July 24, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Childhood-welfare agency worries proposed cigarette tax increase would reduce funding – Officials at a state childhood-welfare agency funded mostly through state cigarette taxes expressed concern Thursday that proposed legislation for a $2-a-pack tax increase could ultimately cause funding to drop. The agency, First 5 California, already is searching for new sources to replace a decline in tobacco tax revenue, the result of fewer Californians smoking and lower cigarette sales.  LA Times article 

High stakes of California’s lowest wages: California Politics Podcast — For the last few years, the statehouse has been the center of the debate over raising the minimum wage. But as this week’s events make clear, that’s changed. On this episode of our California Politics Podcast, we discuss efforts to raise the minimum wage in various parts of the Golden State and how they may change the debate still raging in Sacramento. California Politics Podcast in KQED


Gov. Brown

Ben Boychuk: Brown and pope are kindred spirits on climate change — Brown’s career provides a vivid example of why Catholicism and politics – especially the American variety – are no longer an easy fit. Boychuk column in Sacramento Bee


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures 

Voters: Many just can’t be bothered — We Californians justifiably become excited about our many remarkable achievements: we make terrific movies; Silicon Valley leads the planet in technological innovation; our traffic jams are world class. But when it comes to voting, we give a statewide shrug. Capitol Weekly article



Legislator vows to seek more healthcare coverage for immigrants – Healthcare advocates in California this year successfully pushed for medical coverage for kids who are in the country illegally. But they say they’re not satisfied. At a news conference Thursday, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) outlined his efforts to further expand coverage to Californians who entered the country illegally. LA Times article 

Sanctuary cities: How Kathryn Steinle’s death intensified the immigration debate – The death of Kathryn Steinle, who was fatally shot on July 1 while strolling on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, was a tragedy. And when the suspect was revealed to be a Mexican national with a criminal record who had been deported several times, it became a flash point in the long-divisive political debate about how to reform the nation’s immigration system. LA Times article

Some ‘sanctuary cities’ fear lawsuits – Since the fatal shooting of Kathryn Steinle on a San Francisco pier allegedly by an immigrant who was released from jail even though U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought to deport him for a sixth time, the debate over how to handle cities and counties that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities has reached a feverish pitch. AP article 

Immigrant advocates rally at Sheriff Mims’ office to protest ICE agents in Fresno County Jail — In an effort to end all collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE in Fresno County, immigrant-rights supporters have launched the “Immigration and Customs Enforcement Out of Fresno” campaign and held a rally Thursday morning outside of the Sheriff’s Office in downtown Fresno with hopes of speaking with Sheriff Margaret Mims. Fresno Bee article


Other areas 

Assemblymember Kristin Olsen: Improve voter participation by improving government – The Assembly Republican Leader from Modesto writes, “While bills to increase voter registration may be well intended to ensure that more citizens have the opportunity to vote, they ultimately fail to recognize the real reasons for low voter turnout.  Lawmakers would be wise to start addressing the root causes that lead to voter apathy and low participation in elections.” Olsen in Fox & Hounds 

California judge to rule on right-to-die lawsuit – A single mom given only months to live and other California right-to-die advocates are hoping a court will do what the Legislature did not: allow doctors to prescribe fatal medication for terminally ill people who want it. AP article

Bill protects new travel options for California state workers – California law would catch up with the “sharing economy” under terms of a bill that requires state government allow ride-sharing services and Airbnb-type rentals for state business. While nothing prohibits the state from reimbursing employees for those expenses, the advent of web-based alternatives to taxis, car rentals and hotel rooms is not specifically addressed anywhere in the law or labor contracts. Sacramento Bee article 

Sacramento Bee: A step to give pensions to ones left behind – Yet another of California’s pie-in-the-sky ideas came a step closer to reality earlier this month. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León came up with the notion of helping low-income workers provide for their retirement. Sacramento Bee editorial

Jim Araby: Bill protects low-wage grocery workers – The executive director of United Food and Commercial Workers, Western States Council writes, “Wall Street firms are chewing up grocery chains and spitting workers onto unemployment lines by the thousands. This bill (AB 359) is a common-sense policy that cushions the blow on local economies and gives grocery workers a reasonable time to transition. Araby op-ed in Sacramento Bee 

