March 1, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Swearengin announces she won’t run for U.S. Senate – but other races may be in her future – Following weeks of speculation, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin officially announced Saturday that she will not run for U.S. Senate. Of the possibility she might seek the seat being vacated by Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016, Swearengin’s political consultant Tim Clark said Saturday, “It’s not the right seat for her and it’s not the right time.”The right time? Likely, 2018. Swearengin’s second mayoral term will end in 2016. Clark said Swearengin is likely better suited for an executive position than the legislature.  Fresno Bee article

Jerry Brown’s popularity as governor doesn’t extend to a presidential race — In a new USC Dornsife-Los Angeles Times poll, Brown has zoomed in popularity. He is now the most popular politician on the state stage. Almost two-thirds of voters — a cosmically high proportion — approve of how he’s doing his job. Almost six in 10 Californians have a positive view of him. And Hillary Clinton would clock him in his home state were the two to meet in a run for the presidency.  LA Times article


State budget

Geoffrey Baum, Lou Monville and Bruce Varner: California higher ed needs sufficient funding – Baum, chairman of the California Community College Board of Governors; Monville, chair of the California State University board of trustees; and Varner, chairman of the University of California Board of Regents, write, “As Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators shape California’s next budget and consider funding levels for higher education, we urge them to keep in mind that our three institutions form an interconnected system, working in concert to serve California and its students.” Baum/Monville/Varner op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

GOP consultant: Republicans will soon fall behind independents in California — Population trends have been working against the Republican Party for so long in California that a workshop on “changing demographics” came with an air of exasperation at the state party’s biannual convention Saturday.  Sacramento Bee article 

Dan Walters: State GOP’s new motto: ‘We get it’ — So was there anything for Republicans to celebrate at this weekend’s convention? Yes, in a way. They did pick up enough legislative seats last year to end the Democrats’ short-lived two-thirds “supermajorities.” But mostly, they seem to be celebrating three unspoken words: “we get it.”  Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

Assemblyman Chavez hints he will announce U.S. Senate bid on Thursday –  GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez told supporters that he would have a “great announcement” about his potential U.S. Senate bid on Thursday, and strongly hinted that he was planning to run.  LA Times article

Gay group seeks official recognition from California Republican Party – A gay GOP group is seeking official recognition by the California Republican Party at its biannual gathering in Sacramento this weekend, potentially setting the stage for a divisive floor fight on Sunday.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article 

Bill Mundell and Charles Munger Jr.: Arizona case before Supreme Court could undo California’s independent redistricting – Mundell, former chairman of Californians for Fair Redistricting, and Munger, a proponent and chief backer of California’s Proposition 20, write, “The Supreme Court could potentially undo much of what California voters have recently enacted. Even a partial victory by the Arizona Legislature could open the door to a reversal of decades of hard-won progress in election reform. The tools of popular sovereignty should be jealously safeguarded if equal representation is to be preserved.”  Mundell/Munger op-ed in Sacramento Bee



Victor Davis Hanson: Here’s how immigration should work — A federal judge has temporarily blocked President Obama’s executive order that overrode existing immigration law. The result is more acrimony and chaos. It is a good time to remember that there are more than just two types of immigration — legal and illegal. There also exist liberal and illiberal approaches to immigration.  Hanson column in Fresno Bee
Other areas

Silicon Valley increasing its lobbying in California’s Capitol – In addition to beating back threats, companies are cultivating relationships with lawmakers and, in the case of Airbnb — a service that enables users to rent out their homes to short-term travelers — working early to avoid a possible bruising legislative fight.  LA Times article

Fierce fight for donors brings early money primary to California — California has become so reliably Democratic that the state hasn’t backed a Republican for president in more than a quarter century. So the likelihood of a campaign for the masses next year appears slim. But in the more rarified, early race for presidential campaign money, fierce competition is underway. California is a major source of campaign financing, and many donors who helped Mitt Romney draw millions of dollars from California in 2012 remain undecided about whom to support next year.  Sacramento Bee article

New Jersey’s Christie tells California Republicans there’s no rush to pick 2016 nominee — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told California Republicans on Saturday that the party should not rush to choose a 2016 presidential nominee because of pressure from pollsters, pundits and GOP donors.  AP article; Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article; John Myers in KQED

