January 3, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

Dan Walters: California’s slowing population growth has many impacts – positive and negative — An aging population creates new demands for services for the elderly, including health care and specialized housing and, of course, the money to pay for them. But slow growth also lowers the retail economy and potentially creates labor shortages as baby boomers retire in droves. Finally, it means that California is unlikely to see increases in its congressional delegation and therefore in its presidential electoral votes. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

No, California Democrats didn’t ‘legalize’ child prostitution — A misleading column about a new state law by an Orange County lawmaker has sparked inaccurate online reports taking off on Facebook. Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, wrote a piece for the Washington Examiner under the headline “California Democrats legalize child prostitution,” which has been cut and pasted by a variety of partisan websites as the basis for their false claims. Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

Lee Brand swearing-in ceremony set for Tuesday at Fresno City Hall — There will be plenty of pomp and ceremony at Fresno City Hall on Thursday to install a new mayor and City Council members, but the nuts and bolts of municipal governance will actually begin Tuesday, when the city charter dictates that new terms for those offices actually begin. Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Villaraigosa hits fund-raising stride in race for governor — When Villaraigosa posts his initial fund-raising totals later this month, it appears likely he will meet a goal set privately by his campaign of raising about $2 million by the end of 2016. Many Democratic strategists once considered that target to be optimistic. But by Dec. 31, Villaraigosa had reported collecting about $1.9 million in contributions of at least $5,000, a faster start than Newsom managed in the opening weeks of his campaign and not far off the pace set by Chiang. Politico article

Other areas

New law: Repeal of 90s welfare rule takes effect – As of Jan. 1, California no longer prevents additional welfare payments for families who have more children while receiving state aid, removing a rule that called discriminatory and invasive. Capital Public Radio report

Capitol action, by the numbers — As the California Legislature commences its 2017 Session, the following is a quick look back at historical numbers for bill introductions and gubernatorial bill actions. Over the last half a dozen years, as a general rule, the Legislature has introduced about 2,100 bills per year, about 1,000 of those measures get to the Governor’s Desk, and he signs roughly 850 of those bills. Capitol Weekly article

House Republicans vote during closed-door session to gut ethics office ahead of new Congress — On the eve of the new Congress, House Republicans voted privately Monday to gut an ethics office that had been established as an independent watchdog on lawmakers in the aftermath of several high-profile scandals. LA Times articleNew York Times articleWashington Post article

Steinberg likely to push greater government transparency during first meeting — At his first full meeting presiding over the Sacramento City Council on Thursday, Mayor Darrell Steinberg will push for adoption of government-transparency measures that go beyond a proposed “sunshine” ordinance that’s been more than a year in the making. Sacramento Bee article

News Stories –Top Stories

Half the state’s workforce is voting on raises this month. Will the deals pass? – Gov. Jerry Brown’s last contracts with state workers will cost at least $569 million in the current budget, but the big number is no guarantee that unions will accept the deals when they vote on the final batch this month. In fact, some state workers are loudly advocating for their peers to turn down a handful of contracts Brown’s team negotiated in December. Sacramento Bee article

California snowpack surveyed as indicator of drought — Surveyors will plunge poles into the Sierra Nevada snowpack near Lake Tahoe on Tuesday, taking the season’s first measurement by hand of the snow’s water content as California flirts with a sixth year of drought. AP article

Debate underway on UC and CSU tuition increase proposals; students protesting – Early skirmishes have begun already on tentative proposals to increase tuition at California’s two massive public university systems for the first time in six years. Serious debate and protests – likely to be bruising at points – are expected over the next few months as financial and political impacts are weighed. EdSource article

Jobs and the Economy

Big-name restaurants first of changes at Manchester Center — A building under construction in front of Manchester Center will soon be home to ChipotleThe Habit Burger Grill and other new restaurants. The building faces Blackstone Avenue and is just south of the FAX transit center. Several months of work remain, with the restaurants expected to open sometime this spring. Fresno Bee article

