June 7, 2015


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Political Briefs

 Top stories

 Marijuana fact-finding tour the new political field trip — The fact that top officials even made the trek is a sign of how California’s 50,000-plus cannabis farmers are already becoming a political force. Growers are shaping potential 2016 ballot measures to legalize recreational use of marijuana and influencing legislation in Sacramento that would regulate the state’s 19-year-old medicinal market in unprecedented ways. San Francisco Chronicle article

 Sacramento Bee: A lost opportunity on police reform – The timing seemed perfect: Amid outrage over deadly force across the country, California appeared poised to set an example in addressing the toxic distrust between poor communities and police. Now the odds of change here seem long, and it’s a disgrace and a pity. Muscled by law enforcement, elected officials have backed down from one reform after another. Sacramento Bee editorial

Valley politics

 Oakdale Irrigation District ignores voting law — OID leaders were fully aware of the law, meeting minutes show. They said they would resize if numbers indicated they should. But when wildly uneven numbers were brought before them in 2011, the OID board chose to do nothing. Four years later, remaining board members and OID General Manager Steve Knell have no explanation. Almost all said their memories are fuzzy; Al Bairos, who was board chairman at the time, could not be reached for this story. Modesto Bee article


 Victor Davis Hanson: Crossing the global border — So, what explains this constant rush of the world’s poor families into the West? And why aren’t China, Russia, Iran and Cuba, for example, flooded with illegal entrants? Hanson column in Fresno Bee

 News Briefs

Top Stories

 Imperiled fish add to California’s drought stress – As the drought stretches into a fourth punishing year, with California unable to satisfy all competing interests, the demands on behalf of fish are sharpening the battle lines and creating additional headaches for regulators. Sacramento Bee article

 Inmates sue, say they got Valley fever while in state prisons — Four inmates who contracted Valley fever while housed at prisons across the region are suing state officials including Gov. Jerry Brown, saying they knew of the fungal infection’s dangers but did nothing to protect prisoners. Fresno Bee article

 Government texting escapes public scrutiny — Just about every government and elected official has a cell phone and yes, many are doing the public’s business by text. If they’re using a government-issued phone, those messages are generally considered public record. Private cell phone texts are far more iffy, even if they involve government matters. But either way, the public doesn’t have access to that information because local agencies’ policies haven’t kept up with technology. Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

 Dan Walters: Even after good job news, California’s economic recovery is a mixed bag – California’s economy is recovering from its worst recession since the Great Depression – more or less. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

 Stockton bankruptcy: Held-up lawsuits beginning to proceed – Insulation from lawsuits is one of the protections afforded by bankruptcy. It’s a provision of the law that gives a cash-strapped party protection so it can focus on its broken finances. But when the city exited bankruptcy Feb. 25, a pile of lawsuits that had been frozen for years began to thaw. In fact, according to City Attorney John Luebberke, about 100 cases “in various stages of litigation” are coming back to life. Stockton Record article

 Lois Henry: Kern proposal on civil service is lawsuit bait — The Kern County Board of Supervisors is so eager to break the law — and faith with the voters — that an ordinance allowing it to take over the Personnel Department is already on the Tuesday agenda, barely three weeks after the County Counsel’s office was ordered to cook it up. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

 Richardo Lara: Address poverty by raising standards for UC contractors – The state senator (D-Bell Gardens) writes, “There is no reason that any public institution should be subsidizing business models built on a foundation of poverty and second-class treatment of communities of color. But it is happening, ironically, at the same institution that has been sounding alarms about the problem.” Lara op-ed in Sacramento Bee


 California drought: No rain, but ‘the sky is not falling’ – The crisis has led many to wonder whether the state has lost its historic resilience. But the drama hides reality and for those who have studied California’s long relationship with its water, the drought is serious but hardly a disaster. LA Times article

 Could desalted water soothe California’s drought wounds? – Drought-scarred California has long fantasized about the salt water along 1,100 miles of shoreline. How many gallons of water are in the Pacific Ocean? It’s a three-digit number followed by 18 zeroes — inexhaustible, even for California. But first, there’s the sticker shock over the cost of removing salt. Then, sooner or later, rain starts falling again. Fresno Bee article

 Who needs an ocean? San Joaquin Valley projects give new life to salty water – glistening spectacle on the west Fresno County prairie could be a rock star in California’s next drought. It’s a mirrored solar array longer than a football field, collecting heat to boil salt and other impurities out of irrigation drainage. The cutting-edge experiment — capable of producing heat up to 600 degrees — is only one of three desalination projects going at this site. Fresno Bee article

 On the road with Bakersfield’s water-waste monitor – The sun is still low and, yes, some southwest lawns are still dewy at 7:30 weekdays when Ray Whitmore starts his shift. His job: telling customers on Bakersfield’s city system to stop wasting water. Bakersfield Californian article

 Stockton Record: Paging SoCal water users – The overall Southern California numbers give the impression that the region isn’t being a true part of the solution to the state’s ongoing problem. Bakersfield listed as part of Southern California Drought Hall of Shame. Stockton Record editorial