Joel Fox: Tom Steyer in some conversation – and some follow-up questions – Assembly member Jacqui Irwin had a sit down conversation with environmentalist and NextGen Climate president Tom Steyer in Ventura County Tuesday, probing his positions and asking questions based on criticism of his agenda. There needed to be follow-up questions to Steyer’s answers. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Democrats offer bill to guarantee LGBT civil rights – The Equality Act of 2015 would outlaw discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation not only in housing but in a number of areas. McClatchy Newspapers article
Victor Davis Hanson: The way of all appeasement — The now-concluded Iran nuclear negotiations predictably reflect ancient truths of appeasement. While members of the Obama administration are high-fiving each other over a deal with the Iranian theocracy, they should remember unchanging laws that will surely haunt the U.S. later on. Hanson column in Fresno Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories

Fresno Food Expo sets new record for buyers – The Fresno Food Expo, the largest regional food show in the nation, set a new record this year, attracting more than 900 buyers to the one-day showcase of the San Joaquin Valley’s food industry. Since the event began five years ago, the number of buyers has increased more than 400% as interest in what the Valley produces continues to grow. Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Report on oil permitting plan lists options for resolving conflicts with farmers — A central element in the ambitious proposal to streamline oil and gas permitting in Kern County is a carefully crafted compromise regarding “split estates,” where one party — typically a farmer — owns the surface property, while the underlying mineral rights are owned by someone else, usually an oil producer. But that compromise is not written in stone. Bakersfield Californian article


Jobs and the Economy 

Richard Chapman: An oil permitting structure for a healthy community and strong economy – The president/CEO of Kern Economic Development Corporation and a member of the Leadership Committee for Kern Citizens for Energy writes, “The oil and gas industry has been a powerful force in Kern County’s economy for more than 100 years. Today, the local industry has reached a watershed moment as it struggles to safely, effectively, and yes, profitably, continue its efforts in Kern County while meeting the stringent requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA.” Chapman op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Dan Walters: Workforce training a big jumble – Recent reports from the Legislature’s budget analyst, Mac Taylor, reveal that the state has at least 30 “workforce development” programs scattered among nine state agencies, spending an estimated $5.6 billion each year, $3.1 billion from the state general fund and another $2.5 billion from other sources, mostly special taxes and the federal government. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Warehouse Row project transforms old downtown Fresno buildings into new office space — Life has returned to a cluster of historic brick buildings that were once home to downtown Fresno’s earliest commercial businesses. The Wormser Warehouse, the Western Meat Co. packing plant and Fresno Consumers Ice Co. building in the 700 block of P Street, near the Amtrak station, have been transformed from vacant, crumbling remnants of Fresno’s boom era into new office and commercial space. Fresno Bee article

Hanford council agrees on Costco perks — Following an earlier disagreement, the Hanford City Council voted 5-0 this week to approve plans to pay for about $8.5 million of perks for the proposed Costco project on East Lacey Boulevard. Tuesday’s vote will allow the city to pay for items promised to the developer, 198/43 LLC, in an agreement approved last year. Those include about $2 million of reduced development impact fees and $6.48 million to relocate a portion of East Lacey Boulevard and build a roundabout where it meets Highway 43. Hanford Sentinel article

Michael Fitzgerald: Won’t you take me to … Funky Town? — I appreciate Visit Stockton’s desire to have a brand created professionally. I also appreciate that nobody listens to me when I say Stockton cannot change its image without first changing its substance. So, because I can’t beat ’em, I’m going to join ’em. Here’s my suggestion for Stockton’s new brand, one I am confident will draw tourists. “Stockton: Funky Delta Fun.” Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Downtown Sacrament parking rates likely to rise — Sacramento city officials are expected to ask for City Council approval in the coming weeks to raise downtown parking meter rates by 50 cents an hour, and to test a premium parking concept for people willing to pay a higher rate to add time beyond a meter’s normal limit. Sacramento Bee article

Anthem clinches deal to buy rival Cigna for $54 billion – Anthem Inc. has agreed to acquire rival Cigna Corp. for $54 billion, creating the health insurance industry’s biggest company by enrollment. The agreement announced Friday caps weeks of frenzied dealmaking in the healthcare sector. LA Times article; AP article

Asking price for area businesses up for 1st quarter, down from year-ago median — The median asking price of small- and medium-size businesses for sale in the Sacramento area during this year’s second quarter was $198,995, up sharply from $169,000 in the first quarter but down 8.3 percent from the year-ago median of $217,000, according to San Francisco-based BizBuySell.com. Sacramento Bee article



California withholds findings on oilfield contamination – California oil-and-gas regulators have refused for nearly a year to release findings of what they termed a “highest-priority” investigation of possible oilfield contamination into the water aquifers that serve millions of people in and around Los Angeles. AP article

