July 27, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories 

California officials take sides on November ballot initiatives — Some prominent California figures solidified their stances on ballot initiatives on Thursday, while others remained quiet. On Tuesday, the California Secretary of State released its preliminary voter guide that will ultimately be mailed to all voting households. It included signed statements from each side of the 17 initiatives that are slated to appear on the ballot on Nov. 8. Sacramento Bee article 

Tom Torlakson gets his first task as acting governor: Responding to fires — Less than a day after starting his first stint as California’s acting governor, state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson declared states of emergency on Tuesday in two counties dealt a huge blow by devastating wildfires. LA Times article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures 

Public Policy Institute of California: ‘Sin’ taxes on the ballot this fall — Two measures have qualified for the November ballot that ask California voters to increase so-called “sin” taxes. One measure, the Healthcare, Research, and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act, will add an additional $2.00 per pack to cigarettes sold in the state. Currently, the tax is $0.87 per pack, which ranks lower than the cigarette tax in 33 other states. The other measure, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, proposes to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and impose a state tax on its sales. Public Policy Institute of California report


U.S. agrees to admit more refugees from Central America — The White House on Tuesday announced a substantial expansion of a program to admit Central American refugees to the United States, conceding that its efforts to protect migrants fleeing dangerous conditions has been inadequate and left too many vulnerable people with no recourse. New York Times article

Other areas 

Dan Walters: Will California Public Utilities Commission get the reform message? – The PUC, like the State Bar, has become arrogantly insular, riven by scandal and too cozy with the huge utility monopolies it is supposed to regulate. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11, carried by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, would have authorized the Legislature to reallocate the PUC’s duties, and, as Gallo said, “treat the PUC like any other executive branch agency.” The Assembly’s overwhelming approval of ACA 11 sent a shock through the utility industry and moved Gov. Jerry Brown to embrace PUC reforms he had previously shunned. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

San Francisco could let noncitizens vote in school elections – San Francisco officials are taking another try at giving noncitizens the right to vote in local school board elections. The ballot measure approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday would allow parents and caregivers of city public school students to vote in local school elections. The measure will be on the November ballot. AP article 

Betsy Imholz: Give patients protection from surprise medical bills – The special projects director for Consumers Union writes, “It’s time to spare consumers who have done everything right from the reimbursement battle between insurance companies and out-of-network doctors. That’s why Consumers Union strongly supports AB 72. Industry groups have powerful lobbyists to speak up for them, but legislators should speak up for consumers and put an end to surprise medical bills.”  Imholz op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Presidential Politics

Bernie Sanders tells California Democrats to back Clinton — Following a raucous day in which Bernie Sanders delegates shouted down Hillary Clinton supporters, Bernie Sanders on Tuesday reiterated his appeal to his loyalists to back Clinton, telling Democrats from California that “as the largest state in our country … you have an enormous responsibility” in the presidential election. Sacramento Bee articleSan Francisco Chronicle articleSan Jose Mercury News article

Bernie Sanders’ exit draws comparisons to Jerry Brown – Gov. Brown’s appearance reflects the maturation of a governor who, once less effective at Democratic Party politics outside of California, has recaptured a measure of prominence at age 78 and in his final term. He is now – as he was a quarter-century ago – a politician seeking to shoulder liberal causes on a national stage, while drawing comparisons to Bernie Sanders, this year’s unsuccessful insurgent Democrat. Sacramento Bee article 

Checking in with prominent California Democrats at the convention – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti calls the Democratic National Convention “the Democratic Prom” — a place where you see everybody (in politics) that you know and everybody is trying to look their best. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Cathleen Decker: In a campaign that pits fear against facts, Hillary Clinton has a tough opponent in Trump – The presidential contest has become a battle between feelings and facts. Donald Trump aims at the fears of many Americans that the country is spiraling toward an abyss, using visceral images that are powerful, if often inaccurate. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has utilized an endless supply of figures and proposals to persuade Americans that the country is making progress and could make more under her presidency. Decker in LA Times 