 Drought hastens decline of the Joshua tree, California’s desert symbol — Under canopies of dead angular branches and drooping fronds, UC Riverside ecologist Cameron Barrows made his way across a forest of skeletal Joshua trees that have not reproduced in decades. As Barrows explained, it’s a tough time to be a Joshua tree. Climate change is taking an enormous toll, and the current drought has hastened the decline of a species that is regarded as the symbol of California deserts. LA Times article

 Landlords pass along water bills to coax apartment dwellers to conserve — For years, renters at the boxy apartment complex on Monument Boulevard were like many tenants across California: They never paid a water bill. But as California’s devastating drought enters its fourth summer and water rates and penalties are surging, landlords are increasingly passing along those costs — on top of the monthly rent. San Jose Mercury News article

 EBMUD to vote on drought rates Tuesday – The East Bay Municipal Utility District board on Tuesday will consider an 8 percent permanent water rate increase plus a temporary 25 percent drought surcharge.  Oakland Tribune article

 Modesto-area dairy farmer learns from San Francisco guitar-maker – Brian Fiscalini traded the wide-open spaces of his dairy farm near Modesto for a neighborhood packed onto a San Francisco hillside. He took part in an exchange to learn about sustainable practices from his host, who turns old skateboards into electric guitars. The city businessman, Nick Pourfard, ventured east to see how Fiscalini puts manure and other waste to new uses. Modesto Bee article

 Water districts confront conservation mandate – Whether these agencies will succeed or fail depends on how well they are heeded by millions of people in San Diego County and the rest of California. San Diego Union-Tribune article

 Environmental bills carve out space for ag — As California ratchets up its fight against air pollution and global warming, how does the state’s $45 billion agriculture industry fit into the mix? Lawmakers partly answered that question by pushing a couple of bills with important agricultural components closer to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for signing. Hanford Sentinel article

 Ted Sheely: Genetic engineering helps plants survive in drought – The family farmer from Lemoore writes, “As farmers are forced to deal with markedly less water, one promising technology that is already serving as a significant solution to reduce water use is biotechnology, or the science of genetic engineering.” Sheely op-ed in Sacramento Bee

 Ranch showcases generations of farm equipment — Arriving at the entrance to the Koster Ranch on Saturday was a step back in time to when farming along the Delta was drastically different more than 150 years ago. Antique tractors and horse-drawn equipment dating back to the mid-1900s was on display at Bill Koster’s ranch at the Early Days Gas Engine Show, just a mile east of Interstate 5 on Highway 132. Saturday marked the celebration of their 135-year anniversary. Stockton Record article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

 Merced deputies seize $1 million in drugs from ‘cartel style’ operation – Merced County sheriff’s deputies this week seized more than $1 million in methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana and uncovered three cases of apparent animal abuse in Delhi, authorities reported. Merced Sun-Star article

 Hanford police launch online crime reporting system — The Hanford Police Department has announced the implementation of a new crime reporting system. The Online Police Reporting System went live on the city of Hanford’s website last week. The police department said the new application allows victims to report crimes such as property damages, lost property, telephone harassment and thefts. Hanford Sentinel article

 Victim services center set to open — With its recent securing of a two-year grant worth more than $700,000, a downtown-based community organization is weeks from becoming one of only six trauma recovery centers in California dedicated to serving the victims of violent crime. Stockton Record article

 Mother of Ezell Ford hopes for Justice Department inquiry into LAPD shooting — Ezell Ford’s mother told demonstrators Saturday that she hopes the U.S. Department of Justice will look into her son’s fatal shooting because she had no confidence in the review led by Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and the department’s independent watchdog. LA Times article

 22 recent police shootings ruled justified — The District Attorney’s Office has completed reviews of 22 shootings by law enforcement officers around San Diego County since 2013 and found each one legally justified. San Diego Union-Tribune article


 Fresno State among top 25 in awarding degrees to Latinos — Fresno State is ranked 21st nationally for the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Latino students, according to Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education’s annual Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics report. During the 2013-14 academic year, 1,809 Latino students received a degree from Fresno State. Fresno Bee article

 Hands-on science is coming to California classrooms – As California prepares to roll out new statewide science standards over the next four years, science teachers across the Bay Area are going back to the drawing board to create hands-on lesson plans that stress the scientific thought process over dry facts. San Jose Mercury News article

 City College of San Francisco chancellor steps down, interim named — State officials said Friday that the chancellor of City College of San Francisco — which has fended off closure and has struggled for three years to remain accredited — has stepped down to run the school’s facilities department. San Francisco Chronicle article


 Chevron finds buyer for tainted oil, but questions remain – A high-stakes mystery arose almost three years when someone allowed a common industrial solvent to enter one of only three oil pipelines connecting Kern County with refineries in the Bay Area. Bakersfield Californian article

