July 27, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories 

Dan Walters: Anti-carbon crusade clouded with uncertainties – It’s a reminder that Brown and others are prodding the state into a somewhat mysterious realm, with policies whose impact on 39 million Californians is uncertain, while leaving nitty-gritty details to an unelected agency, and hoping to influence hundreds of other governments to follow suit. They see a moral imperative to set an example, but could it be merely hubris and symbolism taken to an nth – and very costly – degree? Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Judge says immigrant families should be released from detention: What happens now? – A federal judge has ruled that hundreds of immigrant women and children held in U.S. detention facilities should be released because their detention violates conditions of a 1997 court settlement that put restrictions on how migrant children are held. LA Times article

Valley politics 

Merced groups push for participation in council district effort — Joyce Dale, a longtime Merced resident, was among a group of seven canvassing door to door in south Merced early Saturday. Her goal was to inform her neighbors that they, too, have voices that need to be heard at City Council meetings. Their civic participation, she said, is key in ensuring the south side of town is better represented. Merced Sun-Star article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

 Dave Low: Latest measure from pension attackers threatens middle class – The chairman of Californians for Retirement Security writes, “Under the Orwellian moniker of the “Voter Empowerment Act,” former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio and their anti-pension cohorts are proposing nothing short of gutting the public employee pension system – one of the last bastions of middle-class economic security.” Low op-ed in Sacramento Bee


John Diaz: Attacks on ‘sanctuary cities’ are misdirected – There’s always a danger when politicians start bellowing “something must be done!” that they will overreach for a solution that creates more problems than it solves. Such was the case in Washington last week. Diaz column in San Francisco Chronicle

Repeat border crossers spin through system — The cycle of catch-process-release, sometimes but not always with criminal charges filed, has become the latest flash point in the immigration debate since the killing of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco on July 1.  San Diego Union-Tribune article

 Mexico is cracking down on U.S. boaters who venture into its waters — Without a fence to mark the international boundary, crossing by boat from San Diego into Mexico might seem deceptively easy. But San Diego sport fishermen and others drawn to the waters off Baja California should take heed: Mexico’s federal government has been stepping up inspections, checking for passports, tourist permits, fishing permits and other documents. LA Times article

Other areas

 Highway funds in jeopardy as House and Senate differ on way forward – A congressional standoff over how to renew an expiring highway-funding bill pushed the Senate into a rare and heated Sunday session, but the legislative path forward remains unclear, leaving federal transportation projects hanging in the balance. LA Times article

GOP: It’s no longer playing catch-up to Clinton on tech outreach — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has been to San Francisco half a dozen times, mostly for private fundraisers. But GOP candidate Jeb Bush easily upstaged her this month with a single campaign visit that skillfully combined an Uber ride and a visit to a South of Market tech firm. San Francisco Chronicle article

Ruben Macareno: The rally around the flag – The chairman of the Tulare County Democratic Party writes, “When I attended grade school in Farmersville, I quickly learned the importance of a flag. Reciting, ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which is stands … ‘ is how my day started in school. As a school boy and today as an adult and a person involved in the political arena, I don’t take those words lightly nor the representation a flag bears.” Macareno op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

News Briefs

Top Stories

Worse than ’97-8?!: El Niño growing into a monster — If this El Niño continues to grow, it could surpass the modern record-setting 1997-98 El Niño event, which inundated the Bay Area and the rest of California for months, causing flooding, mudslides and subsidences, and heavy snowfalls in the Sierra. The latest data from the National Weather Service’s North American Multi-Model Ensemble indicates a greater-than 95 percent chance of a strong El Niño and a greater-than 60 percent chance of the strongest El Niño on record. San Francisco Chronicle article

Raising floor for minimum wage pushes economy into the unknown – The fight for a $15 minimum wage has gained momentum in New York, California and other places around the country in recent months. But as a national strategy to raise incomes at the bottom of the pay scale, it faces major obstacles, both political and economic.New York Times article

Jobs and the Economy 

San Bernardino struggles to contract fire services — Bankrupt San Bernardino’s plan to cut costs by contracting for firefighter and other services has been aided by legislation and a court ruling. But a shortage of firefighters is causing a rough transition. Calpensions article

Minimum wage waiver for organized workers a point of debate among unions — One of the most divisive issues that Los Angeles City Council members expect to confront when they return this week from a summer recess will be a proposal by labor leaders to exempt unionized workers from the city’s new minimum wage. LA Times article

The state of California is hiring, and it may want people like you — Every day, California government officials are looking for people to fill thousands of full-time vacancies. Their recruiting is heating up. Forty percent of state employees are eligible to retire, and only about 10 percent of the workforce is under age 30, compared to about 25 percent of the overall workforce in California in that age group. Sacramento Bee article

Warriors’ proposed arena could clog downtown San Francisco — Most of the debate over the Warriors’ proposed arena has centered around car congestion in Mission Bay, but the city’s environmental impact report also raises the specter of “significant and unavoidable” traffic impacts all the way to the Bay Bridge. San Francisco Chronicle article

