July 21, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters: Union bills proliferate in Capitol – Unions are the largest single source of legislative campaign funds, a recent Sacramento Bee compilation revealed, and among Democrats, their hegemony is even more pronounced. Not surprisingly, therefore, a Legislature dominated by labor-backed Democrats sees a large number of union-sponsored bills. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

John Myers: Firefighters could destroy nearby drones under proposed state law — It’s a simple message from two state legislators to anyone who decides to fly a drone aircraft above a fire or other major emergency scene in California: Rescue crews should be able to destroy your remote controlled device. Myers in KQED

Gov. Brown 

 Jerry Brown appeals to ‘moral dimension’ on climate change — Gov. Jerry Brown, in Rome for climate talks this week, said Monday that the world must turn to the “moral dimension” to counteract a “virulent strain of climate change denial” from Republicans and business interests. Capitol AlertSacramento Bee editorial

 Jerry Brown hops private plane to Rome — Gov. Jerry Brown arrived in Rome for climate talks this week with the smallest of entourages – three – and the most comfortable of accommodations. Brown, who typically flies Southwest Airlines in California, flew to Italy with real estate developer George Marcus and his wife, Judy, in their private plane. Brown is combining his trip to a conference here with a vacation with those friends. Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown says Junipero Serra statue will stay — Gov. Jerry Brown appears intent on keeping a statue of Father Junípero Serra at the United States Capitol, suggesting this week that he will oppose an effort in the California Legislature to replace the statue with one of astronaut Sally Ride. Capitol Alert


House to take up bill blocking money for ‘sanctuary cities’ — The House will take up a bill this week blocking funding for so-called “sanctuary cities” that resist turning over immigrants to federal authorities. AP article

 Sex offender accused of assaulting teen was in U.S. illegally, officials say – A convicted sex offender charged last week with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Santa Clarita is in the country illegally and had recently been released on bail from immigration custody, according to federal authorities. LA Times article

Other areas

Joel Fox: Legal age issues: For voting-going down? For smoking-going up? — In San Francisco there was a move to lower the voting age to 16; in the California legislature there is a bill to raise the legal age for smoking from 18 to 21. When can teens and young adults reach the maturity to make important decisions for themselves? Fox in Fox & Hounds

Brian Kelly: California can’t wait any longer to fix roads, bridges – The secretary of the California State Transportation Agency writes, “Now that Gov. Jerry Brown has called a special session of the Legislature, Democrats and Republicans have an opportunity to join together and invest in California’s transportation infrastructure – something all sides agree is necessary. This won’t be easy, but it is well worth doing.” Kelly op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Ronald Fong and Rex Hime: Grocery labor bill is bad for business – Fong, president and CEO of the California Grocers Association, and Hime, president and CEO of the California Business Properties Association, write, “What once was old is new again. This adage rings true on California public policy. Assembly Bill 359, which is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, is merely a retread of failed attempts to empower unions and force new burdensome regulations on California businesses.” Fong/Hime op-ed in Sacramento Bee

House ethic panel confirms inquiry of California Rep. Honda — The House Ethics Committee says it is investigating Democratic Rep. Mike Honda of California for a possible ethics violation. The ethics panel declined to reveal details Monday, but the online publication San Jose Inside has reported that Honda may have violated House rules against coordination between campaign and official staffs. AP articleSan Francisco Chronicle article

At Fresno meeting, Israeli consulate general addresses Iran, nuclear deal — Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Israel’s consul general to the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Andy David, made a joint appearance Monday at Beth Jacob Congregation in central Fresno to address Iran and the nuclear deal. Fresno Bee article

Joe Altschule: Obama’s Iran deal historic and essential — This past week President Obama concluded a truly historic agreement with Iran that was years in the making. The deal is the result of incredibly hard work and unprecedented and detailed negotiations with the Iranians, and it’s not just a unilateral agreement between Iran and the US. Altschule column in Visalia Times-Delta

