January 5, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

Obama moves to speed up Delta tunnels project — The Obama administration acted Wednesday to speed up federal environmental reviews on California’s controversial Delta tunnels project, saying the project is needed “to help address the effects of drought and climate change on California’s water supply and imperiled wildlife.” Sacramento Bee articleStockton Record article

Valley GOP legislators decry Dems’ hiring of Holder to battle Trump — Republican legislators, including those in the Valley, are unhappy that Democratic leaders of the state Senate and Assembly have signed a deal to hire the nation’s former top legal gun “in defense of our values and constitutional guarantees” against President-elect Donald Trump’s forthcoming administration. Fresno Bee article

Valley politics

Mayor’s post will be Brand’s ‘bully pulpit’ for Valley issues — It’s only his first week in office, but new Fresno Mayor Lee Brand is signaling that he won’t be shy about using one of the Valley’s highest-profile positions to push not only the city’s interests, but those of the entire region. Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Kevin Faulconer, San Diego mayor, quietly mulling run for governor — San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has quietly started discussing a potential run for governor with advisers and prospective donors, according to a former Los Angeles mayor and sources familiar with Faulconer’s deliberations. Politico article

George Skelton: Pot is legal in California. Now politicians and pot pushers need to keep it out of kids’ hands — Happy New Year and pass the pot. But now that weed is legal for adults in California, we need somehow to keep more teens from toking. Skelton column in LA Times


Could President Obama issue a mass immigration pardon? — President Barack Obama is taking big steps in his final days in office, like banning oil drilling in the Atlantic. Now both friends and critics alike are asking if he might use his executive authority for another controversial issue – a potential pardon of undocumented immigrants. But how might that work? Valley Public Radio spoke with USC law professor Niels Frenzen about the constitutionality of such a decision and how it might play out in the real world. Valley Public Radio report

California’s House Democrats are taking a wait-and-see approach on Trump’s plan for Dreamers – President Obama told congressional Democrats during a closed-door meeting Wednesday that he’s told President-elect Donald Trump about the importance of the program that defers deportation of people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. LA Times article

Trump’s deportation vow spurs California farmers into action — Days after Donald Trump won the White House vowing to deport millions of people in the country illegally and fortify the Mexican border, California farmer Kevin Herman ordered nearly $600,000 in new equipment, cutting the number of workers he’ll need starting with the next harvest. Herman, who grows figs, persimmons and almonds in the nation’s most productive farming state, said Trump’s comments pushed him to make the purchase, larger than he would have otherwise. AP article

As clock ticks toward Inauguration Day, Muslims wonder whether Trump’s tough talk will turn into action — As the days crawl toward the inauguration of Donald Trump, many Muslims across the U.S. anxiously wonder how much the president-elect’s tough-talking rhetoric will be matched by legislative actions.  Even in liberal California, home to about 500,000 Muslims in its southern regions alone, there is a lingering worry that Trump has conjured something through his words that as president he won’t be able to control. LA Times article

Other areas

Sacramento Bee: Where Steinberg is right to push for stronger transparency — While the draft “sunshine ordinance” going before the Sacramento City Council on Thursday would make city government more open, before the final vote next month it can and should be strengthened along the lines suggested by new Mayor Darrell Steinberg and advocacy groups. Sacramento Bee editorial

Republicans offer no plan to repeal Obamacare as more party members express concern — After demanding for six years that the Affordable Care Act be gutted, Republican leaders refused Wednesday to outline concrete steps to repeal and replace it, even as members of their party voiced growing reservations about rolling the law back without a viable alternative. LA Times article

Presidential Politics

Make California (politically) great again, says lawmaker who wants to move the presidential primary to Super Tuesday — California’s presidential primary could find itself squarely in the middle of the Super Tuesday political sweepstakes in 2020 under a proposal being introduced this week at the state Capitol. LA Times articleSacramento Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Democrats lawyer up as they prepare to confront Trump — Senate and Assembly Democratic leaders clearly are taking seriously the notion that they should never show up at a showdown underprepared. Sacramento Bee editorial

News Stories – Top Stories

Napolitano: UC quality not sustainable without tuition hike — The University of California will seek to raise undergraduate tuition and fees next year by nearly 3 percent, ending a six-year tuition freeze that followed steep rate hikes during the economic recession. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times articleAP article

HUD awards $16 million to Valley homeless programs – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in December awarded more than $16 million to homeless housing and service programs in the San Joaquin Valley. The city and county of Fresno and Madera County received more than $9 million for 32 projects. Another 20 projects in the city of Visalia and Kings and Tulare counties were funded for a little more than $2 million. Merced, Bakersfield and the Stockton areas also received grants.  Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