Daniel Borenstein: On pensions, labor is driven by political considerations rather than actuarial calculations — Although public employee pension plans across California are badly underfunded, union leaders have expressed little concern about the security of workers’ retirement pay. If anything, many dismiss worries about pension fund shortfalls and advocate accounting practices that could make the problems worse. In other words, they seemingly act contrary to the long-term interests of their members. Borenstein in Contra Costa Times

 Port of Stockton: Working on the railroad plant – Tucked away on the west end of Rough and Ready Island, behind the row of Port of Stockton warehouses facing Humphreys Road, a one-of-a-kind plant is turning out quarter-mile lengths of steel rail. Stockton Record article

 Sacramento Bee: Cost of parking about to rise, aiding arena – For Sacramento residents and visitors, the other shoe is about to drop on the downtown arena deal. The City Council will soon be asked to approve increases in how much it costs to park on downtown streets. Sacramento Bee editorial

 Lodi catches Food Truck Mania — Live entertainment and a variety of food has taken over the western lawn at Lodi’s Hutchins Street Square every fourth Sunday of the month. Stockton Record article


 Water, and hope, run dry for East Porterville woman caught in drought — The numbers alone are exhausting. Juana Garcia has five children, two chronic diseases, one waterless home and zero income. She is 49 and living in East Porterville, where she hides indoors from the summer heat by day and lies awake next to her youngest children by night. Garcia’s stress is like a ticking time bomb, caught in the same drought crisis that threatens the health of thousands in her town. Fresno Bee article

Dairies say state pricing changes not enough – After years of protesting what they consider unfairly low prices they receive for nearly half the milk they produce, California dairy operators finally had a victory earlier this month. Visalia Times-Delta article

Trees shouldn’t suffer just because lawns do – Watering cutbacks forced by drought conditions have a lot of people looking downward, focused on yellowing lawns. It’s much more important to look upward, examining trees to see if they’re suffering from the lack of water. Modesto Bee article

On four continents, historic droughts wreak havoc — California’s historic drought appears to be matched by severe dry spells on three other continents. Brazil, North Korea and South Africa are bearing the brunt of much lower-than-average precipitation, wreaking havoc on millions of peoples’ lives and livelihoods. USA TODAY article

Tiny pest prompts big concerns — It’s a barely visible, tiny insect but it could be a huge headache for California’s $2 billion citrus industry. The Asian citrus psyllid, only few millimeters long, has turned up in the San Gabriel Valley and authorities are plotting a strategy to contain it. Capitol Weekly article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

 San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office: Allegations that guns improperly sold, purchased — A former San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office range master is alleging that agency administrators in 2011 inappropriately purchased evidence guns for their personal use, an assertion Sheriff Steve Moore denies. Stockton Record article

Prop 47 also reduces some juvenile cases, state court rules – Now, after a major court decision last week, Alejandro’s case may establish a precedent assuring juveniles throughout California the same reduced sentences and other treatment provided to adults under Proposition 47 passed by voters in 2014. LA Times article

Debra Saunders: Kevin Cooper is still guilty; that’s a ‘Death Row’ story — Last year, CNN’s “Death Row Stories” ran an episode about a California woman convicted of first-degree murder, then freed when a federal judge overturned the verdict because prosecutors withheld evidence. I had a few issues with the episode, in part because Gloria Killian was not tried for capital murder and never spent a minute on Death Row. I wrote at the time, CNN should rename the series, narrated by capital-punishment opponent Susan Sarandon, “Death Row Propaganda.” Sunday night, I can be seen on an episode of “Death Row Stories.” Saunders column in San Francisco Chronicle

National Night Out offers good time for neighbors against crime — Rosie Garcia has helped organize National Night Out events in Modesto for seven years. As a Modesto native, her love and effort for these annual events goes way beyond that. But she points to the resilient residents she encounters who keep these annual events going while raising awareness about crime prevention. Modesto Bee article


 Sexual assault measures aim to unify colleges’ responses in California – Responding to inconsistent policies on sexual assaults at college campuses, California lawmakers are considering a package of proposals to address the issue, including one that would require schools to disclose more information about disciplinary actions taken against student offenders. LA Times article

 Modesto City Schools board to get fire repair bill, state mandate to lower black student suspensions — Modesto City Schools board members will talk about school discipline and preschool programs at their Monday meeting. They will also vote on fast-tracking fire damage repairs at Johansen High School, estimated to cost $9 million.Modesto Bee article

 Gay history class a first at public San Francisco high school — A new college preparatory course at a San Francisco high school will focus on the gay rights movement, the AIDS crisis, the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, and historic events such as the Stonewall Riot and the legalization of same-sex marriage. San Francisco Chronicle article


 Gov. Brown wants to keep oil in the ground.  But whose oil? – Even the greenest, most eco-friendly politicians rarely utter the words Gov. Jerry Brown spoke at the Vatican’s climate change symposium last week. To prevent the worst effects of global warming, one-third of the world’s known oil reserves must remain in the ground, Brown told the gathering of government officials from around the world. The same goes for 50 percent of natural gas reserves and 90 percent of coal. San Francisco Chronicle article