 Tom Fife: Iran deal ‘a stunning historic mistake’ — In his own words Prime Minister Netanyahu says, “The deal will reward Iran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide.” And, “Amazingly, this bad deal does not require Iran to cease its aggressive behaviour in any way.” In closing Netanyahu calls the deal, “a stunning historic mistake!” Fife column in Visalia Times-Delta

News Briefs

Top Stories

California proposes historic $1.5 million fine for taking water — California regulators on Monday proposed a first-of-its-kind, $1.5 million fine for a group of Central Valley farmers accused of illegally taking water during the drought. It would be the first such fine against an individual or district with claims to water that are more than a century-old, known as senior water rights holders. The State Water Resources Control Board said the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District in Tracy illegally took water from a pumping plant even after it was warned in June that there wasn’t enough water legally available. AP articleStockton Record articleLA Times articleSacramento Bee articleSan Francisco Chronicle articleNew York Times article

Oil industry contractions behind drop in Bakersfield’s first-quarter sales tax – As expected, contractions in the oil and gas industry are directly responsible for part of the more than $2.6 million drop in Bakersfield’s first quarter sales tax revenue, in a year-to-year comparison with the same period in 2014. Bakersfield Californian article

California children’s health care improves, but their economic well-being lags — Thanks largely to its vigorous implementation of Obamacare, California has jumped from 26th to 14th in state-by-state rankings of children’s health wellbeing compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. However, the state still ranks 49th out of 50 states in children’s economic well-being, the foundation says in its annual report, and 38th in overall well-being. Sacramento Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Drought will have little impact on California’s economy, Moody’s says — The credit rating agency Moody’s said last week that California’s drought would have little economic impact on the state in the short term. KPCC report

Chukchansi casino could reopen by year’s end — A $35 million deal with creditors is close to being reached to reopen the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino by the end of the year, but the tribe is still awaiting state and federal approval. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article

 Merced County’s jobless rate dips slightly – Merced County’s unemployment rate dipped in June to 10.5 percent, a drop of four-tenths of a percentage point since May, according to the latest numbers from the Employment Development Department. Merced Sun-Star article

 Visalia seeking downtown hotel proposals – Are Visalia officials ready to sell their “City Hall East” in order to make room for a new downtown hotel? Not at the moment, but Monday afternoon the Visalia City Council voted to find out who’s interested in building a hotel there or possibly at other nearby parcels of land around the Visalia Convention Center that the city owns. Visalia Times-Delta article

First FAA-approved drone delivery takes medicine to rural Virginia – Days after the first Federal Aviation Administration-approved drone delivery successfully dropped off medicine at a Virginia health fair, researchers behind the mission are already looking ahead to future uses of this technology — in humanitarian crises. LA Times article

Sacramento Kings say arena project exceeds hiring, contracting goals – The Sacramento Kings said Monday they’ve exceeded local hiring and contracting goals for building their new arena. In a quarterly report, the Kings and an arena advisory council said 78 percent of the construction contracts, totaling $280 million, were awarded to local companies. Some 21 percent, or $76 million worth, went to local small businesses. Sacramento Bee article 

Spears scraps retirement plan, signs new contract with Sanger — Sanger’s new Interim City Manager Dayle Keller announced today that Dan Spears, the city’s longtime economic and redevelopment manager, has “reevaluated his planned mid-August retirement” and will now be staying on with the City indefinitely. The Business Journal articleFresno Bee article

Immigrants help lead a new Silicon Valley labor movement – Jesus Solorio’s stubbornness serves him well. Instead of winding up a victim of the surging income inequality in Silicon Valley, he has become a tireless labor activist, refusing to let go of the American Dream. KQED report

Report: Silicon Valley’s housing affordability crisis worsens – Less than 25 percent of workers and just 40 percent of households in metro San Jose are able to rent or buy average-priced housing, according to a new report from the Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project. San Jose Mercury News article

Port truck drivers plan sixth strike against company – Drivers at a trucking company serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports plan to walk away from their jobs Tuesday in an ongoing struggle to be deemed employees, a union representative said. LA Times article 

