January 8, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

 John Myers: The only thing ‘special’ about California special elections is the cost to taxpayers – The common sense meaning of the word “special” is to describe something that, at the very least, is unusual. But there have been 50 special legislative or congressional elections in California in the last decade, according to state records. Thirteen contests were held in 2013 — more than any single year for almost the last quarter-century. While the elections themselves are no longer special, the costs to conduct them are almost always a surprise to the counties that must pay for them. Myers in LA Times

California’s top court to decide if planned speed-up in executions is legal – California voters in November legalized marijuana, approved a plan to reduce the prison population and enacted gun controls. But on one key issue — the death penalty — the liberal tide shifted. Voters rejected a measure to ban capital punishment and instead approved an initiative intended to hasten executions. That measure is now before the California Supreme Court. If the court allows it to go forward, executions are likely to resume this year, lawyers on both sides of the debate agreed. LA Times article

Dan Walters: Public campaign financing should require voter approval in California — If Common Cause et al. want to legalize public financing of campaigns, they should ask voters for permission.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

‘An anchor in turbulent times’ — After delivering his victory speech in a jam-packed downtown warehouse on the night of his election as Stockton’s mayor two months ago, Michael Tubbs stepped off the stage and quickly located City Councilman Elbert Holman in the midst of the crowd. “We embraced, and in my ear he said, ‘I want you as the vice mayor,’ ” Holman recalled last week. ” ‘Will you accept it?’ ” Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Pro-Trump Californians hope his victory can fuel a GOP revival in the Golden State — Hundreds of Donald Trump’s California supporters gathered Saturday to celebrate his impending inauguration — and to try to funnel the energy that propelled him to the White House into turning their cobalt-blue home state red.  LA Times article

Jack Ohman: The law firm of Xavier Becerra and Eric Holder – The Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist takes a look at Xavier Becerra and Eric Holder.  Ohman editorial cartoon in Sacramento Bee

 Presidential Politics

California attorney general pledges to take on Trump over stop-and-frisk – If confirmed as state attorney general, Xavier Becerra could lead California in fights against the incoming Trump administration on stop-and-frisk policing, a national registry of Muslims and rolling back regulation of carbon emissions. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Dan Morain: Putin, condoms, kangaroos and other swamp things — Too often lately, our democracy seems to come down to a Russian strongman, condoms, kangaroo parts and a decrepit watchdog. Oh, and The Swamp that Donald Trump claims to want to drain. He won’t. Morain in Sacramento Bee

Gun silencers are hard to buy. Donald Trump Jr. and silencer makers want to change that. — The federal government has strictly limited the sale of firearm silencers for as long as James Bond and big-screen gangsters have used them to discreetly shoot enemies between the eyes. Now the gun industry, which for decades has complained about the restrictions, is pursuing new legislation to make silencers easier to buy, and a key backer is Donald Trump Jr., an avid hunter and the oldest son of the president-elect, who campaigned as a friend of the gun industry. Washington Post article

To celebrate inaugural or not? Trump critics are divided — The sharp divisions over Donald Trump‘s election have politicians, celebrities and even high school students debating whether taking part in the inauguration is a political act that demonstrates support for the new president and his agenda or a nonpartisan tribute to democratic traditions and the peaceful transfer of power. AP article

News Stories – Top Stories

Water battle, roads and cannabis will keep Stanislaus County supervisors busy in 2017 – The county is marching into a new year with a voter-approved tax to generate funds for road repairs and expressway construction. In addition, it is embroiled in the battle against a state plan to increase unimpaired flows in the Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers. It has less than 12 months to develop local controls over legalized marijuana, while the Sheriff’s Department gears up for a gradual opening of a Public Safety Center expansion. Modesto Bee article

Delta pumping continues amid fish worries — Federal officials on Friday approved short-term pumping limits from the Delta that are higher than a team of experts had recommended days earlier to protect imperiled fish. Stockton Record article

Here’s what we know about the search for the next Fresno Unified superintendent — While no official decisions have been made regarding the hiring process for the next Fresno Unified School District superintendent, trustees are leaning toward a nationwide search – and want the public to have a say. Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Michael Fitzgerald: Stockton’s receding American Dream – The problems with California’s pricey housing market are “really as bad as they’ve ever been in the state’s history,” the state’s housing director gloomed Tuesday. Stockton has a new mayor, a new General Plan in the works; the whole Ground Zero/bankruptcy thing is behind us. Yet the housing situation is even worse here than statewide. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

E-commerce sellers had a holly, jolly Christmas – traditional retailers, not so much – Major retailers announced preliminary sales numbers for the holiday season, and as anticipated, brick-and-mortar retail was clobbered by e-commerce. Sacramento Bee article

Fresno seed company gets trademark for Stevia brand – S&W Seed Co. in Fresno has received a trademark for the use of the brand name “Kandi Leaf” stevia. The global agricultural company is using its research and breeding expertise to develop and produce stevia, the all-natural, zero calorie sweetener for the food and beverage industry. Fresno Bee article

Kern supervisors to decide on $5 Hart Park parking fee – Kern County officials, in an effort to slow or halt the deterioration of Hart Park along the Kern River in northeast Bakersfield, has proposed a $5 parking fee on vehicles there. Bakersfield Californian article