Bakersfield releases list of top 100 water users – The city of Bakersfield on Thursday released a list of the top 100 water users last year in its water jurisdiction and is sending them letters encouraging them to conserve. The city itself tops the list, followed by Cal State Bakersfield, the Kern High School District, the Nestle ice cream plant on District Boulevard and Panama-Buena Vista Union School District. Bakersfield Californian article

California drought: Recent above-average rain no help – The U.S. Drought Monitor released July 23 reflects improvements in drought conditions for the Southwest U.S. But the recent above-average rain in California has “had little impact on the overall drought situation in the state.” Capital Public Radio report

Farmers could recharge aquifers during wet years – University of California researchers are looking at new drought approach: using fallowed farm acreage as recharge basins during winter months. According to a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources press release, some water districts are already doing just that. Hanford Sentinel article

Turlock, Ceres, south Modesto OK future water purchase – A vote Thursday secured the raw water supply for a treatment plant proposed for Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto. Their representatives voted 3-0 for the 50-year deal with the Turlock Irrigation District, which would provide some of its Tuolumne River water to the plant. Modesto Bee article

Drought: Stressed citrus trees and higher costs – Citrus growers in California’s Central Valley say fewer trees are producing fruit, so the price of citrus could increase at the grocery store. But, farmer’s costs have skyrocketed because of the drought. Capital Public Radio report

Fresno Bee: Greedy Jones Corner’s kindness dries up – When times are tough, Valley residents often go the extra mile to help their neighbors and those who are less fortunate. This tradition of pulling together, however, stands in stark contrast to the ugly actions of some residents in the Tulare County community of Jones Corner. Fresno Bee editorial 

California drought: Santa Clara County residents cut water use 35 percent in June, beating conservation goal — After a slow start this year, Santa Clara County residents are finally hitting water conservation targets as California’s drought drags on through its fourth year. San Jose Mercury News article

Fresno County cracking down on illegal fruit and veggie sales – We’ve all seen them, roadside vendors under umbrellas on country lanes selling strawberries, flowers and even mangoes. The problem is that many times these products are stolen, says Fred Rinder the Fresno County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner. KVPR report

Dorothy Johnson: A eulogy for a Delano farmworker – The administrative law judge for the State of California writes, “Esteban Nuño was a farmworker. He was born in Tepantla, Jalisco, 70 years ago, the youngest of nine siblings. He left Mexico for the United States in 1964, when he was 20, and found work in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley, picking grapes, oranges and grapefruit. For 50 years, his hands harvested food that fed the nation. It was hard work in which Esteban took great pride and at which he excelled.” Johnson op-ed in Fresno Bee 

1,500 California hens headed for chicken sanctuary — About 1,500 hens have been rescued from a California factory farm and are on their way to a sanctuary for farm animals. Gary Smith, a spokesman for the animal sanctuary said the chickens were taken Thursday morning from a farm in the Central Valley. The hens are between 1 and 2 years of age, and too old to be productive egg layers. AP article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Tens of thousands of rape kits go untested across USA – In the most detailed nationwide inventory of untested rape kits ever, USA TODAY and journalists from more than 75 Gannett newspapers and TEGNA TV stations have found at least 70,000 neglected kits in an open-records campaign covering 1,000-plus police agencies – and counting. Despite its scope, the agency-by-agency count covers a fraction of the nation’s 18,000 police departments, suggesting the number of untested rape kits reaches into the hundreds of thousands. USA Today article

Former hostage to sue Stockton Police Department, city – An attorney representing one of the women taken hostage during an armed bank robbery in north Stockton last year said Thursday he plans to file a lawsuit next week against the City of Stockton and the Stockton Police Department. Stockton Record article

Army vet who vandalized Fresno police memorial gets probation, community service — Brian David Sumner, the Army veteran convicted of using chalk to deface the Fresno Police Department’s memorial to fallen officers, was sentenced to one year of informal probation and 50 hours of community service on Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.  Fresno Bee article

California court: Juveniles can have crimes reclassified – Juvenile offenders, just like their adult counterparts, are entitled to have certain felonies reclassified as misdemeanors under a crime initiative approved by voters last year, a California appeals court ruled Thursday. AP article