Chris Christie hugs Ronald Reagan, ignores Jerry Brown — No matter what they felt about his politics or presidential prospects, one thing California Republicans could always look forward to when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came around was a jab or two at California Gov. Jerry Brown. But in a speech at the California Republican Party’s biannual convention Saturday, Christie didn’t glance at state Capitol across the street, never once mentioned Brown.  Sacramento Bee article 

Sacramento Bee: Poor need more than handouts – Opponents of Sen. Holly Mitchell’s long-running legislative effort to end the 20-year-old law aimed at so-called “welfare queens” are right: Removing the maximum family grant provision from the CalWORKs assistance program won’t save California’s poorest kids from lives of penury. Nope, it is going to take much more than that.  Sacramento Bee editorial


News Briefs

Top Stories 

Despite some nightmares, poll finds voters still California Dreamin’ — When pollsters asked California voters whether they would rather live here or somewhere else, more than seven in 10 picked California. Asked whether the state’s upside outweighed its problems, they said yes, and by a lot.  LA Times article

New wood-burning rules: Less smoke, probably more confusion – The San Joaquin Valley’s air was cleaner this winter — maybe because it was a little stormier, foggier and breezier. Or maybe some people avoided their fireplaces because they were confused by the new wood-burning rules.  Fresno Bee article 

Safety net hospitals hit hardest by Medicare fines – Hospitals that treat California’s poorest patients, including local ones, are faring badly under the Affordable Care Act’s drive to improve quality. Under ACA authority, Medicare is imposing fines on safety net hospitals at twice the rate paid by other hospitals, according to an analysis by the Center for Health Reporting. CHCF Center for Health Reporting article in Bakersfield Californian


Jobs and the Economy

Leaders call Stockton’s economic plan a good start – Stockton’s City Council last week adopted a long-labored-over Economic Development Strategic Plan nearly simultaneous to the exit from Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The initial call for the development of the plan came nearly four years ago, with Stockton deep into its fiscal swoon but a year from declaring bankruptcy. The actual work began early in 2014, and the plan itself was unveiled last week.  Stockton Record article

Donald Blount: A new day in Stockton — The sun rose Wednesday on a new day in Stockton. That was the day that Stockton’s long-fought for bankruptcy plan went into effect. It was another significant marker on a road that began on June 26, 2012, when the Stockton City Council voted 6-1 to enter bankruptcy.  Blount column in Stockton Record

Job agency struggles to reach oil workers before they’re laid off — State records indicate at least 882 local workers, and likely many more, have been let go from no fewer than three oil field service companies since mid-December. But so far, the agency primarily responsible for helping those people find work says it has received little cooperation from the employers involved.  Bakersfield Californian article

Hanford Fire Department sets sights on federal grant — The Hanford Fire Department is throwing its hat into the ring to apply for a competitive federal grant that could increase its staffing by one firefighter per shift.  Hanford Sentinel article

Longshoremen maintain clout in era of globalization and automation – More than 4,400 ships bring nearly $400 billion worth of goods through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach every year, a crucial link in the global supply chain of factories, warehouses, docks, highways and rail lines. Most blue-collar workers along the chain have seen their wages slashed with the quick rise of global trade. But the longshoremen who move the goods the shortest distance, between ship and shore, have shrewdly protected pay that trumps that of many white-collar managers.  LA Times article

Is tipless merely a trend, or dining out’s future? — A movement around Northern California, and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular, is shifting away from the time-honored practice of tipping servers to simply adding a service charge to the bill.  Sacramento Bee article



Kings farmers get 0 percent water allocation – Kings County farmers who receive water from the federal Central Valley Project are forecast to receive 0 percent in 2015 of their contractual amount, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials announced Friday morning in an initial forecast based on extreme drought.  Hanford Sentinel article

Fresno Bee: Fresnans have the power to control their water bills — Many critics of the $429 million “Recharge Fresno” water plan passed by the Fresno City Council on Thursday night said it was poorly thought out because it didn’t address conservation. It didn’t address conservation because it is an infrastructure and financing plan. But anyone who says that city leaders aren’t focused on water conservation would be wrong.  Fresno Bee editorial 