Santa Clara County courts face a massive traffic ticket backlog — Court officials acknowledge the backlog is a big problem and say they are taking steps to address it. Among other things, they are hiring two new clerks, who are expected to begin helping out sometime next month. They’re also going to revise their website so people understand that they can check online to see whether their ticket has been entered into the system before going to the courthouse. San Jose Mercury News article

Downtown Los Angeles hasn’t seen this much construction since 1920s — Downtown Los Angeles is undergoing its largest construction boom in modern times — an explosion juiced by foreign investment that’s adding thousands of residences, construction jobs and a multitude of shops and restaurants. LA Times article

Central Fresno loses another grocery store — Asia Supermarket on Blackstone Avenue has closed less than a year after it opened. The store, near Ashlan Avenue, took over the former Vons space last spring after it closed.  Fresno Bee article


How much rain did we get? Ask the iRain app, created at UC Irvine — With forecasters predicting the most powerful storm in a decade in Northern California this weekend — and more precipitation likely throughout the state in the coming days — UC Irvine engineers are hoping researchers, hydrologists and weather enthusiasts will make the most of their iRain mobile app. Launched in November, the free app displays animations of rainfall amounts around the world. Users can zoom in on local areas and choose specific time periods to track. LA Times article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Manson’s lung capacity just 15 percent – Mass murderer Charles Manson was back at Corcoran State Prison on Saturday, according to the California Department of Corrections, after spending the week at Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield. A source with knowledge of Manson’s medical condition told The Californian on the condition of anonymity that the prisoner’s lung capacity was just 15 percent. Bakersfield Californian article

Stanislaus leaders pay jail deputies’ legal bill in concealed-carry lawsuit – Deputy sheriffs guarding Stanislaus County jails made people safer across much of California when jailers beat the county in a lawsuit and won the right to carry guns off duty, they said in new court papers. The county didn’t fight this time, and agreed to cover the jailers’ $50,882 lawyer bill plus $3,434 in court costs. Modesto Bee article

Clovis detectives arrest 19-year-old suspected of stealing guns, armor from assistant sheriff — Clovis police detectives arrested a 19-year-old man suspected of stealing firearms and other equipment from a Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy on Dec. 15.  Fresno Bee article


Sacramento-area students learn civics through experience. Others could follow their lead – It’s one thing for students to learn about civics in a classroom, another to organize clothes drives, plant community gardens or register voters. California’s latest history and social studies guidelines were designed in part to encourage schools to give students real-world experience in civic engagement. Sacramento Bee article

Hindus push for schools statewide to observe Diwali — Almost every year for 19 years, Mamta Gupta, a teacher with the Manteca Unified School District, has taken a day off work to observe Diwali. But last school year, during MUSD contract negotiations, union employees were given a flex day to observe their respective holidays. Stockton Record article


Yosemite empties ahead of flooding; tourists forced to make other plans — 
Steady rain fell over Yosemite early Saturday afternoon, a hint of the deluge that is expected to dump more than a foot of rain on the Sierra and push the Merced River well over its banks this weekend. Fresno Bee article

First wave of massive storm hits, but worst ahead — The initial wave of a massive weekend storm soaked San Joaquin and Calaveras counties Saturday morning, but the National Weather Service said the area would not feel the full impact of the storm until today. Stockton Record article

Health/Human Services 

Bay Area cancer patient confronts and embraces his right to die — Piedmont resident Ray Perman always knew this is the way he wanted to go. He’s 64, a retired pilot, like his father, and an entrepreneur. He’s dying of cancer. I interviewed him about his decision. The following words, culled from that interview, are his. KQED report


FAX to offer more frequent buses on routes to, from Fresno State — Passengers on two of the busiest Fresno transit routes to and from Fresno State will start seeing more frequent weekday bus service starting Monday, just a week before the start of spring-semester classes at the university.  Fresno Bee article

Other areas

Can Bakersfield become ‘safer and softer’? — Even in the depths of their grief at the loss of their loved one to suicide, the family of Jai Bornstein pleaded with area residents to help create a “safer and softer” community for those who are most vulnerable. But have we? Can we? Will we? Bakersfield Californian article

Lois Henry: Dog rescue loses its patron saint, himself a rescued soul — The road to becoming the founder of one of the best dog rescue operations in Kern County was anything but smooth for Linda “Trixie” Hodges. In fact, it was downright harrowing at times. Through it all, though, she had the rock-solid love and unconditional support of her husband of 22 years, Andy Hodges. After his death from a shockingly fast-moving cancer on Christmas Day, Trixie is on her own, wondering what her future holds. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Jeff Jardine: Modesto’s 1928 firetruck rumbled back to life in 2014, but will restoration effort sputter? — Back in the spring of 2014, the motor of the city’s 1928 Seagrave ladder/tiller firetruck – Modesto No. 1 – rumbled to life for the first time in decades. Some veteran Modesto firefighters including Jim Gunn and Brian Whitcomb made it happen, getting an important chunk of Modesto history up and running again. Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Mike Klocke: On City Hall, column changes and jury duty – Random thoughts for a Sunday morning. Klocke column in Stockton Record

Donald W. Blount: Village shows we’re not alone in this — It probably was the look of panic on my face that alerted others to a problem as I raced out of the newsroom the Monday before Christmas. Panic would be putting it mildly. Blount in Stockton Record

Valley Editorial Roundup

Modesto Bee – Judge’s ire points to problems in how the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office is handling the Korey Kauffman slaying case against Frank Carson and others.