 Wildfire near Bass Lake burns more than 1,500 acres, threatens hundreds of structures – On Saturday afternoon, three deer dashed past a group from Southern California as they happily played baseball outside a remote vacation cabin near North Fork. A few minutes later, Fernando Jerez, 29, realized what the deer were running from when he spotted a plume of smoke Saturday afternoon — the start of the Willow fire that has since grown to more than 1,500 acres and was just 5% contained on Sunday evening. Fresno Bee article

 Local firefighters help with Willow Fire and others around the state – The Kern County Fire Department has sent another strike team and its No. 407 helicopter to help battle the so-called Willow fire north east of Fresno near Bass Lake. In all, Kern has committed 86 firefighters to the Willow fire. Bakersfield Californian article

 Four firefighters injured in Lowell blaze, as size of fire is revised down – Four firefighters were injured Sunday in the hot-burning Lowell blaze in Nevada County, and the size of the fire was lowered to 1,500 acres after state officials completed a more accurate mapping of the blaze. Sacramento Bee article

 Sacramento doubles penalty for neglected weeds in fire season — The city of Sacramento has doubled the fine for property owners who don’t obey city weed removal orders after a grass fire in a vacant lot damaged several homes last month in south Sacramento. Property owners who don’t get their overgrown weeds and dry grasses mowed to comply with the city code will be fined a minimum of $1,000, in addition to the cost the city pays contract workers to do the job. Sacramento Bee article

 Sen. Fran Pavley: A quiet force in the climate storm — In a small hearing room decorated with paintings of birds and flowers, Sen. Fran Pavley – the great-granddaughter of a three-time presidential candidate – sat down to present the bill that will likely cement her legacy as the California Legislature’s most accomplished environmentalist. As usual, her tone was understated, and her style more patient schoolmarm than zealous politician. CALmatters article

 Struggle to save endangered Santa Ana sucker may reach U.S. Supreme Court – A 20-year struggle to protect a rare bottom-feeding fish from extinction appears headed toward resolution as Inland Empire cities and water agencies are asking the court of last resort to intervene. LA Times article

 Health/Human Services

 Steve Taylor: Autism insurance law is for 3-year-olds – The Oakdale resident and behavior analyst writes, “‘Normal is a range’ is a speech I’ve been giving too many parents of children with autism lately. On the third anniversary of California’s ‘autism insurance mandate,’ I’ve been seeing fewer 3-year-olds who really benefit from the intensive, expensive therapy and more older kids who are just a tad odd, if you’ll forgive the clinical reference.” Taylor op-ed in Modesto Bee


A fee to be the first to exit the plane? Many fliers are willing to pay it — Charges for checked bags, entertainment, food and seats with extra legroom among other extras generated $38.1 billion for the world’s airlines in 2014, a 21% increase from the previous year, according to a report from IdeaWorks, a Wisconsin-based airline consulting firm. But you can expect such revenue to continue to soar as airlines consider adopting even more fees. How about a fee that ensures your bag is delivered at the baggage carousel before all the others? Or a charge to let you be the first to exit your plane? LA Times article

Other areas

Armenian genocide monument at Fresno State vandalized — Three months after the unveiling of the Armenian genocide monument at Fresno State, the structure has been vandalized. “The souls of the victims are disturbed,” said Berj Apkarian, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Fresno. Someone yanked one of the panels from the monument Friday, Apkarian said. Fresno Bee article

LA homeless could get minor citations cleared if they accept services — Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer has announced a $270,000 program to wipe homeless people’s records clean of minor citations if they accept job training, drug and alcohol treatment or other social services and perform community service.  LA Times article

Navigating LA proved challenging before Americans with Disabilities Act – As the nation marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, it’s hard to imagine the challenges of creating an independent life in a wheelchair before the government required accommodations. LA Times article

 Is your plate peeling? It could lead to $1,000 fine — Drew Mendelson is a writer, a Vietnam vet, and a former consultant to some of the state’s big-name politicians. What he’s not is a scofflaw or scam artist. Neither is his wife or son. So no surprise that Mendelson was taken aback recently when his son was pulled over while driving Mendelson’s wife’s car and issued a $1,000 citation for defacing the car’s license plate. Sacramento Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Merced Sun-Star – The Confederate battle flag is an ugly, angry symbol of racism; its display by any state cannot be tolerated. But after 150 years, should we be arguing over those who eventually rejected that symbol or moving forward on matters of justice and shared prosperity?

Sacramento Bee – For Sacramento residents and visitors, the other shoe is about to drop on the downtown arena deal. The City Council will soon be asked to approve increases in how much it costs to park on downtown streets.

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) 485-1416 or email info@betterblackstone.com.
  • “Unlocking Renewables: A Summit,” which will explore the clean energy potential in the San Joaquin Valley, will be held at Fresno State on Wednesday, Aug. 12, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Featured speakers include state Sen. Anthony Cannella and Ken Alex, senior policy advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown and director of the Office of Planning and Research. More information:  www.RenewablesInTheValley.org.
  • 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. Visitwww.essentialelementsseries.com for 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 challengeThe 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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