Steve Knell: Bee’s attack on Oakdale Irrigation District off base – The general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District writes, “For The Bee to have published an editorial (“So many ways to say OID is looking bad,” Feb. 22) with the tone and allegations directed against a public agency – without the benefit of one phone call to substantiate the board’s opinion – was done with purpose. The ‘why’ will become apparent.” Knell op-ed in Modesto Bee

Modesto Bee: We’re still having trouble seeing the Oakdale Irrigation District’s point — Our editorial was meant to help OID see how its actions in its Feb. 18 meeting and the previous groundwater pumping appear to many people. The optics don’t change even when you look deeper.  Modesto Bee editorial


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Two suspects arrested in shooting of Merced police officer – A Merced police officer was shot early Saturday during a traffic stop on H Street – an incident that erupted into a gun battle between officers and at least one man. The officer, whose name has not been released, is expected to recover from his injuries, the Police Department said.  Merced Sun-Star article

Deadly force: A serious issue – Police officers have shot at least 27 people, including 16 fatally, between 2009 and 2014, according to the Stockton City Attorney’s Office.  That’s an average of 2.7 fatal officer-involved shootings per year over that six-year span.  Stockton Record article

San Diego leaders seek more study of alleged racial profiling by police — The San Diego Police Department is trying to assess whether its officers are guilty of racial profiling in traffic stops, as some community activists allege. Statistics released this week suggest that black and Latino drivers are more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, and once stopped are more likely to be searched than white drivers who have been stopped. LA Times article

Sacramento police to target crime with gunshot-locating technology — As part of its effort to reduce violent crime, the Sacramento Police Department announced that it soon will begin using an acoustic technology called ShotSpotter to identify the location of gunshots.  Sacramento Bee article



Stockton’s hidden educational gem offers global perspective — Tucked in a modest southeast Stockton neighborhood where most of the students qualify for free or reduced prices lunches and one out of five students is an English learner, Franklin offers Stockton Unified’s only middle- and high-school-level International Baccalaureate program, aimed at giving students not just a world-class education but a global perspective and wider cultural understanding, as well.  Stockton Record article

Larry White: The battleground of teacher evaluations — Those who can teach, do and usually do it well. Schools need to develop the proper evaluation methods to ensure trust and growth for our students and our future.  White column in Stockton Record



Lois Henry: Unchecked science no basis for onerous air rules – The more important issue is that these rules, which even the local air district has said would force the suspension of all internal combustion, are based on health study conclusions that no one can check. Repeat: studies that claim ozone at ever smaller levels is debilitating and even deadly are not checked to see if the results can be replicated.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

As scientists work to identify mystery goo, rescued birds return home — More than a month after staff at East Bay Regional Park District discovered the birds floating offshore, scientists and wildlife officers are still trying to identify the mysterious goo that sickened and killed hundreds of the animals and to find whoever released the substance.  LA Times article


Health/Human Services

Emanuel says it has cut readmission, infection rates — In a statement Friday, Emanuel said its readmission and hospital-acquired infection rates showed marked improvement in the more recent Medicare data for 2013 and 2014.  Modesto Bee article

Inside the foster care system:  A bleak last stop for lost youths — Her entrance caused a stir. A 15-year-old girl with appraising eyes and a gruff, resonant voice, she radiated bridled ambition in a room filled with children who were mostly slumped and lost. She was dressed as if heading to a party, the red of her cropped jacket a pop of bright color against the black and white geometry of her dress. But the bandages on her arms told a different story.  LA Times article

Cedars-Sinai probing whether superbug infections are tied to scopes — Cedars-Sinai Medical Center said it’s investigating whether patients with superbug infections are linked to contaminated medical scopes, similar to a recent outbreak at UCLA.  LA Times article 

Jordana Steinberg tells teens her story of struggle, recovery — Seeming poised in a loose-flowing sweater, Jordana Steinberg put down her Starbucks cup and picked up a microphone. The 20-year-old daughter of former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who revealed her wrenching story of childhood mental illness to The Sacramento Bee last summer, opened up again Saturday, this time to a room of teenagers hoping to make their own marks on the world.  Sacramento Bee article