Arden Fair’s new teenager ban violates civil rights, says ACLU. Mall says it was cleared by legal team — Arden Fair mall’s decision to ban unaccompanied teenagers the day after Christmas is drawing criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union along with some parents and teenagers who say it discriminates against a broad category of people, barring them from a space open to the public. Sacramento Bee article

George Lucas museum cliffhanger: San Francisco or LA? – After several false starts, Lucas and his art team say they will decide later this month whether to put the museum in San Francisco or Los Angeles, a strategy that has stirred a California rivalry. The prize is big, and both cities want it badly. AP article

E-cigarette sellers now need state license — Stanislaus County health officials lauded state legislation that went into effect Monday that requires sellers of electronic cigarettes, vaping devices and other related products to pay a $265 annual licensing fee. Modesto Bee article


After six years of drought, this is the winter ‘we’re supposed to be getting,’ meteorologists say —  The slow but steady improvement in California’s drought picture should accelerate in the new year with a series of storms that are expected to dump rain and snow in Northern California. LA Times article

Should LA County have a huge desalination plant? A battle looms in the South Bay — As Southern California grapples with declining imported supplies and climate change that could make droughts more severe, agencies such as West Basin are working to develop new local sources, including water recycling and stormwater capture. Some suppliers also want to tap the ocean. More than a dozen desalination projects — including West Basin’s proposal — are under consideration along the California coast. LA Times article

There’s a cancer-causing chemical in my drinking water. Will California finally regulate it? — According to the State Water Resources Control Board, 1,2,3-TCP has been found in about a hundred public water systems across California, mostly in the Central Valley but also in counties like Santa Cruz, Monterey, Sacramento, and Los Angeles. But many Californians don’t know whether this stuff is in their water, because neither the state nor the federal EPA regulates 1,2,3-TCP in drinking water. So that means public utilities don’t have to test for it, filter it out, or advise their customers if it’s in the water. KQED report

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Man dies shortly after being handcuffed by Lemoore police — Lemoore police arrested a man Saturday who eventually died after he was handcuffed, leading to an investigation by the Kings County Multi-Agency Critical Incident Team. Police said the man in his 30s was handcuffed, but a short time later started vomiting and stopped breathing. Fresno Bee articleVisalia Times-Delta article

Fortune favors the brave — The District Attorney’s Office has a new employee. He’s not a prosecutor, though. He’s a dog –– Fortune. Fortune has done more in his first 15 months of life than most dogs –– or people ––– could imagine in a lifetime. Visalia Times-Delta article


Education issues to watch in 2017 – and predictions of what to expect – The first week in January is like the first day of spring training: Everyone’s an expert on predicting what Gov. Jerry Brown will sign and veto and who’ll win the World Series. EdSource article

Danny Morrison: Why isn’t the high school district as aggressive on STDs as on CCW’s? – KHSD has a responsibility to do what’s best for our multi-colored, multi-faith and multicultural community. And decisions made for the betterment of Kern County should not be seen as an attack on our Christianity. It’s a reinforcement of common sense. Morrison column in Bakersfield Californian

Karin Klein: Why charter schools are issuing school report cards — A charter school advocacy group recently announced it had created academic accountability reports for every publicly funded school in California. The plan is to update them regularly, providing report cards similar to the state’s now-defunct Academic Performance Index. Klein op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Merced County libraries challenge parents to read to children in new program — Libraries in Merced County will be using a new program and approach to help improve children’s literacy. On Jan. 21, county libraries will be rolling out “1,000 Books before Kindergarten,” a program that introduces books at an early age, Los Banos library manager Nola Ramirez said. Merced Sun-Star article

No topic is too crazy for student-designed classes at UC Berkeley — Harry Potter may not be a lure for everyone. But courses created by Berkeley students cover a dizzying array of other topics — nearly 200 across 60 departments, taken by as many as 4,000 students each semester. The courses in DeCal — short for Democratic Education at Cal — aren’t graded, so there is little stress. But they count for one or two credits. And they have their roots in Berkeley’s landmark free speech movement from five decades ago, when students pressed for and won greater academic rights. LA Times article