How The Wonderful Company helped a California town find itself again — For The Wonderful Company, being “wonderful” reaches beyond its catchy name. It echoes the Los Angeles-based food and beverage corporation’s exceptional commitment to deeply investing in the communities where its employees live, work, and play. Take, for example, the once-sleepy town of Lost Hills, Calif., a dusty rural sprawl 145 miles north of L.A. Wonderful — makers of POM Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, and Fiji Water — has operated near the farming enclave for three-plus decades. When Wonderful owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick discovered that the rural enclave lacked paved roads, streetlights, sidewalks, and sufficient sewage — infrastructure basics that many of us take for granted — they decided to do something about it, starting with restoring hope. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Free Enterprise article

Monthly housing numbers – Monthly housing numbers for November in the central San Joaquin Valley. Fresno Bee article

Macy’s to close stores, cut jobs amid weak sales – Macy’s says it is eliminating more than 10,000 jobs and plans to move forward with 68 store closures after a disappointing holiday shopping season. The department store chain also lowered its full-year earnings forecast. AP articleLA Times article

Two big-name women’s clothing stores in Fresno closing — Two big-name women’s clothing stores in Fresno – Ann Taylor and The Limited – are closing. The Limited at Fashion Fair has already closed. Ann Taylor at River Park is scheduled to close Jan. 21, but the discount Ann Taylor LOFT will remain. Fresno Bee article

Two Valley Kmart stores to close — Kmart stores in Kingsburg and Coalinga will close at the end of March. The stores are part of 108 Kmart stores and 42 Sears stores that the parent company Sears Holdings plans to close. Liquidation sales around the nation will start as early as Friday. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article

Bakersfield Kmart to close in March – The Kmart on Wilson Road in Bakersfield will close at the end of March, it was announced WednesdayBakersfield Californian article

2016 U.S. new auto sales set a new high, led by SUVs –  U.S. consumers bought a record number of new cars and trucks in 2016. A repeat performance in 2017 could be a tall order. Low gas prices, rising employment and low interest rates kept buyers coming to car dealerships last year. There was also the allure of new technology — such as backup cameras, automatic emergency braking and Apple CarPlay — and new vehicles such as the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, the Honda Civic and the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt. LA Times article

John Lindt: New year, new commodity watch — What’s up and what’s not in this new year? Here is what’s happening to some key commodities and developments that could affect Kings County for better or worse. Lindt in Hanford Sentinel

How to predict gentrification: Look for falling crime – Violent crime was a major factor pushing people out of cities a few decades ago. Now its decline appears to be inviting them back in. New York Times article

Aerospace firms step up their competition with Silicon Valley for young engineers – Silicon Valley and other tech centers have always been popular landing places for young engineers, with their lure of cutting-edge technology and top-notch pay. But aerospace companies are facing an even stiffer challenge as Web and computer companies, and other sectors like the auto industry, move into areas like drones and autonomous systems. Aerospace employers are realizing they have to dig deeper — and adjust their messaging — to capture top tech talent. LA Times article


Californians saved less water in November than previous year, water board report says — California water conservation took a slight step backward in November, officials announced Wednesday, possibly due in part to an unusually wet fall and months of successful conservation efforts. LA Times articleFresno Bee article with local numbers

Storm helps push Fresno’s rainfall totals above normal – and more rain is on the way — About 0.64 inches of rain that began falling Tuesday were recorded in Fresno by noon Wednesday. In Visalia, about 0.41 inches of rain were recorded. As of midnight Tuesday night, Fresno’s rainfall total since Oct. 1, the start of the rain year, was 4.85 inches – well ahead of the seasonal norm for the date of 3.69 inches. Fresno Bee article

Wettest day since ’68? – This weekend’s huge storm may be even wetter than first thought, with the incoming atmospheric river expected to slam the Stockton area head-on, forecasters said Wednesday. Sunday could be the city’s wettest day since Jan. 30, 1968, with more than 2 inches of rain expected.  Stockton Record article

With snow piling up in the Sierra, what will it take to end California’s drought? –  The resort town of Phillips high in the Sierra Nevada has long been a barometer of California’s drought. Snow measuring station 3 in the El Dorado County town was where Gov. Jerry Brown came in April 2015 to announce major drought restrictions, using the dry, snow-less landscape as a stark backdrop. LA Times article

With Trump as president could Temperance Flat become a reality? — Plans for a new dam on the San Joaquin River above Millerton Lake are on a collision course with a new proposal from the Bureau of Land Management to designate a portion of the area as a “Wild and Scenic River.” Conservationists say it would save some rare land values while improving public access, but supporters of the dam say the designation would essentially kill the project. What does the incoming Trump administration mean for the reservoir? Valley Public Radio report

Valadao introduces major water bill — Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, has introduced a major new water bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that could increase the flow of Northern California water to Kings County. Hanford Sentinel article