Eric Young: Life sentence is no deterrent to prison lifers – The president of the American Federation of Government Employee Council of Prison Locals writes, “The death penalty is a deterrent for inmates to think twice if they harm our federal correctional workers. Correctional workers don’t carry guns, Tasers or clubs. Due to tight budgets, many don’t even have stab-resistant vests. Even though these officers are surrounded by some of the most violent prisoners in the world every day, they have little more than a set of keys and a radio to protect themselves.” Young op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Homeless woman’s case sharpens focus on justice system and mentally ill – The list of Trishawn Cardessa Carey’s prescriptions fills a page in her case file: clonazepam for seizures and panic, methocarbamol for muscle spasms and quetiapine for spells of psychosis. She suffers delusions, paranoia and “dramatic mood swings.” LA Times article

LAPD officer gets 36 months in jail for assault caught on video – A Los Angeles police officer was sentenced Thursday to 36 months in jail for assaulting a South L.A. woman in an incident that was caught on video by a police cruiser camera. LA Times article 

Tulare police add safety dispatcher position — Tulare police will add a new dispatcher to its communication center in hopes of reducing “burnout” among the employees and decrease instances of mandatory overtime work shifts. Visalia Times-Delta article



UC approves 3 percent raise for Katehi, other top administrators – A day after announcing plans to boost its minimum wage to $15 an hour, the University of California approved 3 percent raises for 15 top administrators. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

UC estimates budget for long-delayed payroll upgrade will more than double – The University of California now estimates that a long-delayed upgrade to its payroll and personnel system will ultimately cost more than twice as much as originally expected. At the UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday in San Francisco, university officials said the UCPath computer project is tentatively scheduled for completion by the end of 2017 at a cost of $375 million, three years behind schedule and more than double the $156 million originally budgeted. Sacramento Bee article

Four-story student housing complex facing university gets Turlock planners’ nod – A four-story student housing complex proposed for Monte Vista Avenue across from the university campus got planners’ approval and is expected to be considered by the Turlock City Council Sept. 8. Developers hope to open The Vista by August 2017. Modesto Bee article

Group works to develop Latino leaders in high school – Latinos make up the largest segment of California’s population. Yet they have one of the smallest voter representations. But, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, one organization is trying to change that equation. Capital Public Radio report

National career tech conference heads to Patterson to see model logistics program – A national conference on career courses tied to streamlining workflows, storing inventory and shlepping stuff came to Patterson this week. Organizers said they chose the site to showcase a model program being developed at Patterson High. Modesto Bee article 

Sacramento firm that helps secure financial aid for students to pay $5.2 million settlement – While denying wrongdoing, Sacramento-based Student Financial Aid Services Inc. will pay $5.2 million to settle federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau allegations of “illegal sales and billing practices,” the bureau announced Thursday. Sacramento Bee article

Fresno State boasts record 74 conference scholar-athletes – Fresno State announced a record 74 students have qualified for the Mountain West Scholar-Athlete honor earlier this week.  The 2014-15 academic year selections bring the total number of Fresno State MW student athletes to 195. Previously, the university had 50 scholar-athletes for 2013-14 and 71 in 2012-13. Fresno State joined the Mountain West conference in 2012. The Business Journal article 

Cal Poly Pomona reaches settlement with student over free speech rights – Cal Poly Pomona has agreed to strengthen campus free speech policies after reaching a settlement with a student who sued when he was restricted from handing out literature promoting a vegan diet. LA Times article

Teachers from Mexico join Merced summer school program, focus on culture — Migrant students who participated in the Central Valley Opportunity Center summer school program this year got a rare opportunity to work with teachers who hailed from the same place as their families. Merced Sun-Star article 

Our Lady of Miracles school in Gustine to close its doors — Our Lady of Miracles School in Gustine will not reopen for the upcoming school year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno confirmed Thursday. The diocese’s bishop, the Rev. Armando Ochoa, told school officials and the parish pastor the school will close on Aug. 1, according to a news release from the Office of Catholic Education in Fresno. Merced Sun-Star article

Destiny Wiley-Yancy: What my high school taught me about sex — The Hollywood High School Wellness Center is tucked away, far from the famous mural painted on our auditorium, which depicts alumni such as Dorothy Dandridge, Laurence Fishburne, and Cher. My high school’s free health clinic quietly operates behind a series of iron gates just beyond our football field, in a community room so nondescript that students are sometimes oblivious to its presence. But it is actually one of 14 such clinics located on Los Angeles Unified School District campuses, and it is a crucial resource for the many students in the district.  Wiley-Yancy in Zocalo Public Square