Coalition explores how to train workers for 21st century jobs – Bay Area Video Coalition trains about 6,000 San Franciscans a year in programming, multimedia and film, as well as providing career counseling. But it wants to make sure it’s effectively helping job hunters and providing training tailored to what employers need. San Francisco Chronicle article

Oakland restaurant owners don’t win break on compost fees — There is no relief in sight for Oakland restaurateurs whose compost bills suddenly ballooned by hundreds of dollars a month after the city’s new contract with its garbage collector, Waste Management, took effect July 1. San Francisco Chronicle article 

SpaceX founder Elon Musk blames rocket failure on shoddy part – SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Monday that investigators believed that the company’s rocket disintegrated last month after a steel strut purchased from a subcontractor snapped. LA Times articleAP article

Ceres Library begins a new chapter — Six weeks after the 5,000-square-foot branch of the Stanislaus County Library reopened – having closed in mid-March for a renovation – signs point to success. Use of the library is up and response from patrons has been “overwhelmingly positive,” said librarian Bryan Sontag. Modesto Bee article

Erika D. Smith: Chief probation officer tries to help the homeless — I was excited to hear about a pilot program from Seale’s forward-thinking Probation Department. Not only is it designed to reduce the number of homeless people milling about downtown, but it’s designed to help people get back on their feet. Smith column in Sacramento Bee

Sandy Banks: A dose of reality on homelessness — The vibe in mid-Market is changing as new faces, squeezed out of other neighborhoods, crowd familiar spots. The men congregating on the sidewalk now seem louder, rougher, more belligerent and less respectful of rules. Banks column in LA Times


 Unusually strong July rains offer a preview of robust El Niño – A washed-out bridge on Interstate 10 that cut off a vital shipping route with Arizona, mudslides in Moreno Valley and snarled Southern California freeway traffic from heavy weekend rain is only a preview of problems that could come with a strong El Niño this winter, forecasters say. LA Times article

El Niño likely coming, but will it make a difference – So which El Niño will show up? Will it be the El Niño of 1982-83 that doubled rainfall in Northern California? Or the El Niño in 1976-77 that corresponded with one of the worst droughts in recent memory? Will we see another strong El Niño like the one that hit in 1997-98, dropping about 32 inches of rain on Sacramento? Or will it be the strong El Niño of 1987-88, which brought just 15 inches of rain. Sacramento Bee article

 Drought-stricken California farmers look to tap urban wastewater – Many California farmers are in a tight spot this summer, because their normal water supplies have dried up with the state’s extreme drought. In the state’s Central Valley, that’s driving some farmers to get creative: They’re looking at buying water from cities – not freshwater, but water that’s already gone down the drain. KQED report

 Joe Mathews: Are we golden or Brown? — We live in a California dominated by one party. We live in a California where there is no real significant divide on big issues. And we live in a California with a weak political and media culture. So the big battle right now may be about words. And colors. Are you going gold? Or brown? The subject is lawns, and landscaping. Water and drought are the context. And the stakes are high, given that this is the Golden State and we are ruled by a Governor Brown. Mathews in Fox & Hounds

 Hughson’s residential water rates will rise 50 percent by 2019 – City residents will pay much more for water to comply with a state order to lower arsenic levels in the water supply. The City Council cleared a Proposition 218 process last week and approved increases that will raise the average monthly residential bill from $46.77 to $69.58 over five years. Modesto Bee article

 Roseville use of reclaimed water helps city meet 40-percent conservation mark – Almost every day, a City of Roseville  truck with an 850-gallon tank waters several dozen trees in the city’s parks. Steve Rhoden pulls up along a row of trees at Mulhaney Park, takes a hose attached to the tank, connects the hose to a stake and drives the stake into the ground. Capital Public Radio report 

VIDEO: UFW leader Dolores Huerta and anti-UFW farmworker at odds — Grainy footage shot during a party last month appears to show United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta blocking another invited guest – and political opponent – from access to Gov. Jerry Brown. Sacramento Bee article

