January 7, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

Foon Rhee: How democracy is growing in California cities – A new index shows that more city council members are being elected from districts and that more elections are being held on dates with higher turnouts. But there’s more work to do on campaign finance. Rhee in Sacramento Bee

In rural California town where Trump won, Latino minority says goodwill prevails as always — Latinos have surpassed whites as the largest group in California, but Siskiyou County, like other sparsely populated and mostly rural parts of the state is mostly white, with a strong conservative streak. Trump won about 55% of the vote in Siskiyou County. Except for Humboldt, which Hillary Clinton won, Trump also claimed victories in the other adjoining counties: Modoc, Del Norte, Trinity and Shasta. LA Times article

Gov. Brown

Jack Ohman: Sutter was my comedian to Gov. Brown’s straight man — When I met First Dog Sutter Brown, he was joyfully rolling in goose poop at McKinley Park in 2013. He was very inquisitive in his Giants collar, running constantly and checking out everything. My late friend Rex Babin talked to me about Sutter. He even did a cartoon or two about the corgi that California’s governor had adopted. But it wasn’t until I moved to Sacramento that I saw how popular Sutter was. He was a constant presence in the Capitol, a building full of serious people who lightened up when they saw him. Ohman in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

Family lovingly remembers late Bakersfield councilman, struggles with his death — Loved ones remembered Bakersfield City Councilman Jeff Tkac Friday as a vibrant person whose ear-to-ear smile told the story of how he lived. Tkac’s sister Cecily Tkac Waterman remembered him as deeply committed to his wife, Heather, his sons and the community of Bakersfield. His brother Jon Tkac said he always had on hand a joke, a smile and a positive outlook. And he loved his family. Bakersfield Californian article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California Politics Podcast: Calling Eric Holder – This week: Democrats in the Legislature sign up Eric Holder in their fight against the incoming Trump administration. We also preview the legislative session, and we discuss the changing face of women in politics and government. With John Myers and Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times, and Marisa Lagos of KQED News. California Politics Podcast

Joel Fox: Model for California GOP Gov. may be found in New England — The California gubernatorial election is 22 months away but already the media is filled with stories about the coming campaign. Given the superiority in Democratic voter registration in this state it is assumed that a Democrat will succeed Jerry Brown in the corner office. Yet, for Republicans there may be hope when witnessing the success of GOP governors in another blue section of the country, New England. Fox in Fox & Hounds


Denham reintroduces bill to offer citizenship path – Rep. Jeff Denham started the first week of the new session of Congress by reintroducing a bill that would grant undocumented immigrants a path to legalization through military service. Stockton Record article

Michelle Obama to Muslims, immigrants: ‘This country belongs to you’ — In her final speech as first lady on Friday, Michelle Obama singled out young immigrants and Muslims, many of whom express apprehension about President-elect Donald Trump.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Other areas

No political epiphany as Congress begins new session, Pelosi says – There was no political epiphany Friday for Nancy Pelosi. The House Minority Leader opened her weekly Capitol Hill news conference by noting Friday was the Feast of the EpiphanyMcClatchy Newspapers article

Andrew Fiala: We need less tweeting and more silent reflection to create wise public policies – The professor of philosophy and director of The Ethics Center at Fresno State writes, “It is a good thing that the proposed revision to the Office of Congressional Ethics office is off the table. The public and Congress needs more time to deliberate. But we should be worried that the ethics office has become a political punching bag. And we should work to resist the temptations of quick and careless thought. We need less tweeting and more silent reflection. The owl of wisdom only spreads her wings at the end of day, once all the facts are known and all the evidence has been considered.” Fiala column in Fresno Bee

Presidential Politics

Will Trump’s promised wall become taxpayer-funded fence? – It was the signature promise of his campaign: Donald Trump vowed to build an impenetrable, concrete wall along the southern border. And Mexico was going to pay for it. Now as he nears inauguration, that wall is sounding increasingly like it could end up a fence. And his team and Congressional Republicans are hatching a plan in which taxpayers — at least initially — would foot the bill. AP article

Trump blasts Schwarzenegger, who suggests he focus on governing – Be it a genuine clash of big egos, or a clever ratings ploy, the social media spat between President-elect Donald Trump and his “Celebrity Apprentice” successor, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lit up the internet Friday. Sacramento Bee article

U.S. intelligence: Putin ordered intervention in election, ‘aspired to help’ Trump — Russia carried out a comprehensive cybercampaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation that was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released FridayWashington Post article

Nunes rebukes Obama administration for not responding to Russian hack threats sooner — Tulare Republican Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, released a statement Friday afternoon in the wake of a report by U.S. intelligence agencies that concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a cybercampaign to upend the U.S. presidential election. Fresno Bee article