 Kyle Isakower: Lifting ban on fracking, experts will add many jobs, save consumers billions – The vice president for regulatory and economic policy at the Aerican Petroleum Institute writes, “Forward-thinking policies that encourage, not undermine, responsible energy production can cement our position as a global energy leader.” Isakower op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Michael Kraft: New federal rules are low-cost and promising, but may not be tough enough – The professor emeritus of political science and public and environmental affairs at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay writes, “The new fracking rules will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet they may do less in that regard than many other administration efforts, such as setting higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards, promoting renewable energy technologies, and finalizing EPA’s Clean Power Plan that will sharply limit carbon emissions from power plants.” Kraft op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

 Legacy of Muir lives on in his great-great-grandson — All came to listen to Hanna, the great-great-grandson of iconic naturalist John Muir, recount the saga of his famous forebear and, subtly but firmly, slip in a few words about current environmental concerns. Such is the allure Muir still holds, a shade over 100 years after his death, that even back-to-nature types willingly became great indoorsmen for a spell. Sacramento Bee article

Health/Human Services

 Class teaches young special-needs adults to become more independent — It’s safe to say that when the tears came during Wednesday’s completion ceremony for two of her students, it wasn’t the first time Lori Gobbi struggled to say goodbye. The teacher of the young-adults transition program, for 18- to 22-year-olds with special needs, treats her students as though they were own. Stockton Record article

 Land Use/Housing

 Fresno’s ‘River West’: Big hopes, big bucks ride on its design — Fresno will soon draft plans to ensure that the area west of Highway 99 and north of Clinton Avenue develops in a wise and creative way. Let’s pause for the laughter. Seriously, this chunk of land sometimes called Fresno’s last frontier (when it’s not altogether forgotten) is slated to get its own specific plan.Fresno Bee article


Transportation fee revision in works — The Merced County Association of Governments is revamping how regional transportation funds are allocated. The move comes four years after $2.3 million originally set aside for land acquisition for the Los Banos Highway 152 bypass was redirected to the Merced-Atwater Expressway project. Los Banos Enterprise article

 Sacramento Regional Transit digging for new funds, hoping for better service — Struggling to provide adequate transit service and bruised by negative public perception, the Sacramento Regional Transit bus and rail agency turned a few months ago to a financial fixer with a national reputation for digging up dollars to help bus agencies get back on their feet. That man, transit consultant Douglas Carter, has finished his initial analysis, and some RT officials say it could be a game-changer. Sacramento Bee article

 Marcos Breton: Streetcar voters couldn’t see where we’re going — The defeat of Measure B – which would have funded streetcars to move people around the urban core of the state capital – was a twisted tale of how Sacramento stumbled on the way to a future for which it is not ready. Breton column in Sacramento Bee

 Fresno Bee: Flying unfriendly, unsafe skies with TSA — TSA has problems, not just with failing to do its job, but with its approach to doing it. That must change, and soon. Air travelers deserve more than to be treated like livestock. Fresno Bee editorial

Other areas

 Lewis Griswold: Visalia man tackles graffiti in blight flight — Bill Huott fights blight by single-handedly removing graffiti and trash, making the Visalia resident an example of how one committed person can make a difference. Griswold in Fresno Bee

 Jeff Jardine: Pot farm? Not in my backyard, ex-Modesto police volunteer says — Wayne Seawright spent nearly seven years as a senior volunteer with the Modesto Police Department. Now 80 and long retired after a 36-year career at the old James River Co., he takes pride in having made many friends during that volunteer stint, among them then-Chief Roy Wasden, Detective Jolene Gonzalez and others. By Seawright’s own account, he never had a negative brush with the law in any form. So imagine Seawright’s reaction to the letter he received in the mail the day after Memorial Day, accusing him of growing marijuana in his yard. Jardine column in Modesto Bee

 Plunge revamp in final stretch? — While workers have just a few days left to finish renovating The Plunge, city officials remain hopeful that the project will be finished in time for the summer swimming season. But the actual deadline appears to vary depending on who you ask. Hanford Sentinel article

 Mike Klocke: On the drought, the railroad and the grand jury — Random thoughts for a Sunday morning.  Klocke column in Stockton Record

 Joyce Terhaar: Secrecy at Sacramento City Hall begs questions – The City of Sacramento took 27 days to disclose name of mayoral staffer hired prior to budget.  Terhaar column in Sacramento Bee

Kern Animal Shelter seizes 102 cats — Kern County Animal Services seized 102 cats this week, KERO-TV reports. The cats were confiscated from Lolette Robrahn, who runs a Lebec cat shelter. Animal Service inspectors showed up for a surprise visit and determined Robrahn lacked the proper permits to house such a shelter. Bakersfield Californian article

 Did City of Industry pay for idle trucks? — Week after week, street maintenance crews crisscrossed the City of Industry with a fleet of sweepers, pickup trucks, dump trucks, utility trucks, a boom truck, a water truck and two tractors. That’s what the city paid for, anyway, under its decades-long contract with Zerep Management Corp., a company owned by former Mayor David Perez and his family. LA Times article