Survival of Chatsworth Reservoir’s ‘ecology pond’ is debated — With the Chatsworth Reservoir on life support from the drought, a vigorous debate is underway over whether the so-called ecology pond at Los Angeles’ only nature preserve should be allowed to survive. LA Times article

Foster Farms protest set Wednesday in Fresno — Members of Mercy For Animals, an organization seeking to prevent cruelty to farm animals, will on Wednesday protest alleged mistreatment of chickens by Foster Farms. Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno police auditor: Leadership candidates should show their finances — More sunlight on personal finances and more on-the-job training for future leaders top the police auditor’s recommendations for Fresno’s embattled Police Department. Rick Rasmussen in his second-quarter report alternates between praise for the department’s dramatic reduction in officer-involved shootings and detailed ideas for ensuring that only the best cops rise to positions of command authority. Fresno Bee article

Suspect in Modesto homicides faces charges in October death of 2-year-old boy – Police say the man suspected in the weekend deaths of his girlfriend, their infant daughter and three other family members in a Village I home is facing a murder charge in the October death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old boy. Modesto Bee articleLA Times article

Jeff Jardine: Nice, quiet neighborhoods not exempt from domestic violence tragedies — It’s the kind of thing that never happens in your nice, quiet neighborhood – until it happens. Or so said some residents of Modesto’s Nob Hill Court, where two women and three children were found murdered in a home on Sunday. Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Plan for new San Francisco jail facing resistance — San Francisco may be flush with money, but a long-discussed proposal to build a new jail to replace a seismically unsafe one could encounter problems at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. San Francisco Chronicle article


Cal State trustees set to discuss budget, executive pay hikes – California State University trustees are expected to discuss spending priorities for the additional $216.6 million in funding approved in the 2015-16 state budget and will vote on a proposed pay hike for university executives during a meeting Tuesday in Long Beach. LA Times article

Clovis Community gains full college status – Full community college status was given Monday to Clovis Community College. The California Community Colleges’ Board of Governors voted unanimously Monday to recognize the Clovis school with the designation. Fresno Bee article

UC Merced adds new engineering dean – UC Merced named a new dean of the school of engineering who will take over Sept. 1, the university announced Monday. Mark Matsumoto is associate dean for research and graduate education at Bourns College of Engineering at UC Riverside, where he also serves as a professor in the department of chemical and environmental engineering. Merced Sun-Star article

Flat funding threatens push for quality after-school programs – Even as California is promoting higher quality standards for its after-school programs, state leaders have rejected a proposal to provide cost-of-living increases for the programs – despite a rising minimum wage, higher employee health care costs and newly mandated sick leave for staff that are putting the squeeze on providers. EdSource article

Wasuma Elementary home to first dome-style school building in California — The New Orleans Saints play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the St. Louis Rams play in the Edward Jones Dome, and the Wasuma Elementary Wildcats will soon play ball under a dome, too. Wasuma Elementary, located in Ahwahnee, plans to open a gymnasium for students this fall that developers say is the first dome-shaped public school building in California. Fresno Bee article 

Prosecutors decline to charge fraternity president in CSUN hazing death — The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has declined to file charges against the president of a now-defunct fraternity in the death of a Cal State Northridge student who died during an alleged hazing incident last year. LA Times article


Climate change: California’s in front and not looking back — On a recent Saturday in Stockton, Mary Serrano got behind the wheel of a bright-red, all-electric Chevy Spark. “I feel like I’m going to outer space,” says a giddy Serrano, followed by a short fit of laughter. It was her first time test-driving a zero-emissions vehicle, an opportunity presented to her at a Tune In & Tune Up event at the county fairgrounds. At the day-long events organized by the non-profit Valley CAN, hundreds of drivers of high-polluting cars can get vouchers for smog repair. Capital Public Radio report

Another month, another heat record broken – by far – Earth dialed the heat up in June, smashing warm temperature records for both the month and the first half of the year. AP article 

Kern’s next top oil regulator may be a political appointee – The job of Kern County’s top oil regulator may soon become a politically appointed position subject to hiring and firing by California’s governor. Switching the job’s classification from a civil service position to a political appointment would allow the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to offer a higher salary to its next District 4 deputy. It might also provide some political cover for a job that in recent years has become increasingly sensitive, as well as something of a revolving door. Bakersfield Californian article 