Has Hollywood lost touch with America? – That’s the question we ask as 2017 begins and Donald J. Trump prepares to take office. Our critics and writers consider where Hollywood stands on issues of class, race, diversity and gender, particularly under a president who is openly hostile to “political correctness.” LA Times article

News Stories – Top Stories

Fresno ranks second in U.S. for smallest IOUs in future pension payouts — A new report based on city financial reports nationwide ranks Fresno second among the 50 largest U.S. cities for financial health, in terms of unfunded taxpayer burdens for entitlement liabilities. Fresno Bee article

Massive storm puts Valley on high alert, closes part of Yosemite — A massive storm is bearing down on the central San Joaquin Valley, prompting closures in Yosemite Valley, precautionary draining from area lakes and anti-flood measures across several counties. Meteorologists predict this “atmospheric river” will be the strongest storm in the last five years – possibly more. Fresno Bee articleAP articleMerced Sun-Star articleStockton Record article

Kaweah Delta ER pitches tent for patient overload – A handful of patients with masks wrapped around their faces bundled under blankets, sat in Kaweah Delta’s Emergency Department, Friday morning. It was quite a different scene the night before, where a large tent stood outside the emergency room filled with an overflow of patients. Visalia Times-Delta articleLindsay Mann op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Jobs and the Economy

Developer faces challenges filling out Hanford Costco center – Commercial real estate broker Michael Kennedy, who works for Fresno-based Retail California, is one of the agents tasked with recruiting businesses to fill out the 58 acres of shopping center space around Costco. His take? It’s not going to happen overnight, and there are a number of obstacles. Hanford Sentinel article

Atwater is not saving any money with solar panels, finance office says — The solar panels that jut out of the parking lots at Atwater City Hall and Community Center are not saving Atwater any money. In fact, officials have confirmed, the city is losing money.  Merced Sun-Star article

Recovery finally yields big gains for average worker’s pay – It has been a long time coming — eight years, in fact — but the economic recovery is finally showing up in the average American worker’s paycheck in a big way. New York Times article

White House report slams hidden fees charged by hotels, airline and other businesses —  In the final report before the end of his term in office, President Obama’s National Economic Council lashed out against “hidden fees” charged by airlines, hotels and other businesses. The council, made up of various department and agency heads within Obama’s administration, said fees that are not readily disclosed make it hard for consumers to pick the lowest price in airfares, hotel rates and other services. LA Times article

Voters to decide if Elk Grove should get an Indian casino – Elk Grove voters apparently are going to decide whether a $400 million Indian casino gets built in their city. Casino opponents have submitted enough valid signatures to qualify their anti-casino referendum for the Elk Grove ballot, the city clerk announced Friday. The anti-casino effort is being led by a company affiliated with the owner of two Sacramento card roomsSacramento Bee article

California exports continued late-2016 rally with strong November – California’s export trade industry continued a late-2016 rebound with a strong November, according to statistics released Friday. Golden State businesses shipped merchandise valued at $14.41 billion in November, up 12 percent from $12.86 billion in November 2015, according to Beacon Economics, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Sacramento Bee article

Daniel Borenstein: Backroom CalPERS desl piles debt on taxpayers – Politics trumped prudent fiscal management when CalPERS, labor and Brown administration officials held a closed-door confab last month to set the pension system’s key investment return rate. East Bay Times article

California’s new marijuana era — At the heart of California’s Emerald Triangle is Humboldt County, a legendary locale in the world of weed, as prized by marijuana aficionados for its cannabis as Napa Valley is for its wine. “Humboldt is the absolute, undisputed leader in cannabis,” said Luke Bruner, a local resident who has advised state and local officials on marijuana issues. Capitol Weekly article

Repairs OK’d for some Volkswagen diesels.  Is your car affected? — More than a year after Volkswagen acknowledged its diesel cars were rigged to violate U.S. and California air-pollution limits, the German carmaker has found a way to fix some of the newest models. The California Air Resources Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday they’ve approved a repair plan for a limited number of diesel cars affected by Volkswagen’s air pollution scandal.  Sacramento Bee article

Arden Fair mall owner stands by holiday teen ban despite controversy — Arden Fair mall owner Mark Friedman doesn’t mind teenagers. But he could do without the ones that come to his mall to fight and steal. So his management team came up with a solution: Ban unaccompanied minors during peak times when they cause the most trouble. Sacramento Bee article

Strike by West Coast crab fishermen ends after 11 days – An 11-day strike by thousands of West Coast crab fishermen has ended after a successful negotiation of prices with seafood processors. The agreement reached late Friday will restart the sputtering season for much-sought-after Dungeness crabs in Northern California, Oregon and Washington. AP article

Snapchat’s parent company is expanding into 300,000 square feet of office space in Santa Monica — The company behind popular mobile chat app Snapchat has decided to take a large amount of office space near Santa Monica Airport as it continues to expand rapidly. Snap Inc. has leased about 300,000 square feet at Santa Monica Business Park, according to Westside real estate experts who know about the agreement but aren’t authorized to speak publicly. LA Times article