Work continues on Terminus Dam — Tulare County is seeing more water than usual and it’s not just coming from the skies. The Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that oversees Lake Kaweah and Kaweah Terminus Dam, began releasing water last week and will continue into next week. Visalia Times-Delta article

Tuolumne River to rise to make room in Don Pedro for storm runoff — The lower Tuolumne River ran at its highest volume past Modesto in half a decade Wednesday, and it will get even bigger over the next week. Managers of Don Pedro Reservoir, 38 miles upstream, have sharply increased releases so the lake will have enough room for runoff from a weekend storm that could be huge. Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

California rejects proposed new death penalty rules – Efforts to revive the death penalty in California were dealt another blow late last month when a state agency tasked with reviewing regulatory changes rejected a proposed new lethal injection protocol.  Sacramento Bee article

Bakersfield Police Department investigating students’ allegations of racial profiling, bogus arrests — Bakersfield Police Department officials have launched an administrative investigation after two black college students alleged in a video they were racially targeted, assaulted and arrested on trumped-up charges. Bakersfield Californian article

Silva’s lawyers seek to suppress phone evidence – Anthony Silva’s term as Stockton’s mayor has ended, but his legal fight continues. Silva’s attorneys recently filed a motion in Amador County Superior Court seeking to suppress evidence obtained by federal agents when they seized the then-mayor’s electronic devices and detained him in September 2015 at San Francisco International Airport as he returned from a trip to China. Stockton Record article

Jeff Jardine: Killer’s parole date will send victims’ family, others to Capitol again to oppose his release – Just 18 months ago, about two dozen people stood on the Capitol steps and implored Gov. Jerry Brown to keep a killer in prison. Now, Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney Beth DeJong said, it’s “time to roll up our sleeves and fight again at the Capitol.” Why? In the summer of 2015, a pair of commissioners from the state board of parole hearings gave Jeffrey Maria a release date. Maria was one of one of four convicted in the brutal 1979 murders of Modestans Phil and Kathy Ranzo, and the rape of Kathy Ranzo. He was the first among the killers to be recommended for parole. Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Manson remains hospitalized at Mercy with intestinal lesion, source says – Infamous cult leader and convicted mass murderer Charles Manson remained hospitalized in Bakersfield Wednesday with a sigmoid lesion and lower gastrointestinal bleeding, a source told The Californian. Bakersfield Californian article

During his decades in prison, Charles Manson has repeatedly broken rules, caused trouble — During his more than four decades behind bars, convicted murderer Charles Manson — the mastermind behind a gory 1969 Los Angeles killing rampage — has been an unrepentant and incorrigible inmate, repeatedly cited for behavioral problems including hiding cellphones and a hacksaw in his cell. LA Times article

Link between crime, family dysfunction is next focus of Stanislaus County effort – First, it was the complex issue of homelessness; the need for outreach and housing to move people off the streets. Now, the Focus on Prevention in Stanislaus County will work on strengthening families, with an emphasis on families of people in the criminal justice system. Modesto Bee article

Chicago police reformer is tapped to head Oakland Police Department, clean up ‘frat house’ – A high-ranking Chicago police official who was asked to lead reform efforts in one of the nation’s largest police departments has been tapped to lead Oakland’s troubled police force less than a year after the agency was caught up in a wide-ranging sexual abuse scandal. LA Times article

Hidden camera in bathroom lands foster family director in trouble — The director of a foster family agency is scheduled to be tried this month in Fresno County Superior Court on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse. Michael John Tucibat, director of Spectrum Children’s Services of Fresno, faces up to six months in jail and/or a fine of $1,000 if convicted of failing to carry out his duties as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse. Fresno Bee article

2016 ended with 89 police shootings in LA County – 1 every 4 days – Police officers and sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles County were involved in 89 shootings last year, according to the L.A. District Attorney’s office. The number includes people who were wounded and those killed by a police officer’s bullet. KPCC report

Has Stockton ‘hottie in handcuffs’ bounced back with family, sports car and mansion? — The ex-felon with piercing gray-blue eyes from Stockton dubbed the “hottie in handcuffs” is apparently turning his life around. No longer an inmate, a serious-looking Jeremy Meeks, is pictured on his Instagram and Facebook accounts in front of a luxury sports car with a mansion in the background. Sacramento Bee article


UC president Napolitano says she wants UC Davis to expand into Sacramento – University of California President Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she hopes whoever gets picked as the new chancellor of UC Davis can pull off an expansion of the campus into Sacramento. Sacramento Bee article

The Wonderful Company among Linked Learning Alliance 2017 Linked Learning Champion Award winners —  The Wonderful Company created their signature high school program, Wonderful Agriculture Career Prep (Ag Prep). This innovative career pathways program aligns high schools, colleges and industry to create real-world learning experiences that prepare students for the high-tech jobs of the future. Linked Learning announcement