PG&E agrees to pay $5.5 million in 2012 demolition death — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has agreed to pay $5,569,313 in shareholder penalties to settle a state investigation into the 2012 death of a Los Angeles demolition worker at the company’s former Kern Power Plant along Coffee Road south of Rosedale Highway. Bakersfield Californian article 

California Coastal Commission to weigh in on fracking off Long Beach — The California Coastal Commission will insist that Long Beach officials and their corporate partners running the city’s oil islands obtain an additional permit before following through onproposals to “frack” 13 local oil wells. LA Daily News article 

High-tech sniffer scopes out gas leaks — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. recently brought its high-tech natural gas detection system to Stockton, looking for leaks in lines serving area homes and businesses. Stockton Record article


Health/Human Services

PriceCheck: How much does it cost to have a baby in Northern California? – The price of delivery varies dramatically, both nationwide and across California. A study last year of more than 109,000 births at 198 hospitals statewide found a stunning 11-fold variation in prices charged for vaginal delivery — from $3,296 to $37,227 — and more than 8-fold for cesarean section — from $8,312 to $70,908. KQED report

Planned Parenthood creates app for at-home STD testing — A new app is making it easier for people in California to receive STD testing within the comfort of their own home. FM89’s Diana Aguilera explains how it works. KVPR report



Agency offers $100,000 for train station study – At this week’s Hanford City Council meeting representatives from Visalia and the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) added their support to help design a new high speed rail station to serve the greater Kings /Tulare County region. Visalia Times-Delta article

Engineer: Local bridges ‘in good very shape’ — In the wake of Sunday’s flash-flood collapse of an Interstate 10 bridge in Southern California, the question has been raised: How are Kings County’s bridges doing? There are about 110 of them, according to Chief Engineer Dominic Tyburski. Most go over irrigation canals. Some span usually dry river channels, such as the Excelsior Avenue bridge over the Kings River. Hanford Sentinel article


Other areas 

A look at Livingston city manager’s recruitment – A background check on the new Livingston city manager did not report a criminal charge or bankruptcy filing from a decade ago, city officials said Thursday, opening up questions about the vetting process for a highly paid public employee. Merced Sun-Star article 

Tulare County supervisors mull sweeping animal control changes – Tulare County supervisors on Tuesday will decide whether to adopt new rules designed to bring the ordinance in line with the mission of animal control operations. Visalia Times-Delta article 

Stockton homeless warned to vacate – A homeless camp at East Hazelton Avenue and South Aurora Street will be cleared out Saturday after authorities said they’ve received constant complaints and are worried about health concerns. Stockton Record article 

No resolution in dispute over Sacramento city email deletion – Both sides fighting over whether to preserve millions of Sacramento city emails set to be deleted from the city server questioned each other’s motives ahead of a Friday court date. Sacramento Bee article

Pee on these San Francisco walls? Be prepared for them to pee back — Beware, public urinators, some of San Francisco’s walls now pee back. Public Works crews have finished painting nine city walls with pee-repellant paint and more are in the works. The painted surfaces make urine spray right back onto the shoes and pants of unsuspecting reflief-seekers. It’s the city’s latest attempt to clean up urine-soaked alleyways and walls. San Francisco Chronicle article

Theo Douglas: City Beat: About those historic postcards, folks— David Lyman, manager of the Bakersfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, and The Californian’s Christopher McCullah both correctly challenged the location of a 1950s postcard I wrote about last Sunday. Douglas in Bakersfield Californian

Renowned Fresno attorney Willie Smith dies — William J. “Willie” Smith, a Fresno attorney known for advocating for minorities, has died. Mr. Smith, 69, started his own firm, Smith Johnson Inc., in Fresno in 1978 and was a pioneer in sexual harassment and discrimination litigation. Fresno Bee article

Hesperia City Council delays vote on single-serve alcoholic beverage ban — The Hesperia City Council has delayed voting on a proposed ban of the sale of single-serve alcoholic beverages after complaints from store owners. LA Times article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – When times are tough, Valley residents often go the extra mile to help their neighbors and those who are less fortunate. This tradition of pulling together, however, stands in stark contrast to the ugly actions of some residents in the Tulare County community of Jones Corner.

Merced Sun-Star – A wildfire is no place for a drone.

Modesto Bee – A wildfire is no place for a drone.

Sacramento Bee – Yet another of California’s pie-in-the-sky ideas came a step closer to reality earlier this month. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León came up with the notion of helping low-income workers provide for their retirement; A wildfire is no place for a drone.
Stockton RecordCommunity tragedy: Our thoughts go out to Modestans after multiple slayings.