Cathleen Decker: An asset or a disruption? What the White House might look like with Bill Clinton in the East Wing — If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, obvious questions arise. Among them: How would power flow in a new Clinton White House and how would a Vice President Tim Kaine fit into a very crowded West Wing? Would the former president’s undisciplined nature prolong his more orderly wife’s decision-making? Would Bill Clinton’s philanthropic activities conflict with the couple’s public responsibilities? Those questions arise because of Bill Clinton himself: a man capable of offering his wife unique counsel — but also capable of blundering into controversy. Decker in LA Times

PolitiFact CA: Does California really have ‘the 6th largest economy on planet Earth?’ – State Senate leader Kevin de León recently claimed at the Democratic National Convention that California has “the sixth largest economy on planet Earth.” De León’s statement, while accurate, could have used this additional information or clarification. We rate his claim Mostly True. PolitiFact CA report

Selma couple goes to Democratic convention – There is nothing Selma residents and husband and wife Doug and Estella Kessler would like to see more than Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump and become the next U.S. president. That’s what attracted them to pay the not-insignificant cost out of their own pockets to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week. Hanford Sentinel article 

Democrats become first major party to back pathway to legalizing pot – Democrats meeting in Philadelphia have made history, voting to approve a national platform that endorses a “pathway” for the legalization of marijuana. McClatchy Newspapers article 

Democrats promise new push for gun control – Shooting survivors, mothers of shooting victims and gun-safety activists are taking turns at center stage in this week’s Democratic National Convention here. And the duo atop the party’s ticket – presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine – have put the fight for tougher gun laws at the heart of their campaign for the White House. By spotlighting gun control during their party’s biggest showcase, Democrats are marking a significant evolution in presidential politics. Washington Post article 

Michelle Obama brings tears to eyes of Civil Rights icon — Rep. John Lewis, a icon of the civil rights movement, was moved to tears by First lady Michelle Obama’s address Monday to the Democratic National Convention. “I think we had a wonderful night,” Lewis, D-Georgia, told the California delegation on Tuesday. “But I must tell you Michelle Obama made me cry. There’s some times when you feel it, you have to show it.” Sacramento Bee article

News Stories

Top Stories

Fresno, Valley suffer wage gap compared with California, U.S. averages – The average worker in the central San Joaquin Valley earned 3 to 20 percent less in wages in 2015 than the nationwide average, with an even sharper lag of 15 to 30 percent less than the average within California. Fresno Bee article

Kern County supervisors refuse to put safety sales tax measure on ballot — Kern County supervisors on Tuesday rejected public safety department appeals for more money from the county budget and through a sales tax measure despite warnings services will suffer. Bakersfield Californian article 

Fresno police data: Blacks more likely to be detained than other races — Black residents are more likely to be interviewed or detained by Fresno police than other races in cases where a suspect’s description isn’t provided or a specific crime hasn’t been reported, department data released by the city’s police auditor shows. Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Stockton council approves controversial labor deal – The City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to a controversial labor agreement for large public projects, despite uncertainty whether such deals are legal and whether minority workers will benefit. Stockton Record article 

Madera County supervisors want public safety tax on March ballot – Madera County supervisors approved Tuesday a plan for a public safety tax but will wait until March to hold the election because they want voters to be able to focus on the plan when they go to the polls. Fresno Bee article 

SEIU members take their fight to San Joaquin County board – Several members of the Service Employees International Union 1021 chanted “recall” and “we’ll be back” as they left the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors chambers Tuesday morning, frustrated no progress has been made in ongoing contract negotiations. Stockton Record article 

Fresno Food Expo growing Fresno’s food culture – Organizers of the Fresno Food Expo, the largest regional food show in the nation, are expecting another banner year as the number of buyers, exhibitors and consumers continues to grow. Fresno Bee article 