Science rocks in 3-D in Turlock High teacher’s class – “The Earth has stories to tell about its formation if you know how to read the rocks,” Ira Flatow leads off in the NPR Science Friday segment featuring Turlock High geoscience teacher Ryan Hollister. Hollister’s nationwide radio debut came about from adapting a cutting-edge technology to take teens on a virtual field trip – an interactive 360-degree experience where students can move around and examine rocks from every angle. Modesto Bee article

Pre-inauguration, California districts declare sanctuary schools – Gonzales was one of two school board members who sponsored a resolution that Oakland public schools are sanctuaries for immigrant and Muslim families. School districts up and down California, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, have passed similar resolutions declaring that they will do everything legally possible to protect families and students from immigration enforcement actions on their campuses. KQED report

For teachers, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it – Principals, parents and departments of education increasingly are asking teachers to create classrooms where students feel that it’s O.K. to speak up, even if they’re not sure of their idea, and where they are given a chance to explain themselves before a misunderstanding blows up into an office referral. These relationships necessarily involve a small thing that’s not a small thing – a teacher’s voice – say Wash and other educators, including Joyce Dorado, director of the Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools program at University of California, San Francisco. EdSource article

Hindu statesman urges California schools to recognize Diwali – Currently, Valley students get 30-31 days off for various local and federal holidays. Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, has asked California schools to add one more holiday to the list – Diwali. Visalia Times-Delta article

‘This is scary’ – Merced residents react as teacher is accused of sex with student — The news of a Merced High teacher arrested for allegedly having sexual relations with a 16-year-old girl was met mostly with “disappointment” from parents of students at the school on Wednesday. Merced Sun-Star article

Call her ‘Nana’ — Mable Choice goes by many names: “Jimi,” a childhood nickname referencing her tomboyish spirit, “Ms. Choice,” or simply – and more preferably – “Nana.” As an educator and counselor for the Stockton Unified School District for more than 30 years, she strongly considers herself a second mother to hundreds of children she mentored and listened to. Stockton Record article


Yosemite may close under threat of heavy rains, flooding – Yosemite National Park is making emergency preparations for a possible closure of the national park amid weather forecasts for significant rain and flooding through the weekend. Sacramento Bee article

Shark apparently attacks, kills huge elephant seal off SLO coast — Shark activity off the Central Coast hit close to home for a bull elephant seal at Piedras Blancas, which died from an apparent shark bite. San Luis Obispo Tribune article

Health/Human Services 

Feed your kids peanuts, early and often, new guidelines urge — Peanuts — or at least peanut butter and peanut powders — are back on the menu for babies and toddlers. In a significant reversal from past advice, new national health guidelines are urging parents to give their children foods containing peanuts early and often, starting when they’re infants, as a way to help avoid life-threatening peanut allergies. New York Times article


Kings renews HSR legal fight — Kings County has renewed its legal fight against the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The county is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit filed last month in Sacramento County Superior Court alleging that the high-speed rail project violates the language of Proposition 1A, the 2008 ballot measure that authorized $10 billion in bond money to fund the project. Hanford Sentinel article

Work at major Turlock intersection will take $4 million, last all summer — The makeover of Fulkerth Road and Golden State Boulevard will cost nearly $4 million and likely take more than six months, city engineers said this week, with the proposal put out to bid in December accounting for only a portion of the total remake. Modesto Bee article

Will Trump keep federal promises for Sacramento streetcar funding? – Sacramento officials say they will push forward again this year on efforts to build a downtown streetcar line – with fingers crossed that the new presidential administration in Washington, D.C., will look favorably on their request for critical federal funds.  Sacramento Bee article

Caltrain ridership drops after 72 straight months of increases — Ridership on Caltrain is slowing down. For more than six years the average number of people riding trains on weekdays between San Francisco and Santa Clara County increased each month compared to the month the previous year. KQED report

Other areas

Fire at ex-supervisor’s Snelling home deemed accidental; investigation continues – Merced County Fire investigators determined that an unsupervised fire in the fireplace caused the home of a former county supervisor to burn down New Year’s Day. Investigators believe Deidre Kelsey left the fire in her “great room” fireplace unattended when she went to bed on New Year’s Eve, and the nearby area rug and dry Christmas tree caught fire, said Merced County Fire Division Chief Mark Lawson. Merced Sun-Star article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Instead of attacking Obamacare, a program that has worked to provide coverage to 20 million Americans, Congress ought to turn its attention to the health care cost drivers. One place to start is with the high cost of drugs.

Sacramento Bee –- While the draft “sunshine ordinance” going before the Sacramento City Council on Thursday would make city government more open, before the final vote next month it can and should be strengthened along the lines suggested by new Mayor Darrell Steinberg and advocacy groups; Democrats lawyer up as they prepare to confront Trump.