knock it off? — The whole fireworks thing has gotten completely out of control, not just on the Fourth or the New Year, but throughout the rest of the year as well. It dilutes the anticipation and awe that should precede those holidays.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Measures that once seemed extraordinary will have to become a new mindset for Californians. Even though winter storms have brought rain and snow, the drought is far from over. We should not ease up on efforts to conserve.

 Sacramento Bee – Measures that once seemed extraordinary will have to become a new mindset for Californians. Even though winter storms have brought rain and snow, the drought is far from over. We should not ease up on efforts to conserve;  Seven big ideas for California in 2015.