Interview: Growing tech scene in Fresno, Kern counties – The Valley is known for growing things. But lately some of the region’s most notable crops haven’t been grown on a farm, they’ve been grown in front of a laptop, or an iPad – new and growing software companies. Now local technology leaders in both Kern and Fresno Counties are talking about how to strategically grow the local software industry to the next level. So how can tech jobs power the future economy of the valley? We spoke to three local tech experts about where the local industry is going. KVPR report 

Construction permits up, housing construction active in Tulare County – Construction permits for the county’s three largest agencies are on the upswing over the last six months. Visalia and Tulare County are also reporting the best fiscal year figures in years. In Tulare, single-family home permits this year are ahead of last year, while 2016 commercial activity has already eclipsed 2015 totals and is the highest total over the last five years. Visalia Times-Delta article 

Stanislaus County Fair attendance down 8 percent over 2015 – Attendance for the Stanislaus County Fair was down slightly in 2016 compared to 2015. The fair drew more than 220,000 guests during its 10-day run this summer, an 8 percent decrease from 2015, according to a news release on Tuesday. Modesto Bee article 

Lois Henry: FEMA needs to help Erskine Fire victims – There’s so much wrong with FEMA’s recent denial of aid to Erskine Fire survivors, it’s almost painful. It’s hard to pin down exactly why the Federal Emergency Management Agency skunked California’s plea for help, but I think it comes down to insurance. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian 

SBA to provide disaster assistance to Erskine Fire victims – The Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a disaster declaration for the Erskine Fire Tuesday morning. This is separate from FEMA emergency aid. Today’s action makes individuals and businesses impacted by the Erskine Fire eligible to receive low-interest rate loans from the SBA. These loans can be used for rebuilding homes and/or businesses damaged or destroyed by the Erskine Fire, for personal property losses for renters resulting from the fire, or for economic losses to businesses because of the fire. Bakersfield Californian article 

Geekwise Academy hopes to train future tech leaders — As the tech industry evolves, so must its workforce. Every day new apps are developed that do everything from streamlining business operations to altering iPhone and Android photos. The demand for high-tech gadgets and entertaining games, some now featuring virtual and augmented reality, is also booming. It’s no wonder software technicians are also in high demand; the issue is there aren’t enough of them. Geekwise Academy, an accelerated training program for current and aspiring technologists offered under the Bitwise Industries umbrella, is bridging this gap by offering a range of coding courses to high school students and business professionals alike. The Business Journal article 

General store planned for downtown Modesto in September – Former Councilman Dave Lopez is coming back to work in downtown Modesto, this time in a button-down shirt and long white apron instead of his more formal government attire. He’s the “Dave” in Sam and Dave’s Market, set to open in September on I Street between 11th and 12th. The 3,008-square-foot space is next to The Firkin & Fox pub and restaurant in the Eleven/Eleven Courthouse Plaza building. Modesto Bee article 

Initiative Foods hosts job fair for employees displaced by fire – Initiative Foods will host a job fair Wednesday for more than 100 employees who lost their jobs after a fire destroyed most of the Sanger-based baby food plant. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article

First Look: 6th annual NOR Economic Conference to focus on healthcare, oil industry – The oil industry’s struggles continue to take a toll on the local economy, but NOR Chamber of Commerce leaders are hoping to help the public deal with the decline during the sixth annual Economic Outlook Conference. Bakersfield Californian article 

LA County will try to house 100 homeless youths in 100 days – Los Angeles Homeless Services officials will attempt to place 100 homeless youths in safe and stable housing within 100 days, according to a new goal announced Tuesday. LA Times article 

LA County supervisors pull marijuana tax measure from November ballot — County supervisors voted Tuesday to pull back an initiative they had previously approved for the ballot, which would have placed a 10% tax on gross receipts of marijuana businesses, with the money to be used for housing and services for the homeless. LA Times article 

Want to live near Sacramento’s new downtown arena? It will cost you $$$ — The first downtown housing project of the arena era opened on the K Street Mall on Tuesday, with 21 upscale apartments aimed squarely at urban pioneers willing to pay premium prices to live in the center of the action. Sacramento Bee article 