In California, concerns about drones taking flight — Under most circumstances, eight minutes is not a long span of time. But for firefighters, those lost minutes can be devastating as they try to contain a wildfire. A clear and secured sky is crucial for aerial fire response, so a mission compromised by a stray drone can cost thousands of dollars in wasted funds, lost acreage, and a significant delay in fire containment, said Cal Fire officials. Capitol Weekly article

Emergencies, road closures continue after weekend storms — The walloping Kern County took from Tropical Storm Delores over the weekend continued to cause problems Monday, including mudslides, swift-water rescues and washed-out roads. Bakersfield Californian article

Health/Human Services  

California officials report year’s first death from West Nile virus — California health officials on Monday confirmed the state’s first death this year from West Nile virus. The death of a senior citizen in Nevada County comes in a year with an unusually high number of cases of West Nile among mosquitoes and birds, officials said. Infected mosquitoes transmit the virus to humans and animals, mostly birds. LA Times articleAP article 

More West Nile-carrying mosquitoes found in Merced following Nevada County death — Merced County’s Abatement District said more mosquito pools in the area have tested positive for West Nile virus. The news comes on the heels of this year’s first confirmed death linked to West Nile in California. Merced Sun-Star article

With millions more expected to develop Alzheimer’s, more research funding demanded — Over the next 35 years, about 28 million baby boomers will likely develop Alzheimer’s disease, and the annual bill for their care will balloon from $11.9 billion in 2020 to more than $328 billion in 2040, says an analysis released Monday. LA Times article

Families face tough decisions as cost of elder care soars — For the two-thirds of Americans over 65 who are expected to need some long-term care, the costs are increasingly beyond reach. The cost of staying in a nursing home has climbed at twice the rate of overall inflation over the last five years, according to the insurer Genworth Financial. One year in a private room now runs a median $91,000 a year, while one year of visits from home-health aides runs $45,760. AP article

Land Use/Housing 


Will Hanford rail station be built? Rail Authority says ‘yes’ – The Hanford City Council will meet today with state high speed rail staff to hear about the proposed Kings/Tulare high speed rail station just east of Hanford. At issue is whether city should accept a $600,000 grant to carry out out a planning study for the proposed station and area around it requiring the locals to come up with a $200,000 match in the bargain. Visalia Times-Delta article

RTD receives grant for new bus routes — Although regional transit District has eliminated some if its routes this summer, the agency will be adding two corridors to one of its busiest systems. On June 30, the RTD received a $6.8 million grant from the California State Transportation Agency to fund two Bus Rapid transit routes along the Martin Luther King Jr. and Crosstown Miner corridors. Stockton Record article

Other areas

Justice Department signs ADA agreement with Merced County – Access for the disabled will improve in Merced County under an agreement signed with the U.S. Justice Department on Monday. Along with Champaign County in Illinois and Yakima County in Washington, Merced County signed the agreement after being scrutinized under the Justice Department’s Project Civic Access. The initiative ensures that cities, towns and counties comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. McClatchy Newspapers article

State Supreme Court defines legal separation in divorce cases – Married couples going through a divorce are not considered legally separated until one moves out of the house, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday, rejecting arguments that other factors should play a role in dividing property and income in divorce proceedings. San Francisco Chronicle article

Hearing set for Tulare County judge – An Oct. 7 hearing date has been set for the California Commission on Judicial Performance to hear arguments on whether a Tulare CountySuperior Court Judge committed judicial impropriety. Visalia Times-Delta article

Former Milpitas head named interim Stockton fire chief – Bill Weisgerber, who has a 40-year career in firefighting, will serve as Stockton’s interim fire chief while a nationwide search seeks a replacement for Chief Jeff Piechura, who announced his departure in April. Stockton Record article

Irvine will display U.S. motto at City Hall — Following the lead of several cities in Orange County and hundreds around the country, Irvine will display the national motto “In God We Trust” in a yet-to-be-determined area of City Hall. LA Times article