Massive Orange County coastal development goes before California Supreme Court — The California Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday in San Francisco on a preservation group’s lawsuit challenging the Newport Beach City Council’s approval of a proposed development at Banning Ranch. LA Times article

Quake swarm near California-Mexico border gets scientists’ attention – A swarm of more than 250 small earthquakes have struck since New Year’s Eve near the California-Mexico border, causing unease among residents and attention from scientists. LA Times article

SFO criticized for letting seawall erosion turn into an emergency — Federal and state officials say San Francisco International Airport’s lack of proper maintenance and inspections led to the erosion of a seawall that prompted calls for emergency repairs. KQED report

Health/Human Services 

Will California’s new ‘right to try’ law empower or exploit patients? — With the enactment of a new “Right to Try” law, California joins 31 other states that have already passed legislation to support patients’ efforts to access experimental drugs. KQED report


Sacramento Bee: Driverless cars are almost here, but can California keep up? — Autonomous vehicles are being tested by 20 companies on California’s roads. To keep those companies around, and maybe lure Uber back from Arizona, regulators must be careful not to stifle innovation as the technology advances and the industry takes shape. Sacramento Bee editorial

Other areas

The most influential Latinos in 2016 — When Fresno State athletic director Jim Bartko addressed a group of community leaders gathered at a luncheon, the first thing he mentioned was how happy he was to work for Dr. Joseph I. Castro, the university’s president. He is the real deal, said Bartko. Bartko isn’t alone in his praise for Castro, who was easily the most influential Latino in the heart of California. Vida en el Valle article

New year brings new guard on the Merced County Board of Supervisors – Three incoming Merced County supervisors will take the oath of office Tuesday, marking the most significant power shift on the Merced County Board of Supervisors in decades. District 1 Supervisor-elect Rodrigo Espinoza, District 2 Supervisor-elect Lee Lor and District 4 Supervisor-elect Lloyd Pareira will join District 3 Supervisor Daron McDaniel and District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion on the board. They begin work during their first regular meeting Jan. 10. Merced Sun-Star article

Kelsey house fire not a criminal investigation, cause remains unclear — Investigators on Monday searched for answers in a disastrous New Year’s Day house fire at the home of a recently retired Merced County supervisor. Deidre Kelsey, whose retirement after two decades on the Board of Supervisors officially began the same day her house burned to the ground, was taken to a Fresno hospital for treatment of burn injuries. Authorities have said she suffered first-degree burns to about 25 percent of her body. She was listed in “stable” condition on the day of the fire. She remained hospitalized Monday, but an update on her condition was not available. Merced Sun-Star article

Merced to fill long-vacant position of assistant city manager — The Merced City Council plans to welcome its first assistant city manager to that long-vacant position during its next regular meeting Tuesday. Merced Sun-Star article

From immigration to short-term housing to street vendors, LA City Hall faces a heavy agenda — Los Angeles City Hall gets back to work this week, facing an ambitious and, in some ways, divisive agenda ahead of several key elections. The council will take up some hot-button issues tied to immigrants, the new economy and homelessness. In the shadow of all this is Mayor Eric Garcetti’s reelection bid and a citywide vote on a growth measure. LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Just because marijuana is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Modesto Bee – Just because marijuana is legal doesn’t make it safe.

Sacramento Bee –- Heroin still kills far more Americans than fentanyl. But what’s alarming is the rapid increase in the number of fentanyl users. The opioid painkiller is so powerful that people can overdose and die within minutes; Autonomous vehicles are being tested by 20 companies on California’s roads. To keep those companies around, and maybe lure Uber back from Arizona, regulators must be careful not to stifle innovation as the technology advances and the industry takes shape; 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.