Transgender Selma doctor, a lifeline for Valley transgender community, moves on — In a region that often struggles to find enough doctors willing to serve rural patients, Dr. Jennifer Burnett was a rarity. She made a career of treating people in small towns, including for nearly a decade at Adventist Health Community Care in Selma. Rarer still, she developed a specialty in caring for transgender people — a specialty made dearer to her because she is a transgender woman herself.  Fresno Bee article



Bay Bridge leaks:  Toll payers on hook for Caltrans’ blunders — A Caltrans decision to scrap a drainage feature on the new Bay Bridge eastern span led to hundreds of leaks that threaten to spread corrosion through the landmark structure, documents reviewed by The Chronicle show. The bill to toll payers: $1.4 million and counting. None of the solutions Caltrans has tried so far has completely stopped the leaking.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Other Areas

Mark Arax: A question of destiny, an answer found in the fields of McFarland – The Fresno author writes, “The first time I saw the trailer for the new movie “McFarland, USA,” I couldn’t help thinking that was my story once – the coach, his high school runners, the fields, the improbable string of California state championships. It was a story that came to me by happenstance when I went to the town of McFarland on a summer day in 1997 looking for one thing and found another.” Arax op-ed in Fresno Bee 

Seth Nidever: Catching the Valley’s best on film — When I found my seat in a crowded Bakersfield theater last weekend to see “McFarland USA,” I wasn’t just another local resident taking advantage of the rare opportunity to see a small Valley ag town featured in a major Hollywood movie. For me, it was personal.  Nidever in Hanford Sentinel

Photographer Matt Black documents a long history of issues in the Valley — The Exeter photographer has doggedly pursued his own persistent, patient, stubborn brand of journalism for more than 25 years. For Black, the issues aren’t momentary. He doesn’t flit from one assignment to the next. Even as the world’s attention span has shrunk down to 140 characters, maybe even fewer, he takes the long view.  Fresno Bee article 

Jeff Jardine: Skate park catalyst, 12, knows Waterford City Hall — They buzzed around Waterford’s new concrete skate park Thursday on bikes, scooters and, yes, even skateboards. Among them, 12-year-old Ryan Hay practiced his craft on his board, locked in determinedly as he worked on new moves and tricks. Maybe one or two realized they were in the presence of greatness and owe a debt of gratitude to Hay, who three years ago literally took on City Hall to get the park built for their benefit.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Sculpture signifies good change in Stockton — If only by its absence, a series of 20-foot-high steel swirls has served in recent years as a symbol of Stockton’s now-concluded foray into Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Once the piece of public artwork, called “Anchored,” finally rises downtown, it will have been about seven years since it was first commissioned. By comparison, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in less than five.  Stockton Record article

Caltrans pays $9.75 million to Sacramento woman in crash involving overgrown oleander — On a clear Monday evening two and a half years ago, Rosalina Dionisio’s car broke down on Highway 50 in West Sacramento. She steered toward the shoulder. But the shoulder wasn’t entirely there. Overgrown oleander bushes covered almost all of the 8-foot-wide safety zone next to the traffic lanes. When Dionisio pulled to a stop, up against the bushes, the vehicle was sitting partway in the right travel lane.  Sacramento Bee article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Many critics of the $429 million “Recharge Fresno” water plan passed by the Fresno City Council on Thursday night said it was poorly thought out because it didn’t address conservation. It didn’t address conservation because it is an infrastructure and financing plan. But anyone who says that city leaders aren’t focused on water conservation would be wrong.

Modesto Bee – Our editorial was meant to help OID see how its actions in its Feb. 18 meeting and the previous groundwater pumping appear to many people. The optics don’t change even when you look deeper; Women are shorted more than $33.6 billion annually because of the wage gap, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Giving half the population what the other half gets would warrant a round of applause.

Sacramento Bee – Women are shorted more than $33.6 billion annually because of the wage gap, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Giving half the population what the other half gets would warrant a round of applause; Opponents of Sen. Holly Mitchell’s long-running legislative effort to end the 20-year-old law aimed at so-called “welfare queens” are right: Removing the maximum family grant provision from the CalWORKs assistance program won’t save California’s poorest kids from lives of penury. Nope, it is going to take much more than that.