Group buys land under Mt. Soledad cross, possibly ending two-decade court fight — The land beneath the cross on Mt. Soledad in San Diego has been purchased by a private, nonprofit group for $1.4 million, a key step toward possibly ending a two-decade legal controversy over having a cross on public property. LA Times article

Rev. Bud Searcy: My confession of sins against gays – The Fresno resident writes, “While there are conservative evangelical Christians and organizations doing amazing things that are transforming lives and communities, the way they view and treat gays and lesbians is a whole different story. I’m ashamed to say that I am a part of a larger church that has been, on the most part, judgmental, self-righteous and condescending when it comes to gays and lesbians.” Searcy op-ed in Fresno Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Donald Trump is a national embarrassment.

Sacramento Bee – We’ll survive Trump. But how long must we test the tensile strength of our system just to indulge an infomercial for a narcissist billionaire?; As if to underscore the urgency of the situation, the heavens have unleashed hell on California just in time for Gov. Jerry Brown’s speech at the Vatican on climate change.

Stockton Record – Cheers and jeers on saluting patriotism and condemning hate, consolidation talk and other issues.

Upcoming Events

  • The Better Blackstone Association will hold a street festival, “Come Imagine the Possibilities for Blackstone …,” on Friday, Aug. 7, at the Susan B. Anthony school parking lot in Fresno from 5-8 p.m. More information: Call (559) 485-1416or email info@betterblackstone.com.
  • West Hills Community College District will hold an event, “Shifting Ground — Adapting the San Joaquin Valley Economy to a Changing Climate,” on Oct. 8 at Harris Ranch in Coalinga. Senior leaders from business, agriculture, government agencies and nonprofits will gather to launch immediate actions and provide near-term guidance to create next generation jobs in a region battered by drought and struggling with multiple challenges. Visit www.essentialelementsseries.comfor details of this no-fee policy series.


Next 10: UPDATED California budget challenge – For the first time in a decade, California’s budget is largely in balance.  However, the state has outstanding debts of $28 million, not counting long-term pension and retiree health care costs.  Budget choices affect us all.  Take the Challenge and decide how much should be spent on programs and where the money should come from.  Next 10 California Budget Challenge

Next 10: Federal budget challenge — The Federal Budget Challenge is based on The Concord Coalition’s Principles and Priorities budget exercise, which has been used in numerous town hall meetings across the country by members of Congress from both parties, as well as in hundreds of high school and college classrooms.  Next 10 Federal Budget challenge at www.federalbudgetchallenge.org.

Next 10: California Water Challenge – As our state faces some of the most severe drought conditions in its history, Next 10 wants to issue a new challenge to Californians: can you create a plan to make sure there’s enough water for everyone?  Next 10 California Water Challenge

LEGISLATORS’ VOTING RECORDS: How often has a California legislator broken party ranks, abstained or switched sides? The Sacramento Bee has a database of the voting records of every member of the state Senate and Assembly. Enter a lawmaker’s last and first names to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. Check it out at this link.  http://www.sacbee.com/votingrecord/

 Maddy Institute Updates List of San Joaquin Valley Elected Officials – The Maddy Institute has updated its list of San Joaquin Valley elected officials.  The list is available here.

 Maddy Institute on Facebook and Twitter – To learn about Maddy Institute activities (e.g. The Maddy Report tv show, The Maddy Associates’ Luncheons, the Maddy Legislative Intern Program), become a fan of the Maddy Institute on Facebook or log on to http://twitter.com/MaddyInstitute. And if you have a Facebook or Twitter account, please add us and follow us!

The Kenneth L. Maddy Institute at California State University, Fresno was established to honor the legacy of one of California’s most principled and effective legislative leaders of the last half of the 20th Century by engaging, preparing and inspiring a new generation of governmental leaders for the 21st Century. Its mission is to inspire citizen participation, elevate government performance, provide non-partisan analysis and assist in providing solutions for public policy issues important to the region, state and nation.

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