Fresno rental company ordered to pay overtime wages, damages — JD Home Rentals, a home rental company in Fresno, must pay more than $259,000 in damages and overtime wages to 157 workers, the U.S. Department of Labor says. The company must also pay damages to the workers. Fresno Bee article 

Melissa Mayer’s problem at Yahoo is now Verizon’s – Before she led Yahoo, while still at Google, Ms. Mayer spoke of the difficulties for media companies of capitalizing on their own content. New York Times article 

Tribe halts construction on Yuba casino — The Enterprise Rancheria Indian tribe halted construction Tuesday on its $170-million casino outside of Sacramento, blaming the operators of Thunder Valley Casino and other tribal competitors for filing “frivolous lawsuits” that have made it harder to obtain financing. Sacramento Bee article


Remedy or boondoggle? Hearings launch on Delta tunnels proposal — Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build twin tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta was hailed Tuesday as the long-awaited salvation for the damaged estuary and California’s shaky water delivery network. It also was lambasted as a nightmarish boondoggle that would rob water from Northern California and bring more environmental harm to the Delta itself. And that was just Day 1. Sacramento Bee articleSan Francisco Chronicle articleStockton Record article 

Stockton Record: No trust in twin tunnels — A matter of trust. When it comes to the Twin Tunnels, trust is the last thing anyone in this part of the Central Valley has for anything associated with the project. Stockton Record editorial

Citrus board opens new Huanglongbing research facility — In an attempt to advance efforts to limit the spread of the Asian citrus psyllid, which can carry the deadly citrus plant disease Huanglongbing, the Cal Poly Pomona College of Agriculture has opened a new 5,040-square-foot research and insect production greenhouse. The Business Journal article 

Modesto Irrigation District, Modesto settle $9 million dispute over botched water plant — The Modesto Irrigation District has prevailed in its legal dispute with Modesto over responsibility for $9 million in additional costs for the botched expansion of the MID’s Modesto Regional Water Treatment Plant, which supplies the city with drinking water. Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons 

Where did California’s savings from reducing drug penalties go? — Voters were told the shift in emphasis from prison to rehabilitation could result in savings in “the low hundreds of millions.” Yet the final savings figure to pay for prevention and treatment – reached after months of tense disagreements and accusations of betrayal – is far below the original estimate. Sacramento Bee article 

Auditor asks Fresno police to speed up Dylan Noble investigation – Fresno’s police auditor didn’t mince words in his quarterly review of the city’s police department, calling for more urgency in the investigation into the police shooting of Dylan Noble. Fresno Bee article 

Rules covering release of Fresno body camera footage unclear — The phrase ‘seeing is believing’ takes on a whole new meaning in a world full of cellphone videos and police body cameras. Every officer in the Fresno Police Department now wears a camera that records the majority of their work. However, what footage is or isn’t released to the public is a murky subject. KVPR report

Michael Fitzgerald: A sea change in Stockton policing – The New York Times on Tuesday ran a story about Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones’ efforts to eliminate racial bias from policing and to use fairness and respect to regain citizen trust. Stockton’s Police Department is one of six nationwide participating in a Department of Justice experiment to see if citizens granted “procedural justice” accept the system as legitimate. And whether crime goes down as a result. The Times sees national implications: important at a time of high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men, as well as the killing of police officers. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record 

Stockton Record: Steps in the right direction for Stockton police — The diversity of the Stockton Police Department does not yet reflect the diversity of the community, but it is encouraging to see steps taken in that direction. Stockton Record editorial

Experts say finding death cause in high-profile cases takes time — As much-anticipated results of toxicology examinations in two high-profile Fresno Countydeath cases remain pending, officials and medical experts have provided insights into why such examinations take weeks, or even months. Fresno Bee article 