Water flows from Friant Dam as officials call for more storage — With the roar of rushing water as a backdrop, farming advocates and elected officials gathered at the base of Friant Dam on Friday to push for construction of the Temperance Flat dam. The proposed dam, with a price tag of $2.8 billion, is considered a linchpin for the Valley’s water future and represents the ability to store more than 1.2 million acre-feet of water. That’s more than 2 1/2 times the capacity of Millerton Lake. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal articleValley Public Radio report

VIDEO: Watch California’s drought worsen and improve – The state’s drought is becoming less severe, especially in parts of Northern California. Watch a 30-second video showing the drought’s progress from 2011 until now. KQED report

Friant Kern Canal will have to wait to accept flood flows — While a major “atmospheric river” storm system is expected to pummel Central California with historic amounts of rain and snow this weekend, there’s one place you won’t find floodwater: the Friant Kern Canal. Valley Public Radio report

Weekend storm could boost water storage, San Luis Reservoir – This weekend’s storm could be good news for valley farmers, who hope they’ll be able to store some of the anticipated runoff. Ara Azhderian is the water policy administrator for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which represents 29 water contractors that use the San Luis Reservoir. He says the outlook for 2017 is already good. Valley Public Radio report

Is California’s ag industry worried about a labor shortage under Trump? – In the Central Valley there’s a bumper sticker you see all over the place. It’s shaped like California, and reads “My job depends on Ag.” In California, that agriculture depends on immigrant labor. Many farmers here supported Donald Trump despite his hard-line stance on immigration. So as the new Trump administration prepares to take office, what’s the thinking of those involved in the region’s biggest industry? KQED report

Jason Phillips: Big storms and new federal water law offer farmers hope in 2017 – The CEO for the Friant Water Authority writes, “Nevertheless, long-term solutions to water supply reliability for the Valley are still elusive. These winter storms will pass, and most of the California water provisions of the WIIN Act sunset in five years. Additional work is necessary to close the estimated 2.5-million-acre-foot annual average shortage that Valley agriculture faces and bring regional surface and groundwater supplies into a balance with current and future needs.” Phillips op-ed in Fresno Bee

Lois Henry: The Kern River is back, at least for now — Bakersfield, we have a river. Depending on Mother Nature, that could be for a long while or a little while. It just depends on whether the firehose known as the “atmospheric river” currently aimed at California from the Pacific points further to the north or further to the south. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Criminal Justice/Prisons

California funds first U.S. inmate sex reassignment — A 57-year-old convicted killer serving a life sentence in California became the first U.S. inmate to receive state-funded sex-reassignment surgery, the prisoner’s attorneys confirmed Friday to The Associated Press. California prison officials agreed in August 2015 to pay for the surgery for Shiloh Heavenly Quine, who was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery for ransom and has no possibility of parole. AP article

Tulare County inmates make up 2 percent of Death Row – There are 749 killers, rapists and molesters condemned to die in California. Fourteen of those inmates are from Tulare County. Visalia Times-Delta article

Investigation into Fresno County deputy sheriff’s death complete – The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has completed its investigation into the deadly shooting of a sheriff’s deputy late last year. The Sheriff still believes the shooting was an accident. KVPR report

Charles Manson is returned to prison after stay at Bakersfield hospital – Mass murderer Charles Mansonwho was hospitalized this week with a serious medical issue, has been returned to the Central Valley prison where he is serving his life sentence, a corrections official confirmed Friday. LA Times article

FBI releases documents related to San Bernardino iPhone – The FBI has released 100 pages of heavily censored documents related to its agreement with a mysterious vendor to hack into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters.  AP article

Dinuba officer kills armed robber – A Dinuba officer shot and killed a suspect thought to be involved in an armed robbery at a Texaco gas station late Thursday night. Visalia Times-Delta article

Their dad was run over by a police officer. Settling a lawsuit will cost Fresno $675,000 — The city of Fresno has agreed to pay $675,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit in which a Fresno police officer ran over and killed a bicyclist who was fleeing from a traffic stop in August 2013. Fresno Bee article

Brik McDill: Let not this teachable moment pass unseized — The state will claim its prisoner “best practices” rehab programs, since the recidivism rates are dropping, are having their improved and desired effects. Not so fast. When criminal statutes have had a major redesign between old and new recid measurements, and the penal codes dealing with paroles and re-incarceration have been extensively and purposefully tweaked to reduce the prison population, it should surprise no one that re-incarcerations have gone down, that’s the point of the tweaking. But it seriously affects recidivism rates. McDill column in Bakersfield Californian

Parlier police dog dies – death under investigation – The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of a 9-year-old Parlier police K-9 that was found dead in the city Friday afternoon. Fresno Bee article