Dozens of cases under review due to sergeant’s failure to book recordings into evidence — A Kern County sheriff’s sergeant who admitted failing to book audio recordings into evidence may have potentially impacted dozens of criminal cases.  The District Attorney’s office has identified “about 40 cases” from 2006 to 2011 where Gary Williams may have failed to book recordings with suspects and witnesses into evidence. Bakersfield Californian article 

Kern sheriff: Mass shooting earlier this month could have killed man — A man found dead in his apartment three days after a mass shooting July 16 could have been killed by a stray bullet, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Tuesday. That man, whose identity has not been released by law enforcement, was found dead July 19 in his apartment, located about 500 yards from the location of a Stephens Drive shooting that left 14 injured three days earlier. Bakersfield Californian articleLA Times article 

Canadian woman arrested in Modesto with $2 million in heroin — Modesto police on Monday seized 38 kilos of heroin and arrested a 63-year-old Canadian woman after a police canine alerted his handler to drugs inside a vehicle during a traffic stop on Highway 99. Modesto Bee article 

Oakland police commission plan approved for ballot – A ballot measure for an independent Oakland police commission hit resistance before passing unanimously Tuesday, when two City Council members challenged Mayor Libby Schaaf’s right to appoint three of the commission’s seven members. San Francisco Chronicle article

Outrage, then gratitude: 12 hours in the life of LAPD at a Watts housing project — The scene outside the yellow, sun-baked apartments of Nickerson Gardens was tense. The night before, police had killed an 18-year-old man in a shooting that left an officer wounded. On Tuesday morning, a handful of officers walked through the Watts housing project, one of L.A.’s most notorious, trying to calm everyone down. Some residents shouted profanities and insults about police. LA Times article


Fresno Bee: Ruiz’s successor as UC regent must be from Valley — As Gov. Brown has spent much of his third and fourth terms trying to close the wide income and education gaps within our state, we are confident that he recognizes the importance of having a Valley voice on the UC Board of Regents. Shame on him, if he doesn’t. Fresno Bee editorial 

Bakersfield City School District commits to $110 million bond measure — Bakersfield City School District trustees unanimously approved placing a $110 million bond measure on the November ballot, the fourth largest measure to be put before Kern County voters so far this year. Bakersfield Californian article 

More changes at Merced College ruffle feathers — Merced College and its faculty union are at an impasse over how faculty members can schedule their time, a matter that now will go to binding arbitration, the college announced Tuesday. Merced Sun-Star article 


Tree die-offs won’t increase wildfire risk, expert says – In the Sierra Nevada, it’s estimated that tens of millions of trees have died as a result of drought, many of which succumbed to infestations from bark beetles. As a result, we’ve been told our risk of wildfire is far higher than normal, but FM89’s Kerry Klein says the science doesn’t necessarily agree. KVPR report

Wildfires contribute to high pollution days for Merced – Merced’s air quality has spiked to unhealthy levels for people facing lung or breathing problems, a change since last week that may be partially the result of wildfires burning to the west and south. Merced Sun-Star article

Feds work to keep drones out of wildfire areas — Wildfires across the country have burned more than two millions acres of forest this year. And as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports fire officials hope a new real-time warning system will keep civilian operated drones out of the fire fight. KVPR report 

Prosecutor tells jury PG&E was a company driven by greed – Pacific Gas and Electric Co. was “a company that lost its way” and was driven by greed to violate pipeline safety laws both before and after the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, a federal prosecutor told jurors in San Francisco on Tuesday. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Mega solar project gets going in Kings — A huge solar project proposed for western Kings County is finally producing its first power. The proposed 24,000-acre Westlands Solar Park marked the completion Tuesday of a two-megawatt demonstration solar array that will generate electricity for the city of Anaheim. Hanford Sentinel article 

Grizzlies in California? Ad campaign aims to ‘Bring Back the Bears’ — Advocates for re-establishing grizzly bears in California are taking their case directly to the public. Having been rebuffed by wildlife agencies, the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity is launching a media campaign to rally support for the idea. KQED report 