Sacramento DA deems early 2016 Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova police shootings lawful — The Sacramento County District Attorney’s office said the 2016 officer-involved shootings of 23-year-old Lance Bernaix and 30-year-old Justin Prescott were lawful. Bernaix was shot nine times Jan. 26 by Elk Grove Police Officer Bruce Husung. Prescott was shot twice by Sacramento Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Patrick Gallagher behind a Safeway on Feb. 2. Sacramento Bee article

In a violent year in San Bernardino, unsolved homicides leave families gasping for answers — There were 62 slayings in San Bernardino in 2016 — a 41% increase from the year before. It was the deadliest year in the city since 1995.  The violence is an open wound on a city trying to recover from a prolonged bankruptcy and the 2015 terror attack. And it didn’t abate for the holidays — five people were shot and wounded on Christmas Day. One was killed the morning after. Amid this violent surge, San Bernardino police have at times struggled to find the killers, leaving mothers, fathers, siblings and children grappling with unanswered questions. LA Times article


Joseph I. Castro: Yeehaw! Why being a good leader is a lot like riding a different bull every day – Fresno State’s president writes, “Much about leadership is personal, meaning that it is difficult to generalize the experiences of one leader to another because organizations are often facing different types of challenges and opportunities under varying conditions. Leadership is a lot like bull riding. Each day represents a different bull and a different ride.” Castro op-ed in Fresno Bee

Teamsters plan to strike Tuesday at all UC campuses, medical centers – Teamsters Local 2010 announced that a strike by skilled trades workers that began at midnight Thursday on the UCLA campus will expand Tuesday to include all 10 University of California campuses, five medical centers and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Sacramento Bee article

Sara Sandrik: 2016 was a good year for Merced City schools – The public information officer for the Merced City School District writes, “I recently edited a short video capturing just a few of the 2016 highlights for the Merced City School District, and it gave me a chance to think about all of the incredible programs, student success stories, innovative teaching and community support I’ve witnessed in just my first nine months with this great team.” Sandrik column in Merced Sun-Star

 Stanislaus State gets new administrator from Minnesota-Mankato — Kimberly Greer will become the new provost and vice president for academic affairs at California State University, Stanislaus, beginning Jan. 24. Modesto Bee article

 Ken Dyar: Five reasons why PE is so important for kids both in and out of sports – The 2006 California Teacher of the Year Director of Physical Education & After School Progams for the Delano Union School District writes, “In her Community Voices piece on high school P.E. class exemptions (‘Public high school students who are involved in club sports should be exempted from taking P.E. class,’ Dec. 28), Runa Lemminn states that ‘it is a waste of time to require a student who is already involved with club sports on an ongoing basis to take high school P.E.’ This is a common misconception of the purpose and importance of quality physical education in our schools.” Dyar op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Educators: Parents will drive new bilingual education growth — Supporters of Proposition 58, the successful ballot initiative to overturn bilingual education limits in California, said more bilingual programs in public schools would better prepare students for future careers. Well, the changes aren’t moving so fast. KPCC report

Health/Human Services

Community nursing corps to amp up health education in low-income areas — Nurses are working with local health leaders to bring free health education directly to a city-designated “promise zone” of Sacramento’s most impoverished neighborhoods, officials announced Friday during a kick-off of the community nursing program. Sacramento Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Privacy a main factor in $3.025 million Fresno Bluff View home sale — A newly remodeled 5,900 square-foot home overlooking the San Joaquin River in Fresno’s posh Bluff View neighborhood tops this year’s list of the most expensive residential real estate sales of 2016. The year’s most expensive home just eclipses the $3 million paid for a 6,700 square-foot Mediterranean-style estate in Clovis last year, and continues a years-long trend of high-end buyers pushing their successful offers higher and higher. The Business Journal article


Paul Brubaker: Uber, like America’s greatest innovators, needs freedom to invent the future – The president and CEO of the Alliance for Transportation Innovation writes, “Thankfully the California Department of Motor Vehicles didn’t exist when the first Model T’s debuted on San Francisco streets, otherwise, horses and blacksmith shops might still exist throughout a state proud of its progressive nature.” Brubaker op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

Inside a killer drug epidemic: A look at America’s opioid crisis — Opioid addiction is America’s 50-state epidemic. It courses along Interstate highways in the form of cheap smuggled heroin, and flows out of “pill mill” clinics where pain medicine is handed out like candy. It has ripped through New England towns, where people overdose in the aisles of dollar stores, and it has ravaged coal country, where addicts speed-dial the sole doctor in town licensed to prescribe a medication.  New York Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Thumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – They’re called “atmospheric rivers,” and we’re about to be swept beneath one. Maybe two.

Modesto Bee – Who pays for the war on Planning Parenthood?

Sacramento Bee –- Who pays for the war on Planned Parenthood?