More than 80 local firefighters battle farflung blazes — Numerous Kern County and Bakersfield firefighters are battling blazes around the state as the result of mutual aid pacts, which also brought hundreds of firefighters to Kern County last month to battle the massive Erskine Fire. Bakersfield Californian article 

Bay Area recycling centers struggle to survive — As recycling redemption centers continue to close around the state, the remaining Bay Area locations are struggling to keep up with demand, leaving residents looking to cash in on recyclables with a dwindling number of options. East Bay Times article 

Enter at your own risk: Pyramid Lake algae toxins decline, officials say — Visitors to Pyramid Lake are allowed to go back into the water, though state water officials caution they should still enter at their own risk after a large algae bloom pumped toxins into the lake last month. LA Times article

Health/Human Services 

The ice bucket challenge may have paid off – The ice bucket challenge did more than raise awareness: The ALS Association announced Monday that the money raised has funded the discovery of a new gene that is tied to an increase in risk for the disease. McClatchy Newspapers article 

Tulare Regional Medical Center leader: Board is committed to paying off bonds — The Tulare Regional Medical Center board of directors is committing itself to use any money left over from the $55 million bond issue it’s asking voters to approve next month to begin to pay off those bonds. Visalia Times-Delta article 

Lawmaker calls for more scrutiny of scope maker after emails are disclosed – A U.S. lawmaker is renewing his push for Congress to toughen requirements on medical-device warnings, calling Olympus Corp.’s 2013 decision against issuing a broad alert to U.S. hospitals about scope-related superbug outbreaks “despicable.” LA Times article

Land Use/Housing 

Despite protests, supervisors approve restrictive pot plan for Nevada County – Faced with furious protests by marijuana advocates, Nevada County supervisors on Tuesday approved a restrictive plan to allow limited outdoor marijuana growing in a Sierra Nevada county long known for its cannabis culture. Sacramento Bee article


Sacramento council votes to ban bikes on some sidewalks – Bikes soon will be banned on yet-to-be-determined city sidewalks under a vague plan passed by the Sacramento City Council Tuesday night. Sacramento Bee article 

Tesla car mangled in fatal crash was on Autopilot and speeding, NTSB says — The Tesla car involved in a fatal crash in Florida this spring was in Autopilot mode and going about 10 miles faster than the speed limit, according to safety regulators, who also released a picture of the mangled vehicle. LA Times article

Other areas

Local pot initiative won’t make November ballot – Bakersfield’s Medical Cannabis Initiative won’t be added to the already bulging November ballot despite 22,000 residents having signed petitions supporting the measure. The proposal to replace the City of Bakersfield’s dispensary ban with state regulations just hasn’t attracted enough qualified signatures yet. Bakersfield Californian article 

A look into Valley Animal Haven — Valley Animal Haven, a local animal shelter, has been putting more animals in loving homes since they opened more than a year and a half ago. Hanford Sentinel article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – As Gov. Brown has spent much of his third and fourth terms trying to close the wide income and education gaps within our state, we are confident that he recognizes the importance of having a Valley voice on the UC Board of Regents. Shame on him, if he doesn’t; Do you want to elect Trump, Sandernistas?; The possibility that Russians hacked thousands of Democratic National Committee emails and leaked them to Wikileaks should alarm all Americans, no matter their political persuasion.

Sacramento Bee – The possibility that Russians hacked thousands of Democratic National Committee emails and leaked them to Wikileaks should alarm all Americans, no matter their political persuasion; While Darrell Steinberg clarifies political matters and Kevin Johnson focuses on big-league ideas – and maybe misses too many meetings – some business and labor groups need to adjust.

Stockton Record – A matter of trust. When it comes to the Twin Tunnels, trust is the last thing anyone in this part of the Central Valley has for anything associated with the project; The diversity of the Stockton Police Department does not yet reflect the diversity of the community, but it is encouraging to see steps taken in that direction.